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Best Places To See Wildflowers

Southern California is one of the best places to see wildflowers, with green rolling hillsides and beautiful nature preserves from the desert to the coast. Every Spring, you can see a variety of wildflowers including poppies, lupine, lilies, bush sunflowers, sage, monkey flower and more. Keep an eye out for those lovely patches of orange – that’s our state flower, the California Poppy.

Blooms vary from season to season and are typically the best after a wet winter. The best time to see wildflowers is from mid-February to the end of May. Ready to get out and see some of those magical flower fields? Here are some of the best places to see wildflowers in Orange County and beyond.

Things to keep in mind when viewing wildflowers: stay on the trails! Don’t trample the flowers. Also, don’t touch or pick the flowers to ensure that they are there for everyone to see.

Best Places To See Wildflowers

Best Places To See Wildflowers

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve

15101 Lancaster Road, Lancaster, CA 93536

The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is probably the most popular place to go to see these bright orange wildflowers during their annual bloom. Viewing here is best from march through mid-May. Visitors can enjoy eight miles of trails, including a wheel-chair accessible paved section to take in the views. There is also an interpretive center on site that is open March 1st through Mother’s Day for visitors to explore a variety of exhibits about the wildflowers and wildlife.

Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park

28373 Alicia Parkway, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656

Aliso & Wood Canyons has 4,500 acres of wilderness so you can find wildflower viewing from multiple locations. One great spot is along Aliso Creek Trail, which you can access from the Awma Road entrance. Or head up to Top of the World near Alta Laguna Park and head out on the West Ridge Trail for panoramic views of the ocean (and wildflowers).

Black Star Canyon

13333 Black Star Canyon Road, Silverado, CA 92676

Black Star Canyon is a remote wilderness park in the backcountry of Cleveland National Forest. It is popular for hiking and mountain biking and has one of the areas best seasonal waterfalls and soaring red rock cliffs. Plant life here is abundant with many native and rare plant species. Come springtime, you’ll find plenty of wildflowers here, lining the trails and the hillsides.

Bommer Canyon

1 Bommer Canyon Road, Irvine, CA 92617

Bommer Canyon is an open space preserve in Irvine that is popular for walking, hiking, and biking. It is open daily to the public and there are plenty of hillsides here that are blanketed with wildflowers come spring. While you are free to explore the trails here on your own, as part of Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, you can sign up for guided hikes and exploration days to learn more about the area from IRC staff.

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park

18751 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is located in coastal canyons off CA-133, with 7,000 acres and over 40 miles of trails to explore. Laguna Coast features a variety of oak and sycamore woodlands, coastal sage scrub, native valley grasslands, and maritime chaparral. Views are expansive here, and hikers can choose from a number of staging areas to explore different parts of the park. Laurel Canyon Trail can be accessed from the Willow Staging Area and is a great spot to view Orange County wildflowers.

If you are visiting with children: Start at Nix Nature Center and explore the inside of the nature center, then, head out on the easy trails just outside. If you are up for a longer hike with the kiddos, take Mary’s Trail out to Barbara’s Lake and explore the trails on that side of the park and enjoy the wildflowers around the lake and on the hillsides.

Santiago Oaks Regional Park

2145 Windes Drive, Orange, CA 92869

Santiago Oaks Regional Park is one of the best locations in Orange County to see wildflowers. It’s easy to get to, the trails range from easy to difficult, and there are additional features like the historic dam, a stream crossing, and a play area for the kids. If you’re exploring with kids, you can stick to the historic dam trail, Santiago Creek Trail, and Bobcat Meadow to see lots of wildflowers. If you want a higher vantage point, you can head up to the slightly more difficult Sage Ridge Trail.

While these are our favorite spots for local wildflower viewing in their natural setting, here is a list of all the places in OC and beyond where you can venture out to see more wildflowers.

Santiago Oaks Regional Park Wildflowers

Orange County

Check out these Orange County Wilderness Preserves and explore the wildflowers on horseback at some of these Equestrian Trails in Orange County.

Santiago Oaks Regional Park

Beyond Orange County

Check out these wildflower tours to get an up-close and personalized wildflower viewing experience: Red Jeep Tours & Metate Ranch Events | Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, Indio/Coachella, Salton Sea

The California Department of Parks and Recreation hosts a Spring Flower Bloom page with flower bloom updates and where to find them. Additionally the Theodore Payne Foundation Wildflower Hotline provides weekly wildflower reports in the Spring and DesertUSA provides Southern California Wildflower reports.

OC Parks Wildflower Walks

In early spring, when California wildflowers begin to pop up on the Orange County hillsides, OC Parks often hosts a number of Wildflower Walks at various park locations throughout the county. Trail guides will help hikers identify plant life on these easy, family-friendly strolls. The events are usually free, but there is a parking fee at most OC Parks locations. Some Wildflower Walk locations include Carbon Canyon Regional Park, Santiago Oaks Regional Park, and Peters Canyon.

Check out the OC Parks Event calendar for any upcoming Wildflower Walks.

What Is A Superbloom?

We all know how fickle Southern California can be when it comes to seasonal rainfall. Sometimes we have extra dry winters, other times, we get record rainfall. The level of rain determines the extent of the wildflower blooms in the area.

Every year, the hillsides get pops of color from the annual wildflower blooms, but sometimes, when we get heavy rain, those pops of color become brilliant displays of wildflowers blanketing the hills and canyons, lining the trails and grabbing our attention on the sides of our local freeways.

A superbloom is a rare botanical phenomenon resulting in wildflower blooms that significantly exceed the normal spring average. This usually occurs because a large number of wildflower seeds that were dormant in the soil are germinated thanks to an unusually rainy season.

In order for a superbloom to occur, rain water must penetrate the soil deep enough to reach the dormant seeds. The ground and the seeds must get adequate heat and cloud cover to to allow them to thrive properly germinate. If the seeds are able to reach the surface level of the soil without being disturbed or blown away by unusually high winds, a superbloom can occur.

The occurrence of a superbloom is reliant on a perfect combination of nature’s elements coming into sync. Because of this, super blooms are rare, occurring on average only once every ten years or so in California. The most recent superbloom occurred in 2019. Another occurred just two years before, in 2017, but it was not as significant as 2019. The 2019 superbloom caused heavy traffic in locations that were densely populated with wildflowers, forcing the closure of many areas.

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Heidi Deal
Heidi Deal is the author of the Newcomers Handbook to Living In Los Angeles & Orange County, and a children’s book author specializing in history and human rights. When she's not writing you can find her solo hiking and going on new adventures with her kids and pup.