“April comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.” — Edna St. Vincent Millay
In the spring, nature’s theater doesn’t always mean “head to the storm cellar!” In the desert, spring stages an extravaganza of colorful wildflowers called the superbloom. But that’s only when we are fortunate to have had a rainy winter.
This year the clouds have been a bit stingy with the wet, so it’s gonna be a smaller, but still gorgeous show. There are a few well-known spots to experience them, which I’m gonna tell you about because I’m nice like that and, full disclosure, I like to talk.
Keep in mind, almost all of them include some level of walking, and some are definitely challenging. So make sure you find your own comfort level and don’t push it. Even people who are avid hikers can misjudge their stamina or not bring enough water. It’s the desert — you need a LOT of water.
Mom warnings aside, off we go!
The best known spot is called Anza-Borrego, and it’s a little bit of a haul. About an hour and fifteen outside of Palm Springs, it’s well worth the drive. It’s best to go during superblooms, but you can still see swaths of gorgeous color in drier times. These clever folks have a website/hotline to check on the situation. Hey buds, how you bloomin’?
Big Morongo Canyon Preserve: This one is why I said “almost all of them” require some level of walking. It’s about 45 minutes from Palm Springs. Per the website: “The preserve entrance is one block south of State Highway 62 in Morongo Valley, a community located between Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park. Several trails, including boardwalks through the marsh and stream habitats, meander through the preserve. The one-half mile Marsh Trail is wheelchair accessible. Open daily throughout the year, from 7:30 a.m. to sunset.”
Joshua Tree: It’s a national park, so make sure to hop on the site to purchase a pass before you go. Not only will it show you what blooms to expect, but the Joshua Tree itself should be blooming.
Coachella Valley Preserve, Thousand Palms: For those with sciatica (raises hand), I’m told there is a flat hike here. Hours: December 1 through April 30, Wednesday through Sunday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. This is an oasis, so you’re likely to see a lot of color. The trails are McCallum, Moon Country, Smoke Tree, and Herman’s Hike. Lots of critters too, so no dogs unless your pup is a registered service dog.
The Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitor Center in Palm Desert is another group of trails with possible flowering flora. Everything you want to know can be found here.
The La Quinta Cove to Lake Trail: Their website mentions wildflowers and I believe everything I read on the internet.
South Lykken Trail: This is a very popular trail. It’s on South Palm Canyon, just after E. Murray Canyon Drive (on your left). The trail is a titch further up on your right. Hit up Moorten’s on your way (keep scrolling more info). It’s near the start of South Palm Canyon on your right.
East Indio Hills Badlands: From their website comes this dramatic reading: “This trail enters the Indio Hills badlands and traverses the San Andreas Fault exposing twisted and tortured rocks that have been uplifted and moved over millions of years. The trail enters several narrow slot canyons and twists and turns in the sandy washes before climbing up to the ridge with panoramic views of the entire Coachella Valley.” Epic.
Sunnylands: If hiking is not your jam, Sunnylands is the place to go. The grounds are astounding, and it’s free to roam them.
Wildflowers aren’t the only thing blooming. The cacti are absolutely bonkers with blooms this year. The little cactus in front of my house has buds where she never bloomed before. And you don’t have to leave town for that, you just go where the cacti are, which is everywhere in my park. But if you prefer something more structured, Moorten Botanical Gardens is for you. The cost to get in is minimal: $5 for adults, $2 for kids 6 to 15, and free for children 5 and under.
Here’s a little blurb about cacti: “The greatest diversity of spring-flowering cacti species can be seen in April. Some also stretch into May with some species such as the prickly pears cactus blooming well in early May. Saguaros tend to flower from mid-May to mid-June.”
The Ocotillo, a shrub that’s so fancy Palm Springs named things after her, has orange-red flowers and that girl doesn’t care if it was wet or dry, she’s showing off. You can blink all you want, you’re not going to miss her.
The world is a bit serious right now, so it’s even more important to reset and enjoy a fleeting moment brought to you by nature. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Earth laughs in flowers.”
Have a giggle.