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Six Hot Spots to Search for Wildflowers in the Coachella Valley

Post Date:01/24/2017 9:54 AM

Wildflower Sunset

Recent drenching rains have desert-dwellers dreaming of a spring with green hillsides and dunes transformed by blooming perennials and colorful wildflowers. After years of drought-induced disappointment, visitors to the Coachella Valley have likely fallen out of the habit of looking forward to the wildflower bloom. This refresher course will help you know what to look for and where to start your search.

You may have noticed that the one thing we didn’t address right there is “when.” Even with good soaking rains, it’s difficult to predict if and when wildflowers will bloom in the desert. It takes the right combination of sun, wind, rain and temperature to set the stage for the springtime bloom. Assuming the desert receives enough rain and warm (but not hot) temperatures, wildflowers generally bloom from mid-February through March.

There are great online resources that track the popular wildflower hotspots of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Joshua Tree National Park, both of which are easy day trips from the Coachella Valley. We’ve compiled an easily downloadable handout which summarizes those resources so you can stay up-to-the-minute on the bloom.

If you’d prefer to do your wildflower search a bit closer to home, there are a handful of dependable spots to consider visiting. We’ve listed our favorite Coachella Valley flower spots below as well as the species that you are most likely to encounter.

WildflowersSanta Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitor Center
51-500 Highway 74 in Palm Desert
Open from 9am until 4pm, October through April

Adjacent to the Visitor Center is the fully accessible Ed Hastey Loop Trail, which is a reliable spot to see desert perennials at their best thanks to some drip irrigation. The nearby Randall Henderson Trail is often a dependable area to find a wide variety of wildflowers in the spring

  • Cheesebush
  • Creosote
  • Bladderpod
  • Chuckwalla Delight
  • Desert Dandelion
  • California Evening Primrose
  • Palo Verde
  • Encelia
  • Apricot Mallow
  • Chuparosa
  • Desert Lavender
  • Desert Heron's Bill

Highway 74 (Palms to Pines Highway) and the Cactus Spring Trail
Highway 74 in general can be a scenic drive in the springtime, with its proliferation of brittlebush and lupine. The closest upper elevation trail along Highway 74 in the National Monument is the Cactus Springs Trail, approximately 16 miles south of Hwy. 111. Drive south on Highway 74 for almost 16 miles until you reach the Cactus Spring Trailhead (indicated as such by a sign along the road). Go ¼ mile then turn left to reach the trailhead parking area. This can be an area to check out later in the spring when blossoms on the valley floor have begun to fade.

  • Nolina
  • Desert Apricot
  • Brown-Eyed Primrose
  • Forget-Me-Nots
  • Fremont Pincushion
  • Deerweed
  • Creosote Bush
  • Whispering Bells
  • Encelia
  • Eriophyllum
  • Chinchweed
  • Desert Dandelion
  • Desert Mallow
  • Rose Mallow
  • Ocotillo
  • Sand Verbena
  • Arizona Lupine
  • Desert Heron's Bill
  • Kraemeria
  • Chia
  • Santa Rosa Beard Tongue
  • WIld Heliotrope
  • Teddy Bear Cholla
  • Beavertail Cactus
  • Hedgehog Cactus

Indian Canyons
Located at the end of South Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs. The three main canyons offer well-established trails with a variety of terrain, including native desert fan palm oases.

  • Forget-Me-Nots
  • Checker Fiddleneck
  • Creosote
  • Little Gold Poppy
  • Encelia
  • Desert Mallow
  • Desert Lavender
  • Desert Hyacinth
  • Yerba Santa
  • Notch Leafed Phacelia
  • Chuparosa
  • Desert Heron's Bill
  • Arizona Lupine
  • Wild Hyacinth
  • Canterbury Bells
  • Beavertail Cactus
  • Barrel Cactus

Tahquitz Canyon
500 West Mesquite Ave., west of downtown Palm Springs.

  • Forget-Me-Nots
  • Checker Fiddleneck
  • Creosote
  • Encelia
  • Desert Lavender
  • Desert Hyacinth
  • Yerba Santa
  • Notch Leafed Phacelia
  • Chuparosa
  • Desert Heron

Tramway Road
Off of North Palm Canyon Dr. (Highway 111) northwest of downtown Palm Springs. Take Tramway Road to the lower Tramway Station for a short nature trail.

  • Jimson Weed
  • Forget-Me-Not
  • Encelia
  • Creosote
  • Desert Lavender

Coachella Valley Preserve
Thousand Palms Canyon Rd., north of Ramon Road. The surrounding environment, especially Washington St. north of I-10 and Varner Rd. can provide good viewing of wildflowers as well.

  • Sweetbush
  • Honey Mesquite
  • Sand Blazing Star
  • Desert Sunflower
  • Desert Spanish Needle
  • Rock Daisy
  • Sand Verbena
  • Chia
  • White Rattany
  • California Evening Primrose

In addition to these locations, keep your eyes open for wildflowers while on your regular travels or in your own neighborhood. Empty lots and tracks of land on Portola Avenue and Cook Street, for example, often erupt with a profusion of sand verbena, while desert sunflowers bloom along Interstate 10.

Lastly, here are a few things to remember as you go out to enjoy wildflowers in the area:

To preserve fragile ecosystems, stay on roadsides, trails or previously disturbed wash environments so as prevent damage to newly emerging plants or animal habitats. Picking flowers prevents the seeds developing into the wildflowers of next season. Take pictures instead.

You may be preoccupied while looking for flowers; so keep an eye on the environment around you. Before getting close to a flower, look around for bees or snakes. Touching wildflowers often results in getting fine spines embedded in fingertips, so it’s better to use a hand lens for those close-up looks. All cacti have spines, so watch the distance between you and the plant when viewing those colorful blossoms.

Now grab your camera and your hiking boots, and go out there and make it a colorful spring!

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