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Anza-Borrego Desert Flower Super Bloom
No hotels!? Crazy traffic? Little time?! No problem. How you can see the Super Bloom right now before it’s gone.
“The flowers are calling, and I must go.”
Locals say it’s the biggest bloom of wildflowers in the past 40 years. The winter rains in California have summoned a “super bloom” of rainbow petals & green fields across the vast desert floor. Spring has sprung, and it won’t last long! We packed up for a spontaneous weekend warrior trip to Borrego Springs, CA to witness this once-in-a-lifetime show from mother nature… and mama did not disappoint.
How long does the bloom last?
NOT LONG. Flowers are in full bloom right now, and are said to last until the end of March 2017. Then, the landscape returns to a dusty brown & barren desert floor. Hot temps and flower munching caterpillars are already moving in. Carpe Diem, Seize the Moment, YOLO – get out there NOW!
Where is this?
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is inland from San Diego. So, 2ish hours east of San Diego, 3ish hours south east of Los Angeles, and 45 mins west of the Salton Sea.
The State Park forms a circle around the town of Borrego Springs… meaning you can grab a cup of coffee, wifi, or visit an art fair a mere 5 miles from prime flower viewing locations.
Plan for traffic:
The word is out! Social media feeds are also blooming with flowers, and thousands are flocking to the Anza-Borrego Desert. Who knew this many people were still excited about flowers? That right there is pretty awesome.
Flower Peepers started arriving in a steady stream at 8am. Park Rangers warned that the freeways were backed up from 10am-4pm. So, we arrived on a Saturday evening as the sun was setting, camped, and got up early Sunday morning to see the flower fields before the crowds arrived. (The crowds really weren’t that bad, especially if you’re used to LA or SD!) Then we spent the rest of the day exploring!
By 10am, it looked like an Easter Egg Hunt of adults. Giant meadows were spotted with meandering humans… strolling, squatting, posing! Don’t worry – there’s plenty of space for everyone. Anza-Borrego is the largest state park in Cali, spanning over 500,000 miles!
Where to stay:
Hotels, Air BnBs, and campgrounds in Borrego Springs are fully booked… but do not fret! You can still see the super bloom if you’re not afraid to get a little dirty. The answer? Backcountry camping!
(If you are visiting during the week or off season, try looking for lodging in Julian, Ramona, Warner Springs, or Aguanga. These are 45-60 mins outside the park.)
What is Backcountry camping?
Camping in the wilderness, NOT in a traditional campground (the ones that require reservations). Aka, way cooler. In Anza-Borrego, it gets even better: there is no designated area or need for a permit… meaning you can literally park your car on the side of the road, walk into nature, and set up camp.
Where can you camp? Anza-Borrego is super chill about it. *All* land within the State Park is fair game for completely *FREE* camping! Sleep in your car, set your tent up next to it, or leave it & backpack to a perfectly private nook of nature. Those with high clearance or 4×4 vehicles can get even farther back on several jeep trails. (We were able to go pretty far with a 2 wheel drive 4 Runner. We saw lots of sedans and tiny cars also feeling adventurous!)
*Make sure you are in Anza-Borrego Park lands, and not private property. It’s easy to figure out – State Park signs are posted along the roads, indicating when you are entering the park. Basically, just make sure you are not camping in Galleta Meadows (where the famous metal sculptures are… more info below) or the town of Borrego Springs*
I mean. Just look at that view. Do I hear angels singing? You’re not going to get that at a hotel or campground!
We camped back in Coyote Canyon: click here for GPS directions. The dirt road is graded, making it passable for a few miles even for lower cars. Just be careful, and don’t get stuck in loose sand!
Rules: There are some rules, of course. We gotta keep this desert clean & safe for future Flower Peepers!
🌸 Fires must be in a metal container. (We didn’t even need a fire. You can go to a restaurant in Borrego Springs, pack a picnic, or use MRE meals & a jet boil.)
🌼 Leave no trace. Pack out everything (even coals) and all garbage.
🌸 No dogs on trails.
🌼 Park no further than 1 car length off the road.
For the full list of camping etiquette & best places to see flowers, click here FOR IMPORTANT INFORMATION.
Where is the best place to see flowers?
The short answer: EVERYWHERE. Literally, everywhere.
Call the FLOWER HOTLINE! 760-767-4684. Yes, there is a Flower Hotline. How amazing is that? Daily updates!
When we visited on March 20th, 2017, the best flowers were:
🌸 Henderson Canyon between Borrego Springs Rd & Di Giorgi Rd.
🌼 Coyote Canyon: Follow Di Giorgi Rd all the way back until it turns dirt. This is the beginning of Coyote Canyon. If your car can make it, continue for 4 miles to Desert Gardens. Lots of easy backcountry camping also available in this area.
🌸 The drive in on S22 from the west. 15 minutes *before* we reached Borrego Springs, up in the mountains, near Hellhole Palms.
My favorite part about this trip was the *smell* as soon as you enter the valley. 24/7 aromatherapy! It was like being in a perfume bottle. Roll down your windows and breathe it all in! I loved falling asleep & waking up to the soft fragrance of honeysuckle and wild lillies.
Know Before You Go:
There is very little/no cell reception
Get your maps in order, save this info, and take screen shots before you get there. Even though Borrego Springs is a functioning town, their airwaves didn’t seem to be able to support the boom of visitors. None of us could get any bars. To me, that’s kind of nice… I enjoy being off the grid. Just plan accordingly!
The good news is that Borrego Springs is expecting you, and there are lots of free map stands and volunteers all over town during business hours.
Temperatures are sizzling!
Daytime temps can reach the 100s. Nightime swings to high 50s. Bring plenty of water & sunscreen. There are lots of flowers, but barely any trees or shade. Pack blankets/hoodies if camping overnight.
Other Interesting Highlights
Galleta Meadows Estate Sculptures:
No trip to the desert is complete without quirky art! Roughly 130 giant metal sculptures dot the landscape throughout Borrego Springs, and are completely free to seek out and selfie with! Elephants, scorpions, giant serpent dragons, wooly mammoths, raptors… It’s a bit of a treasure hunt over several miles, and sparks the child in us all. “Gotta catch ’em all!”
For more photos & a map of all the “Sky Art” sculptures, click here.
“The Slot” Canyon Hike
Who knew there was a slot canyon this close to the metropolises of LA & SD?! Seriously, this thing rivals canyons I’ve hiked in Arizona and Utah. An easy .8 mi shaded stroll, and oh-so photogenic. Only a 25 minute/15 mile drive from the center of Borrego Springs. Detailed driving & trailhead directions here.