A Wildflower Super Bloom Is Heading to the Sierras

A long, wet, and snowy winter means that California’s hills and mountains should come alive with a particularly pretty showing of flowers this summer, experts say.

A Wildflower Super Bloom Is Heading to the Sierras

California’s eastern Sierras are expected to see an explosion of wildflowers this summer.

Courtesy of Visit Mammoth

Following a super bloom season in Southern California that was almost too beautiful for its own good, experts are expecting an impressive wildflower display to grace the foothills and alpine meadows of the eastern Sierra Nevada mountain range this summer.

“It should be a great year for both mid and high elevations in the eastern Sierra, where we’ve gotten plenty of precipitation fairly consistently since December,” stated Blake Engelhardt, Forest Service botanist for the Inyo National Forest, home to Mammoth Lakes and the Mammoth Mountain, one of the best ski resorts in the United States.

Beyond Mammoth, the eastern Sierra also contains parts of Yosemite and Death Valley national parks.

Engelhardt added that the relatively cool temperatures the region experienced through March has delayed the emergence of wildflowers.

“But when it starts to warm it should green up pretty quick. With so much snow above 8,000 feet, peak wildflowers at the higher elevations may not be until late July or early August, when they get unburied,” added Engelhardt in a statement.

At Mammoth Mountain, lingering snow means an extended ski season, too.

At Mammoth Mountain, lingering snow means an extended ski season, too.

Courtesy of Visit Mammoth

Botanist Karen Wiese told Visit California that she expects this summer to be a “dazzling wildflower season” in the Sierras.

According to Wiese, some species will start blooming at lower elevations (around 6,000 feet) in June, and as the snowpack continues to melt the blooms will rise, with the highest elevations (above 10,000 feet) expected to welcome alpine wildflowers through August.

To make the most of the Sierra super bloom this summer, Wiese recommends that flower peepers bring a wildflower guide so that they know which species they are looking at. She also advises bringing a handheld magnifying lens with 10x magnification to better see the colors, patterns, and features of the blooms.

A hat and sunscreen, bug repellent, sturdy hiking shoes, and a lightweight poncho are all also recommended given the summer weather patterns in the mountains. Visitors are asked to remain on the trails and not pick any of the wildflowers. The California Native Plant Society has High Sierra chapters that offer guided walks and field trips. Wiese, who wrote the Sierra Nevada Wildflower field guide, leads flower hikes offered by Sorensen’s Resort, south of Lake Tahoe. (The Tahoe region technically doesn’t fall into the eastern Sierra area of the Sierra Nevada range, but Tahoe, too, is expected to welcome a fair share of wildflowers this summer.)

Bishop, California, a town just south of Mammoth, has put together a great online guide to the eastern Sierra wildflower season, complete with a wildflower map and details about the different varieties of blooms visitors can expect to see.

Added bonus: The eastern Sierra super bloom will coincide with an extended ski season due to the incredible amount of snow that landed on the California range this winter. Mammoth said it expects to be able to have slopes open until at least July 7. So, summer skiers and snowboarders will potentially have the chance to drive to and from the slopes to the backdrop of some epically colorful blossoms.

>> Next: California Wildflowers: Where and When to Find Them During the Super Bloom

Michelle Baran is a deputy editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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