A 2024 Super Bloom Is Likely Coming to These Places in California

After yet another winter of record-breaking rainfall, certain areas of California could experience stunning super blooms.

Yellow and purple wildflowers in a desert at Joshua Tree national park.

Joshua Tree is one of the locations in California where a super bloom could possibly occur in 2024.

Shutterstock

A combination of several atmospheric rivers and Hurricane Hilary made 2023 one of the wettest winters in California’s recorded history. The Golden State received 141 percent of its average annual rainfall, and the snowpack is the deepest it’s been in 40 years.

All that precipitation means that super blooms will be all over the place this year, right? Not exactly. Californians will remember that 2022 was a particularly wet year as well, which put the state on the road to recovery after years of relentless drought. The record-breaking amount of rainfall sparked super-bloom events across the state. But while those same places will still have blossoming wildflowers, they may not experience a super bloom. For a true super bloom to occur, a high proportion of seeds that have remained dormant and built up in soil over several years must bloom at once. That also means that some destinations across the state that didn’t experience a super bloom last year are more likely to see one in 2024.

Here’s everything you need to know about super-bloom season in 2024.

What is a super bloom?

California is famous for its native wildflowers that blossom each year—lookie-loos might spy irises, sky lupines, bluebells, dessert lilies, and arguably the most famous flower (the state’s official one), the California poppy. Super blooms, however, are the stuff of legend. They occur when a high concentration of wildflower seeds that have been dormant in California’s deserts for a few years because of inadequate rainfall bloom to life simultaneously after an unusually bountiful rainy season. There is no real scientific definition for what constitutes a super bloom. Rather, the idea of a super bloom is a cultural one—a very popular one at that.

The conditions that can foster a super bloom are finicky and delicate. But, when all the conditions for a super bloom are met, the effect is breathtaking, and larkspur, poppies, and clover can be found blowing in the breeze across the state. Though it’s still a bit early to tell, signs suggest that super blooms may occur in some parts of the state this year.

A field of California poppies on the California coast near Mendocino

The California poppy is the state’s official flower and one of the most popular wildflowers to spot during the spring.

Photo by Bob Pool/Shutterstock

The best time to see a super bloom

Super blooms do not occur annually—they are a rare phenomenon that usually happen only once every 10 to 15 years. However, the past three super blooms in California blossomed to fruition in 2017, 2019, and 2023.

Typically, super-bloom season occurs roughly from February through May (the same time wildflower season would normally happen), often peaking in mid-March. However, super-bloom timing often varies by region:

  • The Central Coast: mid-March to mid-April
  • Los Angeles County: mid-March to early April
  • The Mojave: April and May
  • The Sierra Foothills: mid-March through late April
  • The Bay Area: late April to mid-June
  • The High Sierra mountains: June and July

During the few months that super blooms last in California, people from all over the state—and the country—travel to experience them. In 2019, some locations, such as Lake Elsinore, experienced as many as 100,000 visitors in a single weekend.

A bloom of California buckwheat in Alviso Marsh

California is home to more than 6,500 native plants and wildflowers.

Photo by Sundry Photography/Shutterstock

How to see a super bloom

Botanist Karen Wiese told Visit California that she recommends flower viewers bring a wildflower guide so they know what they are looking at—but folks can also use apps like Google Lens or PictureThis to help them identify species on the go. 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, water, and a lightweight poncho are also recommended, given the heat of California’s deserts. Travelers interested in a guided experience can check out the California Native Plant Society, which has High Sierra chapters that offer expert-led walks and field trips.

It goes without saying that visitors should remain on trails, take their trash with them, and not pick any wildflowers. In 2019, so many people visited remote areas of California that the event was dubbed the “Super Bloom Apocalypse,” and Lake Elsinore had to preemptively ban travelers from visiting during wildflower season in 2023 by blocking off the canyon where the poppies grow and nearby parking areas.

Death Valley experienced a super bloom in 2005 and again in 2016.

Death Valley experienced a super bloom in 2005 and again in 2016.

Courtesy of the U.S. National Park Service

Where can I see a super bloom?

Super blooms typically occur in regions that have received ample rainfall the previous winter. This year, since practically the whole state received above-average rainfall, super blooms are projected to pop up around the state. Though no super blooms in California have been officially confirmed yet, these three places are showing promising signs of seeing one in 2024:

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park is one of the most highly anticipated places to see a super bloom in California. Death Valley is considered to be one of the most inhospitable places on the planet, and some of the hottest temperatures ever recorded on earth were taken inside the park. However, about every 15 years or so, when all the stars align and just the right conditions are achieved, Death Valley comes alive with the full power of a super bloom. While it’s still too early to tell if one will occur this year, signs are promising: Young shoots have already been spotted around the park. Currently, the best places to see wildflowers in Death Valley are around Panamint Valley and near the Ubehebe Crater.

Joshua Tree National Park during a super bloom

Joshua Tree National Park occasionally experiences super blooms.

Photo by Patrick Jennings/Shutterstock

Joshua Tree National Park

One of the state’s most visited national parks, Joshua Tree is about a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Los Angeles. Here, visitors can find wildflower classics like the golden poppy, as well as gorgeous desert blossoms like prickly pear blooms, evening primroses, Mojave asters, and desert paintbrushes. Blooms at lower elevations typically begin popping up in February and March, while flowers in higher elevations might not appear until June.

Mojave National Preserve

At 1.6 million acres, Mojave National Preserve is one of the largest properties in the National Park System’s portfolio, but also one of its least visited sites, making it an ideal place to do some wildflower viewing in peace. The Mojave received an abnormally large deluge of rainfall in 2023 and will likely see a photogenic splash of wildflower blooms this year. Visitors can look forward to unique desert flowers like Bigelow’s monkeyflower, Mojave prickly poppy, and the desert pin cushion.

This article was originally published in 2023 and most recently updated on February 27, 2024 with current information.

Mae Hamilton is an associate editor at AFAR. She covers all things related to arts, culture, and the beautiful things that make travel so special.
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