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March 19th, 2015 at 8:00 am

Wild Flower Hikes

You don’t need to know the difference between a monkey flower and a coyote mint to know that “wildflower season” is upon us in Southern California. From now into May, countless uncultivated varieties greet the spring with bursts of color from the desert to the sea.

Knowing when and where to visit the seasonal blooms can be a challenge due to elevation and climate. One of the best sources is the Theodore Payne Wild Flower Hotline, founded 32 years ago as a weekly phone report but now offered only online. Reports with the latest sightings, photos, and directions are published weekly as Word and PDF files.

Below is a list of some of the more reliable places to view, photograph, and revel in the beauty of our region’s wildflowers. Some are an easy walk to get to, others can be a bit of a hike. To avoid monochromatic landscapes, check ahead before you put pedal to the metal to see the petals.

Borrego Palm Canyon

Inside Anza-Borrego State Park about 90 miles northeast of San Diego, this lush oasis often blooms early. You usually can see flowers blanketing the desert floor right from your car. It’s a short hike into the canyon, where ocotillos, desert paintbrushes, and bright-red chuparosa line its floor. The cliffs narrow near one of the last native palm oases in California. Map and directions.

Saddleback Butte State Park

East of Lancaster, this 2,995-acre park seems like it’s in the middle of nowhere but can be well worth the drive. Some of the trail is paved, and the rest is well-maintained. Varieties that catch the eye include yellow coreopsis carpeting the desert floor, along with purple Davy gillas, white Dune evening primroses, and taller fiddelnecks popping up through the sand. Map and directions.

Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve

This 1,800-acre site west of Lancaster can overwhelm with its tremendous fields of orange poppies covering the low hills. The park has a very well-maintained system of about seven miles of trails, all clearly marked and easy to find. A good time to visit this year is April 18-19, when the California Poppy Festival is in full bloom in Lancaster. Map and directions.

Eaton Canyon Nature Center

The 190-acre preserve in Pasadena rewards hikers with a 40-foot year-round waterfall if they can trek the nearly four miles into the canyon. Water from the falls nourishes lots of blooming bush sunflowers, phacelias, and other colorful varieties. The nature center is open daily for docent-led hikes. Map and directions.

Charmlee Wilderness Park

Spectacular coastal views come with the territory at this 530-acre park on the coastal bluffs in Malibu. Brilliant green meadows dominate the landscape, and an impressive array of purple, yellow, white, and red wildflowers springs up in season. Map and directions

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