You’ve heard about it, you’ve read about it, you can’t escape it – the #superbloom.
I had one night to squeeze in a trip to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park last week before a slew of work and family trips kicked in, and I can say without reservation that I’m extremely glad I pushed this into the schedule. I’m still kind of beating myself up for missing the 2011 rains in Death Valley, where people were actually kayaking in Badwater Basin, or the 2016 superbloom.
On my visit last week, the wildflower fields of Henderson Canyon were in rare form, covering the desert floor with carpets of desert gold, desert sand verbena, browneyes, and lots of fat, happy white-lined sphinx moth caterpillars.
Nearby, Hellhole and Borrego Palm Canyons were putting on wildflower displays the likes of which even grizzled desert veterans had never seen … which also means they’re currently attracting an increased number of visitors, too.
At Borrego Palm Canyon, even before 8AM on a weekday, I managed to snag the second-to-last parking space near the trailhead. By the time I’d wrapped up my hike, people were trudging in from the Visitor Center or from the far end of the campground, but this hike was definitely worth all the extra effort.
Flowers were blooming everywhere you could look, the normally beige hillsides tinted a light green. The air had the scent of seemingly endless flowers in all directions – with the desert lavender being especially strong contributors to the perfume.
If you’re even thinking about planning a visit — and really, you should — expect throngs of flower tourists to descend upon any highlighted trails by late morning (with their requisite lack of appropriate water of desert apparel). If you are hiking one of the current peak bloom areas, you’ll want to get there as close to sunrise as possible, both to avoid the casual crowds and to catch some incredible light … or you can explore the rest of the park on your own.
I camped toward the southern section of the park, and the short Cactus Loop Trail not only had plenty of flowers (and even more flowers still getting ready to bloom), but it was almost completely empty when I hiked just after the sun came up.
If you’re heading down to Anza-Borrego, remember to check some wildflower reports before you go and don’t get discouraged by full campgrounds – the park offers disbursed camping throughout nearly the entire park, so as long as you can travel lightly (while still packing all your water with you), you’ll likely be able to find a spot to pitch a tent for the night.
And PLEASE remember: don’t pick, trample, or lay in these flowers for the sake of a photo for your Instagram feed. Not only is this the desert so lots of stuff here will make you bleed if you get too close, but we’ve been noticing a lot of issues with bloom-chasers pretty much destroying the landscapes they’re driving hours to go see, so please don’t do that, OK?
I’ll have more from the desert once I get a bit more time to do some updates, but in the meantime, enjoy trying to fight off the wanderlust these photos inspire: