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How to See California’s 2023 Super Bloom

California has received record-breaking snow and rainfall this season, which could set the stage for a massive super bloom in 2023. While some communities are closing trails and bracing for crowds, others are welcoming visitors with open arms. 

A “super bloom” refers to a wildflower bloom event with an abnormally high concentration of flowers. Over the last few years, California’s super blooms have become particularly famous. The state made headlines when its hills exploded with orange poppies and purple lupines in 2017 and 2019. In both years, the phenomenon drew tens of thousands of visitors, sparking conflict between overwhelmed land managers and hikers hungry for Instagram fame. 

The crowding was so bad that some communities, including the town of Lake Elsinore, are now banning hikers during the entire super bloom season. It’s hard to blame them—in 2019, visitors to nearby Walker Canyon parked illegally, blocked roads, picked flowers, and trampled hillsides. Four years later, the land still hasn’t fully recovered. 

While Walker Canyon will be off-limits this season, there are plenty of other trails that will continue to welcome respectful visitors. 

Image by Tom Grubbe

When to visit 

Superblooms only happen every few years, and only if the conditions are perfect. While there’s no guarantee of a 2023 super bloom this early in the season, the record rainfall could be enough to wake up thousands of seeds that have been lying dormant underground. If that happens, we’ll start seeing flowers throughout much of California in mid-March

Other hotspots like the Bay Area and the High Sierras will start to bloom later—maybe as late as mid-June. But by this point in the season, many of the lower-elevation spots will already be done blooming. If you want to maximize your chances of seeing flowers, plan to visit lower elevations like the Sierra foothills or the Los Angeles area in late March or early April. 

Image by Ron and Patty Thomas

Where to go 

When choosing a location, don’t just scroll through Instagram and go where everyone else is going. Instead, call a local state park or botanical society and ask for the best trails. They may be able to point you to less-trafficked spots—which is better for both your photo opps and for the flowers. Some good places to start calling around: 

To avoid damaging the vegetation, stay on established trails at all costs, and don’t pick the flowers. Be sure to carpool and park only in legal spaces. If you can’t find a space, turn around and come back later. Finally, remember to be respectful of local Native American communities, who have long-standing cultural traditions around super blooms and may have special permission to harvest the flowers. 

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