The hills are alive in San Diego, and we're not talking about the sound of music. Wildflowers are sprouting up everywhere following one of the most bountiful rainfalls we have seen in a long time. Put aside any grudges you're holding against Mother Nature, because she is making up for her actions with stunning scenery across the county.
From Del Mar to La Jolla Cove and the Coronado Silver Strand, San Diego is home to some of the most beautiful beaches on the west coast, and during summer months you can find us locals posted up at our favorite sandy spots until the sun sets. While it’s obvious that San Diego is praised for its picturesque beach culture, sometimes we beach bums forget that San Diego is #1 for horticulture in the United States. So why not get wild and try something different?
If you’re craving a more active adventure in the summer sun, we encourage you to get outside and explore the natural and exotic mountainous side of San Diego that is world renowned but often locally overlooked. Thanks to the buckets full of rain we received this winter, summer is promising to showcase one of the most succulent wildflower blooms to date. It’s hard to truly imagine what California must have looked like to the early settlers, or to the Spanish explorers, or even to the first California residents here, the Kumeyaay people. However, it is still very fun to use the resources we have available today and piece together the organic puzzle.
Have you ever seen Lupines, Tidy Tips and Cream Cups up close and in bloom? Do you know where in San Diego you can find a Mule's Ear or Virgin's Bower? If you’re like me, you wish you knew how to find a Lemonadeberry and make a bitter-sweet glass of all natural refreshment during your next hike. Gaze into the ocean and walk the nature trails at Torrey Pines State Reserve, check out the sweltering desert heat of Anza-Borrego State Park, unveil the vibrant colors of the infamous Carlsbad Flower Fields, and venture over the mountainous East County hills to uncork the wonders of Mission Trails Regional Park. And that’s just your warm-up round...
Are you still wary about abandoning your beach chair? Well don't be! This just might be one of the best summers to check out what exotic wildflowers San Diego has in bloom.
Get outside and go wild for San Diego flower fields and nature reserves.
The Carlsbad Flower Field
Open daily from 9am to 6pm the Flower Field is a nostalgic getaway for those of us who remember what North County San Diego used to look like before overpopulated strip malls and extravagant houses took over the natural landscape. With a hillside view overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Carlsbad, the Flower Field stretches over 50 acres of land offering a wide variety of Ranunculus plants, including buttercups, spearworts, water crowfoots and lesser celandine. Whether you are in the mood for a relaxing stroll or want a new place to take the kids, this outdoor paradise will have something to soil your needs. For those of you who need to stay active, check out the Carlsbad Mining Company, where you can try your luck at finding a polished gem stone by using the old miner's method of sifting sand in water. Feeling romantic? Take your loved one on a stroll through the mini rose garden, displaying over 170 All-American Rose winners, but don't forget to keep the kids entertained. Check out Flower Field's latest attraction, Santa's Playground, a whimsical playground featuring the beloved 'Guard Shack', 'Doll House', 'Crooked Treehouse' and of course, our old time favorite, the display of oversized colorful mushrooms which we locals remember from Santa's Village in Lake Arrowhead back in the day. Admission: $10 for adults; $9 for seniors 60 and older; $5 for children 3-10, and free for children 2 and younger. Discover more at theflowerfields.com.
San Diego Botanic Garden
Open daily from 9am to 5pm, San Diego Botanic Gardens provides a unique atmosphere that gives you the sensation of traveling from a desert environment to a tropical rainforest, without leaving the cozy North County community of Encinitas. Take a walk on the wild side through the Nation's largest bamboo collection before heading over to the California Gardenscapes, where you can check out local gardens and landscapes. If you are looking for something to spice up your garden, make sure to stay attuned to San Diego Botanic Garden's flower of the month. This month of April, Tower of Jewel, a 6ft tall flower with a white bloom spike, is all the rage for local gardening aficionados. Admission: adults $12; seniors, students, active military $8, children ages 3-12 $6; children ages $2 and under Free; parking is $2. Discover more at sdbgarden.org.
Fun Spring Event: On April 24 from 10am to 1pm, be sure to check out Lady Bug Day. Join a search team, try some crafts and learn about lady bugs. Get your chance to become a Citizen Scientist by lending a helping hand to scientists who need your help in identifying new species of ladybugs. Special guest, Irene T. Hunt, will also be there reading and signing her new book.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Attention San Diego! Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is calling this bloom season to be one of the most vibrant yet. Located in the eastern side of San Diego County and stretching over 600,000 acres, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, one of the largest state parks in California, is open Thursday through Monday. There is never a dull moment at Anza-Borrego, where cacti ranging in color from yellow to red, continue to sporadically bloom at various times over the course of the spring and summer months. This is the ideal spot for wildflower buffs to check out a wide array of local San Diego style flowers including the red chuparosa and the yellow brittlebush, which you can identity by looking for shrubs covered in a small mass of tiny flowers. Discover more at parks.ca.gov.
Balboa Park Gardens
Every day Balboa Park has its gates open to over eight stunningly beautiful gardens. Start your trip out by easing your mind as you cruise through the winding paths of the Japanese Friendship Garden where you will find a Zen garden for meditation, an exhibit house, koi pond, bonsai exhibit, ceremonial gate, and a Fujidana. If you are anything like me, constantly on a budget but can't sit still, then check out Balboa's California Native Plant Garden, which is open to the public for free! It is a fun and interactive way for us locals to brush up on our knowledge of San Diego's wildflowers. Admission: adult passport valid for 7 days $45; child passport $24 (3-12). Want more? Discover Balboa Park’s six other gardens, including the Desert Garden and Alcazar Garden at balboapark.org.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Located on the stunning beach cliffs of La Jolla, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve may be within San Diego city limits, but it remains one of the wildest stretches of land on the Southern California coast. Because of the efforts and foresight of the people in this area, Torrey Pines now boasts 2,000 acres of land are as they were before San Diego was developed, featuring the chaparral plant community, the rare and elegant Torrey pine trees, miles of unspoiled beaches, and a lagoon that is vital to migrating seabirds. The State Reserve offers 8 miles of diverse trails, a visitor center, and guided nature walks on weekends and holidays. Torrey Pines is visited by travelers from all over the world and by local residents who come daily to rest at the relaxing overlooks, walk a peaceful trail, or exercise in a clean, beautiful environment. Discover more at torreypine.org.
Cabrillo National Monument:
Every day from 9am to 5:15pm, the scenic Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma is a great place to explore two ecosystems – the coastal Mediterranean and the marine – for the price of one. The Mediterranean ecosystem is home to some of the most breathtaking coastal sage scrub plants in San Diego. As you navigate through the spacious park setting, be sure to keep a lookout for an evergreen shrub with small clusters of white or rose-pink flowers, called the Lemonadeberry. The tiny bead-like berries on this plant can be either crushed or soaked in water to create a bitter lemonade-like drink which once served as a thirst quencher for the Kumeyaay on long journeys. Don't forget to stop by the marine habitat to check out a different species of plants we all know as algae or seaweed. Admission: passenger vehicle $5; walk-ins, bicyclists, motorcyclists $3 per person. Discover more at nps.gov/cabr.
Mission Trails Regional Park
Tucked away in the East County of San Diego, it is easy to get lost inside the rustic Mission Trails Regional Park. The park is enclosed by mountains on all sides and there are plenty of trails, paths and roads to immerse yourself in. The wildflowers at Mission Trails are separated by elevation. If you want to check out the hot spots for the more lively, vibrant wildflowers then head on up towards the higher elevations and take notice of the Chamise, Ramona Lilac and the Redberry. You can also catch a glimpse of the Chaparral broom or the Coyote Bush and the California Sunflower, at the lower elevation of Mission Trails. Admission: Free! Discover more at mtrp.org.
Florida Canyon is a preservation of Balboa Park's natural San Diego origin. Here, you will find comfort in over 150 acres of the brownish-gray Coastal Sage Scrub plants which we locals are proud to call native to San Diego. Whether you decide to walk, jog or bicycle through the trails, you can follow a string of expositional signs displaying both the common and botanical name of each plant. Florida Canyon is a great place to take refuge from the hustle and bustle of downtown by immersing yourself in the natural beauty of wildflowers. Admission: Free! Discover more at balboapark.org.
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park in East County is a fun place to snag a glimpse of wildflowers from a totally different level. After you park the car, strap on your sturdiest pair of hiking boots and vow to make the climb to the top of Cuyamaca Peak, the second highest point in San Diego. Along the way, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for a distinct, brightly colored yellow flower known as Mule's Ear, that could easily be confused for a miniature sunflower. For a cool down after your hike, take a leisurely stroll over to Cuyamaca river where you can relax and enjoy the fragrant smell of Virgin's Bower, a delicate white flower that you can spot along the moist slopes of the river's wall. Just make sure to keep one eye on the flowers and one eye open for the dangerous wandering wildlife, as those of us who have been to Cuyamaca are already aware of. Discover more at cuyamaca.us.
Cleveland National Forest
Cleveland National Forest is the southern-most national forest in San Diego. Stretching over 460,000 acres of land, it is a reminder of what our city would look like without any man made structures. Cleveland Nation Forest offers a spectacular view of wildflowers that almost makes you wish all of San Diego could be this colorful. To get the best view of these wildflowers, take a trip in May or June, and perch yourself somewhere along the Laguna Meadow where you can enjoy the soft sea of purple and yellow flowers, including lupines, tidy tips and cream cups. Discover more at fs.fed.us/r5/cleveland.
William Heise County Park
Open daily from 9am to 5pm, William Heise County Park just might be one of the most unique places visit on your wildflower hunt. Located in Julian, this is one of the few San Diego parks to get snowfall in the winter, making it interesting to see what types of wildflowers, if any, will bloom in the spring. Admission: $3 for the day. William Heise County Park is also a popular camping destination, and camp sites are offered 24 hours a day, every day. Discover more at sdcounty.ca.gov/parks.
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