Pixel Tracker

Friday, December 14 , 2018, 10:37 am | Mostly Cloudy 62º


It’s a Blooming Good Time for Wildflower Blossoms

Looking for spring sights? We can tell you right where to go

Engulfed in a field of purple lupine on a steep slope in Los Padres National Forest, I marveled at the stunning landscapes of a springtime profusion of wildflowers sweeping across the rugged panoramic. There was one backcountry mountain face that stood out like no other, however. Ablaze in orange, yellow and purple, its entire face was a blanket of California poppies, bush lupine, blue dicks and goldfields.

I needed to be there and found the way along a year-round gurgling creek. At the base of the mountain, I left the cascading runnel, hiked northeast and ascended the steep single-track trail. At various elevations a plethora of blooms had sprung to life, grateful for those steady doses of winter rains, allowing for evenly distributed seeds germinating in the mountain-rich soil.

Central and Southern California are blessed with a multitude of varying habitats consisting of rugged coastlines, windswept islands, sweeping grasslands and chaparral-covered mountains. Come springtime there’s much to choose from in the way of wildflowers. There’s no time to waste when it comes to a prolific floral display. Its rebirth is fleeting, maybe lasting only a couple of weeks. Leave only footprints, take only pictures and enjoy nature’s colorful canvas.

Channel Islands National Park — Of the five islands making up this unique archipelago, try first the two smallest islands for a highly concentrated display of wildflowers. Santa Barbara and Anacapa islands can be easily hiked in a couple of hours, and because these islets are so small, wildflowers tend to be clustered together in natural bouquets of giant coreopsis, Indian paintbrush, phacelia, blue dicks and island liveforevers. In a great wildflower year, you can see from afar the yellow coreopsis blooms on the approach to Anacapa from the Island Packers boat. Also recommended are the Prisoners to Pelican Harbor hike on Santa Cruz Island, and the Lobo Canyon hike on Santa Rosa Island. On San Miguel Island, Nidever Canyon is an island botanical garden filled with island poppies and buckwheat. Atop the marine terrace is a dense stock of coreopsis on either side of the trail. Click here to contact Island Packers or call at 805.642.1393.

Figueroa Mountain Road — This is a great backcountry drive in Los Padres National Forest in northern Santa Barbara County, and is perennially a fantastic wildflower destination. Drive slowly up the 13 miles of mostly paved road and explore all the pullouts for owl’s clover, filaree, shooting stars, goldfields and popcorn flowers beneath groves of oak trees on the lower slopes. On the higher slopes beneath tall stands of pine trees, bush poppies, purple and bush lupines become so prevalent the scent is thick in the mountain air. California poppies are also prolific mixed in with the lupine, creating a floral display you’ll not soon forget. On the way up Figueroa Mountain Road and just to the north is a nameless peak that is spectacular, if not more so than Figueroa Mountain. Its steep face is annually purple and orange. Its lower slopes are smothered in chocolate lilies, blue dicks, filaree and bush lupine. To check wildflower conditions from March through May, call Helen Tarbet at the U.S. Forest Service at 805.925.9538 x246 or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or click here for more information.

Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge — This is a unique wildflower destination because over time the coastal dune flora has had to adapt to the harsh conditions of constant sand and wind. Beach morning glory is the first plant to colonize the dunes. Coreopsis can be discovered in the dune troughs as well as Indian paintbrush, yellow and purple sand verbena, wallflowers and silver lupine. The vegetation of the dunes is popular with the dune wildlife as every kind of animal track can be found scurrying around the dune flora. For guided wildflower walks in the dunes, call the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center in Guadalupe at 805.343.2455, or click here for more information.

Shell Creek Road — About 20 miles east of Atascadero, just off Highway 58, is one of those unexplainable natural wonders. It’s a mystery why some places are better than others for wildflowers, but Shell Creek Road is such a place. For about a half-mile to a mile along both sides of this beautiful country road are lush fields of wildflowers surrounding huge oak trees. You’ll find baby blue eyes, tidy tips, California poppies, purple lupine and owl’s clover among others. Just pull off on either side of the road and follow the foot paths through all the wildflowers.

Carrizo Plain National Monument — The plain needs at least 8 to 10 inches of rain from fall through winter for a decent wildflower season. There are lots of places to look for blooms across the plain on Soda Lake Road, the main roadway in the national monument. Begin with Simmler Road on the east side of Soda Lake. I’ve seen wildflowers so thick across the grasslands, that you couldn’t see the ground. On Selby Road go to Selby Rocks, a gritty cluster of lichen-covered sandstone boulders that are typically surrounded with California poppies, owl’s clover and stocks of golden aster. The rolling foothills beneath the Caliente Mountains are full of bush lupine and stands of curly cued filaree. Contact the Goodwin Education Center at 805.475.2131 for wildflower updates and other information about the Carrizo Plain. From December through May, the center is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. Click her for more information.

FYI – From March through May, the Theodore Payne Wildflower Hotline begins its weekly reports of all the wildflower hotspots covering Central and Southern California. Each Friday, the hotline is updated for all the places listed above and including many more. Call 818.768.3533, or click here for more information.

Noozhawk contributor and local freelance writer Chuck Graham is editor of Deep magazine.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >