Best Five Spots to Photograph Desert Flowers in California

In March two great things happen in the desert:

  • 1. There is a parade and people go from bar to bar drinking and toasting to the date of my birth, this of course happens on St. Patrick’s Day, which just happens to be my birthday.
  • 2. Spring comes to the desert and flowers bloom from cacti and wildflowers all around the Mojave, Death Valley and High desert.

Cactus Flowers

I personally love cacti and even have a garden I am making in my parent’s backyard filled with only cactus so it is only natural that I am a fan of this time of year. But to get a beautiful Spring bloom in the desert you must have a few conditions: 1. Consistent rainfall in winter and Spring, 2. Warmth from the sun sprouting the flowers quickly and 3. Few windstorms but if they do come it needs more rain because it dries the flowers out too quickly. You might not get the perfect conditions every year but when you do it is worth it.

On a recent trip to the Mojave Desert near the town of Amboy I stumbled across some beautiful cactus and desert flowers in bloom. It made me think of all the beautiful places to see this Spring event so I thought I would give you a list of my top five deserts to visit during Spring.

Mojave National Preserve: One of the most famous deserts in California and with over a thousand miles of dirt roads open for exploration you can’t miss flowers all over the park. When there is large rainfall in winter and early spring you will be given blankets of flowers covering the desert landscape. (760) 252-6100

Desert Chicory Surrounded By Notch-leaf Phacelia

Desert Chicory surrounded By Notch-leaf Phacelia

Death Valley National Park: Probably has the greatest array of annuals, also known as asephemerals because they are short-lived but under the right conditions you will see the great sweeps of wildflowers. Problem is this does not happen often in Death Valley because windstorms are frequent during Spring and rain is not. (760) 786-3200

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park: What I love about this park is the park rangers will tell you when the bloom is starting all you have to do is send a stamped and self addressed envelop to:

Wildflowers – A.B.D.S.P.
200 Palm Canyon Drive
Borrego Springs, CA 92004

And you will get an update when flowers are blooming. They have a large selection of flowers and most of them can be found off of Big Horn road. (760) 767-5311

Joshua Tree National Park: One of my favorite Parks with or without flowers and what is more exciting is Joshua Trees bloom beautiful white and green flowers in panicles. They will not bloom every year, they need all three of the above conditions to bloom plus a winter freeze. Best places to see Joshua Trees at the park are on Black Rock Canyon and Queen Valley Road. (760) 367-5500

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve: Eight miles of trails including a paved section for wheelchairs or strollers and park benches are stationed around the park to make this State Natural Reserve a great spot to take the family to see flowers. (661) 946-6092

Desert Dandelions

Desert Dandelions

The second week of March is the best time to go see these beautiful flowers in any of the parks but they usually last until May. I would always advise giving the rangers a call (at the numbers above) first; unless you want the treat of a postcard from Anza-Borrego.

Some of my Photo Tips for photographing flowers:

  • Get on the ground to get your lens and flower on an even plain.
  • Use the sky as a background, most flowers you see in the desert won’t be blue so they will pop with the sky in the background.
  • Breakout the Close Up lens, get in on the detail and if you are lucky maybe a bird or insect near the petals.

Enjoy your parks and remember to not trample the flowers for the next visitors, these adventures are for everyone.

Beavertail Cactus

Beavertail Cactus

Notch-leaf Phacelia

Notch-leaf Phacelia

6 Comments on “Best Five Spots to Photograph Desert Flowers in California”

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