Put on your hiking shoes and get ready for a beautiful display of color from the desert this spring. Find the best spots to see wildflowers in the Greater Phoenix area during March and April, when the Sonoran Desert is in full bloom. Hikes range from easy to difficult.
Things to Know About Wildflower Season in Phoenix:
When do the wildflowers bloom? Flowering season usually starts in late February and lasts until May.
What kinds of wildflowers are there? There are more than 20 wildflowers and flowering plans that are common to see throughout Arizona, including poppies, brittlebush, chuparosa and marigolds. The frequency of these flowers depends on elevation as well as rainfall from the prior year.
Stay on the path. Treat these hiking trails and parks like a museum: look, but don't touch. If you pluck the flowers, they'll die and won't be able to spread their seeds, meaning less flowers the next season. It's also good to stay on the path because there are plenty of creatures that call the Sonoran Desert home, and it's best not to disturb them.
Trail difficulty rankings: E (Easy), M (Medium), D (Difficult)
Areas in the preserve with wildflower displays usually include the Bajada, Las Lomitas and Ranger Kiwanic, accessible from the Central Avenue entrance. The roadway leading to the Gila Valley overlook (Central Avenue entrance) also offers wildflower growth. Also, look for wildflowers on the north facing slopes in the Pima Canyon and Beverly Canyon (Javalina Trail) entrances of the park.
Las Lomitas (E): 10919 S. Central Ave, Phoenix
Bajada, Ranger Kiwanic (M): 10919 S. Central Ave, Phoenix
Javalina (M/D): 10919 S. Central Ave, Phoenix
Find yellow brittlebush, red-orange globemallow, marigold and more along Apache Wash Trailhead. Also check the north-facing slopes on trails from the Desert Vista Trail parking area, including areas along the Desert Tortoise and Verde trails, both accessible from the trailhead parking area.
Apache Wash Trailhead (E-M): 1600 E Sonoran Desert Drive, Phoenix
Desert Vista Trailhead (E): W Desert Vista Trail, Phoenix
Several trails with north-facing slopes around Piestewa Peak accessible from the Phoenix Mountains Preserve are good spots for wildflower viewing. In Dreamy Draw Recreation Area, hillsides and washes surrounding Trail 100 often are covered in a wide variety of wildflower blooms.
Piestewa Peak, Quartz Ridge Trail #8A (M): Trailhead located at northeast corner of 32nd Street and Lincoln Drive.
Dreamy Draw Recreation Area (E-M):
Gateway Trailhead offers access to wildflower sightings on Horseshoe Loop and Gateway Trail Loop. Poppies are also plentiful along Lost Dog Wash trail in the preserve’s southern section. Trek the Taliesin Overlook off of the main trail for blooms and a scenic view.
Gateway Trailhead (E-D): 18333 N. Thompson Peak Pkwy, Scottsdale
Lost Dog Wash Trailhead (E-M): 12601 N 124th St, Scottsdale
Usery Mountain Regional Park
In this park on Phoenix’s east side, you’ll find an easy stroll with a pretty payoff on Merkle Trail. The Pass Mountain loop hike is a more strenuous option for hikers to take in over seven miles of scenery and spring blooms.
You can’t go wrong on a wildflower hunt in Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, which boasts a huge diversity of blooms. Look in particular along the western end of the Spur Cross Trail and, if you are up for a challenge, the southern part of the Elephant Mountain loop.
Read our feature on Spur Cross Ranch’s wildflower expert, ranger Kevin Smith.
jojoba, Mormon tea and more. Try out Jacob's Crosscut Trail for a laid back hike, or Treasure Loop Trail for something a bit more challenging. For a more laid back viewing of wildflowers, try a scenic drive along the Apache Trail.
Jacob's Crosscut Trail (E): 6109 N. Apache Trail, Apache Junction
Treasure Loop Trail (M): 6109 N. Apache Trail, Apache Junction
Lake Pleasant is a great spot to check out some poppies and globemallows, as well as a variety of other wildflowers. The available water recreation from AZ Boat Rentals and Tours doesn't hurt either. Take the Pipeline Canyon Trail from the southern trailhead to the bridge for the best wildflower viewing.
Pipeline Canyon Trail (M): 41835 N. Castle Hot Springs Road, Morristown
Thousands of blooms surround the path and mountainsides around Rainbow Valley Trail, a 4.2-mile hike. Access the trailhead from the west end of the main parking lot.
Rainbow Valley Trail (M/D): 14805 W. Vineyard Ave., Goodyear