Wildflowers at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park are popping early this year. Pockets of sand verbena, primrose and even a few desert lilies already are up in the desert northeast of San Diego. It’s too early to say whether a super bloom will happen, but it’s not too early to enjoy some wildflowers right now.
“Early rain and pretty mild temperatures have created early flowers,” said Brianna Fordem of the Anza-Borrego Foundation. Some bloomed as early as late December and January.
To avoid the crowds during what could be a busy season, go now to sample the early showing. There are scattered blooms throughout the park that you can enjoy and photograph. Get off desert roads and into washes and canyons in a four-wheel-drive vehicle, on a fat-tire or mountain bicycle, or even on foot to see the “little blooms not everyone will see by the side of the road,” Fordem said.
Right now, a variety of wildflowers, including a purple field of verbena, are blooming in the Borrego Badlands on S-22, between mile markers 30 and 35. Visitors should park and take short walks in places such as Arroyo Salado, Coachwhip Canyon and Ella Wash.
About 10 miles north of the town of Borrego Springs, Coyote Canyon, a well-known wildflower stop, also has purple verbena blooms, along with yellow brittlebush and red-tipped ocotillos.
Tom Cassidy, a volunteer at the visitor center in town, hiked in Coyote Canyon a few days ago. “A week ago there were no flowers,” he said. “It just popped.”
If you go, stop at the park’s Visitor Center (200 Palm Canyon Drive) or the State Park Store in The Mall (587 Palm Canyon Drive, Suite 110, next to Calico’s restaurant) to get a map, a wildflower brochure and insider tips from trained volunteers who know the best places to find flowers in the 600,000-acre park. (Check the foundations wildflower updates before you go too.)
If you plan to stay in a hotel in the next few weeks, make a reservation now.
The town of Borrego Springs is small, with about 3,500 year-round residents. In 2017, during the last great bloom season, 146,000 people thronged the area between February and April. Here are hotels closest to the park, and they often sell out in spring.
►Palm Canyon Hotel & RV Resort, which looks like Hollywood’s idea of an old frontier town, offers rooms, RV sites and vintage Airstreams starting at $155.
►Borrego Valley Inn, an adults-only boutique hotel with 15 rooms, starting at $299.
►La Casa del Zorro Desert Resort and Spa, a vintage property adjacent to the state park on 42 acres, starting at $299.
►The Palms Hotel at Indian Head, a 12-room Midcentury Modern gem set against local mountains, from $189 to $249.
Now about that super bloom.
Right now, it’s too soon to tell whether one will materialize. Conditions look good — the park has gotten ample rain, about 5 inches in fall and winter, and is on course to get more — but a plunge in temperatures, a heat wave, or raking dry winds could ruin the show.
If the big bloom does happen, you can expect it to keep going for a few months — and draw larger-than-usual crowds, Fordem said.