Where you can find wildflowers in Arizona this spring
From Picacho Peak State Park to Saguaro Lake, it’s shaping up to be a beautiful “superbloom” season across the state
PHOENIX, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — The official start of spring is just around the corner, and wildflowers are already popping up across Arizona! But where can you go to see them?
Picacho Peak State Park
One of the most dazzling displays so far has been at Picacho Peak State Park, just off Interstate 10 north of Tucson. Michelle Thompson with Arizona State Parks & Trails says the last time the park saw a bloom like this was in 2019. In February of that year, Thompson says the park had 16,375 visitors, which jumped to 48,175 the next month in March.
The park already exceeded 35,000 visitors this month, according to Thompson. If you do want to visit, she recommends arriving early on a weekday, if possible, to avoid the long mid-morning line.
“Please respect the flowers and stay on the trails. Please do not pick the flowers,” Thompson says. “Enjoy them from the trails and leave them for others to enjoy. Plus, these flowers turn into seeds for later years.”
If you want to check out how other parks are doing, the department does have a website where you can find flowers.
Roger Naylor, an Arizona author and travel writer, says the superbloom season is like his Super Bowl. “It’s just getting started and this is one you don’t want to miss. Go out every day,” he says.
For Naylor, Saguaro Lake seems to be the place to see in the Valley. He visited the area recently and says flowers can be seen along the Beeline Highway and that the hillsides are painted with poppies. Pobrecito Recreation Area is a good place to stop, he says, but you do need to pay for a pass because it’s within the Tonto National Forest.
Every place should start peaking in a few weeks, Naylor predicts, and Peridot Mesa and Bartlett Lake are also beautiful right now. However, Naylor says he’s seen flowers on just about every Arizona trail he’s hiked so far this month.
For researchers at the University of Arizona, the superbloom events are more than just a chance to take pretty pictures. Theresa Crimmins is a University of Arizona professor and the director of the USA National Phenology Network. The network keeps close track of these so-called “phenological events” among plants and animals.
While the group has databases where they record weather patterns, ultimately, it’s hard to predict exactly when and where these superblooms will happen.
“It takes a good wet October, and then sustained moisture in the soil throughout the winter,” she said. “Not too hot, not too cold, not too dry. But beyond that we are a little at a loss for making very precise predictions and that’s why we are actually asking for more information more reports of where folks are, or aren’t, seeing good displays because that can help us dial in those predictions and make better forecasts in the future.”
Crimmins says knowing more about when superblooms will happen are important for a number of reasons. For one, she says, it’s valuable for the tourism season so folks can plan ahead. Experts would also be able to anticipate when more pollen might be in the air for folks with allergies, the potential for wildfires, invasive species management and understand how plants and animals are responding to rapidly changing climate conditions.
“In the longer term, better understanding it can really give us some insight into whether this is a phenomenon that we may be less likely to enjoy in the future as climate conditions change,” Crimmins said. “We don’t really know that either and all that information coming in to the USA Phenology Network is information that can help us better anticipate future changes and hopefully prepare for them.”
If you want to see the blooms at Picacho specifically, Crimmins suggests doing it fast. Once the annuals are flowering, they don’t last long, likely a week.
If you’d like to help, you can submit your photos and information to the network’s Nature Notebook.
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