Where to Catch the Best Wildflowers

Get Full-Bloom Fever on Anacapa Island, Guadalupe Dunes, and Figueroa Mountain

With more than 10 inches of much-needed rain soaking Santa Barbara County, it’s time to start thinking about where to go for what could potentially be a spectacular wildflower bloom.

The last great bloom was back in 2010, so it’s been a long dry spell, that California drought hanging tough across Santa Barbara’s diversified landscapes. Nevertheless, water is life, so here’s a go-to list of wildflower hotspots, a fleeting burst of color that will surely splash across the islands, mountains, sand dunes, and front-country canyons come late March into April.

Anacapa Island: There will be island flora blooming across the entire northern chain, but for some concentrated color, head to the second smallest isle in the Channel Islands National Park. The bright, yellow flowers of the California native coreopsis can be seen from miles away while you’re being transported by the Island Packers ferry. Mixed in with the annual herb are Indian paintbrush, blue dicks, and yarrow.

Small though it is, Anacapa Island offers some of the biggest and best wildflower displays anywhere in Channel Islands National Park.
Chuck Graham

Guadalupe – Nipomo Sand Dunes National Wildlife Refuge: Hidden in the West Coast’s largest, most intact coastal dune ecosystem are wildflowers that endure stinging sand and howling northwest winds, but eventually they help fortify the shifting dunes in northern Santa Barbara County. Look for beach sand verbena, silver lupine, beach morning glory, beach evening primrose, and Indian paintbrush. Occasionally found in the deep dune troughs are coreopsis

Rare plants like these silver lupine help fortify the shifting dunes in northern Santa Barbara County along with beach sand verbena, beach morning glory, beach evening primrose, and Indian paintbrush.
Chuck Graham

Figueroa Mountain: It’s not certain what is more astounding: the sight of the vast bushels of bush lupine that cluster the steep slopes of Figueroa Mountain or its thick, fragrant scent that pours across the entire San Rafael Range. Whatever it is, when it’s going off, Figueroa Mountain is one of the best wildflower locales in Southern California. Equally stunning are the chocolate and Mariposa lilies, goldfields, and wallflowers. Just northwest of Figueroa is Grass Mountain. When there’s an eye-popping bloom, a vast carpet of California poppies can be easily seen sweeping across its broad slope from highways 101 and 154.

When it’s going off, Figueroa Mountain and its neighbor, Grass Mountain, are some of the most spectacular displays of wildflowers in California.
Chuck Graham


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