With southern California’s super bloom in full swing, well-known areas are nearly being loved-to-death by wildflower enthusiasts, eager to see this year’s bounty of blooms.

A plant in front of a mountain

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Superbloom wildflowers near Cottonwood Springs, Joshua Tree National Park, March 14, 2019. (Julie Dole/ The Pirate)

With southern California’s super bloom in full swing, well-known areas such as Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, or the California Poppy Preserve near Gorman are nearly being loved-to-death by wildflower enthusiasts, eager to see this year’s bounty of blooms. Flowers are getting trampled, and locals report traffic jams near popular viewing areas. Lake Elsinore authorities have even banned parking near the canyon, and now charge visitors a $10 fee per person to take a shuttle to the flowers.

However, lands under the supervision of the Bureau of Land Management offer a free alternative to more well-known wildflower sites. Federal lands are managed by a handful of federal agencies, including the National Forest, National Parks, and Bureau of Land Management agencies.  BLM lands often offer visitors free picnic areas and dispersed camping; visitors may camp wherever suits them. Come prepared: the agency charges no fees, but often doesn’t offer any visitor services, either. Also, not all BLM land is identified by signs; sometimes campers need to use a map, or ask locals or rangers to find BLM land boundaries.

One such site lies northeast of Palm Springs, off the 10 freeway.  Just outside the Cottonwood Springs entrance to Joshua Tree National Park sits a BLM-managed hillside that’s currently blanketed in violet-blue lupines, orange California golden poppies, and other native desert wildflowers. Here, camping is free, and legal – a handful of dispersed camps of ardent flower lovers typically dot the area, connected by existing dirt roads.  

Peak weeks for this season’s wildflower viewing vary per site, but now looks to be a great time to visit the Cottonwood Springs area to catch the color. During one sunset there last week, German visitors Maartje and Rose settled into camp chairs with their coffee to enjoy the view. “We’ve just started a two-month road trip across America,” said Maartje. “We began in LA,” added Rose,  “and this turned out to be a great place to camp. The flowers are really lovely.”

Lupine outside Joshua Tree National Park, Cottonwood Springs entrance. March 14, 2019. (Julie Dole/The Pirate)
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Joshua Tree National Park’s Cottonwood Springs entrance, also known as the park’s South Entrance, is located 25 miles east of Indio – a town better known for its Coachella music festival.

To get there, take interstate 10 east toward Palm Springs. At about 140 miles one-way from Los Angeles, total drive time is about two hours.

Two more BLM-managed California wildflower destinations include the Carrizo Plain, located in southeastern San Luis Obispo County, and the Amboy Crater, a dormant, volcanic land mass located about an hour northeast of Joshua Tree National Park.

Here’s a link with directions to the Park:


And for more information on visiting Bureau of Land Management properties to view this season’s desert super bloom, check out these links:

BLM wildflower viewing generally:


The Carrizo Plains:


Amboy Crater:


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