Here’s how you can see the spectacular California superbloom

13 April 2023

California made headlines this winter after receiving record amounts of rain and snow in some areas.

Luckily, there is a bright side to all the dreary weather: A vibrant spring superbloom is making its way across the state.

Travelers are flocking to California to admire the wide expanses of wildflowers covering the ground.

April is the peak viewing month. However, you can witness the spectacle all the way through June or July in certain areas. Depending on which area you visit, you can expect to see California poppies, variations of lilies, red larkspur, desert dandelions, red maids and plenty of other flowers.

Here’s how to see the superbloom for yourself and how to save money while doing so.

Poppies at Antelope Valley. RON AND PATTY THOMAS/GETTY IMAGES

How to get there

Driving is the ideal (and pretty much the only) way to reach the blooming areas across the state. Most California residents can find a good viewing spot within a few hours of their homes.

The best spots in Southern California include Chino Hills State Park, Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, Red Rock Canyon State Park and Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park. If you’re in Northern California, check out Mount Tamalpais State Park, China Camp State Park and Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.

For the full list of prime viewing locations, visit the California Department of Parks and Recreation website.

2023 superbloom at Antelope Valley. MACKENZIE ROCHE/THE POINTS GUY

Rules about visiting hours, animals and drone usage vary across parks. However, one rule applies to all locations: Don’t pick the wildflowers or disturb the natural surroundings.

If you live in Los Angeles, Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is one of the most convenient options, reachable in about an hour and a half. Visitors can lounge among the flowers or enjoy the views while strolling the reserve’s 8 miles of trails.

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Parking is plentiful at Antelope Valley, and it costs $10 per vehicle (with discounts available for visitors older than 62 and those with registered disability passes). The reserve is open daily from sunrise to sunset.

Travelers flying to California to see the wildflowers should rent a car rather than rely on ride-hailing services. The best viewing areas are relatively far from major cities, and you don’t want to get stranded at a park with no way back. Also, cruising by flowering fields is more fun when you’re free to stop and snap photos wherever you want. Your best bet is to pick up and drop off your rental car at whatever airport you fly into.

The state’s major airports — Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), San Diego International Airport (SAN) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO) — will likely offer the cheapest and most convenient flight options for out-of-state visitors. However, it’s worth checking fares to Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC), Sacramento International Airport (SMF), Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR) and John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Orange County if you want to see the blooms near those specific regions.

Where to stay

Travelers who want to stay as close to the blooming flowers as possible should look for hotels in the small cities and towns near their desired area. For example, visitors to Antelope Valley can stay in nearby Lancaster, where there are a few points-friendly hotels. About 15 miles east of the poppy reserve, this city also has solid dining options and stores.

Those heading to Chino Hills State Park can stay in nearby Chino Hills or Yorba Linda. Or better yet, choose a hotel in Anaheim (about 15 miles southwest of the state park) and spend a few days at Disneyland or Knott’s Berry Farm after you get your fill of flowers.

If you don’t mind driving an hour or more to see the superbloom each day — or if you want to spend a few extra vacation days exploring fantastic museums and restaurants — a true city stay might be better for you. Since there are countless hotels in LA, you’ll have your pick of hotel brands and can even enjoy some luxury options. Most Northern California viewing spots are less than two hours from San Francisco, also making for a manageable daytrip from a city hotel.

Flowers on Mount Tamalpais, north of San Francisco. DERICK CARSS/GETTY IMAGES

If you want to truly get away from it all, try camping at a state park. Camping is permitted at Red Rock Canyon State Park — a prime wildflower viewing area. Campsites can hold up to eight people and cost $25 per night. They offer space for one vehicle and include fire rings, potable water and tables. Get there early because sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and you can’t reserve them in advance.

Note: You can use your camping receipt for entry at any other California state parks the following day, so be sure to maximize the pass and enjoy as much of the Golden State’s nature as possible. Some other Southern California state parks worth visiting include Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park, Saddleback Butte State Park and Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach.

Earn and redeem points along the way

There are plenty of ways to maximize your points earnings during your spring getaway. First and foremost, be sure to stay at a points-friendly hotel. Rates are quite low in the small cities near the wildflowers. For example, Hilton Honors members can stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites Lancaster next weekend for just $119 per night and earn points on the stay.

As mentioned above, you’ll likely get the best points-redemption rates if you stay in a major city because there are so many options. You can easily shop around to find a property that’s part of your favorite loyalty program and fits your budget. Check out this helpful guide to points properties in San Francisco in case you need help deciding on accommodations in that area.

Out-of-towners who need to rent cars can earn points on rentals and gain elite status with car rental companies simply by booking with the right credit cards. For example, if you hold The Platinum Card® from American Express, you’ll receive complimentary car rental elite status with Avis, Hertz and National. Depending on the company, elite status can get you guaranteed upgrades, bonus points on purchases and higher earning rates. Even if you don’t hold a credit card with rental car perks, you can still earn points by signing up for the rewards program of whatever company you rent from.

Unfortunately, California is infamous for high gas prices. Since you’ll probably use a lot of gas driving across the state to find the best wildflower vistas, it’s also worth signing up for fuel savings programs. This way, you can earn points when you fill up your tank and get money off future purchases.

DOUG BAILEY-LIGHTFINDERPHOTOGRAPHY.COM/GETTY IMAGES

Bottom line

There’s no better way to kick off spring than witnessing this floral phenomenon. As far as wildflower superblooms go, this is one of the best California has seen in a while.

Whether you’re traveling solely to see the flowers or you want to use the superbloom as a quick daytrip from a nearby city, there are plenty of convenient ways to catch the spectacle.

Related reading:

Key travel tips you need to know — whether you’re a beginner or expert traveler
From downtown to the Westside and beyond: Los Angeles hotels you can book on points
These are the best rides at Disneyland
The best hotels near Universal Studios Hollywood
8 of the best credit cards for general travel purchases
13 must-have items the TPG team can’t travel without

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