I love the many forms of Spring that California has. It’s different from the type of Spring that I grew up with, in the Northeast and Midwest; but from early bulbs and cherry blossoms to “super blooms” on the hills and Jacaranda trees just before summer, Spring is lovely in California! Here are some places to enjoy Spring in California:
Greater Los Angeles
The island is a little like the Italian Riviera but it’s in LA County. Just a short ferry ride away from mainland Los Angeles, Catalina is great in any season. But in April, when I visited, the island was particularly verdant. Bush lilies [below], pink orchid rockroses, and yellow flax-leaf broom are all prominent.
Here’s what you should know when you’re planning your visit to Catalina.
Beverly Hills Park or Beverly Gardens offers 1.9 miles of everything from spring bulbs to cactus flowers to Jacaranda trees. From Spring through the end of summer and even into what would be autumn if Los Angeles had a proper fall – you can find things in bloom along Santa Monica Boulevard from Wilshire Boulevard to North Doheny Drive. The Jacaranda trees are my personal favorite.
Along Highway 1 in Spring and at places like Point Dume, yellow becomes the color du jour. Mustard plants line the highway. And on the cliffs above the ocean, a form of yellow daisy grows in such thickets it can look like a carpet.
There is no bad season for a visit to this garden in San Marino, part of LA County. Check the What’s Blooming? page before your visit to find out what you can expect to see in Spring. I think I enjoy the pear trees and magnolia trees most in March.
Spring is my favorite time to visit Descanso Gardens. It’s located in La Cañada Flintridge in LA County. Several “themed” areas are particularly lovely in Spring. I think my favorites are the Japanese-style garden, the lilac grove and the camellia collection.
The garden’s website lists these flowers as blooming in Spring:
FEBRUARY: Camellias, magnolias, cherry trees and daffodils
MARCH: Tulips, camellias, irises, lilacs, cherry trees, clivia and daffodils
APRIL: Azaleas, camellias, irises, lilacs, native plants and wildflowers, and wisteria
MAY: Roses, azaleas, irises, wildflowers and California natives
And from this page, you can find a live bloom map that updates as the garden changes all season long.
There are many spots to enjoy Spring in this park. However, my favorite can be found just south of Golden Gate Bridge. On the slopes that would eventually lead down to crashing waves, wildflowers and flowering bushes carpet the hillside with blooms in Spring and leading into summer. It’s also a great place, period, to stop for photos of the Bridge. Look for parking near what is labeled as Battery Godfrey. You can also easily walk and bike to this spot from elsewhere in San Francisco.
Golden Gate Park
It’s a good idea all year! But of particular note for the park in Spring:
- The Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden – for tulips, of course! – by the windmills on the far western edge of the park.
- Rhododendron Dell is full of pink and deep red blooms in March.
- The Japanese Tea Garden is the oldest of its kind in the USA and it’s where Azaleas and cherry blossoms appear in March and April.
While it isn’t particularly special for blooms, of all the times to visit Muir Woods [and I have been many times] – I find that Spring is my favorite. The stream that flows through the woods is usually higher and running faster in Spring. The woods haven’t yet dried out in the sense that they can during a particularly hot summer. And if you time it right to avoid Spring Breakers, Muir Woods is more empty at this time of year than in summer when there are generally more tourists.
It is a good idea year-round. In Spring, pink tulip and redbud trees make the park look particularly delightful. They provide a beautiful foreground to the background of the park’s incredible architecture.
Other Places to Experience Spring in California
As this article from the Highway 1 Discovery Route points out, the famous stretch of road is a great place to look for all kinds of blooms. They share that,
Brittlebrush, poppies, bluebells, lupine, sand verbena, and evening primrose are just a handful of the incredible wildflowers that bloom on the Central Coast. The California Native Plant Society of San Luis Obispo publishes a list of the plants that can be found throughout SLO County.
That list can be found here.
Walker Canyon near Lake Elsinore
A great option when California experiences a Superbloom, Walker Canyon is an area of hills that become blanketed with California’s native poppy.
While you’re in the area, why not keep driving and check out Joshua Tree in spring. After a particularly wet winter, the area’s desert landscape can also bloom with flowers. And though it’s rare, it’s an incredible sight to behold when it happens.
As this article illustrates, spring in Napa Valley is a colorful affair. Though the vines are not yet heavy with grapes – plum tree blossoms, tulips, and more make the area a colorful backdrop to wine tasting. Which is a year-round activity in California. While there, make sure you stop for a picnic lunch at Oakville Grocery. Their wood-fired pizzas are divine.
Also an excellent wine region, Sonoma boasts coastal access and Redwood forests which Napa does not have. All kinds of blooms can be found in Sonoma from the coast to the inland hills, from Spring through to summer. While there, stay at MacArthur Place. The verdant grounds bloom all year in some capacity and make for an excellent way to decompress after a harsh winter.
What area or place would you add? What have I missed?