Picacho Peak

Springtime Wildflower Hikes

Did you know there are at least 20 types of wildflowers and flowering plants that are common to see throughout Arizona? Whether it’s classic Mexican Gold Poppies or bright white blooms crowning iconic saguaros, as the temperatures warm, the opportunity to view beautiful yellow, red, white, orange, blue and purple wildflowers pops up all across the state.

“One of the great benefits of where we live is that our wildflower season starts in March and lasts into the summer,” says Debbie Johnson, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism. “With so many great places, it’s easy to add a stop to an Arizona road trip to experience this beauty.”

From the Sonoran Desert areas of Southern Arizona to the high-country meadows of Flagstaff’s San Francisco Peaks, Arizona offers colorful blooms to be discovered no matter where your travels take you. Arizona Office of Tourism outlines four hikes–and photo-taking tips!–for your springtime, flower-peeping adventures.

South Central Arizona – Picacho Peak State Park

It’s hard to miss the 1,500-foot distinctive rock formation of Picacho Peak State Park (pictured at top of page) along the I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson. What visitors may not realize though is that this sentinel of the desert offers both beautifully scenic and highly challenging hikes.

Heading up to the top along the Sunset Vista or Hunter trails rewards explorers with amazing views, and soon, blankets of Mexican Gold Poppies and others.

Pro tip: In addition to plenty of water, be sure to bring gloves, as parts of these summit trails utilize steel cables for safety.

North Central Arizona – Black Canyon National Recreation Trail

Heading north out of the Valley along I-17 provides a perfect opportunity to experience a wide variety of wildflowers on foot, or for the more adventurous, on a mountain bike. The Emery Henderson Trailhead, which can be reached from Exit 233 just before New River, is a great access point for the Black Canyon National Recreation Trail. This wide-ranging trek offers 80 miles to explore between Carefree Highway and the Prescott National Forest.

Flowers first start to show up around mid-March, with varieties blooming as the weather warms up. The season ends with saguaros, palo verde and ocotillo blooming through mid-May.

Pro tip: Plan to tackle this trail from November through April.

Southern Arizona – Catalina State Park

The Sonoran Desert-dominated Catalina State Park just north of Tucson is fed by snowmelt through two large washes, which bring cooler temperatures and beautiful, long-lasting blooms. Wildflowers can be found throughout, but the best displays are found along Sutherland Trail.

The trail stretches for nine miles one way with easy hiking for the first few miles and lots of wildflower blossoms in a variety of colors.

Pro tip: On Saturdays, head over to the Heirloom Farmers Market at Steam Pump Ranch for breakfast before hitting the trail.

Northern Arizona – Flagstaff Area

Although the wildflowers in the San Francisco Peaks prefer the summer months to make their appearances, they’re definitely worth the wait.

As many Arizonans head to the high country to escape the July and August heat of the Valley, famous Flagstaff wildflower locations will be in full bloom. Lockett Meadow, Fort Valley Flower Field and Schultz Pass Road are absolutely worth adding to any road trip itinerary, as they will be awash in a seemingly endless sea of gold.

Pro tip: After scoping out the flowers, head back to Flag to enjoy a delicious pie at Pizzicletta and a cold craft brew.

Photo Like a Pro

Hiking to see wildflowers is one thing. Photographing them well is another. Ready to impress social media friends with flower finds? Colleen Miniuk-Sperry, co-author of the wildflower photography book, “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers, A Guide to When, Where, and How,” offers these pro tips:

  • Get on the level with a handful of flowers, then fill the frame with them.
  • Position the camera so light cascades over the subject from the back or the side, creating shadows for depth.
  • Block the wind, or create an impressionistic photo by slowing down the shutter speed and moving the camera with the wind.

Spring in Arizona is an ideal time to get outside and explore the state. Find more ways to see wildflowers here or head to VisitArizona.com to find thousands of Arizona trip ideas.

Photo credit: An Pham

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