You are using an outdated browser. Some layouts or functionality may not work as intended. Please upgrade your browser to view this website as intended.

Lake Elsinore Super Bloom

From Above

Posted on March 16, 2017

For a few short weeks each year, the City of Lake Elsinore in California transforms into a magical landscape with blooms of golden California poppies, lupines, daisies, and other wildflowers. It is truly a sight to see and tens of thousands come from all over to witness this explosion of color. But these beautiful wildflowers are so much more than just pretty pictures; they bring life not only to the scenery, but also to entire species of birds and insects that benefit from their vibrant presence.

What is Lake Elsinore?

Located in Southern California, roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, Lake Elsinore has a history that dates back at least 10,000 years. It was once home to Native American tribes and then became a bustling mining town in the late 1800s. Today, it’s an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, with rolling hills, valleys, oak trees and chaparral plants. Every spring, tens of thousands of tourists visit to see the incredible wildflower blooms. It’s a natural phenomenon that takes place for only a few weeks every year and draws people from all over the world.

Aerial photograph of wildflower-covered mountains in Lake Elsinore, California during the 2019 super bloom. From above, the blooming wildflowers stretch out as far as the eye can see.

What is a Super Bloom?

The wildflower bloom in Lake Elsinore transforms the hills and valleys into a sea of orange, yellow, purple, and blue that stretches as far as the eye can see. While the wildflowers bloom every year to varying degrees, the super bloom is a result of the right combination of rain, soil, and temperature, and not something that happens every year. This natural phenomenon occurs every few years and can last anywhere from a few weeks up to a month.

When is the Super Bloom in Lake Elsinore?

A super bloom usually occurs from March to May, but the exact timing is dependent on the weather, as wildflower blooming season depends entirely on the previous fall's rain. The lake acts as a basin that collects rainwater from around the surrounding hills. When there's an adequate amount of water , like in years with a major winter rainfall, the seeds in the soil take root and come to life the following spring.

The best time to visit is during peak bloom, which is when most of the wildflowers are blooming. The peak bloom period lasts for only 1-2 weeks, and you can track it on the Lake Elsinore Wildflower Watch website. Weekends are usually very crowded, so going during the week is usually advisable.

The normally arid mountains of Lake Elsinore, California are blanketed in orange poppy fields during the annual poppy bloom.

Where is the Best Place to See Lake Elsinore's Super Bloom?

There are many hills surrounding Lake Elsinore, but some specific spots offer particularly good views of the wildflowers. The Walker Canyon Ecological Reserve was the most popular spot, and it had a dedicated parking lot, but it can be crowded. Another great option is the trails of the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, where the poppies are accompanied by fields of lupines, golden yarrow, and more stunning wildflowers.

Keep in mind that visitors are strictly prohibited from stopping to take pictures on the roadside, so make sure to visit approved areas to avoid getting ticketed. The main trail at Walker Canyon that usually leads through the bloom area has recently been closed to hikers to prevent damage to the delicate flowers, a result of visitors not being mindful of the park's guidelines and trampling flowers during the last super bloom.

Aerial view of wildflower fields near Walker Canyon trailhead in Lake Elsinore, with two jeeps driving through the super bloom.

Do's and Don'ts of Visiting Lake Elsinore during the Super Bloom

  • Do stay on the trail, as going off-trail can destroy the flowers and disturb the wildlife.
  • Don’t pick or trample the flowers, and avoid bringing pets, as they can harm the wildlife.
  • Do respect nature and the people around you, and leave no trace.
  • Do stay alert for sudden weather changes, as the area can be prone to flash floods.

An aerial photo of orange poppies along the freeway in Lake Elsinore, where in 2019 visitors parked on the freeway and walked into the hills, blocking traffic and trampling wildflowers.

What Else Can I See in Lake Elsinore?

Lake Elsinore is home to over 200 species of animals, including birds, reptiles, mammals, and fish. It’s a great place to get up-close and personal with the natural environment and learn about the different ecosystems that exist in the area. The "Back Basin" along the Lake Elsinore Levee is a popular destination for birdwatchers, and you'll find dozens of species of birds here, including great blue herons, egrets, and raptors. The park also has a bicycle trail, a wetland area, and picnicking areas, making it a great spot for family outings. You can also explore downtown, walk along the lake’s shore, go fishing or boating, and hike the various trails in the area.

Lake Elsinore provides ample opportunities for visitors to explore its stunning scenery, with plenty of hiking, biking, and walking trails to choose from. The hiking trails range in difficulty, from easy, family-friendly hikes to challenging treks that require a bit of experience. The hills and valleys are dotted with oak, chaparral, and other native plants, making for a beautiful backdrop for outdoor adventures and photographs.

Aerial photograph showcasing the vibrant color and density of California poppies at peak bloom, during the 2019 super bloom near Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, California.

Tips for Capturing Stunning Wildflower Photos

When it comes to California poppies and wildflowers, the best time to take photos is earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon, when the light is not too harsh. It's also crucial to get in close and focus on the details, such as the delicate petals and intricate patterns, in addition to taking wide, sweeping panoramic views. Experimenting with different angles and framing can also help you to get the perfect shot. If you need some extra inspiration, don't hesitate to take a look at the work of other photographers who’ve visited the area before on social media.

Lake Elsinore is a treasure. Whether you're a hiking enthusiast, a nature lover, a California history buff, or simply seeking a relaxing escape to take some pictures, it has something to offer everyone. Though the wildflower super bloom may be a once-in-a-few-years event, the area's natural beauty, cultural landmarks, and peaceful atmosphere make it a year-round destination.