Los Angeles

The Wildflower Superbloom Continues in California’s Mountains This Summer

Head to the mountains to see some beautiful flowers as the blooming season progresses.

Photo courtesy of Mammoth Lakes Tourism
Photo courtesy of Mammoth Lakes Tourism
Photo courtesy of Mammoth Lakes Tourism

When the snow melts in the alpine areas of California, it makes for a beautiful display of various types of flowers cascading down the mountainside. What many people don’t know is there’s no set “season” for wildflower blooms in these higher altitude destinations of the Golden State. It’s simply based on when temperatures start to climb, and the greenery begins to peek from the snow.

This past year felt like a particularly harsh winter for snowfall and rain in California, but the good news is that wetter winters will lead to a more robust bloom of bright summer flowers. From Yosemite to Mammoth and everywhere in between, here are some of the best spots to spot wildflowers across the mountain regions of California.

But before you get out and explore the best wildflower across the mountain regions of California, remember to be respectful of the flowers and their natural habitats. Follow “leave no trace” principles and be cautious not to trample the blooms in their home. Take photos without disturbing the plants, and never pick them ‚Äďno matter how pretty they are!

Photo courtesy of Visit Yosemite | Madera County
Photo courtesy of Visit Yosemite | Madera County
Photo courtesy of Visit Yosemite | Madera County

Yosemite/Madera County 

There’s something magical about Yosemite in summer when the snow and ice melt and make way for the perfect climate to showcase more than 1,000 species of vibrant wildflowers. From the rich blue hues of gentians to alpine goldenrod, ranger’s button and Sierra butterweed, and more, it’s a rainbow of color.

Those who prefer to drive and see the blooms can explore these inspiring landscapes via the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway, a 100-mile road through the high country of the Sierra National Forest. Or, scope out some individual trails that will make for an experience like no other, such as on an adventure starting at Tuolumne Meadows, like the Elizabeth Lake trail, a moderate, steady trail with beautiful views of the water and lush greenery.

Photo courtesy of Mammoth Lakes Tourism
Photo courtesy of Mammoth Lakes Tourism
Photo courtesy of Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Mammoth Lakes 

Mammoth has received a record amount of snowfall this year. In fact, the mountain anticipates being open for snowsports through July of 2023). Still, once the ground starts to peek out and the sun ushers those blooms from below, it’s time to admire a full spectrum of flower shades from yellow to orange, red, and purple. And because there’s a wide range in elevation and different types of soils found in this region, there will be a wide variety of flowers to encounter, including lupine, giant Indian paintbrush, yarrow, and the common monkeyflower.

Trekkers won’t have to venture far outside town to explore the Mammoth Creek to Snowcreek Meadows trail, an out-and-back route that showcases some of the best blooms in the Eastern Sierra right from the center of town. This easy trek starts at Mammoth Creek Park and heads up the paved Town Loop along Mammoth Creek, crossing the road and merging into the natural trail of Snowcreek Meadow, which features a plethora of flowers. There’s also the Mammoth Mountain Trail which is a much more challenging trek and travels through a range of elevation levels, but the effort more than pays off with sights of colorful flowers. This route climbs up from the ski resort and leads to a summit featuring panoramic views from the top.

Photo courtesy of Visit Big Bear
Photo courtesy of Visit Big Bear
Photo courtesy of Visit Big Bear

Big Bear 

Near Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino National Forest outside of Los Angeles, there’s a rare type of flower only found in one specific area due to the unique geography of Pebble Plains ecosystems. They’re often called ‚Äėbelly plants’ due to the need to “flatten down on your belly” to see them as they’re so tiny they’re almost invisible to those who don’t know where to look.

Explore trails in the 156-acre North Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve which sits at about 7,000 feet of elevation and features an interpretive trail showcasing these rare wildflower displays and is known for hosting a wintering population of bald eagles. In this unique high-altitude environment, you’ll see sights of iris, checkerblooms, yellow monkeyflowers, violets, and more.

Photo courtesy Jenn Boyd Lemming
Photo courtesy Jenn Boyd Lemming
Photo courtesy Jenn Boyd Lemming

Tahoe South

In South Tahoe, the best place to see the wildflowers is typically in August (but keep in mind this may trend a bit later this year due to hefty snowfall) out at Kirkwood Mountain Resort and Carson Pass. Hikers can admire blooms of watercress, lilies, lupines, irises, mountain bluebells, larkspur, giant red paintbrush, and western columbine, among others. The Winnemucca Lake Loop is also a great spot for spotting blooms, and in addition to the flowers, hikers can admire other well-known geographic landmarks in the distance, including Elephants Back, Round Top, The Sisters, Caples Lake, Little Round Top, Red Lake Peak, and Freel Peak.

Photo courtesy of Palisades Tahoe
Photo courtesy of Palisades Tahoe
Photo courtesy of Palisades Tahoe

North Tahoe 

North Tahoe is an explosion of color in the late summer. In Palisades Tahoe, spy Mule’s Ears, Lupine, Paintbrush, Mariposa Lilies, and Penstemon, among other blooms. There are many¬†trails to explore to encounter these petals firsthand, but perhaps one of the most well-known is a 3-mile, moderately challenging route called the Shirley Canyon trail, which is a local and visitor favorite. It’s been dubbed “one of Lake Tahoe’s best half-day hikes,” boasting sights of waterfalls and bright wildflowers among other landmark sights with 2,000 feet of elevation gain and dog-friendly terrain. Those planning to take the tram down should check its operating schedule before hiking up.

From Incline Village, check out the Mt. Rose Trail, which features red alpine paintbrush, white-purple lupine, and pink fireweed blooming along the trail and spreading across the peak. Starting in Tahoe City, explore Page Meadows, where wildflowers like Portella, Sierra bog orchids, and camas lilies can be admired along the route. And in Carson City, there’s the Marlette Lake Trail which is a 5-mile uphill hike that features wildflowers, including pink bog mallow, pink yarrow, and various lavender flowers.

Greater Redding Region 

15 minutes west of Redding, explore the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, which boasts beautiful wildflowers, including Toyon, California Buckeye, California Fuchsia, Yerba Santa, Cat’s Ears and Pinnate Lotus, among a dozen other species of blooms.

This recreation area features numerous trails for all levels – including the 6.3-mile out-and-back Davis Gulch Trail with its beautiful views, including a tranquil creek and peaceful lake.

Photo courtesy of Discover Siskiyou
Photo courtesy of Discover Siskiyou
Photo courtesy of Discover Siskiyou

Discover Siskiyou 

In Siskiyou, located in the northernmost part of California, about 50 miles North of Mount Shasta, explore some beautiful blooms like lush purple lupines or western Pasque flowers, among others. Visit the Lava Beds National Monument, which boasts one of California’s most vibrant wildflower seasons, traditionally from March through September.

Photo by Margaux Bossanne
Photo by Margaux Bossanne
Photo by Margaux Bossanne

Paradise Springs РHuttopia 

In the heart of the San Gabriel Mountains outside of Los Angeles, there’s an oasis called Paradise Springs which hosts a storied destination called Huttopia, offering access to some of the best access to late summer blooms in the Southern California region. Nestled into the Angeles National Forest, this camp lets adventurers easily explore this outdoor space where a mountain spring flows through a wide canyon lush, featuring a range of greenery and wildflowers to admire. It’s a safe and quiet respite with 150 acres of protected land outside of the city, made for those seeking refuge from the hustle and bustle of LA.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on¬†Instagram,¬†Twitter,¬†Pinterest,¬†YouTube,¬†TikTok, and¬†Snapchat.

Molly O’Brien¬†is a contributor for Thrillist.

Los Angeles

How to Spend a Weekend in Topanga Canyon

Nature and the arts collide in this beloved canyon community.

Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images
Hanan Isachar/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

Situated in the Santa Monica Mountains and known for its vibrant creative community, Topanga is one of Los Angeles’s most prized destinations for art and outdoor enthusiasts alike. And while LA boasts its own sprawling landscape of fun to tap into, you’d be remiss to miss a chance to explore this tucked-away collection of state parks, and cafes, and restaurants-especially when it all rests just 20 minutes away from the city. From a quaint caf√© with dazzling canyon views to a world-renowned, open-air theatre, here are the best ways to pass some time in Topanga now.

Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray
Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray
Photo courtesy of Inn of the Seventh Ray

Friday

Book dinner at Inn of the Seventh Ray
Owner Lucille Yaney opened this iconic restaurant in 1975 after spotting the property on a drive through the canyon with her late husband Ralph, and it’s safe to say she had a good eye. The land perfectly fits into Yaney’s vision of a romantic, alfresco dining space with tables tucked into cozy nooks and gazebos, all beneath canapes and fairy lights. Today, Yaney co-owns the venue with executive chef consultant Brad Miller. Together, they continue to fulfil the restaurant’s original mission to serve pure, natural foods reflective of the season’s best. That approach appears in dishes like 8-Hour Black Vinegar Braised Short Rib with creamy rosemary polenta, duck bacon Brussels sprouts, and caramelized onion and fig jam; Roasted Mushroom Toast with oyster mushrooms and sherry tarragon cream; and Beets & Whipped Black Pepper Creme Fraiche. Consider the carbs here. Pastas and sauces are made in-house and from scratch, as is the bread (available regular or gluten-free), an order of which you won’t want to miss. Check out the wine list, too, which offers a robust organic and biodynamic selection that has helped the restaurant garner some impressive accolades in recent years.

Check into Topanga Canyon Inn
In addition to plenty of excellent Airbnbs available to rent in the Canyon, there’s Topanga Canyon Inn, a charming bed and breakfast comprised of two Mediterranean-style buildings-Casa Blanca and Casa Rosa-both built by the owners. Guests can enjoy bespoke design details in each room, along with gorgeous mountain views from their own private balcony. Come morning, join other travellers for breakfast, served daily at Casa Rosa.

Saturday

Get coffee at Café on 27
Ready your camera for a coffee date at this AM eatery and caf√©, where ample (and busy) outdoor seating offers some of the Canyon’s best views. A full breakfast and lunch menu is available (complete with hearty orders like eggs Benedicts, soups, and club sandwiches), but for lighter morning fare, spring for a pastry and any of their specialty drinks, such as the turmeric latte or Moroccan mocha.

Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock
Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock
Bradley Allen Murrell/Shutterstock

Hike Topanga State Park
Spanning 11,000 acres and 36 miles of trails, Topanga State Park is the largest state park within the Santa Monica Mountains and one of the world’s largest parks within city limits. Visitors can access the grounds via more than 60 entrances. Once on the trails, enjoy sweeping vistas while exploring the region’s range of plants, habitats, and wildlife, including several resident bird species.

Grab lunch at Topanga Living Café
Guided by their Topanga upbringing and need for a community gathering spot with great eats, sibling team Agustina Ferguson and Bayu Suryawan opened this daytime eatery in 2016. Ever since, locals and visitors have found refuge in the caf√©’s warm, airy space and nourishing, hyper-fresh fare-all California-inspired with global influences. Check it out in plates like the Island Style, a breakfast salad with Balinese corn fritters, a poached egg, and house-made chilli jam, or the tacos (Baja Fish or Baja Shrimp, Carne Asada, or Kabocha Squash), made-to-order and served on handmade tortillas. If you’re seeking something shareable, try the Farmers Market Crudite, a seemingly humble order whose bright beet hummus reminds us that eating your vegetables is, indeed, very cool. And take a drink to-go. The team here takes great pride in their coffee (organic espresso, courtesy of their iconic pink La Marzocco machine) and a lineup of made-to-order smoothies, juices, and teas. Shop your way through town
Visitors can stroll through the town centre’s most popular shops for various fun finds, including Moona Star, Pebbles, and Topanga Homegrown. Be sure to stock up on specialty, local snacks at Canyon Gourmet and satiate your sweet tooth while you’re at it. The organic soft-serve there is a must. Pro tip: Top it with any of their artisanal syrups for a winning combo, namely, the vanilla with cardamom.

Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
Photo courtesy of Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum

Catch a show at The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum
This beloved open-air theatre has hosted productions for decades and is recognized worldwide for its Shakespeare interpretations. In addition to its annual summer season, which includes works like Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the venue hosts concerts, rehearsals, and classes throughout the year for budding actors and playwrights of all ages.

Snag a slice at Endless Colour
This family-run pizza joint specializes in from-scratch pies with clever topping combinations (think purple potatoes, fontina, and truffle oil in the Purple Molly Potato or spinach, leeks, and goat cheese in the Super Greens). Bring some friends, order a pie or two, and check out the drinks list, which includes offbeat options like orange wines and hard kombucha.

Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery
Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery
Photo courtesy of The Canyon Bakery

Sunday

Check out The Canyon Bakery’s “Sunday Funday”
Situated on the grounds of the aforementioned Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, this bakery specializes in naturally leavened breads, pastries, cakes, and cookies using locally sourced, whole grain flours. There’s a takeout window on Sundays, from 9:30 am until the bakery sells out. A strong following lines up for favourites, such as whole grain croissants and gluten-free pizza, so be sure to arrive early to get your fill.

Try tacos to-go at La Chingona
On your way out of town, grab some tacos at La Chingona, where a team puts forth fresh, organic, gluten- and dairy-free tacos. Orders range to include options like grass-fed beef (carne asada), shrimp (wild-caught), and soy chorizo and can be fashioned into plates beyond tacos, too (think tostadas, salads, and bowls). Open only on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays; this taco stand sees good demand. Plan accordingly, pending your travels, especially to savour an order or two of the churros.

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Nicole Schnitzler is a contributor for Thrillist.

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