The barren hills in the Mecca Hills Wilderness Area create an interesting pattern across this desert landscape.
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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
Desert cactus in bloom Dos Palmas Windmills at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains Firefighter working a prescribed burn Bighorn Sheep
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Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office

Wildflowers

Looking Forward to the next Wildflower Season:
 
Hope springs eternal in the heart of the Wildflower Watcher.  While we can't predict what kind of year it will be, we can be assured that there will be something worth seeing almost everywhere you look.
 
When the Desert Blooms:
 
During each spring season, the desert lands within the jurisdiction of the Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office offer several great locations for wildflower viewing, with some years producing a greater or lesser display, depending on duration and timing of rain events throughout the previous autumn and winter.  Some years, you can see vast carpets of wildflowers, while other years are great for flowering desert shrub and tree species.  Lower elevations in areas further south tend to bloom first, with the show moving up the slopes and northward as the season continues.

No matter when you visit, there will be something to see.  Even the cactuses celebrate!
 
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A beavertail cactus with pink blooms
Beavertail cactus in bloom

Driving to the Daisies:

One scenic drive to consider if you are looking for places to view wildflowers is the scenic loop between Indio and Blythe.  Start by traveling Interstate 10 east of Indio to Desert Center, then north on Hwy 177 to Hwy 62, then east to Midland Road, and then south back to Interstate 10 at Blythe, where you can head west again to return to Indio.

This is a full day of driving; you can break it up by staying overnight along the Colorado River in the community of Blythe, or at the BLM’s Corn Springs Campground in the Chuckwalla Mountains.

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Palm trees at the entrance to Corn Springs Campground
Palm Trees near the entrance to Corn Springs Campground, and ...


Brittlebush in full flower at Corn Springs.

Brittlebrush at Corn Spring

 

Lillies in the Valley: 

Areas to check out along the way include the Palen-McCoy Dunes and the 2,000-acre Desert Lily Sanctuary, located eight miles north of Desert Center.  You can hike around and search for desert sunflowers and the elegant Desert Lily in flat, sandy ground between the creosote bushes and desert dandelions.

If you continue on the dirt road that travels the north edge of the sanctuary, the road will end at the Palen Dunes.  In this area, you can hike through the dunes and look for California evening primrose and sand verbena.  If you are alert, you may catch a glimpse of the fleet-footed Mojave fringe-toed lizard.

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Desert lily in bloom amid the sands

A desert lily in bloom in the Palen Dunes area...

...and in close-up:
Desert lily in close-up

In spring, the desert will surprise you with the most amazing abundance of life in the most unexpected places:


An evening primrose blooms amid desert sands
An evening primrose amid desert sands...

...and in close-up:
A close-up of an evening primrose bloom, white and pinkish with a yellow center

 

Details of the Optional Side Excursions:

As you drive north on Hwy 177, you will come to the Palen Pass Road.  Those of you with 4WD vehicles can detour here and climb through the Palen Pass or head down the eastern edge of the Palen Dunes.  If you take Palen Pass Road, you will need a 4WD vehicle due to the sandy stretches you will encounter; this drive will reward you with spectacular views of the Granite and Palen Mountains to the north and south, and the Eagle and McCoy mountains to the west. This area also offers spectacular views of the Palen Dunes, and photographic opportunities for evening primrose with the McCoy Mountains as a backdrop.  Early morning lighting in the dunes provides the best setting. Travel this road for two miles, then turn right and head south down the Palen McCoy Dune Road, and follow the base of the mountain south to Ford Dry Lake and Interstate 10.

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Desert dandelions, with mountains in the background and the vast blue desert sky above
Desert dandelion in bloom

If you are staying on Hwy 177, continue north until you reach the Hwy 62 intersection where you will turn right and head east until you reach the Midland Road.  At Midland Road, turn south onto the well-maintained gravel road, where you will travel through a large valley between the Palen-McCoy and the Rice Valley Wilderness areas, which offer scenic vistas and numerous areas to hike and explore near the road.  Midland Road will eventually connect with Interstate 10 near the town of Blythe, which offers most services including places to eat.

When planning your travels in the desert, remember to bring lots of water and some snacks and let someone know your travel plans.  Cells phone service is intermittent in this area.  After Indio, Chiriaco Summit is the last place for services until you return to Interstate 10 near Blythe.

A blister beetle collects pollen from a desert bloom
A blister beetle collects pollen from a desert bloom.

An ironwood tree casts a distinct profile against desert, mountains and sky
An ironwood tree casts a distinctive profile against desert, mountains and sky.