Desert Wildflowers on the Apache Wash Trail in the Sonoran Desert Preserve

Where to Look for Desert Wildflowers in North Phoenix

The Sonoran Desert is knows as the greenest desert in the world, a fact most obvious in early spring. Starting in late February through March and early April, desert wildflowers blanketed the ground, adding even more color to it.

Those who don’t live in the desert might not appreciate these blooms as much. But for us, desert dwellers, it is one of the best shows of nature. and we await it each year. Flowers actually grow in the desert! Who would’ve thought? When they hear the word “desert”, most people don’t think of flowers, or even any vegetation besides cacti.

Rain is so rare, we celebrate it. Half the year the heat is so scorching we feel like we live in an oven. And yet, nature survives. After even the shortest rain, the Sonoran Desert turns green. And each spring (and fall) colorful wildflowers pop out.

Desert wildflower early March in Phoenix
One of the first desert wildflower to pop its head up in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve

Before I visited the Southwest, I associated the word “desert” with a barren land. I imagined sand dunes, and desolate, scorched land. While that image is close to reality in the summer, in the fall, winter and spring the desert is green and often filled with color.

Wildflowers blanket the grounding the Phoenix Mountain Preserve
The first tiny yellow wildflowers blanket the ground in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve

Spring is even more beautiful in the Sonoran Desert after a rainy winter. And rainy doesn’t even mean that much rain, just enough for us to notice. By mid-February, the desert in Phoenix showcases all shades of green, adding yellows and oranges and a bit of purple and lavender here and there to the burst of color. Sometimes a lonely orange flower might pop up, its bright color contrasting with the grey rocks around it.

Wildflower in the desert Phoenix Mountains Preserve
Wildflower inPhoenix Mountains Preserve

Every year, during early spring I’m out hiking, enjoying more of this rebirth of nature, the desert in all its beauty. The following are only a few of the perfect wildflower-viewing spots in North Phoenix.

Desert Wildflowers in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve

One of my favorite spots in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve is accessed from the 40th St and Shea entrance. You’ll find several spots along the trails where desert wildflowers pop up. When we hiked early in the season, we enjoyed a few spots with yellow and purple flowers, the first ones to start blooming in the area each year.

Desert Wildflowers in early March
Scorpionweed after a rainy winter
desert wildflower in Phoenix Mountain Preserve
The bright orange beauty is just popping her head up from the desert floor

The Sonoran Desert Preserve

In the Sonoran Desert Preserve, off Cave Creek road, the Apache Wash Trail is one of the best – and easiest trail to look for desert wildflowers on. The trail winds in the valley and around the Apache Wash for about three miles roundtrip from the parking lot. The desert here, in the wash, is usually a brighter green, showcasing more flowers in bloom.

Last time I hiked the trail in early spring, as soon as I started walking, a field of yellow greeted me.

goldfields on the Apache Wash Trail
The aptly named goldfields blanket large areas by the trail

Farther on, the orange of the desert globemallow popped in the blanket of this yellow, adding a bit of variety.

Globemallows mixed with goldfields
The orange of globe mallows mixed in the sea of goldfields

In the shadow of some teddy bear cholla I noticed a few patches of purple.

Desert Wildflowers in Phoenix - scorpionweed

Then we found a few fields of Mexican gold poppies, bright in the desert sun.

Mexican Gold Poppies on the Apache Wash Trail in the Sonoran Desert Preserve Phoenix
Mexican Gold Poppies

And before leaving the trail, I came across this magenta beauty.

Wildflowers in Phoenix - Owl-clover

Wildflower Season in the Sonoran Desert

North Phoenix is just one of the places to see wildflowers in the Sonoran Desert. The are around the Superstition Mountains usually showcases even more of a variety of wildflowers, and blooming cacti later in the season. But because it is a well-known spot for wildlife-viewing, its trails tend to get more crowded during the season.

The wildflower season also marks the end of the “cold” season in Arizona, which means soon after we will be hibernating in our air-conditioned homes. So this is the time we are all outside every chance we get, enjoying some of the prettiest shows nature put up for us. Even in the desert.

Desert Wildflowers in Phoenix pin

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