Desert in Bloom Phoenix

Discover Color in the Sonoran Desert Preserve

Despite of the image the word “desert” conjures, you will find color in the Sonoran Desert Preserve, especially in spring. One of my favorite places to enjoy this environment, I try to go out there often, especially in early spring, when the desert wildflowers bloom. Practically in the city, the preserve feels miles away from it, with one of the largest areas still untouched by construction, homes, buildings.

This might not last long though. The land around the desert preserve is being measured out for homes, and builders are trying to get permission to build four times as many as they were originally granted. Hope the city has enough sense not to let them. Even the homes they originally granted permission for will interfere with life in the wild desert.

Many shades of green in the Sonoran Desert in March
Many shades of green in the Sonoran Desert Preserve in early March

So we take every opportunity to go out there and enjoy this beauty, while we still can.

It is my favorite spot to go for wildflower viewing every year in spring. My favorite hike is the Apache Wash Trail, a great spot to find desert wildflowers in North Phoenix.

Hiking the trail at sunset sometimes offers a better show of colors. However, if you want to see the flowers open, an earlier hike might be better. By sunset, some of the flowers close up.

Hiking The Apache Wash Trail in the Sonoran Desert Preserve

During this particular hike, we started off on the Apache Wash Trail. An easy stroll, with no elevation gain, the trail is a loop of either three miles, or the longer version at about seven miles.

Goldfields surround the Apache Wash trail in March
Goldfields surround the Apache Wash trail in March

It is my favorite hike in the area, not only because it’s so flat (I have a bad knee, a good excuse to stay off mountain trails), but it is home to some of the lushest (desert-lush, not Pacific-Northwest lush, but still) vegetation in the area. It is a wash, after all, even if it’s dry most of the time. The bright green colors of the cacti promise a great show in another month when the cactus-flowers bloom.

Goldfields mixed with globemallows cover the desert floor, turning it yellow and orange.
Goldfields mixed with globemallows cover the desert floor, turning it yellow and orange.

But in early spring, we were looking for a different show of color, one that the delicate desert wildflowers offer, a combination of all shades of yellows, oranges, blues, purples, and magentas. Still not at its peak, the desert bloom is spectacular even in the early stages, one of the best since we’ve lived here, in the middle of this metro-city in the desert.

A Patch of Mexican Gold Poppies

We followed the trail as it winds around the wash, enjoying the green, yellow and orange of the desert around us, with the healthy waterfilled saguaros and chollas. But I couldn’t wait to reach the patch of Mexican gold poppies we noticed the previous week.

They seemed even brighter than before.

Mexican Gold Poppy by the Apache Wash. Phoenix
Mexican Gold Poppy by the Apache Wash. Phoenix

More of them popped up during the week, and now we were looking at a larger area covered with bright yellow-orange.

Mexican Gold Poppies by the Apache Wash
Gold poppy field by the Apache Wash

A Stretch of Green Desert Filled with Cacti

Farther on, the show of the different varieties of cacti and desert shrubs, showcased all shades of green, from the blue-green of desert shrubs, the olive-green of the creosote, to the brighter yellow-green of the paloverde tree starting to bloom, and the healthy deep green of the saguaros.

Arizona - the Sonoran Desert
Many shades of green in the Sonoran Desert in March

A Tiny Spot of the Brightest Magenta

We walked on the wash for a while, and there I noticed a tiny patch of the brightest magenta. I can’t figure out what this flower is called, though I’ve seen it before. Sitting alone on the center of the wash, its color is so deep and bright, seems out of place in the desert.

Color in the Sonoran Desert Preserve
Intense magenta color in the desert

Getting back on the Apache Wash Trail, we continued for a while longer, until it intersected with the Sidewinder Trail, leading up on the hill.

From here, we often keep walking along the Apache Wash Trail, closing the loop back at the trailhead.

Sometimes though, like during this particular hike, we walk up the hill, following the Sidewinder Trail from here.

Hiking Up the hill on the Sidewinder Trail

Instead of continuing all the way back to the parking lot on the Apache Wash Trail, this time we headed up the hill on the Sidewinder Trail, to watch the sunset above the valley.

More colors greeted us on the hillside, as purple, bright yellow, lavender and orange flowers bloom here.

Scorpionweed along the trail was showing off its purple-lavender colors.

Scorpionweed along the Sidewinder Trail
Scorpionweed along the Sidewinder Trail shows off its purple-lavender color.

More gold poppies, lupines (yes, one of their varieties lives in the desert), and a lot of other flowers added more color to the hillside.

Gold poppies ast sunset Sonoran Desert preserve Sidewinder trail
Sunset on the hill. The gold poppies are closing for the night, but still putting on a show of color.

Sunset on the Hill

Patch of lupine Sunset in the Sonoran Desert preserve
Deep blue lupines add to the color-show of the desert in spring. On the Sidewinder Trail at sunset.

We stopped for a short time to enjoy the sunset view from the top of the hill, then headed back.

Back to the City

The desert in and around Phoenix is filled with color from late February through April. Desert wildflowers change the colors of the Sonoran Desert.

However, the cacti, with the most spectacular flowers, don’t start blooming until late April/early May. By then it is usually too hot to hike in the Sonoran Desert preserve, but very early in the day it is still possible. We usually try to go out in the desert a few times when the cacti bloom.

Color in the Sonoran Desert
Spring Color in the Sonoran Deser

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