Wildflower Walks

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Vibrant hues of red, orange, yellow, purple, blue and magenta are painting the hillsides of Southern California, and the Santa Clarita Valley, in a spectacular display of spring blooms not seen in recent memory.

A super bloom in 2017 delighted residents who had not seen much to appreciate during California’s years long drought.

The super bloom of 2019 is already looking to be one for the record books, attracting huge crowds who often trample the beauty they seek to admire.

Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore recently closed the area’s poppy fields to the public after thousands of visitors caused grid-lock on nearby Interstate 15 and city streets around the trailhead. They also caused damage to the poppy fields, some areas have yet to recover from damage done by thoughtless poppy seekers during the 2017 bloom.

How can you find wildflowers without contributing to the chaos?

There is more to this super bloom than poppies, there are hundreds of beautiful wildflowers on display this spring, some growing almost in your own backyard.

Wear hiking boots and a hat, bring water and apply sunscreen. Use common sense when out in nature.

Do not pick the wildflowers. Leave nature as undisturbed as possible for others to enjoy. Stay on the trails. There is a fine for picking wildflowers.

SCV Wildflower Expert

Santa Clarita Community Hiking Club President Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel has a degree in biology, but is a self-taught botanist.

“I started hiking when I was 2 with my mother and she had a great interest in wildflowers,” she said. “I’ve been loving wildflowers for practically my entire life.”

Erskine-Hellrigel has collected thousands of wildflower photos over the years.

“I had over 90,000 photos of wildflowers at one time, but lost them after my external hard drive crashed,” she said.

She had planned on writing a wildflower identification guide.

Erskine-Hellrigel is rebuilding her photo collection and has shared her photos for this story.

One of her favorite wildflower viewing experiences occurred in 2017 during the super bloom in Death Valley.

“The floor of the valley was covered with blooms,” she said. “It was breathtaking.”

Erskine-Hellrigel said not all the wildflowers will bloom at the same time.

“The good thing is that as some flowers die, others will start blooming,” she said. “Just because you’ve been out once to look at the flowers doesn’t mean you’ve seen everything.”

The main bloom is expected to last through mid-summer.

“But the real diehards can go through November,” said Erskine-Hellrigel.

Wildflowers

“Towsley Canyon has a wonderful display of Farewell to Spring and Speckled Clarkia wildflowers,” said Erskine-Hellrigel. “There is a flower called Chinese Houses, it is layered like a pagoda, and is pink and white. It is just adorable.”

Erskine-Hellrigel said fields of Farewell to Spring will cover hillsides with pink blooms.

For Erskine-Hellrigel some of the most beautiful wildflowers to look for are what she calls “belly flowers.”

“Some flowers you can’t really see well unless you get down on your belly and take a good look,” she said.

One flower that Erskine-Hellrigel said she has not seen in five years, but has recently spotted are Red Maids.

“I’m really excited to have seen them. They are a magenta pink and are so pretty,” she said. “I’ve seen them already in Elsmere Canyon, Whitney Canyon and Towsley Canyon.”

Other wildflowers to look for:

California Poppies, Cobweb Thistle, Sticky Monkey Flower, Purple Sage, Golden Yarrow, Blue Larkspur, Mariposa Lily, Western Virgin’s Bower, Daytura and Elegant Clarkia.

Some wildflowers will only bloom after a fire has come through the area, said Erskine-Hellrigel.

“We may see flowers we haven’t seen in years, because some flowers only bloom after a fire,” she said. “The fire pops the seeds open and when rain hits, they grow. Some fire followers will bloom for eight years, then die back until the next fire.”

Erskine-Hellrigel suggests checking out websites to find out the status of the blooms so you know “where to go and when.”

To find out when the Community Hiking Club will be hosting wildflower walks visit https://communityhikingclub.org.

Ed Davis Park in Towsley Canyon

24335 The Old Road, Newhall, 91381

Info: https://mrca.ca.gov/parks/park-listing/ed-davis-park-in-towsley-canyon

Parking $7 (there is also a no fee lot if you want to walk farther to the park).

In addition to wildflowers, Towsley Canyon is a great spot for butterflies, as well. (https://mrca.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Butterfly-Brochure-2.pdf).

Erskine-Hellrigel suggests taking the Towsley Loop Trail for best wildflower viewing. She said if you time it right you can spot Chocolate Lilies. “They are brown and kind of blend in, and can be found on the Wiley Canyon side. They are brown and yellow striped with some green in the middle. They are just beautiful.”

Placerita Canyon

Placerita Canyon Natural Area and Nature Center

19152 Placerita Canyon Road, Newhall, 91321

Info: https://www.placerita.org

Every fourth Saturday of the month a “Blooms of the Season” wildflower walk is held 9:30-10:30 a.m.

Some trails in Placerita Canyon remain closed. The Botany Trail is open for self-guided hikes. You can spot some California Peonies and it is an easy, short walk.

Weldon Canyon

Coltrane Avenue, adjacent to Oak Tree Gun Club, Newhall, 91321

Info: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/newhall-pass-weldon-canyon-trail

This hidden gem is a great spot place to hike away from the crowds and get a great workout. The trail can be hard to spot.

The first half-mile is pretty steep, but the scenery is worth the efforts, and the wildflowers. Young oaks, lush vegetation and a beautiful view of Aliso Canyon when you reach the top of the mountain.

Elsmere Canyon

Located at the intersection of Sierra Highway and Remson Street, just south of Eternal Valley Cemetery.

Info: https://hikesantaclarita.com/where-to-go/elsmere-canyon/

Whitney Canyon Park

20303 Newhall Ave, Santa Clarita, 91321

Info: https://mrca.ca.gov/parks/park-listing/whitney-canyon/

Other SCV wildflower areas to explore include Pico Canyon, East Canyon, East Walker Ranch and Golden Valley.

Carizzo Plain

17495 Soda Lake Road, Santa Margarita, 93453

https://www.blm.gov/visit/carrizo-plain-national-monument

Take I-5 North, then head off pretty much into the middle of nowhere. Takes about three hours to get there. Not exactly in our backyard, but worth a trip. Be careful when traveling on the dirt roads in the area, if there has been recent rain you might get stuck in the mud.

There is a paved road, Soda Lake Road, that goes around the plain and you can see the bloom without having to leave your car.  

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