We were in Death Valley back in January during a rare rain and have been constantly checking wildflower reports in anticipation of a Spring visit. While Death Valley has some flowers every year, the last superbloom was in 2005. These big blooms need evenly-spaced rain from winter through spring (they had a rainstorm in Oct and Jan this year, and hopefully more due to El Nino) and protection from elements like desert wind. It's a real treat to see.
The bloom we saw was "a shadow of its former self" due to a 60mph windstorm that blew through a few days before, but there were still vast fields of flowers.
Death Valley is huge--at least 100mi N-S along 190, plus offshoots--and elevation varies from -282ft to over 9000ft. The lower elevations at sea level are blooming now with the iconic fields of yellow.
We had the most fun flower hunting at various elevations. At a glance it doesn't seem like the rest of the park is blooming, but it's nearly impossible to walk without trampling small flowers. Just get out of the car and start walking.
Brown-eyed Evening Primrose:
Desert Five-Spot (Jeremy's favorite):
Beavertail Cactus just itching to bloom:
Desert Gold Poppy:
Desert Evening Primrose:
Gravel Ghost, which has almost naked-eye invisible purple tips:
Desert Chicory, almost identical to Gravel Ghost but without purple tips:
Purple Mat covering the slopes of Ubehebe Crater:
The best resource for recent wildflower updates is DesertUSA, which compiles both the official NPS wildflower reports and user-submitted reports. The lower elevation flowers may be on their way out, but mid- and high-elevation flowers have just started.
Temps at sea level were already a scorching 85 degrees, which feels hotter when you're in the desert. There's a few campgrounds at higher elevation that are first-come, first-served. We liked Emigrant, Wildrose, and Mesquite Spring campgrounds.
Locations we saw flowers on 3/15 and 3/16:
- Desert Gold fields between mile markers 23 and 28 on Badwater Road, south of the salt flats.
- More Desert Gold fields with Gravel Ghost in the Beatty Cutoff-Daylight Pass Road-190 triangle (this is a beautiful drive itself).
- Desert Five Spot and others at the exit to the 20 Mule Team road on 190.
- Purple Mat all over Ubehebe Crater.
- The most varied flowers along the roadside of the Mesquite Spring Campground entrance, and around Jayhawker Canyon area off of Emigrant Canyon Road.
- Desert Paintbrush around mile 16 of Emigrant Canyon Road.