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Last Updated on March 25, 2024

Inside: Where to see Arizona wildflowers in the spring-we show you 24 spots to drive, walk or hike throughout the state to see these colorful beauties!

“You belong among the wildflowers, you belong in a boat out at sea. You belong with your love on your arm, you belong somewhere you feel free.” — Tom Petty

Springtime in the Arizona desert means wildflowers–lots and lots of wildflowers. Roadsides streaked with purple scorpionweed, vivid orange globemallow peeking out from rocky soil, mango-bright poppies snuggling with prickly cactus. I actually have a photo of that last one! (see below)

Heck, even the creosote bushes are covered with tiny yellow blooms!

Doesn’t that conjure up a pretty picture? Sort of like the opening scene of “The Sound of Music,” but with an Arizona vibe. 😉

If you’re like me, and love seeing Arizona wildflowers, I’ve put together a list of 24 great places to find them. I’ve included roadways, walks and hikes. So no matter how much time (or energy) you’ve got, there should be something that’s sure to please.

Because don’t we all belong among the wildflowers?

Even a boring stretch of Interstate looks pretty when the Arizona wildflowers bloom!

Wildflowers in Central Arizona

1-4: Wildflower Drives in Central Arizona

1-US Highway 60 east of Phoenix: Head east out of the Mesa/Gilbert area on Hwy 60 towards the Arizona small town of Globe. Soon the flat valley floor will give way to rolling foothills of the Pinal Mountains. Along the way you’ll see Arizona wildflowers in most of the hilly spots. Spend some time exploring the cute shops and eateries in Globe and nearby Miami. This makes a nice day trip or weekend getaway from Phoenix.

2-AZ Highway 79 north of Florence: Florence is small town that’s a pleasant day trip from Phoenix. While this is true anytime of the year, it’s especially nice in spring, when the drive down AZ Hwy 79 puts on a colorful show featuring globemallow and poppies.

There are sporadic pullouts for taking photos, and a small parking lot for hikers (or flower peepers 🌼 👀) at Cottonwood Canyon Road.

3-Interstate 17 northbound from Phoenix: Okay, admittedly this one’s a bit of a stretch. It’s not exactly a destination for a “meandering” Sunday drive.

However, as you climb out of the Valley of the Sun there are some gorgeous saguaro-studded hills, which will typically have wildflowers nearby. Keep an eye out for tinges of purple, yellow and orange. It’ll make that drive up to Prescott or Flagstaff a little more fun.

field of california poppies in arizona

4-AZ Highway 87 (Beeline Highway) near Saguaro Lake: This road that heads northeast out of Phoenix toward Payson sports some stunning scenery any time of year, as the desert floor gradually gives way to saguaro-studded hills and eventually the trees of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

The area near Saguaro Lake sports a Sonoran Desert landscape that yields up plenty of Arizona wildflowers in the spring.

5-State Route 88 (Apache Trail) between Apache Junction & Tortilla Flat: This roughly 17-mile stretch of road winds into the base of the Superstition Mountains past Canyon Lake, with plenty of petal-peeping and viewpoints along the way.

Grab one of the famous burgers at Tortilla Flat Saloon to make it the perfect spring outing.

NOTE: If you’re itching for a bit more adventure, continue on another 23 miles to Theodore Roosevelt Lake. But, caution: the remaining distance is unpaved a few miles beyond Tortilla Flat, and pretty twisty. Consider your vehicle–and your appetite for adventure–and decide accordingly.

Have a wildflower viewing suggestion (or photos)?: Click the “contact us” button & let us know–we’ll add it to the list!

7-13: Central Arizona Wildflower Walks and Hikes

closeup of arizona wildflowers. yellow-orange california poppies
Pretty poppies–the color of the Arizona sun!

6-McDowell Sonoran Preserve: There is no shortage of terrific trails to explore in this fantastic (and vast!) park in Scottsdale. Fields of poppies, lupine and more intermingle with saguaro and prickly pear cactus in spring. More details are available at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve website.

Note: Anyone with mobility issues will enjoy the park’s Bajada Nature Trail, which is fully accessible.

7-Woods Canyon Lake: This is a great petal-peeping spot if you’re a bit of a procrastinator. (And who hasn’t been there at one time or another? 🤷‍♀️)

Because of its high altitude (7000′) along the Mongollon Rim, Arizona wildflowers bloom a bit later amid the Ponderosa Pines at Woods Canyon Lake. From late May (still spring!) through early October (definitely NOT spring!) you’ll see lupine and other floral delights along the 3.7-mile trail that circles the lake.

8-Desert Botanical Garden: If you’re looking for a “primer” on Arizona Wildflowers, the Desert Botanical Garden, just east of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, is a good place to start.

Amid many other displays, the Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Loop Trail, will show you what’s out in the, well, wild. The many helpful placards will give you a leg up on identifying those yellow and purple wonders you encounter on hikes and drives elsewhere.

Closeup of bright orange desert globemallow flower in arizona
Desert globemallow can be found along roadsides and flowering among the cacti

9. Lake Pleasant: This park straddles the Maricopa and Yavapai county line in northwest Phoenix with several nice hiking trails both along the lake and the hills surrounding it, which are filled with wildflowers in the spring.

Arizona wildflowers are especially nice along the trails above the lake; the Beardsley and Cottonwood trails are flatter and easier, while the Pipeline Canyon trail is more of a challenge.

10-Usery Mountain Regional Park: This Maricopa County park, just east of Mesa, offers up plenty of Sonoran Desert landscape just at the edge of Tonto National Forest. Springtime yields up acres of poppies, desert margold and more along the desert floor, while freshly-green ocatillo sport flame-red tips above.

ocatillo blooming at usery mountain park in arizona

11-Lost Dutchman State Park: Hike along the base of the fabulous rock formations at Lost Dutchman, where you’ll see acres of bright yellow brittlebush carpeting the spring hillsides.

NOTE: Lost Dutchman is along the Apache Trail on your way to Tortilla Flat (see “drives,” above) and makes a nice combined wildflower hike/drive combo for the day. Just sayin’ 😊.

Even scrubby creosote bushes become Arizona wildflowers in Spring!

12-Tonto National Monument: Get a lot of bang for your buck when visiting Tonto in the spring: in addition to a spectacular Native American cliff dwelling site, you’ll see plenty of beautiful flowers to boot.

Wildflowers at Tonto bloom in March and April, while the cacti put on a show in May and June.

Have a wildflower viewing suggestion (or photos)?: Click the “contact us” button & let us know–we’ll add it to the list!

Southern Arizona Wildflowers

13-17: Wildflower Drives in Southern Arizona

red arizona wildflowers

13-Interstate 10 near Picacho Peak: Okay, another option that’s not exactly a leisurely outing. But let’s face it folks, that drive on I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson is boring! 🥱

Spotting the craggy top of Picacho Peak midway (sort-of) through that drive is one of the few interesting landmarks along the way.

In the spring, Picacho gives us another gift: a sea of yellow-orange poppies draping its base like a giant patchwork quilt. If you don’t have time to stop and smell the roses (I’m speaking metaphorically here), at least allow yourself a few glances for a brief respite from the relentless interstate.

14-State Route 86 west of Tucson: This drive passes directly through the Tohono O’Oldham nation, sports some of the most beautiful Sonoran Desert landscape out there–including a stand of the tallest, skinniest saguaros I’ve ever seen! 🌵

It is also almost 100 miles of non-stop wildflowers, including globemallow, scorpionweed and desert marigold. It’s an orange-purple-yellow extravaganza 🧡💜💛. And it makes the drive to Ajo or Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (or Rocky Point, Mexico) that much more enjoyable.

15-Mount Lemmon Highway: Mount Lemmon is famous for providing a diverse range of ecosystems as you climb 20–ish miles to its 9,000-foot peak. But you needn’t go that far to spot the Arizona wildflowers.

Pull into the Babad Do’ag scenic overlook about 2.7 miles up the mountain. There will be saguaros above and below you, with plenty of wildflowers sprinkled in among them.

NOTE: the more intrepid can hike the adjacent Babad Do’ag trail, although it gets steep fairly quickly.

16-Gates Pass: This road winds west from Tucson to carry you to the far side of the Tucson Mountains and to Saguaro National Park-West. Along the way you pass through some magnificent Sonoran Desert landscape, which in the spring pops with the color of wildflowers.

Stop at the Gates Pass Scenic Lookout, or spend more time hiking one of the trails in Tucson Mountain Park (see below).

organ pipe cactus with brittlebush at the base
Organ Pipe cactus and brittlebush living in harmony on the Ajo Mountain Loop drive

17-Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: You have two ways of seeing wildflowers while driving through Organ Pipe: fast or slow.

AZ State Highway 85 offers the “fast” option. This route slices through the park’s center, carrying travelers en route to the Mexican resort town of Rocky Point. The drive is straight, with some lovely views of purple and yellow wildflowers, along with plenty of cactus (although not really many Organ Pipes).

However, we recommend taking the slow option, the 21-mile Ajo Mountain loop, which takes you deeper into the Organ Pipe’s unique landscape. Multiple stopping points allow you to get up-close and personal with the eponymous cacti, as well as the poppies, brittlebush and more that burst forth in springtime.

18-23: Southern Arizona Wildflower Walks and Hikes

man standing in front of Organ pipe cactus and wildflowers

18-Saguaro National Park-East: The eastern portion of Saguaro National Park gets snowmelt from its location at the base of the Rincon Mountains, providing ample water for all those wildflowers to sprout up in between the cacti.

Check out some of our Favorite Tucson Hikes for more info, including an accessible nature trail suitable for everyone.

19-Saguaro National Park-West: After you’ve driven through the spectacular Gates Pass (see drives, above), continue on to the western section of this National Park.

arizona wildflowers-penstemon
Penstemon-a hummingbird favorite

Check with park rangers at the Visitor Center for the best trails for wildflower spotting during your visit. A perennial fave is the King Canyon Wash Trail, with the winter rains providing plenty of water for the wildflowers. (Rangers will alert you to any potential flooding dangers).

20-Picacho State Park: Although you can see the blanket of California poppies from I-10 (see “Drives” above), it’s worth it to just get off the darned Interstate already and see them up close.

closeup of arizona wildflowers. yellow-orange california poppies

To see the flowers up-close there’s no need to climb the steep trail to the peak. The easy 0.5-mile Calloway Trail will take you to lovely overlook. Memories of this beautiful hike will be enough to sustain you through a year’s worth of dull drives up and down I-10. (Did I say that out loud? 🤭)

Have a wildflower viewing suggestion (or photos)?: Click the “contact us” button & let us know–we’ll add it to the list!

21-Catalina State Park: There are plenty of opportunities for wildflower spotting in this large park north of Tucson on hikes suited to all abilities.

The 1.0-mile Birding Trail is a great place to start, since flowers attract birds . . . and you might see some hummingbirds too!

22-Tohono Chul Gardens: There is a wide range of different themed gardens at this Tohono Chul, including some where wildflowers native to the region have been planted especially to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

For a sense of a more natural setting for Arizona wildflowers, take a stroll through the South Loop and Saguaro Discovery trails. These Tucson Gardens provide a more native Sonoran Desert habitat. Ideally, you’ll see some wildflowers growing alongside their famous crested saguaro (that’s the one that looks like it’s sporting a pompadour on top)!

Crested saguaro cactus in desert landscape
No wildflowers in this shot, but I really get a kick out of this crested saguaro at Tohono Chul

23-Tucson Mountain Park: Trails abound in vast Tucson Mountain Park for wildflower viewing. It’s location immediately south of Saguaro National Park-West means you’ll see virtually identical plant life–including wildflowers.

Access points on both the east and west side of the park-the Brown Mountain Trail offers some great views without too much climbing, as well as seeing wildflowers close-up.

(NOTE: for a nice drive through this park, see “Gates Pass Drive,” above.)

Poppies and cholla hugging it out–cute!

24-Sabino Canyon National Recreation Area: The year-round stream flowing through Sabino Canyon provides a pretty good insurance policy for seeing wildflowers in the spring.

This is especially true along the main canyon drive that parallels the stream: it’s paved, and therefore fully accessible to anyone with mobility issues.

For a more birds-eye view, consider the Phoneline Trail, which parallels the stream along the mountainside before looping back to stream level.

As you can see, there is no shortage of places to view the beautiful wildflowers of Arizona! Where will you go to see them?


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