Where and when do wildflowers bloom in the Eastern Sierra?
We have prepared some easy and quick directions for you to find great wildflowers in Southern California’s deserts and mountains.
Click / tap on the image below to get the full PDF guide
Botanists, who are plant experts, will tell you annual wildflower blooms in California’s low and high desert regions are difficult to predict, eluding the most determined enthusiasts’ attempts to catch wildflowers at a perfect time.
Flower seekers commit to study and learn how water, temperature, wind and elevation work together to create the exact conditions for flowers to display vibrant color and broad distribution. These environmental factors determine the best and various locations for you as a wildflower aficionado to find the best blooms. As you get better finding wildflowers, you will find each year is different as to when they bloom, the variety of bloom, and density of their numbers.
Take time to learn the tools below to increase your probability of finding good desert wildflowers in spring and alpine wildflowers in summer. Then each year, use them to monitor, travel to, and discover these seasonal treasures as other successful enthusiasts do.
Water plays the most important role to help flowers germinate. The amount, pattern of rainfall and subsequent temperatures affect wildflower abundance and diversity. In some years, wildflowers carpet an area while other years will display few to none. Small doses of rain and regularity are best during winter. Too much rain can rot or wash away wildflower seeds. Too little rain lessens seed germination. Each season is unique to its particular wildflower bloom.
Temperature is also essential. Warm days are a good indicator of a full bloom ahead. If it gets too hot, seeds will dry out. Very cold temperatures will prevent flowers from blooming. Also, frequent springtime windstorms without additional rain can bring about a quick end to the spring bloom or even prevent it from happening by killing off delicate sprouts. Wildflowers require almost a “Goldilocks – Just Right” scenario to produce good blooms.
Death Valley, Owens Valley, and Eastern Sierra spring bloom periods for elevations of 1000 to 5000 feet occur usually from March through June; alpine wildflowers in the high Sierra begin in summer and can go into September. For up-to-date wildflower reports for the southwest deserts including California, check out https://www.desertusa.com/
Stop at our chamber office when you come to Bishop to pick up a print copy of the Wildflower Hot Spots of the Eastern Sierra. We are located at 690 N. Main, in the A frame building across from Carl’s Junior Drive In.
If you need anything else, please let us know.
The Bishop Visitor Center Hosts
Everything you need for a great wildflower experience
Click on each toggle bar below for details on what, where, when, how, and why.
What & Why
Have you heard of the wildflower “super bloom” that happens periodically in the deserts of the southwest? It’s a pretty special event that occurs in spring when conditions have been just right.
But, don’t wait! Don’t wait for a super bloom to visit the Eastern Sierra to see the magic of wildflowers in a vast, untamed, and natural setting. Wildflowers bloom here every year and it is an experience that you can enjoy with the whole family any year, anytime from about early March to late September.
What sets the Eastern Sierra apart from many other desert wildflower regions is its extremes in elevation combined with a diverse geologic environment. It is also the intersection of three major biotic provinces – the Mojave, Great Basin, and Sierra Nevada – with the result that this region has a wide variety of vegetation communities. Thousands of species occur here and many are unique to the Eastern Sierra.
Broadly speaking the Eastern Sierra is a region of eastern California that covers a vast area on the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It is a sparsely populated, high desert region that spreads across two counties, incorporates only a handful of towns, and has lots and lots of open land. The topography and geography of the region encompasses the deep Owens Valley, the tall and rugged Sierra Nevada to the west, the gentle giants of the White and Inyo mountains to the east, and the magnificent Mono Basin on the northern plateau. US Highway 395 is the main thoroughfare that takes travelers through this beautiful region that stretches from Little Lake in the south to Bridgeport in the north. Bishop is located pretty much right in the middle of the Eastern Sierra at the northern end of the Owens Valley in Inyo County.
This unique geographic region allows for a long and abundant growing season.
Wildflower blooms are subject to many factors. Water and temperature are the key factors that dictate when and how many flowers will bloom. Elevation is a prime factor that determines temperature and precipitation. The lower elevation desert floor is hotter and drier and the higher mountainous regions are cooler and wetter. Therefore, blossoming occurs at different places at different times.
Where & When
The long blooming season that occurs along the 150 miles of the Eastern Sierra wildflower corridor means that the window of opportunity to see some of the amazing flora of this region is over 6 months long.
At the southern end of the Owens Valley, at about 3,300 feet above sea level, large tracts of open land can present carpets of color at the start of the season. In the upper elevations of the Sierra Nevada, with peaks that rise to well over 13,000 feet, the colorful blooms in the canyons and meadows bring the season to a close.
The floral display begins at the lower elevations, beyond the Eastern Sierra in places like Mojave and Death Valley National Park, and then appears on the floor of the Owens Valley some weeks later. Thereafter the bloom grows in the foothills of the adjacent mountains and slowly creeps up the canyons and into the hanging valleys and meadows of the upper regions of these mountains.
Visitors to the area can find out what is growing where at a moment’s notice during the growing season – or plan a special trip to see something specific. The latter might require a little flexibility around dates, but plenty of up-to-date information is available from the Bishop Visitor Center and other visitor agencies in the region.
Who & How
The wildflowers of the Eastern Sierra will hold a special appeal for nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, botanists, and photographers. It is also a wonderful time for families to get out together to walk, talk and learn about our amazing natural world.
Wildflowers can be seen from the comfort of a vehicle, but viewing is best done on foot. A walk on the wild side of the eastside can be a magical experience. The great variety of flowers offers an opportunity for learning about our natural world in an untamed, natural setting. If you’re unused to the altitude you may find you get winded easily. Slow down … you’ll see more flowers that way too!
For those visitors from wetter climates it is important to note that many desert flowers are small and fine. The larger bushes of rabbitbrush and sagebrush sometimes obscure the floral carpet, but that’s not to say you won’t find fields of incredible color.
Wildflower devotees search the following links to monitor “real-time” status of desert blooms. Areas include Death Valley and other California Desert regions:
Death Valley is a spectacular place to catch wildflowers, especially during a “super bloom” year! Hobbyists also read a little-known gem entitled Wildflower Hot Spots of the Eastern Sierra produced by professional botanists. Anne Halford, one of the botanists, notes this booklet describes twelve wildflower sites that “highlights the unique geology, ecology and unparalleled flora along 150 miles of the Eastern Sierra corridor”.
When visiting flower locations, please refrain from taking wildflowers home or back to camp with you. Flowers in national parks are protected by law. Please be careful where you tread and don’t disturb the insects, birds and other creatures that depend on this vegetation to live. Wildflower enthusiasts don’t trample flowers, leaving them undisturbed for others to enjoy.
Remember that the weather is quite unpredictable, especially in spring. Be prepared by dressing in layers and have a hat and sunscreen with you for hot, sunny days. Wear sturdy shoes and have plenty of water to drink. In addition to a camera and binoculars, you may also want to bring a magnifying glass to study the tiny flowers and their exquisite features more closely. Bring a good field guide along for flower identification.
Check out these related blogs about wildflower season
Virtual Wildflowers Tour
6 Super Spots to See Wildflowers Near Bishop
Wildflowers of the Eastern Sierra
Get a Guide. Get Inspired!
Read and study these pages, download the brochures and maps, and plan a trip to Bishop and the Eastern Sierra. Call us: (760) 873-8405, or email us: and let us help you choose your future adventure. We look forward to meeting you then!
And don’t forget to check out all our great lodging options.