The Coast News Group
California poppies blanket the hillsides at Southwestern Riverside County Multi-Species Reserve in Southwest Riverside County. Experts say the blooms should last through April. Courtesy photo
CarlsbadCitiesColumnsCommunityCommunityFeaturedHit the RoadNewsRegion

Hit the Road: Bevy of blooms just a car ride away

People from all over the world come to see the thousands of Tecolote ranunculus blooming at the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch, says our guide, Gary, who has offered to take us on a golf-cart ride around the ranch’s 50 acres.

But North County residents have only to drive a few minutes to view this amazing sight of wide ribbons of eye-popping colors blanketing the hillsides at Interstate 5 and Palomar Airport Road.

The fields are planted on a staggered schedule to effect a rolling bloom from north to south between early March and the end of May. The peak bloom will probably occur this week.

“One of our main jobs is to keep the visitors from walking into the fields,” Gary explains. “There are plenty of places to take photos without going into the fields. You see everything out here — people with babies, brides, parties. It’s a great place to take a picture.”

Visitors to the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch love using the fields as a backdrop for their photos. Peak bloom is predicted to be this week. Photo by E’Louise Ondash.

The Flower Fields also offers visitors other floral exhibits. The history of the cultivation of the poinsettia by the Ecke family, who still owns the land, is told at one end of the promenade. The exhibit includes unique strains of poinsettias that are rarely seen.

At the other end of the promenade is a collection of cymbidium orchids of multiple colors. Visitors also can stroll through the rose and snapdragon gardens, and there are abundant benches throughout to rest and take in the colorful spring scene.

For the kids, there is a playground, the Sweet Pea Maze and sluice mining, and classes are available in art, basket-making and gardening are available for adults. The Flower Fields is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 1 to May 12.  Call (760) 431-0352 or visit

Multiple colors and varieties of wildflowers create a breathtaking palette on the edge of the Diamond Valley Reservoir near Hemet. Courtesy photo

If you are unable to drive two hours to see Anza Borrego Desert’s “super bloom,” there’s a spectacularly colorful show going on about an hour from coastal North County in southern Riverside County.

It’s happening at Diamond Valley Lake near Hemet, in the Southwestern Riverside County Multi-Species Reserve.

The protected area is awash in Red Indian paintbrush; yellow sunflowers; deep pink red-maids; orange California poppies; blue arroyo lupines; purple Canterbury bells; and white forget-me-not

The flowers should last through April, say local naturalists. To get an up-close-and-personal view, take the 1.3-mile Wildflower Trail loop, accessible from the Diamond Valley Lake Marina. The trail is considered to be easy to moderate.

Diamond Valley Lake, a reservoir created to be an emergency water supply for Southern California (it is strategically situated away from fault lines), is at the highest level in years.

The Winter Rose poinsettia is one of dozens of varieties developed by the Paul Ecke family. This is just one variety on display in an exhibit that tells the history and evolution of the poinsettia plant. Photo by E’Louise Ondash.

After enjoying the wildflowers, visit the Western Science Center (2345 Searl Parkway, Hemet; (951) 791-0033; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; It features exhibits of the bones of mastodons, mammoths and other Ice Age behemoths unearthed while digging the reservoir in 1995, and of thousands of artifacts from the Luiseno and Cahuilla peoples’ civilizations and the more recent European settlers. Other films and exhibits demonstrate how Southern Riverside Country was once a tropical rainforest, and how the intricate system of canals delivers water to Southern California’s millions.    

For more photos and commentary, visit

Share your adventures with readers. Email [email protected].