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Wildflower Hot Spots in Arizona
Quigley's favorite scenic wildflower spots north of Phoenix
by mark quigley

Wildflowers near Morgan City Wash Lake Pleasant Panoramic Image

This will be a banner year for wildflowers this spring here in Arizona . . The last time I saw this kind of a wildflower season was the early 1980's.

Many of you are emailing us asking about locations of scenic wildflower blooms here in Arizona . This short article will help you find some of our favorite spots. Something a little unusual has happened this year here in Arizona and that is - it has been raining and raining a lot! It rained again today and rain makes wildflowers and also keeps them blooming and extends their life span. One should definitely plan to get out during the next 4 weeks before it all dries out.

Heavy rains have produced an abundance of wildflowers in the Arizona desert this year! Black Canyon Trailhead near I17 & Carefree Highway.

Since we are always exploring the northwest valley of the sun area (Phx) basically around Lake Pleasant and Bradshaw Mountains we have come across some gems. Much more is still to come.

Poppies are starting along the old Black Canyon Stage Road as of today. Getting off of Interstate in Black Canyon City can put you on this historic route.

Poppies near the Pipeline Canyon Lake Pleasant

The hills along the stage road are filled with immature poppies right now. Later in the week they will be in full bloom.


Black Canyon Trail

Try going to Lake Pleasant Park and follow the signs to the Pipeline Canyon Trailhead and as you round the corner to the parking lot I know you will say - Wow - because the hillsides are a-glow with mature poppies. Hike the trail and enjoy. By the way you might want to veer off the trail once you enter the canyon and follow the stream up until you reach the pretty spring this canyon is named after.

Patch of Owls Clover Hell Canon Wilderness Panoramic Image

Also the entrance station to the Park has a tall mountain just to the north that is currently in full Brittle Bush bloom. Sure is pretty against the blue sky.

The colors of spring Black Canyon Trail

Hells Canyon Wilderness behind Lake Pleasant is a few days out from lighting up with profalic flower blooms. Try entering the Wilderness using Morgan City Wash because this is another good area right now. Pipes Peak west of Morgan City is a hotspot but watch out for old gold mines. Burro Springs Trail is another once you enter the Wilderness.

On your way to Lake Pleasant just after crossing the Agua Fria River you will find thick patches of Owls Clover on both sides of the Highway all the way until the highway leaves the mountains behind.

Agua Fria River abstract

The Black Canyon trailhead area along Carefree Highway (north side) is also another good place to see low land wildflowers. Lots of thick grass in this area.

This location has not lit up yet but the mountain to the east at the Pioneer Road exit off Interstate 17 is always a great location for wildflowers.

Barrel Cactus surrounded by desert wildflowers Agua Fria River

Well these will get you started and if you find a good one to share with me please email me and let me know. Watch out for rattlers and make lots of photographs.

Mark's 5 Simple Wildflower Tips

  • So many people I see photographing wildflowers do it from the seat of their vehicles and just drive around. Get out and walk around in flowering areas a bit and photograph different perspectives. This is also more enjoyable.
  • Use a tripod. It will give you more depth of field thus making clear photographs throughout the scene. Shoot at F-16. A tripod also slows you down a bit but helps you create better compensation and sharper images.
  • Get down low (eyelevel) to the subject instead of looking down on it. This will create a much more pleasing image. See the small barrel cactus as an example .
  • Wear thick clothing in the desert because of cactus and carry a hair comb with you to remove those cactus spines that attack you when you're not looking.
  • Shoot lots of film. Watch out for rattlesnakes.

Mark Quigley and staff

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