7 Best Desert Wildflower Hikes in Metro Phoenix
Spring is around the corner, and thanks to recent warm temperatures, the desert has already begun to bloom. With a spectacle of bright yellow California Poppies, the bold magenta of the Hedgehog Cactus, and meadows filled with alluring orange hues of the Desert Globemallow, the trails are calling. Just in case you are not sure where to begin, we’ve compiled a list of seven great wildflower hikes in the Phoenix area to get you started.
This songbird, known as the Northern Cardinal is just one of the many beauties among Cave Creek.
Spur Cross and Maricopa Trail #252 Loop
Distance: 6.5 miles
Level of Difficulty: Intermediate
Average Time: 3 hours
This loop is located just north of the city of Cave Creek. Besides being a beautiful wildflower hike, this trail opens up to a host of washes, springs, and canyons. This makes for a beautiful lineup of riparian vegetation alongside the blooming spring flora, which often includes bright yellows of the California Poppies, the pinks, oranges, and yellows that come from the Arizona Barrel Cactus in bloom, and the greens and yellows seen in the flowering Jumping Cholla. There will be some creek crossings as the route follows Cave Creek and with a pathway leading over a wooden bridge. For wildlife enthusiasts out there, don’t be surprised to hear the whistling chorus or spot the unmistakable fiery red of the Northern Cardinal.
With the ability to grow 6 to 12 feet high, the Common Buttonbush can be a unique find on the Butcher Jones Trail.
Butcher Jones Trail
Distance: 6 miles
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Average Time: 3 hours
This trek will scramble the senses a little bit; making the desert seem like a far away place with its cool temperatures, vegetation, and wildflowers. The trail winds around two of the northern arms of Saguaro Lake with views of Four Peaks, part of the Mazatzal Mountains, and the Flatirons of the Superstition Wilderness Area. This easy hike is great for a family stroll with opportunities to stop off and enjoy views of the lake alongside the remarkable flowering plants and trees. An interesting find here is the Common Buttonbush, familiar to desert washes and lakes. This bush is fragrant and can grow up to 12 feet tall, with a unique ball-shaped flower, usually white and yellow. Butcher Jones is an easy way to spend the day experiencing the diversity of Arizona’s desert landscapes.
Find the brilliant orange bloom of the Desert Mariposa Lily on the Windgate Bell Loop Trail.
Windgate Pass/ Bell Pass Loop
Distance: 9.7 miles round-trip
Level of Difficulty: Intermediate to Difficult
Average Time: 5.5 hours
Located in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, this combination of two pass trails makes for a very remote, open, and wildflower-filled trek. There is a significant elevation change throughout this hike, about 2,100 feet, which makes for an impressive diversity in vegetation. The trails offer outstanding views of Four Peaks, Tom’s Thumb, and the Superstition Mountains. In springtime, expect to see large open fields of bright yellow California poppies. Other notable flora include the orange tinge of the Calich Globemallow, the white flowers of the Desert Rosemallow, beautiful purple hues from the Mojave Lupine, and alluring yellow flowers associated with the Bird’s Foot Trefoil. A favorite on this trail is the Desert Mariposa Lily, with its brilliant orange flowers, a sight not to miss. Be sure to bring a camera.
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