Arizona Wildflowers Road Trip Guide

This Arizona Wildflowers road trip guide is based on my own person experience road tripping over 600 miles of Central/Southern Arizona in search of the best places to see the desert wildflowers. (Note: There is a clear winner!)

Arizona Wildflowers on Thompson copy.jpg

This road trip was conducted in late March 2019, and due to the mild temperatures, there are likely two full weeks before the peak of this Arizona wildflowers season. I found it fascinating how some areas have an abidance of wildflowers, while other tried-and-true places have very few.

Arizona Wildflowers Road Trip Guide 1 Road Trip Guid to Arizona Wildflowers Road Trip Guide to Arizona Wildflowers 2

As spring heats up, many of the wildflowers will wilt away, but that is just the first phase of spring in the desert. The next is the cacti blooms, which typically start in early April and last until mid to late May (some variety last into summer). Spring is a fantastic time to visit the Sonoran Desert as there is so much color from March until May. The Cacti blooms are incredibly unique and diverse, many indigenous to the Southwest.

Vehicle used for this Arizona Wildflower road trip was the 2019 Mazda CX-5

Mazda CX-5 in front of Picacho Peak

Mazda loaned me the CX-5 for this Arizona Wildflower road trip and I had a blast driving it around. This marvelous Mazda CX-5 is sporty and versatile, with good visibility and impressive features for the price. The second-row seats fold down providing nearly 60 cubic feet of space, perfect for this road tripper and all his gear. The CX-5 is Mazda’s most popular vehicle in the U.S., and after driving it for a week, I can see why.

Interior of 2019 Mazda cx-5 Signature

Something else I appreciated was the gas millage. With AWD I averaged 25.5mpg after 3 fill ups. Interestingly, the car’s computer calculated my average to be 24.7mpg, but I manually calculated it, so one of us was wrong. If we spit the difference, that’s still over 25 MPG. This Signature model of the CX-5 has some get-up-and-go, another reason I was surprised by my better-than-average gas millage. This model is rated at 22mpg city and 27mpg highway and comes in at around $38,000.

Mazda CX-5 with wildflowerMazda CX-5 with wildflowers

Home Base: Phoenix

I did several day trips from Phoenix, but you could easily modify this trip to stay in Tucson, Superior or perhaps Scottsdale. During this trip I stayed at the new AC Hotel Phoenix Biltmore, right in the heart of town.


Arizona Wildflowers Region: Tucson and Globe/Superior

Arizona Wildflowers road trip map of Tucson

From Phoenix I headed south to Tucson. Then, I headed north via Hwy 79 toward Florence, then Superior and over to the Superstition Mountains and finally, back to Phoenix. This road trip was about 300 miles and a very long day. You may want to break it up by staying in Superior where they just opened a new boutique property called Hotel Magna.

Picacho Peak State Park

Arizona Wildflowers at Picacho Peak State Park by MikesRoadTrip.com

As you drive south on I-10, you simply can’t miss Picacho Peak, it towers 1,500 feet and looks down at the State Park below and beyond. There are lots of hiking trails that will provide wonderful views of the Valley as well as a sporadic sea of wildflowers. When I was there on March 22nd, it seemed that peak wildflower season is a couple weeks away.

Saguaro National Park (West Side)

Saguaro National Park

There are two areas of Saguaro National Park, one on the west side of I-10 and one on the east side. I only went to the West side, which has a greater abundance of Saguaro, but not as mature as the ones on the east side, which are fewer in numbers, but are much older and larger. The Wildflower scene was not very good, however at the southwest corner of Kinney road and Hwy 86 there is a nice fields of wildflowers.

Catalina State Park

Arizona Wildflowers at Catalina State Park - Photo by Mike Shubic of MikesRoadTrip.com

Catalina State Park is located at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains. The park is a haven for desert plants (including lots of saguaros) and wildlife. The park provides many equestrian, hiking, and biking trails. During my visit I did not see many wildflowers, but there is seasonal water running with lots of birds and other active wildlife. I saw deer, as well as mountain lion paw prints near the shore of the seasonal creek. (Note: Just north of the park entrance on the east side of Hwy 77 I saw fields of wildflowers.)

Hwy 79 between Tucson and Florence

Arizona Wildflowers along Hwy 79

This was the best concentration of wildflowers I saw on this epic road trip day. Along Highway 79 ,at the sign that says ‘Florence 33 miles and Phoenix 98 miles,” is a field of yellow poppies and purple wildflowers. There is even a dirt road that skirts the highway that you can turn on to park the car and leisurely stroll to see all the blooming wildflowers.

Superior

Superior by bridge

Superior is an old mining town located off US 60 on the southern edge of the Superstition Mountains. While I did not see many wildflowers in the entire region, the Boyce Thompson Arboretum has a nice display, albeit I believe they likely spread seed to entice the butterflies. Heading back toward Phoenix I did notice the westbound lanes of US 60 are quite nice with a multitude of wildflower colors lining the road on both the right and left hand sides. (Note: I only noticed the wildflowers traveling the westbound lanes).

Peridot Mesa

I did not make it to this area but have heard it is a good location for Southern Arizona Wildflowers. Located on the San Carlos Reservation, Peridot Mesa is swath of land often ablaze with poppy fields. In 2015, this was one of the top highlights for bloom chasers.

Lost Dutchman State Park (Canyon Lake)

Superstition Mountains aerial by MikesRoadTrip.com

On the Southwestern side of the Superstition Mountains I stopped by Silly Mountain, but didn’t see many wildflowers, so I headed to Lost Dutchman State Park, which had a decent display. While I did not drive the additional 10 miles to Canyon Lake, I have known this area to have a nice abundance of wildflowers as well. It’s a beautiful drive regardless. The light was waning so I had to skip this area.

Usery Mountain Park

I didn’t make it to this area as it was already dark as I headed back to Phoenix, but I have been here before and it’s a wonderful park. Reports are suggesting that it is a good year for Wildflowers at Usery Mountain Park.


Region: Wickenburg

Road trip map to Wickenburg

Vulture Mountain Recreation Area

Arizona Purple wildflowers

This is a known area for wildflowers, but unfortunately I found it to be pretty sporadic and not many in sight. I did find a few nice patches of poppies, but not really worth going if your primary objective is to see the Arizona Wildflowers.

US 60 and Hwy 93 just outside of Wickenburg

Arizona Wildflowers in Wickenburg

Both US 60 that heads toward Vulture Mountain Recreation area, and Wickenburg Way, just past the airport, have nice abundance of Arizona Wildflowers on display.

Lake Pleasant Regional Park

The drive along Hwy 77 past Lake Pleasant toward US 60 has some fantastic spots to stop and scout for wildflowers.


Region: Phoenix area

Phoenix Wildflower ma

Black Canyon City and Bumble Bee

I did not make it to Black Canyon City, but reports say that it is a very favorable year for wildflowers in the area. I did however visit Bumble Bee, which is an exit off of I-17 five miles north of Black Canyon City and it was full of wildflowers. The hillsides are scattered with poppies, while you’ll find patches and clusters showcasing a wide variety of Arizona Wildflowers.

Black Canyon City Arizona Wildflowers

Piestewa Peak

 Total bust. I saw very few Arizona Wildflowers, which surprised me.

Phoenix Sonoran Preserve

You’ll find yellow, marigold, and orange-red blooms on the Apache Wash Trailhead.

South Mountain Park /Preserve

Another Place I did not make it to, but reports say that the Arizona Wildflowers are in full bloom.


Arizona Wildflowers Region: Scottsdale

Arizona Wildflowers Scottsdale region map

McDowell Sonoran Preserve and Thompson Peak Parkway

Red wildflower along Tompson Peak Parkway

Located on the western side of the McDowell Mountains, this area has a lot of  hiking and biking trails, but few wildflowers during my visit. Several of the McDowell mountain parks/preserves really didn’t have many wildflowers. However, as you drive down Thompson Peak Parkway some of the medians have incredible variety and color, it’s likely HOA landscapers may have sprinkled seeds.

Pinnacle Peak Park

Pinnacle Peak aerial by MikesRoadTrip.com

This area was also a bust for wildflowers, but the hiking trails do provide some fantastic views from this iconic peak in North Scottsdale.

Rio Verde

Arizona Wildflowers along Rio Verde Drive in North Scottsdale

Past pinnacle Peak, along Rio Verde Drive there are poppy patches ‘o plenty. Many other wildflowers as well.

McDowell Mountain Regional Park

Arizona Wildflowers at McDowell Mountain Regional park

Not a lot of wildflowers, but sure is a pretty drive with some great hiking and biking trails.

Bartlett Lake

Close up Poppies by MikesRoadTrip.com

Hands down Bartlett Damn Road to the lake is the best area for Arizona Wildflowers. This is the “super bloom” area everyone wants to see. It’s also very accesible with plenty of places to pull over and walk around.

Hillside Arizona Wildflowe copy.jpg

Arizona Wildflowers near Bartlett copy.jpg

Clearly it was impossible for me to seek out every possible place for Arizona wildflowers in 2019, but hopefully this guide will give you the information you need to seek out some colorful places to brighten your day. The Google Map at the top of this post has a few additional places, click on any of the regional icons to get directions.

If you know of any outstanding places to see this year’s stunning Arizona Wildflowers that I may have missed, please leave a comment below. If you’ve been to any of these places this year, please share your experience.

FAQ

When is the best time to visit Arizona?

Arizona is a year-round destination. During the hot summer months in Phoenix and Tuscan, hotels and tours are often half the price of the winter months. Northern Arizona is the perfect place to escape the heat, or to ski in the winter. Arizona has many different landscapes and climate zones.

What is the most popular Arizona attractions?

The Grand Canyon is by far the most popular attraction in Arizona, however, there are so many incredible sights to see. For example; Monument Valley is one of the most iconic road trips in the world. The unique geological wonder of the Painted Desert will leave you astounded The red rocks of Sedona will draw you into a vortex. Canyon de Chelly rivals the Grand Canyon. And, Antelope Canyon and nearby Horseshoe Bend round out just a few of the most popular attractions in Arizona.

Do I need to be worried about rattlesnakes and other dangerous creatures?

Arizona does indeed have a lot of poisonous creatures. From the Gila Monster, scorpions, centipedes, tarantulas and other spiders and snakes. The likelihood of encountering these things creatures is remote. Many stay underground most of the time. The only time to really take caution is while hiking. Be sure to stay on trails and not walk through heavy brush. A walking stick is a good idea to bring with you.

Mike Shubic

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Mike Shubic is a seasoned road trip travel video blogger, traversing the byways of the world looking for those hidden gems of the road. From unique destinations, unexpected discoveries, creative cuisine, intriguing inns to exciting attractions…the road is his page. The experiences are his ink. And every 300 miles, a new chapter begins. Whether you live vicariously or by example, Mike will do the exploring so you can have an adventure.

9 Comments

  1. What a beautiful adventure chasing wild flowers! Arizona is full of hidden gems. Those yellow poppies look absolutely beautiful.
    Also, the interactive map is very useful I must say.

  2. So, so jealous! I usually plan a spring trip to Arizona to search for wildflowers in this area, but we booked a trip last fall to Europe for this spring not knowing there would be great flowers in AZ and a superbloom in parts of California. The trip to Europe was great — the tulips were in full bloom in Holland — but still wishing I’d been in Arizona this year. Happy to see some photos. Just wish I’d been there. (By the way, the road between Globe and Roosevelt Lake is usually good, as are portions of the Apache Trail. Haven’t been up to Black Canyon, so will have to add that to the list for the future!)

  3. What a beautiful adventure chasing wild flowers! Arizona is full of hidden gems. Those yellow poppies look absolutely beautiful Thanks for sharing information.. nice post.

  4. Milke’s Road trip provides such good information and your blog post or article is so awesome and very informative. Thanks for sharing information.

  5. My wife and I love wildflower road trips…we are going to Arizona next spring and hoping to see many of these spots. Thanks so much for the detailed information. Great job!

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