California’s Eastern Sierra

Wildflowers

Here are some TOP places to visit for brilliant wildflower displays

Depending on the winter snowpack, spring showers, and elevation, wildflower season starts to explode with color throughout the Eastern Sierra as early as the end of May or early June.  Typically, wildflower season is at its prime from late June through July.  

Wildflowers rock creek little lakes valley

Rock Creek Road, newly resurfaced, winds up from US 395 at Tom's Place for about 11 miles to the base of majestic mountain peaks. The significant gain in elevation (7,000' - 10,200') provide the opportunity to see a wide variety of flowers in a short distance.  Species to watch for include fireweed, Sierra rein-orchid, and Kelley' tiger lilies.  For hikers, the Little Lakes Valley trail, at the end of Rock Creek Road, is one of the most scenic and relatively gentle hikes in the Eastern Sierra, revealing subalpine flowers such as purple lupine, paint brush, crimson columbine and bull elephant's head -- usually mid- to late July, after the winter snow has melted.  Getting here: From US 395 between Bishop and Mammoth Lakes, exit at Tom's Place and take Rock Creek Road.

Wildflowers rock creek little lakes valley
McGee Wildflowers

Just north of Crowley Lake, this dramatic canyon is a sure bet for wildflowers once the snow melts through July.  Interspersed among sagebrush, you'll find paintbrush, lupines, milk-vetches, hawksbeard, desert peach, scarlet gilia, and meadows drenched with bright yellow mule ears.  One of the most photogenic hikes in the region, another option is to see it all on horseback with McGee Creek Pack Station.  Getting here:  From US 395, south of Mammoth Lakes, take the McGee Creek exit.  Follow McGee Creek Road for 5 miles to the trailhead.

McGee Wildflowers
Mammoth Wildflowers

Just off the north end of the June Lake Loop/Hwy. 158, the Parker Bench is home to many types of wildflowers.  Watch for yellow clusters of wallflower, sulphur-flower, balsamroot, sticky yellow-throats and mule ears.  The hike to Parker Lake is only about 2 miles, one way, although starts off with steep switchbacks. The views of Mono Lake in the distance are worth the climb and once the trail levels out, it is an easy jaunt to Parker Lake which is framed by dramatic peaks. Getting here:  From US 395, take the June Lake Loop/Hwy. 158, watching for Parker Lake Road at the north end of the Loop.  Parker Lake Road is a wide dirt road -- follow it a few miles to the trailhead parking.

Mammoth Wildflowers
Tioga Pass Road

The Tioga Pass Road is arguably the most impressive entrance to Yosemite National Park. Just before the park entrance, the short, sweet Nunatak Nature Trail and the Bennettville Trail, which is about a mile to the old mining-town site, offer displays of subalpine flowers. Watch for tenacious plants like rock cress, drabas or whitlow grass, and shieldleaf that somehow thrive in the cracks of rock faces.  Other wildflower species include red and white heather, penstemon, crowded lupine, ground-level carpets of dwarf bilberry, and Labrador tea shrub.  Getting here:  South of Lee Vining, head west on Hwy. 120/Tioga Pass Road to the stretch of road between Ellery Lake and Yosemite's east entrance.  Bennetville has trailhead parking as you turn onto Saddlebag Lake Road; Nunatak trailhead is just before the Yosemite entrance.

Tioga Pass Road
Iris' in Bridgeport California

The sunny Bridgeport Valley tends to lose its snow earlier than elsewhere in the county, bringing fields of wild iris and lupine to life in mid- to late June.  To the east of the valley, the Bodie Hills are slightly higher in elevation (6.000' - 9,500') and will usually blossom a bit later. Species to watch for include white and blue lupine, Anderson's larkspur, yellow hawksbeard, and Coville's phlox.  Getting to the Bridgeport Valley:  From US 395, south of Bridgeport, take Green Creek Road or north of Bridgeport, take Twin Lakes Road.   Bodie Hills:  South of Bridgeport, take the Bodie Road (SR 270) towards Bodie State Historic Park.  Side roads may be rough and snow-covered; high-clearance vehicles are recommended.  TIP:  A visit to Bodie ghost town is not to be missed.

Iris' in Bridgeport California

Wildflower Hot Spots of the Eastern Sierra ThumbSources:  "Wildflower Hot Spots of the Eastern Sierra,"  Bureau of Land Management. Download for free here or stop by any Inyo National Forest ranger station/visitor center and make a $2.00 donation for your own copy. 

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