AZentertain: Tour

Spring flowers in the desert

By Jeff Reed

With the recent rains and a decent warming trend during the last couple of weeks, we just might have one of our special years for spring flowers in the desert. 

Arizona cactus flowerOf course, there are an assortment of plants in the desert will bloom regardless of the conditions, but every once in a while, when everything is right, we experience the explosion of bright orange associated with the California and Mexican Poppies that carpet a desert floor. 

Timing is everything when you search out the spring flowers.  Obviously, they appear in the spring, but just when they appear is a little like that ground hog thing. 

We need the rain first to set the stage for the seeds activation, and then we need a warming trend to “wake the little guy up”. 

If we get too much rain, the seed drowns, if we get too much warmth, the seed stays dormant.  Usually, this miracle occurs in late March and into April in the Sonoran Desert. 

Of course, the spring flowers in the high country occur later in the season.

Arizona treeSave this column for future reference to some of the unique places in the Sonoran Desert where you can really see the spring flowers. 

Most notably, the slopes to the east of Picacho Peak State Park can really come alive with poppies.  From the valley, just get on I10 toward Tucson and follow it to a mountain that looks like a saddle.  Picacho is a Spanish word that means “peak”, so this is really “Peak Peak”!  You will find signs directing you.  This is a little more than half way to Tucson from our Valley.

If you don’t want to travel too far for the Spring Bloom, consider a drive to Carefree Highway, and the Lake Pleasant area.  You will find a couple of paved side roads in the area, and the poppies can really be thick in this area. 

Another area close to town is the Apache Trail and Bush Highway.  You will find these roads on the east side of the Valley, and they are wonderful destinations even without the poppies.

Prickley Pair Cactus Flowers

A little farther out of town, but still a wonderful place to check out the spring flowers is the Hunt Highway and Tom Mix Highway going into and out of Florence Arizona.  The Tom Mix Highway will lead you into Tucson, but this time of year, it will afford you a wonderful opportunity to stop and see the flowers.

When I pile the family into the van for a spring flower tour, we really aren’t thinking about the flowers, as much as we are thinking about the destination and the adventure.  Each of the highways that I have referred to in this column, will also take you to wonderful places in Arizona.  Grab the family, and the dog, and let’s experience this wonderful state in all of its glory.

Jeff Reed is a retired Gerontologist, who has owned a private travel club for senior citizens in Arizona since 1984.  He has traveled more than 900,000 miles on escorted tours just in the State of Arizona.  You can reach him at [email protected] or leave him a voice message at 480-497-2478. His web site is

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