Author photo

By Mel Makaw
contributing writer 

April wildflower drives

Day Trippin' with Mel


April 13, 2024

It's finally April and that means wildflower season. I'm hoping for a super bloom close to home this year, thanks to all the rain we've had this winter.

Of course, you never know – it takes a combination of elements to make a very good year, including temperatures and wind, as well as rainfall, and they must all line up at the right time and in the right order.

But no matter what, whether a super bloom or not, we're sure to see a variety of wildflowers this spring. In the lower elevations, like the Carizzo Plains or Anzo Borrego, wildflowers are already profuse.

Here in our area, the last time I went to Bakersfield I saw lots of popcorn (the little white flowers) and mustard and fiddlenecks, plus a few poppies. On the highway to Lancaster, I saw lots of patches of the bright yellow goldfields; lots more yellow on Willow Springs Road. By the time you read this, more flowers will be popping up, and in another week or so we'll know if we're getting a super bloom this year or not.

Today, I'd like to share with you some of my favorite closer wildflower drives so you'll be prepared for viewing this year, along with pictures I've taken in years past.

From Tehachapi, if you head out west on Highway 58, you have a couple of choices: one is to head toward Caliente and the other is to head toward Arvin, but you're also apt to see a lot of wildflowers on Highway 58, itself.

Mel Makaw.

A contented cow in the lupine near Arvin.

If you take the Caliente Exit into Cowboy Country (Bealville Road), north off Highway 58, you can either choose to drive through Caliente (on Caliente Creek Road) and on through Twin Oaks at least as far as Walker Basin, where you can catch Cal-Bodfish back to Caliente, or you can go on to Lake Isabella.

Or, you can take a left (west) on Cal-Bodfish just before you get into the tiny town of Caliente and that will take you to a T stop, where you'll turn right (north) onto Bena Road, which will become Edison Road into Bakersfield. Both of these options are winding, twisty roads through the mountains but you'll see plenty of pretty wildflowers and other scenic views.

If you want to go to Arvin, take Highway 58 West to the Arvin turnoff and take the 223 for some spectacular wildflower displays along the foothills. Beware that this is a popular viewing route and traffic can get pretty congested just this side of Arvin, especially on weekends.

In the other direction from Tehachapi, the Antelope Valley is especially known for poppies. Take Highway 58 East to Mojave, then highway 14 to Lancaster, take the "I" Street exit and go west, following the signs to the Poppy Preserve. Be warned, the preserve and surrounding areas are popular spots and traffic is often heavy; weekends usually mean a long wait to even get into the preserve.

You won't, however, need to get into the preserve to see the poppies. Across the street from the entrance is a field that often gets covered with poppies; you can also see the splashes of brilliant orange color on the surrounding hills all around.

From the preserve, if you come back to 110th Avenue, turning to the south (right) you'll go to the Lakes area – Elizabeth Lake and Lake Hughes – and you'll pass fields of poppies and goldfield and be treated to hills of color around the lakes. Stop in at the Rock Inn for lunch.

If you continue west past the Poppy Preserve, you will eventually end up at a stop sign at D Street, which is also Highway 138. Go west on 138 (left) about 30 miles to Gorman at I-5; along the way you'll drive through Joshua trees and more flowers, including fields of poppies and lupine, popcorn and goldfield.

At I-5, turn north (to go through Gorman on your way back toward Bakersfield); the hills to the east of the interstate are often covered with huge bright splashes of orange, purple, white, and yellow. NOTE: Gorman is at a higher elevation and the wildflowers may be out later in the season near there.

You can come back to Lancaster on 138 (things look different when you go a different direction on the same road), or you can go on toward Bakersfield. Take the 202 exit (Bear Mountain Road) and follow that through Arvin.

Mel Makaw.

Poppies and bird's eyes gilia on Willow Springs-Tehachapi Road.

And when you're out and about, don't forget the desert flora. I love to take Oak Creek Road and Willow Springs-Tehachapi Road to see some wonderful desert color. Sometimes you have to look close to see the ground-hugging, tiny but colorful wildflowers – those patches of yellow are tiny goldfield, but you'll also see some white and purple flowers – and you can also see the Joshua tree blooms without half trying.

The lower elevations might have the flowers first, but patience is usually rewarded in the Tehachapi Mountains – the hills in Cummings Valley (as seen from 202 on the way to Bear Valley Springs) can rival just about any other spot for wild and colorful floral grandeur in a good year.

Aren't we lucky that Mother Nature puts on such a glorious show in spring, so close to (or sometimes right in) our own backyard?

© 2024 Mel Makaw. Mel is a local writer and photographer and avid day-tripper; she welcomes your comments, questions, and suggestions at


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