SAN DIEGO SPRING FLOWER TRAIL
Follow the Flowers from North San Diego’s Coastline, up to the Mountains and out to the Desert.
By Lisa D. Smith and Nancy J. Reid
Spring blooms with a bounty of flower power throughout San Diego County, especially in the north county region where floral adventures range from manicured gardens to splashes of roadside color, wildflower wonderlands to lush mountain meadows, flowering fruit orchards to desert cactus blossoms, and so much more.
Cruise up North San Diego’s scenic and historic Highway 101 that runs along the coastline from Del Mar and Solana Beach, to Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Encinitas and Leucadia, and up to Carlsbad and Oceanside. Soak up the relaxing beach atmosphere and ocean views, and delight in the colorful flower-lined streets and charming seaside villages. The area has numerous hotels and beach vacation rentals. Historic Leucadia Beach Inn is a clean and well-appointed lodging choice, with a central location that’s within walking distance to the beach, shops and restaurants. See www.LeucadiaBeachInn.org.
San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas
This gem of a garden spans over 37 acres with four miles of trails, and is home to over 3,300 plant varieties from all over the world as well as local California native plants. The Garden also features the interactive children’s garden, art sculptures, and the nation’s largest bamboo collection. See www.SDBGarden.org.
Meditation Gardens at Self-Realization Fellowship in Encinitas
This tranquil retreat is known for its incredible ocean views, colorful plants and beautiful ponds, and meditation areas. Located at 215 West K Street in Encinitas, the Meditation Gardens are open to the public from Tuesday through Sunday. See www.EncinitasTemple.org.
Buena Vista Audubon Nature Center in Oceanside
Adjacent to the 220-acre Buena Vista Lagoon Ecological Reserve, the Nature Center features interpretive displays that highlight the local flora, fauna, and habitats. Take a walk by the lagoon to explore the plant communities that comprise a coastal lagoon, and take a stroll through the native plant demonstration garden. See www.BVAudubon.org.
The Flower Fields
A Southern California tradition for over for over sixty years, every spring around 160,000 people head to The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch® to experience one of the largest flower displays in the world, with 50 spectacular acres of blossoming ranunculas, along with roses, orchids, sweet pea blossoms, petunias and poinsettias. From tractor rides to live music, photography workshops and picnics, there are a variety of family-friendly activities to enjoy within these fabulous fields of color, not to mention the picturesque ocean views. Located right off Interstate 5, The Flower Fields spring bloom runs from March 1 – May 14, 2017. See www.TheFlowerFields.com.
MOUNTAIN MAGIC & DESERT DRAMA
Leaving the coast, head east on Highway 76 towards Fallbrook. Urban North San Diego County will slowly ease into lush spring countryside of the greater Fallbrook and Bonsall area. As you cross over Interstate 15 into Pala and Pauma Valley, the road will start to wind up towards the mountains on a colorful route through flower farms, nurseries, farm stands and casinos. The drive is beautiful with wildflowers and valley views.
Palomar Mountain, California
From Highway 76, go left at South Grade Road / Palomar Mountain Rd, and head up the steep road to mile-high Palomar Mountain. Here you’ll experience dense forests of pine, fir and cedar, wildflowers, verdant meadows, and stunning panoramic views. A fantastic bird watching destination, Palomar Mountain State Park has a number of hiking trails and picnic spots, a fishing pond, as well as a campground. Bailey’s Palomar Resort, just a few minutes from the park, is a wonderful retreat for those who want to sleep amongst the trees, whether it’s in a historic cabin or luxury campsite. One of the most popular attractions in the region is the Palomar Observatory, home to the famous 200-inch Hale Telescope. Visit the museum and take a guided tour.
Head back down Palomar Mountain and turn left onto Highway 76 and head towards Lake Henshaw. Turn right on Highway 79 towards Santa Ysabel and Julian. Watch for deer and wild turkeys on this drive, and enjoy the scenic rolling hills and grassy fields that stretch out with wildflowers and regal oak trees. Turn left onto Highway 78 / 79 at the crossroads in Santa Ysabel, and go up the hill to Julian, a popular and historic gold rush town. Spring is spectacular in Julian with apple and pear orchards in full bloom, green vineyards, roadsides adorned with wildflowers, lilacs, sweet peas, iris and daffodils. This lovely mountain hamlet celebrates their flower power with three spring events: Julian Daffodil Show (March 4-5, 2017); Julian Wildflower Show (May 3-6, 2017); Apple Blossom Tea (June 9, 2017).
Spend a day at Lake Cuyamama where you can go boating, take a hike and enjoy a lakeside picnic. This high desert mountain region has numerous hiking trails to explore including Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve, Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve. From bluebirds to woodpeckers, deer to bobcat, you’re sure to get your bird and wildlife watching fix here, and you’ll definitely see a variety of wildflowers. From vacation cabins and cottages to hotels and B&B Inns, and RV campgrounds, the greater Julian area has a good selection of lodging options. Boasting lovely garden and natural areas, a wonderful and tranquil lodging choice is Orchard Country Inn & Suites.
Anza Borrego Desert State Park, California
From Julian, drive down the rugged Banner Grade (Highway 78), east towards Borrego Springs. As you descend into the over 600,000 acres of the vast Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the scenery will open up to dramatic desert views. Named after Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and the Spanish word borrego, or bighorn sheep. The park features wildflowers, palm grove oases, a variety of cactus and yucca agave plants. The largest state park in California, Anza-Borrego is an anchor in the Mojave and Colorado Deserts Biosphere Reserve. From Highway 78, turn left and go up S3 towards the small desert town of Borrego Springs. Once there, go left at the traffic circle and follow the signs to the park’s visitor center where you can follow a nature trail through the desert garden, view pupfish, and see exhibits. See http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=638.
From the flower blanketed coastal bluffs, to the blooming mountain lilacs and desert cactus blooms, North San Diego makes for a wonderful spring flower adventure!