Red Rock Canyon’s spring wildflower season occurs from early March to late May, with April being the typical time for peak blooms. We’ll update this post weekly throughout the spring to share what Naturalists are seeing and where they can be found. Please keep in mind that you should take only photos of plants in Red Rock Canyon, leaving the flowers and plants for others to enjoy.

Many of the species highlighted here can be found in the Wildflowers of Red Rock Canyon NCA brochure for purchase in the Gift Shop.

Week of May 19, 2019

Not much new in bloom, but the cooler weather is preserving a lot of flowers already in bloom. Apache plume and cliffrose are spectacular right now with their feather achenes covering these large shrubs. Good locations/hikes for wildflowers: Visitor Center, Red Spring, Ash Creek, Moenkopi Trail, Willow Spring/Lost Creek, Pine Creek, and First Creek. New observations include:

  • Desert thistle (Cirsium neomexicanum) can be found in bloom around the Scenic Drive shoulders and on select trails. Look for a rounded, white bristly flowerhead on a tall stalk (several feet high). This is a native thistle in the area, so no need to panic!
  • Small and wiry, hoary aster (Dieteria canescens) can be found in bloom along sandy spots. Its purple daily-like petals and golden center are a delight to see! Keep an eye out for it around the Visitor Center, First Creek, Pine Creek, and the Calico Hills.
  • Honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) is in bloom around the Visitor Center. Look for golden flower tassels in these trees – often they are surrounded by bees pollinating away. Eventually these tassels will turn into flat green bean pods and were a food staple for local Native Americans.

Desert thistle

Week of May 12, 2019

Indigobush, desert marigold, and brittlebush continue to be the most prominent flowers around the Scenic Drive. Plants are starting to go to seed, so enjoy the flowers now before they’re gone! Good locations/hikes for wildflowers: Visitor Center, Red Spring, Ash Creek, Moenkopi Trail, Willow Spring/Lost Creek, Pine Creek, First Creek, and Fossil Ridge near Cowboy Trail Rides. New observations this week include:

  • Yerba santa (Eriodictyon angustifolium) has small white clusters of flowers and shiny, sticky leaves. Look for this shrub around Willow Spring, Lost Creek, Pine Creek, Oak Creek, and First Creek.
  • You can find the purplish paperbag-like sacs of Mexican bladdersage (Salazaria mexicana) around Calico Basin, the Visitor Center, Pine Creek, and First Creek.
  • Paperflower (Psilostrophe cooperi) is showing its golden daisy-like flowers in Calico Basin, around the Visitor Center, and along Calico Hills.
  • The large white tubular flower of Jimsonweed (Datura wrightii) can be found open during the mornings and evenings around the Scenic Drive and Visitor Center. This plant is poisonous, so do not touch!

Paperflower

Week of May 5, 2019

Look for many colorful and varied flowers throughout the entire area. We are seeing anywhere from 40 to 60 different wildflower species in bloom on our guided hikes! Good locations/hikes for wildflowers: Visitor Center, Red Spring, Ash Creek, Moenkopi Trail, Willow Spring/Lost Creek, Pine Creek, First Creek, and Fossil Ridge near Cowboy Trail Rides. New observations this week include:

  • Indigobush (Psorothamnus fremontii) is showing its vivid pea-like blue flowers along SR-159 and within Calico Basin. Look for more individuals along the Scenic Drive to bloom as we get into mid-May.
  • Visitors can spot the golden daisy-like flowers of brittlebush (Encelia virginensis) along SR-159, the Scenic Drive, Calico Basin, and the Visitor Center.
  • Creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) is starting to display little yellow flowers throughout SR-159 and the Scenic Drive.
  • Look for the small red and white flowers of scarlet gaura (Gaura coccinea) on various trails and shoulders of the roadways.

Brittlebush

Week of April 28, 2019

We are starting to hit peak bloom! The cacti have begun to flower, adding brilliant touches of rose-like color throughout the desert landscape. Good locations/hikes for wildflowers: Visitor Center, Red Spring, Ash Creek, Moenkopi Trail, Willow Spring/Lost Creek, Pine Creek, First Creek, and Fossil Ridge near Cowboy Trail Rides. New observations this week include:

  • Mojave aster (Xylorhiza tortifolia) is making quite the appearance along the Moenkopi Trail and near the Calico Hills trail.
  • Look for beavertail cactus (Opuntia basilaris) displaying its fuchsia-colored flowers throughout Calico Basin, the Visitor Center, and the Moenkopi trail
  • Hedgehog cactus (Echinocereus engelmannii) can be found with blooms in Calico Basin, near the Visitor Center, and along Fossil Ridge. More is expected to bloom in other areas within the next few days.
  • Many varieties of prickly pear cacti (Optunia sp.) can be found in bloom at the Visitor Center, along Fossil Ridge, in Willow Spring, and along Pine Creek trail.
  • Purple sage (Salvia dorrii) is adding some blue-purple colors within washes near the Scenic Drive, SR-159, and along many of the trails.

Purple sage

Week of April 21, 2019

The bloom is on! Various flowers can be enjoyed just by riding along the Scenic Drive, such as the yuccas, desert marigold, and globemallow. No cactus flowers yet, but many perennials and shrubs are blooming. Hot spots continue to be the Visitor Center, Red Spring & Ash Spring in Calico Basin, Willow Spring/Lost Creek, Pine Creek, First Creek, and Fossil Ridge near Cowboy Trail Rides. New observations this week include:

  • Banana yucca (Yucca baccata) is putting up maroon flower buds. This yucca grows much lower to the ground compared to Joshua trees & Mojave yuccas. Look for it in bloom around the Visitor Center, Pine Creek, First Creek, and higher portions of the Scenic Drive.
  • Cliffrose (Purshia stansburiana) can be seen (and smelled) around the Visitor Center. The creamy yellow blooms on this large shrub are extremely fragrant, making it pleasant to stroll the Visitor Center outdoor exhibits. Cliffrose can also be found along the Scenic Drive and near Willow Spring/Lost Creek.
  • Apache plume (Fallugia paradoxa) is also blooming around the Visitor Center and Scenic Drive. Very similar to cliffrose, however the flowers are more white than yellow and they lack a strong fragrance.
  • Speaking of smells, Palmer penstemon (Penstemon palmeri) is starting to bloom around the Visitor Center. Look for faded pink & yellow flowers growing on a stalk. These flowers have a very sweet scent and attract many pollinators.

Palmer penstemon

Week of April 14, 2019

More and more species are starting to bloom! You’ll have to walk and hike around to find them, as we are not seeing anything like the superblooms in California. Current hotspots include the Visitor Center, Red Spring, Ash Spring, Willow Spring/Lost Creek, First Creek, and Fossil Ridge near Cowboy Trail Rides. New highlights include:

  • Desert hyacinth (Dichelostemma capitatum) is blooming in numbers around Willow Spring, First Creek, Oak Creek, and Pine Creek. This small purple/blue flower often uses shrubs for support.
  • Globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) is starting to show its small orange flowers along SR-159, Calico Basin Road, and the Scenic Drive.
  • Blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima) is blooming along the southern trails (First Creek, Oak Creek, etc.) – look for small yellow flowers in this thorny gray shrub.
  • Western redbud (Cercis orbiculata) is starting to put on a show with gorgeous pink/purple flowers on its tree branches.
  • Straggling mariposa lily (Calochortus flexuosus) was first reported at Fossil Ridge (area near Cowboy Trail Rides) growing within the blackbrush.

Straggling mariposa lily

Week of April 7, 2019

Colors are starting to show around Red Rock Canyon. The creamy white flowers of Joshua trees and Mojave yuccas are still the stars of the bloom right now. Flower hotspots include the Visitor Center, Red Spring, Ash Creek, and Willow Spring. New highlights include:

  • Firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii) can be found within Calico Basin, Ash Spring, and Willow Spring.
  • Yellow two-tone penstemon (Penstemon bicolor ssp. bicolor) is starting to bloom around the Visitor Center landscaping.
  • Desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata) is blooming along the roadside of the Scenic Drive & SR-159 – look for them to really come on within the next week or so.
  • The velvet ash trees (Fraxinus velutina) within Ash Spring are flowering and leafing, adding some greenery to the desert.
  • Ephedra species (Mormon tea & Nevada jointfir) are displaying their coniferous cones throughout the Scenic Drive.

Yellow two-tone penstemon

Week of March 31, 2019

No thick carpet of blooms – yet. We are seeing more shrubs and small plants flower, leading us to believe that mid-to-late April ought to be fantastic for wildflower blooms. Joshua tree, Fremont phacelia, desert paintbrush, and desert rockcress continue to be prominent flowers throughout Red Rock Canyon. Current hotspots of scattered flowers include Willow Spring/Lost Creek and Calico Basin. New highlights include:

  • Mojave yucca (Yucca shidigera) can be found in bloom all along the Scenic Drive & Calico Basin
  • Mojave goldenbush (Ericameria linearifolia) is starting to bloom around the Visitor Center, giving a nice yellow color to the landscaping
  • Desert almond (Prunus fasciculata) has been spotted in bloom, in addition to hosting western tent caterpillar nests.
  • The small white flowers of spiny menodora (Menodora spinescens) can be found throughout Wheeler Spring & Calico Basin
  • Mojave popcorn flower (Cryptantha confertiflora) is starting to bloom throughout the Willow Spring area.

Spiny menodora

Week of March 24, 2019

The two most prominent flowers require either looking up or down! Joshua trees continue to be spectacular along SR-159 with their creamy white blooms reaching toward the sky. Look down to find nice purple mats of Fremont phacelia in bloom throughout the canyon. Willow Springs and Calico Basin are good areas to look for other flowers. Other highlights include:

  • Woolly bluestar/amsonia (Amsonia tomentosa) was found in bloom along the Oak Creek & Calico Basin trails
  • Desert paintbrush freckled milkvetch continue to pop up in various spots throughout trails on the Scenic Drive

Wolly bluestar/amsonia

Week of March 17, 2019

Red Rock Canyon is certainly greening up! Wildflowers are still slow in the area, especially compared to the blooms in southern California. Look for more “belly flowers.” Highlights include:

  • Fremont phacelia (Phacelia fremontii) is blooming well within the Willow Spring/Lost Creek area
  • Desert paintbrush (Castilleja angustifolia) has been found in isolated spots along the Willow Spring/Lost Creek area
  • Freckled milkvetch (Astragalus lentiginosus) was found with blooms along Pine Creek Canyon
Freckled milkvetch

Freckled milkvetch

Week of March 10, 2019 

We are seeing a lot of plant growth but not much in bloom yet. Look for “belly flowers” and some shrubs/trees with flowers. Highlights include:

  • Filaree (Erodium cicutarium) can be found around the Visitor Center and throughout most of the Scenic Drive
  • Coyote willow (Salix exigua) has flower catkins appearing along springs such as Lost Creek, Pine Creek, and First Creek.
  • Parry’s Lomatium (Lomatium parryi) and Nevada Lomatium (Lomatium nevadense) can be found in bloom throughout the area.
  • Desert rockcress (Boechera pulchra) was found in bloom by the Willow Spring Picnic Area.

Desert rockcress

Week of March 3, 2019

  • Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) flower buds are appearing all over SR-159 and the Scenic Drive.
  • Wild rhubarb (Rumex hymenosepalus) can be found in sandy areas like Calico Basin, Oak Creek, First Creek, and Pine Creek.
  • Silk tassel (Garrya flavescens) flowers can be found in bloom at Sandstone Quarry, Willow Spring, Pine Creek, and other canyons.
  • Pointleaf manzanita (Arctostaphylos pungens) flowers can be found at Willow Spring, Pine Creek, Oak Creek, and other canyons.

Joshua tree

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