The Sonoran Desert is bursting with abundant yellow flowers blooming at the base of saguaro cactuses right now.
Catching a glimpse of this seasonal scenic beauty is a huge draw for Arizona residents and visitors who flock to Picacho Peak State Park south of Phoenix this time of year.
The park is one of the hottest spots for seeing wildflowers in Arizona, and park rangers have their hands full as long lines of cars greet them at the entrance gates.
Picacho Peak is an easy day trip from metro Phoenix. If you plan to brave the crowds and go there, here’s what you’ll see and what to know before you go.
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When can you see wildflowers in Arizona?
February and March are when the blooms typically emerge. The number and variety of blooms are expected to be bigger than average this year because of rainy weather statewide last fall and this winter.
Picacho Peak State Park is in the “early stages” of a superbloom, when more wildflowers bloom than usual, despite the current chilly temperatures, according to park staff. While the Mexican gold poppies and other blooms are abundant now, more are expected as temperatures warm up.
What wildflowers can I see at Picacho Peak State Park?
Poppies and lupine are most abundant, according to the park’s latest wildflower report.
Other desert wildflowers like goldenbush and globemallow are starting to come in now, said Athena Sparks, southern region manager with Arizona State Parks and Trails.
“They’re all along the entire base of the mountain, so any parking lot you pull into you’ll be in the midst of it,” she said. “There’s no better place than another (to see wildflowers in the park) because every place offers a different perspective of the mountains.”
Stay on the trails to avoid trampling flowers and other plants, and don’t pick the blooms. Leave them for other visitors to enjoy.
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How crowded is Picacho Peak right now?
March traditionally draws the highest number of visitors of any month at Picacho Peak State Park. Spring wildflowers drew 19,188 visitors in March 2022 and 17,961 visitors in March 2021, according to the Arizona Office of Tourism.
“You won’t have the desert wildflowers all to yourself at Picacho Peak State Park, but you will have a better shot of enjoying some solitude if you go early on a weekday,” said Josh Lien, a fine art photographer who recently visited the park, in a tweet.
You might have to set your alarm clock to beat the rush, even on a weekday. The park opens at 5 a.m. daily, and those who don’t arrive in the early morning can expect a wait to get in.
“Between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. we have 30- to 40-minute waits,” Sparks said. “We’re not that big of a park and we only have single-lane entry.”
Attendance is lower later in the day, she said. Visit on a weekday if possible.
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How do I get to Picacho Peak from Phoenix?
Picacho Peak is about 75 miles south of Phoenix. The most direct route is via Interstate 10; take Exit 219 for Picacho Peak Road.
If traveling from the East Valley, an alternate route with less exposure to I-10 is available via State Route 87; travel southbound to Casa Grande, turn right on State Route 187, then turn left on I-10 and take Exit 219 to Picacho Peak Road.
Picacho Peak State Park
Where: 15520 Picacho Peak Road, Picacho.
When: 5 a.m.-10 p.m. daily; trails are open from sunrise to sunset.
Admission: $7 per vehicle.
Facilities: Visitor center and store, restrooms, campground for tents and RVs, picnic areas with grills, five hiking trails ranging from easy to strenuous.
Details: 520-466-3183, https://azstateparks.com/picacho.
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