Pinnacles Peek: Poppies pop, Lupines leap at Pinnacles

This flower has a monkey in its name.

Pinnacles National Park is often seen or portrayed through a palette of earth tones—craggy red and tan boulders, dull gray-green shrubs and pines, golden hills of dry grasses and an endless pale blue sky. Less often is the park known for vibrant pockets of indigo, fuchsia or saffron. Now is the time to see the vivid colors of spring at Pinnacles, showcased through a dazzling array of native wildflowers.
March and April are when many of the wildflowers are at their peak, before the summer sun washes out the landscape and the earth tones return.
While most of Pinnacles is dominated by shrubby chaparral, the park also has pockets of streamside riparian vegetation, rolling oak woodland and rocky scree habitats. All of these areas have their personal touch of color from spring wildflowers, so you’re sure to see something interesting no matter where you hike.
The Old Pinnacles Trail offers mostly-flat hiking through streamside woodlands, and a chance to see the lemon yellow of California buttercup, the bright pink of shooting stars, and the light purple of bluewitch nightshade. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, why not check out the High Peaks Trail? You’ll climb switchbacks to see the burnt orange rock spires that are Pinnacles’ namesake, as well as the fiery red of woolly paintbrush, the deep purple of larkspur, and the peachy orange of sticky monkeyflower. If you’re coming to the park from the west side entrance, take a stroll on the Balconies Cliff Trail to see the purple and white tiers of silver bush lupine, the energetic orange of western wallflower, and the sharp azure of baby blue eyes.
Although this year’s El Niño hasn’t brought us the level of rain rumored to rival the 1998 flood, we’ve seen enough precipitation to stimulate a seedbank waiting to make a comeback from multiple years of drought. As the plants capitalize on that available water, the colors emerge as poppies pop and lupines leap through their yearly growth cycles.
While this is the time of year that flowers are at their best in Pinnacles, it is also our busiest time of the year. On many spring weekends, parking lots fill up by mid-morning. If you can get an opportunity to visit the park during the week, you’ll usually find plenty of parking and fewer crowds on the trails.
Pinnacles Peek is a monthly feature comprised of content provided by Pinnacles National Park as a partnership with the Free Lance.

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