Home|Best Places in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve For Wildflower Photography

It’s that time of the year when wildflowers cover the Sonoran Desert. Those splashes of color attract many visitors to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. And many have their cellphone camera ready to preserve the moment. Take your best shot with this advice on where to find the Preserve’s choicest wildflower spots. Then get some tips on taking that award-winning photo.

Wildflower season generally runs from February through April. But summer rains can produce blooms through September. Be sure to like our Facebook or Instagram page to get the latest on wildflower sightings.

Best Wildflower Spots

The “best” place to spot wildflowers will change based on the conditions. For example, a recent rain will often prompt plants to bloom. The time of day can also be a factor.

But here are some spots that will likely be your best bet:

  • Bootlegger Trail – Start at the Granite Mountain Trailhead. Look just north of the GM4 marker. This trail is often the site of our guided wildflower hikes.
  • Sunrise Trail – Start at the Sunrise Trailhead. It offers lots of spring wildflowers plus picturesque views. This one is for more hardy hikers.
  • Jane Rau Trail – Start at the Brown’s Ranch Trailhead. This is a shorter, more accessible trail hike but still offers lots of flowers.
  • Quartz Trail – Start at the Lost Dog Wash Trailhead for a more challenging hike. Look for wildflowers between QT5 and QT7, where the trail dips into the wash.

Wildflowers You’ll See

The Preserve offers a wide variety of wildflowers throughout the season. These include Mexican gold poppies, Lupine, Purple Owl’s Clover and Wholly Daisy, to name a few. Watch this video from Master Steward Steve Dodd. He identifies the 10 most-common wildflowers you’ll likely see.

Need help in identifying the flowers? The book “Wildflowers and More” by Marianne Skov Jensen is a great resource when hiking. It’s available through the Conservancy (and proceeds help fund projects).

4 Tips to Taking Better Wildflower Photos

Most of us have a camera in our pockets at all times. Just whip out your cellphone and click. But shooting wildflower photos can present unique challenges. Here are some tips to capture their best side:

  1. Back-up a bit – It’s hard to hold the camera steady enough to keep it in focus, especially if you’re right on top of the flower. Step back to get a wider shot. Afterward, you can crop it closer.
  2. Mind the sun – Aiming directly into the sun can wash out the image. With the sun behind you, you can cast a shadow. So try pointing perpendicular to the sun to get both light and shadow. Or wait for a cloudy or overcast day.
  3. Crouch down – Most people take photos standing directly over the wildflower. Try couching down to get a different angle. You’ll get more of the background sky or mountain. That gives your photo more perspective.
  4. Leave no trace – Remember to leave the area as you found it so others can enjoy it too.

Get the most from this season’s wildflower bloom at the Preserve. Start with these prime locations and preserve your experience for years to come. Want more? Search our events calendar for guided wildflower tours.