With March Madness under way, wildflower worship is also in full bloom. This spring, in the Southern California regional bracket, Hemet’s Diamond Valley Lake is our surprise pick for the Fab Flowers Finals. A 2-mile round-trip hike in botanical bliss begins on the fire road to the right of the boat ramp. Enjoy views of the largest reservoir in Southern California (260 billion gallons!) as spectacular blossoms dominate the hills right after the first turn.
The wildflower loop begins in 0.75 mile, but meander along many of the spur trails on the way for close-ups of the blossom bonanza. You’ll first be drawn to wide, dense orange patches of California poppies, alongside purple arroyo lupines and Canterbury bells. The true treats of the trek are the underappreciated blooms, like pale lavender bunches of caterpillar phacelia and seas of bright yellow California goldfields and brittlebush.
When you reach the signed beginning of the 1.25-mile loop, head left up the steep path and try to spot two attractive opposites: low-lying florets of baby blue eyes and purple (not blue) blue dick blossoms at the ends of their tall bare stalks. You’ll shortly reach the top of your ascent—the halfway point of the loop and a panoramic overlook toward the San Jacinto Valley and the Santa Ana Range. Complete the loop and return to the marina parking lot via the fire road, taking your time to indulge in the dazzling display one last time. It won’t be here for long!
To get to the Diamond Valley Lake Marina parking lot, take the I-215 to CA-74 toward Hemet and continue east for 7 miles. Turn right on CA-79, go 3 miles, and turn left onto Domenigoni Pkwy. Continue 6 miles and turn right onto Searl Pkwy. Follow homemade signs for the Wildflower Trail/Marina, turning right onto Angler Ave. and following it 1.7 miles to the lot. Parking is $9 and the trail-use fee is $2. No dogs.