By Kate Wallace
Allegiant travelers heading to the Southwest this spring will want to time their visit with the wellspring of wildflowers, orchard blossoms and desert blooms that begin to peep and pop to the awe of onlookers. Locals are anticipating a vibrant display this spring, thanks to Arizona’s plentiful winter rains, which set the stage for a colorful show each March and April.
WALK ON THE WILD SIDE
Visitors will want to pay attention to the desert floor as they head out on Mesa’s trails. In March, hikers can watch for the deep purple desert lupine flowers that are one of the first to welcome the seasonal change. The concentration of wildflowers will change at various elevations. Higher up on the hill, Mexican Gold poppies form in large swaths creating Arizona’s ‘fields of gold’. Yellow and orange Brittlebush flowers line Pass Mountain Trail, one of the more popular lowland paths inside Mesa’s Usery Mountain Regional Park. At 7.5 miles in length, this is the park’s longest hiking trail and an ideal location to view the fire engine red Ocotillo blooms that resemble flames on the tips of the long-stemmed spiny cactus. Check the park’s online events calendar for wildflower programming before your visit. maricopacountyparks.net
In neighboring Queen Creek, the town signals spring when the peach trees at Schnepf Farms start to blossom. The 300-acre peach orchard (with rows of apple trees mixed in) serves up a jaw-dropping backdrop for photos. Every shade of pink is present here, from bright fuchsia to light rose. The flowery tree branches pop against the cloudless blue skies common this time of year. Visitors can join the fun at the farm’s annual Peach Blossom Festival. Exact dates depend on Mother Nature, so guests are encouraged to call ahead for hours of operation. schnepffarms.com
SCENTS OF CITRUS
Another tell-tale sign of spring is the scent of citrus in the air. Mesa is home to acres and acres of citrus groves, a proud Arizona mainstay whose industry is revered in the state’s seal. When warm days merge with crisp cool nights, citrus blossoms open their petite petals and the overpowering fragrance of navel oranges, Lisbon lemons and Rio Red grapefruit fills the air. Follow your nose to the Orange Patch, one of Mesa’s original growers. Complimentary citrus tastings and tours are offered all spring long. orangepatch.com
For more information go online to visitmesa.com.