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Updated: Jul 27, 2023


Shell Creek Road Super Bloom 2023 Central California Wildflowers In The Great Wide Los Angeles Travel Blog

Shell Creek Road Wildflower Field


On those rare years when California gets loads of rain in the winter, a super bloom can occur, and when it does, you have to take advantage of it! Shell Creek Road is a great place to start.


CONTENTS



What is a Super Bloom?

As someone who grew up in the Midwest (or South, depending on who you ask), I had never heard of a super bloom until I moved to California. Our beautiful state is known for its devastating wildfires after years of droughts, but what a lot of people outside of California don’t hear so much about are the millions of wildflowers that cover the hills after those rare years when we get tons of rainfall in the winter.


2023 has been one of those years. After 2-3x the monthly average of rainfall for the first 3 months of this year, we are being blessed with green hills (that would usually be brown) now bursting with yellows, oranges, and purples from the native wildflowers.



Many online sources claim that super blooms only happen once every 10-15 years, but that feels too sparse to me after living in California for 12 years. The most recent before 2023 was in 2019, which I specifically remember as a particularly rainy winter as well, and supposedly another in 2017 that I do not personally remember. I can’t seem to find specific records of super blooms before that.


This means that, of course, everyone wants to get out and take pictures while they can, but the sheer number of visitors to popular sites can cause significant damage. Some popular spots have even been closed down in the past, not allowing any visitors in order to preserve the delicate nature of the site, with trespassers being arrested, so it’s always a good idea to look up the specific spot you want to go see the super bloom before driving all the way out to it. And if you don’t want to drive so far, then consider visiting a local garden like the LA Arboretum or Huntington Gardens, which will have similarly benefited from the extra rain. If you are going out to see the wildflowers however, please stay on designated paths. Do NOT step into the flowers or sit in the fields for pictures or a picnic or whatever, because that is the exact behavior that will kill the wildflowers and possibly keep them from coming back in the future.


Shell Creek Road Wildflower Fields In Central California Travel Blog Super Bloom 2023 In The Great Wide

This year’s super bloom, much like the one in 2019, is so vibrant that it can be seen from space! A privately owned company owns the copyrights to the image so we can’t show them to you here on our blog, but here’s a link to an LA Times article where you can see them.


It’s impossible to predict when the next super bloom will be after this year, because it entirely depends on the weather. That means that if you have the chance to go out and see it now, you should absolutely go!


Shell Creek Road Wildflower Fields Super Bloom 2023 Central California Travel Blog In The Great Wide

Where is Shell Creek Road?

Shell Creek Road is located 20 miles east of Santa Margarita, which is a small town just off the 101 between San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles. For those not familiar with any of those cities (which I would expect of anyone who doesn’t live in California), you can think of it as approximately 200 miles north/northwest of Los Angeles.


Typing in “Shell Creek Road” to Google Maps will lead you to the middle of that road, so instead see the map below for the specific address of where we stopped to see the wildflowers:


7466 Shell Creek Rd, Santa Margarita, CA 93453



How to Get to Shell Creek Road

You will need to drive a car to get to Shell Creek Road, as there is no public transit available in the hills through Central California’s countryside. We took Highway 58 out of Santa Margarita and drove 25-30 minutes to get to our stopping point, which was very obvious because of the other cars already there and the abundant field of wildflowers. Take note though: you should know where you’re going as you’re leaving Shell Creek Road BEFORE you get there, because we lost all cell service for a while on this seemingly back road.


Continuing on Highway 58 further east from Shell Creek Road, you’ll hit Bakersfield in 92 miles, so if you’re just passing through the area heading north/south (say from Los Angeles to Monterey like we were), you could choose to take the scenic route to see the wildflowers of Shell Creek Road without going too far out of the way.


Highway 58 is a lovely drive by itself, with rolling hills spotted with vineyards. As we are striving to see more of our home state, driving all over Central California certainly gave us a new appreciation for what this beautiful state has to offer outside of its major cities.


Shell Creek Road Yellow Wildflowers In Central California Super Bloom 2023 In The Great Wide Travel Lifestyle Blog

Do You Need Reservations at Shell Creek Road?

Shell Creek Road is one of those popular spots where lots of locals know to go to see the super bloom, but it is technically private property. Fortunately, the owners are happy to share the natural beauty of this plot of land openly with the public at no charge, so long as people remain respectful of the dirt-worn paths.


Where To See The Super Bloom In Central California 2023 Wildflower Fields In The Great Wide Travel Blog

Our Experience

As we wrapped up Adam’s birthday weekend exploring Monterey, Paso Robles, San Simeon, and Atascadero, our amazing Airbnb hosts in Atascadero suggested that we try to see the wildflowers on our way back to Los Angeles, and this was their first suggestion. They warned us to just expect crowds so we wouldn’t be disappointed having to share the space, but there seemed to be more cars than people there when we arrived. Granted, we went on a random Monday in the late morning, so I would expect much larger crowds on the weekends. The cars did help us know we had arrived though! There were a number of people on bicycles there, so maybe it’s a popular starting point for cyclists - it certainly would be a lovely spot for a bike ride and would explain why there seemed to be more cars than people.


I was relieved to see the worn paths through the flowers, as well as a few small offshoots where you could step to take photos that, if angled correctly, would make it look like you’re standing in the middle of the flowers… which I suppose you are, but without having to trample any of the flowers. Be mindful of other people walking towards you on the narrow paths though and step aside in an offshoot when you see one to let them pass, because it is very difficult to pass each other without stepping on the flowers otherwise.


Wildflower Fields With Walking Paths In Central California Travel Blog Shell Creek Road Super Bloom 2023 In The Great Wide

Seeing a huge field of wildflowers like this is a simple pleasure, but one that we really enjoyed. It’s funny and sad to look at the area via satellite images on Google Maps, because it just looks brown and dead. After seeing it in person, I know that those images must have been from during the severe drought, because it was rather luscious when we were there.


If you deal with springtime allergies, make sure you preemptively take your medicine! I was surprisingly unfazed despite my usual springtime allergies, but I had my medicine on hand just in case. This field is the most I have ever smelled flowers without sticking them right up to my face, and I was surprised at how pleasant the aroma is. And make sure you wear something nice so you can take lots of lovely pictures!


There were several paths winding all over the field and I would have loved to spend more time exploring, but a recent back injury has made it very difficult for me to walk, so we decided to just take one path out and back. I look forward to the day when we can go back to stroll along more of the dirt paths with our professional cameras.


Shell Creek Road Blue Wildflowers In Central California Super Bloom 2023 In The Great Wide Travel Lifestyle Blog

Our Verdict

If you’re in or going through Central California during a super bloom, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you do not go out to Shell Creek Road for an hour or two to appreciate the natural beauty of our amazing state. The more I see of California, the more I want to see, and something tells me I will never get enough.


Yellow Wildflower Field In Central California Super Bloom At Shell Creek Road 2023 In The Great Wide CA Travel Blog

Quick Reference Guide


What

Shell Creek Road Super Bloom Field

Where

Santa Margarita in Central California, near San Luis Obispo.

Address for where to park at Shell Creek Road is 7466 Shell Creek Rd, Santa Margarita, CA 93453

How to Get There

Driving is required, as there is no public transit. Take Highway 58 east out of Santa Margarita for 20 miles or west out of Bakersfield for 92 miles.

Time Commitment

Expect to spend 30 minutes - 2 hours here, depending on if you’re just on a stroll or taking lots of pictures.

Cost

FREE

Reservation Info

No reservations or tickets are required. This is private property that the owners openly share as long as visitors remain respectful of the worn paths and don’t trample the flowers.

Our Verdict

It’s sad to think of how many people have never heard of the super bloom and who would never think to try to go out to experience it for themselves. Seeing the wildflowers is a simple pleasure, it’s FREE (apart from gas money), the opportunity only happens every few years, and it’s unpredictable about when it will happen again because of the weather. Take advantage of it while you can!


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