When you think of California’s Death Valley, you might think of an unforgiving desert—the one with the hottest recorded temperature on Earth. Surely not much can grow in such a harsh environment, right?
Well, not exactly.
Death Valley’s average rainfall has been around 2.6 inches per year since such data has been recorded (compared with California’s average of 14.8 inches per year). But thanks to this year’s powerful El Niño, Death Valley has already seen almost 2.1 inches of rainfall so far in 2016 according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The result? A blanket of beautiful and rare wildflowers.
This “super bloom,” as the National Park Service unofficially calls this crop of vegetation, is a rare occurence: The last time this many flowers made their way to bloom through the sand and rock was in 2005, another particularly wet year for Death Valley. Dozens of varieties of wildflowers have been blooming throughout the spring, some with cool desert-related names like Desert Gold, Gravel Ghost, and Sand Verbena.
Because of the rarity of this stunning sight, you should make the journey to the valley if you can, which is about a two-hour drive from Las Vegas or a four-and-a-half hour drive from Los Angeles. If you choose to go, stay at The Oasis at Death Valley, an oasis in the middle of the desert. The concierge can recommend the best places in the valley to check out the wildflowers, as well as give you a guide for which flowers to look out for when.
Make sure to catch the peak of the super bloom now through the beginning of April, when the wildflowers start to disappear due to higher temperatures and drier conditions (you can track where the blooms are appearing—and disappearing—with this map from the NPS). It’s the ideal place for Instagram junkies, too—just check out all the beautiful bloom shots that have been posted from Death Valley already. If you go, share your snap with us using #traveldeeper. Then, put your phone away and revel in the persistance of life to flourish—even in the most unexpected places.