California Super Bloom at San Onofre

Over three weeks ago, I had the supreme pleasure of taking the opportunity to get out and see what was happening on the coast of North County, San Diego. Amidst all the rain we got this winter season, I was extremely excited to see how all the coast plants looked. Did the California super bloom affect the coast?

So I grabbed my backpack, filled it with plant ID books, my iPad, water, and sunscreen, and ran out the door. Well, maybe not running, but I was super excited!

My two daughters and I headed first to Trestles Beach Trail and afterward doubled back and explored Bluffs Beach at San Onofre State Beach. I have to say, what I saw, took my breath away.

San Onofre State Beach Google Map
Trestles Beach Trail to the North- San Onofre Bluff Campground south

button map trestles beach trail google map

Ok, are you ready to check out all the San Onofre State Beach plants in North County, San Diego?

San Onofre State Beach is one of my favorite spots in San Diego County due to how isolated the area is. I have written about this area quite a bit. Please click on the links above if you want to learn a little more about the area. You will also learn how to get here in a few ways.

Let’s now take a look at what we saw!

California Super Bloom- Trestle’s Beach Trail

Bladderpod Flower Trestles San Onofre State Beach
Bladderpod is located at the end of the Trestles Beach Trail.

Before we start our adventure, what exactly is a super bloom? According to the dictionary, a super bloom “is a colloquial term used to define an explosion of wildflowers that exceeds typical spring bloom.’

Did you realize that Southern California received record levels of rain this past year? Just in January- April, we have had over 16 inches of rain above average. For the past seven years, we have been in a drought, so with all this rain, I wondered how the coast would look this Spring. I was eager to find out what the California super bloom would look like at the beach.

Bush Sunflower California Super Bloom
Bush Sunflower- Encelia californica

Walking the Beach Trail to Trestles

The Trestles Beach Trail is located at the northwestern portion of San Onofre State Beach, where the county line with Orange County is.

Bush Sunflower Panhe Nature Trail CA super bloom
Bush sunflower lining the Panhe Nature Trail
Beach Trail Trailhead San Onofre CA super bloom
Trestles Beach Trailhead

San Mateo River San Onofre State Beach

In the photo above, you can see that San Mateo Creek has more water than average.

poison hemlock trestles beach trail non native plant
Non-native hemlock- Conium maculatum

There was so much hemlock growing everywhere! Did you happen to know that hemlock is poisonous?

San Diego Nightshade California Super Bloom
San Diego nightshade- Solanum xanti

As we continued on the Trestle’s Beach Trail, I was struck by the beauty of these delicate purple flowers of the San Diego nightshade. Did you know this particular plant is related to eggplant and potato?

black sage trestle beach trail california super bloom
Black sage -Salvia mellifera

The black sage flowers stick out among the California sagebrush and the yellow flower of the black mustard plant.

wild cucumber growing over everything trestles beach trail
Wild Cucumber- Marah macrocarpa

There was wild cucumber growing over everything along the Trestles Beach Trail.

Close up of wild cucumber vine.

The wild cucumber is related to the garden cucumber, watermelon, and squash. It is a non-native plant that originates from Africa and is also referred to as manroot because it has an enormous tuberous root with a size and shape of a sleeping man.

Walking the Beach at Trestles

As we make our way to the beach at Trestles, I first wanted to look at how San Mateo Creek looked. Once the Beach Trail ends, you make an immediate left and continue to walk parallel with the train tracks.

San Mateo Creek Trestles dead

It is essential to mention that at the time of our adventure, San Diego had just had a significant storm move out the day before. Because of this, I was excited to see if San Mateo Creek connected to the Ocean. Usually, the creek is cut off and stops 100 yards away from the water.

San Mateo Lagoon San Onofre State Beach

Here we are looking to the east.

Do you notice, on the right, all of the dead cattails? Here is a telltale sign that the San Mateo Creek did indeed break the beach barrier and connected to the Ocean.

We can assume this because the cattails thrive only in freshwater.

As you can see in the photo above, the water level was shallow because the terminus of the creek was connecting to the Pacific Ocean. Though I have only been here a handful of times, this is the first time I have witnessed this!

San Mateo Creek on Trestles Beach

San Mateo Terminus at San Onofre State Beach

Ok, sorry for the tangent, as this probably has nothing to do with the California super bloom, or does it?

Remember the record amount of rain?

California Super Bloom on the Beach

Deerweed on beach lowers trestles beach
Deerweed – Acmispon glaber

Walking on the beach, you can see that many of the plants are in full bloom. The photo above is the deerweed plant, known as the California broom, which is in the Legume family and is related to peanuts, cloves, and licorice. I found it interesting that once the yellow flower has been pollinated, it will turn orange to red.

Below the photo are the pink beach sand verbena ( Abronia umbellata) and the yellow flowering beach evening primrose ( Camissoniopsis cheiranthifolia) growing in the sand.

beach sand verbena california super bloom beach
The pink flower- Beach Sand Verbena

As we make our way north on Trestles Beach, there is a clear view of San Clemente State Beach in Orange County. The county line (between Orange and San Diego) is found right at this location.

sea cliff buckwheat trestles county line CA super bloom
Sea Cliff Buckwheat -Eriogonum parvifolium

I appreciate so much when examining the photo below that on this particular stretch of beach, there are no non-native plants. Whoever is in charge of this beautiful hillside, I say, “Kudo’s to you!”

North View Trestles Beach California super bloom
Looking towards Upper’s at San Clemente State Beach

So what do you think? I was so excited that I could come here at the opportune time to see the beginning of the California bloom on the coast!

Let’s now head over to San Onofre Bluffs Campground, located at the most southern section of San Onofre State Beach, just south of Marine Base Camp Pendleton.

Making Our Way to San Onofre Bluff’s Campground

South San Onofre State Beach Panoramic View
San Onofre State Beach at Trail 6

The San Onofre Bluffs Campground is located on the bluffs above the beach. Well, not precisely above as you have to walk about a half-mile to reach the cliffs.

It is important to note that there is a $10 fee to park at the campground, and also have your choice of six trails to go down and explore. Today, my girls and I chose to take Trail 6 down and walk north, eventually making our way back up via Trail 4.

Here is a map if you want to look at where each trail is located.

Below is a photo of one of the first plants we encountered, the collared lupine. I have to say that this is the very first time that I have seen this plant in the wild! Do you remember deerweed? The collared lupine is also in the Legume Family. The contrast of the colors with the black mustard is stunning.

collard lupine San Onofre California super bloom
Collard Annual Lupine-Lupinus truncatus

As we make our way toward the coast, here is a view of the hills of Marine Base Camp Pendleton. All of the yellow you see is the non-native plant, black mustard.

Camp Pendleton Hills black mustard plants CA super bloom
Non-native black mustard

Going Down to Bluffs Beach Via Trail 6

Bladderpod Flower Trestles San Onofre State Beach
View from Trail’s Beach looking North

¬†Before walking down the path to the beach, we stopped here for a bit to take in the view. Isn’t it breathtaking?

As we go down the trail, it is hard to deny that the plants are growing like crazy! Here in Southern California, we have been used to a very ‘dead’ looking landscape, so it is a happy transformation!

tall black mustard bluffs beach California super bloom
Look how tall the black mustard is down here!

As we walk onto the beach, please look at what the bluffs look like as we turn around with our backs to the Ocean.

bluffs beach plants san onofre state beach

Below is my absolute favorite photo I took on this glorious day. The colors of the California coastal sage scrub ecosystem are gorgeous!

If you take a closer look, it seems that a flash flood occurred here not too long ago. Remember, we had a significant storm system just a few days prior.

Trail 4 San Onofre Bluffs Beach California super bloom
California coastal sage scrub on Bluffs Beach

More Non-Native Plants at San Onofre Bluffs Beach

tamarisk non native species bluffs beach san onofre
Tamarisk on Bluffs Beach

We also saw a few non-native species thriving, such as the invasive tamarisk (Tamarix ramosissima), originally from the arid regions of Eurasia and Africa.

The tamarisk thrives in inhospitable places, such as here, right next to the ocean waterline.

As we continue walking, we come upon the common yellow woodsorrel known as sourgrass, another non-native species.

sour grass non native species Bluffs beach
Sourgrass- Oxalis stricta

In the photo below, we are looking into one of the crevices of the bluffs to look at all of the growth that has happened with the help of unprecedented amounts of rain.

bluffs beach crevices san onofre state beach

Going Back Up to San Onofre Bluffs Campground

As we make our way back up to the top of the bluffs on Trail 4, we found more wild cucumber growing over everything, just like what we saw on the Trestles Beach Trail.

wild cucumber bluffs beach california super bloom
More Wild Cucumber vines wrapping around everything on Trail 4

We are above Trail 4 to take our final look at San Onofre Bluffs Beach.

end trail four bluffs beach ocean

California Super Bloom and the Coastal Sage Scrub Ecosystem

coastal sage scrub information sign bluffs campground

So what do you think? In closing, I would like to say that my girls and I had a spectacular time at San Onofre State Beach! Especially seeing that many plants were flowering and all the other plants were at optimal health.

As I mentioned, Southern California has been in extreme drought for the past seven years. But after the winter rain, we are no longer in a drought! Hallelujah!

If you would like further information or directions on how to get to San Onofre State Beach or Trestles Beach Trail, please click on the links I have provided.

Also, if you have any questions, please feel free to comment below.

Until next time!


I love it so much over here that I have written several other posts if you are interested.

august trail 2 san onofre bluffs beach
Above Trail Two



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