The first gold poppies of the season, flowing water, and lush grasses are shouting spring at Catalina State Park in mid-February.
“We’ve had a really good fall and winter for rains, and it’s a beautiful time here right now,” said Steven Haas, manager of the park north of Tucson.
“If you go to the trailhead, it’s just a carpet of grass in the mesquite bosque,” or woodland, Haas said. “The Sutherland Wash is running past the trailhead, leading some people to say that Catalina Beach is open.”
A few gold poppies have begun blooming near the park entrance, at 11570 N. Oracle Road, and on some hillsides around the park.
It’s by no means a widespread bloom so far, but continued rains this month could bring more poppies and other wildflowers to trails and roadsides.
“I’m hoping the flower season will be good” later this month and in March, Haas said.
Some splendid views are available along the park’s roads, but taking a walk on one of the many trails is a good way to find blooms, verdant grasses and flowing water.
The short Romero Ruin Trail, beginning at a signed trailhead along the main park road, leads to historic and prehistoric ruins and also to many blooms in a good wildflower year.
Several options are available at a trailhead at the end of the main road. Hikes on the Birding Trail and Romero Canyon Trail offer exceptional views of rocky Catalina ridges, the Sutherland Wash, and some green glades and wildflowers.
A trek on the Sutherland Trail, accessed by way of the Canyon Loop Trail, often leads to excellent displays of poppies and other colorful flowers in March.
A free map showing park roads and trails is available at the entrance, where visitors pay a $7 per vehicle entrance fee.