California super bloom: Is ziplining the best way to be a responsible tourist?

Tourists can choose one of 4 zipline routes to zoom over the super bloom
Tourists can choose one of 4 zipline routes to zoom over the super bloom Copyright AFP
Copyright AFP
By Hannah Brown with AFP
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button
Copy/paste the article video embed link below:Copy to clipboardCopied

Locals hope to avoid a repeat of the 2019 “poppy apocalypse” when thousands of flowers were trampled by daytrippers.


An explosion of colour has hit California’s hillsides in a rare ‘super bloom’ event.

The vast display of poppies, encelias, chias and lupins in the normally dry, brown landscape comes in the wake of a very wet winter on America’s west coast.

From the earliest Spanish missionaries to some of the giants of American literature, the super bloom has long captivated those lucky enough to see it.

Unfortunately, say nature lovers, the era of Instagram and TikTok means these delicate blooms can easily become victims of their own popularity.

But one business has come up with the perfect solution for visitors who are keen to enjoy the flowers without damaging them.

Ziplining over a super bloom

Pete Liston at Skull Canyon zipline in Corona offers four different routes of varying height, length and speeds to zoom over the super bloom and enjoy the extraordinary view from above.

“What I do like for everybody to see once you're up here is it’s not just poppies. There's a lot of others - we have our encelias here, the chias, the lupins," Pete explains.

According to Pete, the route to the top of the ziplines was hand carved years ago before they knew about the super blooms in this area. He hopes visitors will stick to the designated paths and enjoy the floral wonder from the skies.

In several areas hiking trails have been closed to the public to avoid them being swamped and the flowers trampled. The town of Lake Elsinore, 22km south of Corona, has even stationed a police patrol car to make sure no one gets into the trail at Walker Canyon.

The town is normally a popular hub for tourists looking for an adventurous trip as it offers skydiving, water skiing, mountain biking and hiking. 

It's all part of an effort to avoid a repeat of what was dubbed the "poppy apocalypse" of 2019, during the last super bloom, when tens of thousands of daytrippers swarmed the countryside creating monster traffic jams that paralysed the region.

Influencers and selfie-seeking tourists dumped their cars along highways and marched right into the wildflowers, crushing whatever lay in their path as they sought the perfect shot.

"It was a nightmare. They just trampled over everything, and smashed a lot of the flowers," says Pete.

"In the area over Walker Canyon, you can still see where in 2019 they made trails. Nothing grew back even in the super bloom."

Protecting the super bloom

While most people agree on the need to protect the flowers, not everyone wants to see trails closed with only webcams offered in their place, as Lake Elsinore has done. 

Each super bloom is a "moment enabling the public to connect with nature and to grow enthusiasm for California biodiversity," says Evan Meyer of the Theodore Payne Foundation, an organisation highlighting Southern California's natural flora.

"In closing down Walker Canyon, Lake Elsinore is sending the exact opposite message."

Instead of stopping people from enjoying these marvellous displays, he says: "We need to develop an ethic of nature appreciation within our culture."


Which is what the guides at Skull Canyon strive for.

As they strap visitors in for lengthy zipline rides, they offer a reminder that picking flowers is forbidden, and tell them to always stick to the paths.

Watch the video above to experience zip lining over the super bloom.

Video editor • Hannah Brown

Share this articleComments

You might also like