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Mill Valley, California, United States

Bay Area Wildflower Hikes

Springtime brings a remarkable wildflower show to Bay Area hills

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Length: 35 miles / 56 km
 
Overview: Springtime sunshine ignites a blast of color on the hills of the Bay Area. In the best years, hills can be practically painted white, orange, yellow or purple. Even in lean years, wildflower season offers hikers beautiful reminders of the rhythms of life.

Wildflower season runs primarily from February through June, peaking in mid-April. Virtually every Bay Area trail will have at least a few blooms popping up through the green grass of the open hills or sprouting on the forest floor at trail's edge.

The flaming orange California Poppy, which thrives on steep sunny slopes, is the most visible sign of spring. The Mariposa lily, which arrives late in the season on sunny South Bay hills, looks as if Vincent Van Gogh himself might have stopped by with a paintbrush and slapped some watercolors on its petals. Wild irises hide in tall grass, blooming purple and fading to white as summer approaches. Local wildflowers bloom in hundreds of varieties, some tiny and understated, others big and bloomy. See all you can.


Tips: Poison Oak often lurks next to wildflowers along trails.

Ticks are very active in springtime, especially in tall grass. Always inspect yourself after you're done hiking.

Trails can be very muddy in springtime; gaiters and trekking poles are handy if you have them.

What to bring
Layers -- weather varies widely.
Water and snacks
Trail maps
Camera
Wildflower field guide

Points of Interest

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Mount Tamalpais State Park

Marin County's No. 1 outdoor destination has a mix of open hillsides and deep forests showcasing a wide spectrum of Northern California flora. You can't go wrong on the Matt Davis Trail, which crosses an open hillside facing the Pacific, and the Steep Ravine Trail, which tracks a creek through a redwood-forested canyon.

EveryTrail Trip | EveryTrail Guide
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Point Reyes National Seashore

You'll find blooms around every corner at Point Reyes (the Coast Trail from Palomarin trailhead near Bolinas is a fave). The Tomales Point Trail -- so popular because of its tule elk herd -- won't disappoint.

EveryTrail Trip | EveryTrail Guide | EveryTrail Destination
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Sunol Regional Wilderness

Sunol's annual Wildflower Festival, usually scheduled in early April, coincides with peek blooming in this park northeast of San Jose. Obvious choices are the Indian Joe Creek, Canyon View Trail and Flag Hill trails.

EveryTrail Trip | EveryTrail Guide | EveryTrail Destination
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Mount Diablo State Park

The tallest peak east of Walnut Creek is another fine bloomer. Mitchell Canyon is highly recommended, as is the hike in from the Regency gate in the town of Clayton (note: Diablo trails can get very gooey after a strong rain; you''ll have a better time if you give the trails about a week to dry).

EveryTrail Trip | EveryTrail Guide | EveryTrail Destination
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Midpeninsula Open Space District

The crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains along Highway 35 west of Palo Alto features forests of madrone, oak and Douglas fir opening onto broad, sunny hillsides -- prime terrain that produces some of the region''s best blooms. Long Ridge, Russian Ridge, and Skyline Ridge open space preserves, all managed by the Midpeninsula Open Space District, are great choices. Monte Bello Open Space Preserve, on nearby Page Mill Road, has a nice bloom and even better mountain vistas.

Best destinations:

Russian Ridge: EveryTrail Trip | EveryTrail Destination

Monte Bello: EveryTrail Trip | EveryTrail Destination

Skyline Ridge: EveryTrail Trip | EveryTrail Destination
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Henry Coe State Park

The hills in this park east of Gilroy and Morgan Hill are the South Bay's No. 1 wildflower destination. Any of the park's entrances -- Dunne Avenue, Hunting Hollow, Dowdy Ranch -- will do. Just keep in mind Coe trails can be very strenuous, so make sure you have plenty of water and snacks.

EveryTrail Trip | EveryTrail Guide
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Calero County Park

This park at San Jose''s southern edge is a nice alternative to the far longer drive to Henry Coe State Park. The best bloom is on the Chisnantuk Peak Trail, which is deep in the park and requires roughly 8 miles of moderate and occasionally strenuous hiking to see the whole thing. Expect to share trails with equestrians; don't come if you're afraid of horses. (Also: Calero heats up early in the season -- get your hikes in before the end of April).

EveryTrail Trip | EveryTrail Destination
Pictures in this guide taken by: tommangan, Vaudesir, onnow, Yiping, 5Pears, navratil, tmusolf, jasonchiu, sea2sky, edgarstiles, EwaSkB

Bay Area Wildflower Hikes Trail Map


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About the Author

tommangan
tommangan
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Keeper of Two Heel Drive, A Hiking Blog at http://tommangan.net/twoheeldrive |

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