Where the Wildflowers Grow

Kathryn Rummel
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As spring rolls in and the weather warms up, flower power takes on a literal meaning as colorful wildflowers pop up all over the great outdoors and in cultivated gardens. Share Mother Nature’s seasonal beauty with your budding botanists by visiting some of our favorite places for peeping blooms throughout the Bay Area. Take time to stop and smell the roses on a walk or hike with your brood today and make plans to join a Wildflower Festival

San Francisco

SF Botanical Garden
At the center of this 55-acre urban oasis is the wildflower meadow where kids will find narrow, winding paths to frolic among the petals. The Children Garden’s Bean Sprout Days invites budding gardeners to explore crafts and practice garden care. Pack a lunch and catch a  concert with Charity Kahn or join story time  to make a day out of it!

Free for members and San Francisco residents, for public 7:30 – 9 a.m. every day and 2nd Tuesday of every month otherwise $10 adults; $7 seniors; $3 children ages 5-11

Twin Peaks
The informal trails that wind around Twin Peaks not only offer stunning views of San Francisco, but they also sport many a wildflower. Kids can keep on the lookout for the Mission Blue butterfly, a native species that has adapted to the high winds. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes and a thick jacket to ward off the wind. For a great view, go from peak to peak in a 0.7 mile hike by taking the trail South from the Christmas Tree Viewing Area toward Eureka Peak. 

Presidio
With Golden Gate views at every corner, that eucalyptus smell and pretty flora and fauna, the Presidio is one of the best choices to catch wildflowers in the city. Lobos Creek Valley Trail, an 0.8-mile hike, is an easy, quick option offering a splash of colorful wildflowers. Park on Lake Street at 15th Avenue and walk up Wedemeyer Street to get to the trail head. Check out other trail maps online at presidio.gov.

East Bay 

Check out the East Bay Regional Park District’s wildflower photo guide so you know what you’re looking at (and impress the rest of the family with your botanical knowledge!)

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Sunol Regional Wilderness, Sunol
Just outside of Fremont, you can join a guided hike through this beautiful valley or take a ride on the historic Niles Canyon Railway for a view of abundant blooms. To explore the Sunol Regional Wilderness on foot, start at the Old Green Barn Visitor Center and hike 1.39 miles on the Canyon View Trail which winds its way to Little Yosemite through grasslands full of wildflowers as well as oak woodlands.  $5 parking fee. 

 Note: there is no swimming in the creek and boundary signs need to be obeyed as the land is a lease agreement.

Black Diamond Mines Regional Park, Antioch
A lovely display of wildflowers, history and mine tours (kids seven and up), Black Diamond Mines Regional Park should be on your to-do list this season. Picnic spots, camping, and more than 65 miles of trails make Black Diamond an easy, fun choice for exploring with the kids. Check out the Chaparral Loop Trail that starts at the Great House Visitor Center. Of moderate intensity (there are some stairs), it’s a fun way to spot spring blooms while getting some exercise. $5 parking fee applies. 

Note: It can get hot so pack  hats, sunscreen and plenty of water.

Mt. Diablo State Park
Get ready for some color at Mt. Diablo State Park!  You’ll see tons of wildflowers without having to hike very far, but those who make it to the mountain top will be rewarded with spectacular views. Popular trails for wildflowers include Mitchell Canyon, Falls Trail, Back Trail and Summit Trail. Be sure to check out Rock City where kids can climb on rock formations and explore small caves.

Anthony Chabot Regional Park, Oakland
A mere 20 minutes from downtown Oakland and with both grasslands and dense forests to explore, Anthony Chabot Regional Park has plenty of spring wildflowers for the whole family to identify. Looking for a quick hike? Try the 3-mile round trip Grass Valley Loop, check out the fishing and boating scene on the lake and pack a picnic to refuel.

Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve, Oakland
Oakland’s very own round-top volcano rises above the region and offers impressive wildflowers as well as year-round beauty that feels miles away from the hustle and bustle. The 31-mile East Bay Skyline National Recreation Trail runs through this park, connecting Wildcat Canyon and Anthony Chabot Parks. Drive up to Round Top and take the easy, breezy Round Top Loop Trail for some amazing sights.

South Bay and Peninsula

Photo by North Delta Reporter

 

 

 

Edgewood Park & Natural Preserve, Redwood City
Just a short skip off I-280, the 467 acres of woodlands and grasslands are home to an abundance of wildlife, wildflowers and plants. The park’s proximity to the coast means wildflowers bloom throughout spring and into June.  Try the Franciscan Trail for an easy-to-moderate 1.4 mile hike through wild, rustling grasslands and rest at one of the many benches along the way to soak up sweeping Bay views. The 3.5-mile Serpentine Trail is flatter, moderate in difficulty and fab for viewing spring blooms. Check out Friends of Edgewood for info on their docent-led wildflower walks on the weekends March through May. Parking is limited on the weekends; go early

San Bruno Mountain State Park, San Bruno
Bordering Brisbane, Daly City, and Colma, this total-escape from the city is less than 15 minutes from downtown San Francisco. The Summit Loop Trail, which is a moderate 3.1-mile hike, offers wonderful views of wildlife and native plants, including occasional reports of the endangered Mission blue butterfly sightings. Grab your magnifying glasses and have the kids keep their eyes peeled! 

Almaden Quicksilver County Park, San Jose
This spot boasts one of the most spectacular wildflower displays in the South Bay. More than 30 miles of hiking trails make for a grand adventure, but the real highlight is the 5.1 mile Historic Trail near the Hacienda entrance. With 15 different significant spots like the Casa Grande historic home, several mines, former town sites and a view of San Jose, this hike has it all. Be sure to stop by the Mining Museum for a unique local history lesson. $6 parking fee.

Good to know: Bring drinking water. You can fill up at the Hacienda Entrance, but there is almost no other potable water in the park and it can get warm in late spring and summer months.

Photo by Colin G. via Yelp

Henry W. Coe State Park, Morgan Hill
California’s second largest state park at 87,003 acres is one that many haven’t even heard of! Rugged, varied and beautiful, Henry W. Coe State Park has a wide range of areas to explore and native plants to uncover.  If you’re after spring colors, take the Springs Trail/Forest Trail Loop and rangers recommend any walk along the Manzanita Point Road to see an incredible array of nature’s blooms. $8 parking fee. 

Calero County Park, San José
Located in San José’s most southern edge and surrounding the Calero reservoir, you can take an easy and brief hike by simply strolling to the Los Cerritos Pond, less than a half-mile from the trailhead. A longer  2.6-mile hike that includes the Figueroa, Vallecito, Peña and Los Cerritos trails is another option for families seeking a bit more of a challenge while seeking out the best blooms. $6 parking fee.

Marin

Point Reyes National Seashore, Point Reyes Station
Stunning views over the Pacific Ocean, wildflower hikes that knock your socks off, whale spotting opportunities AND a lighthouse seal the deal at this family favorite locale. Wildflower hot spot Chimney Rock is a short 1.75-mile round trip complete with lighthouse views.  Another great option is Abbotts Lagoon, a 2-mile hike over coastal bluffs and along the lagoon and includes almost every single variety of coastal wildflower you can name. 

Tennessee Valley, Mill Valley
Nestled within the Marin Headlands, Tennessee Valley and beach is less crowded than some of the other headland destinations. An easy breezy 1.7-mile hike one way through the wildflower-peppered valley to the beach at low tide rewards you with views of the SS Tennessee shipwreck peeking out among the surf and spray. California poppies and pretty wildflowers scatter the hills and trails, and make for a fantastic display of native blooms.

Photo by Kath S. via Yelp

Mount Tamalpais State Park, Mill Valley
Redwood groves, towering oaks, fantastic views of the sea—oh, and an abundance of native wildflowers means your family can hike, camp, bike and wildflower hunt to your heart’s content. Print out their wildflower guide then check out these self-guided loop hike recommendations that start at 1.4 miles.  

Rush Creek Open Space Preserve, Novato
Bordering a rich wetland,  this 522 acre preserve provides a beautiful backdrop for hikes, walks and picnics. Its diversity, which includes marshland, broad-leaf forests and Marin County’s largest stand of blue oaks, is showcased in the springtime display of wildflowers. The Pinheiro Fire Ridge Trail offers a moderate hike and amazing views, and the small circular loop that circles round Cemetery Marsh is the perfect stomping grounds for little feet.

Ring Mountain Open Space Preserve, Tiburon
With an entire hillside carpeted by wildflowers in spring, this preserve offers a gorgeous backdrop for scenic views of the Bay, Mt.Tam and San Francisco.  Check out this iNaturalist guide for an exact idea of what type of wildflowers you are likely to spot. Large boulders and even Native American petroglyphs add to the allure of this spot and families will love the large, flat fire roads at the top of Ring Mountain that are stroller-friendly. 

—Christine Lai & Olivia Boler

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