Where to See the Spring Super Bloom in the Bay Area
The rains that flooded California this winter in biblical proportions not only ended the drought but also laid the foundation for a spring super bloom the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades.
The five-year drought that gripped Northern California came to a spillway-damaging halt in late January. In just one winter season, we went from being in a state of “extreme” drought to later experiencing no drought-like conditions whatsoever. (That’s what 20 inches of rain and 12 feet of snow falling within the span of a single month will do.) And with so much water now available to the flora of California, we’re about to experience a super bloom of our own.
So, lace-up those hiking shoes and ready your smartphone cameras, here are some for the best places around the Bay Area to see our native wildflowers in their prime.
Mount Tamalpais State Park
Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Mount Tamalpais is a bastion for ecological conservation, where wildflowers bloom along the miles upon miles of hiking trails. We recommend the 2.7-mile trek to Cataract Falls. But to see the absolute best wildflowers, take the level 4.7-mile Temelpa Trail hike to get a bird’s-eye view of the fields of California poppies and irises populating the hillsides below. // 801 Panoramic Highway Mill Valley, parks.ca.gov
Pro Tip: Stop by the East Peak Visitor Center prior to taking your hike. There, you can grab a free guidebook to the foliage that grows within the park’s confines.
Cascade Canyon Open Space Preserve
Bordering Corte Madera Creek, the Cascade Canyon Open Space Preserve is a Fairfax gem. Besides being well-known for its resident and migratory bird watching, this 504-acres of undeveloped hill country is painted with all manner of oranges, reds, and blues come mid-April. We recommend hiking along the Tamarancho Trail—either in its 9.1-mile entirety or more manageable sections of it—to see the many sorts of pastel-colored wildflowers canvassing the highlands. // (Take Cascade Dr. until it dead-ends at the gate; parking is limited) Fairfax, marincountyparks.org
Pro Tip: Look toward the shoulders of the trails on your way back to see less regal, yet equally captivating plants—California cobra lilies, one of the state’s few carnivorous plants.
No place are the flowers growing in thicker, brighter bundles within the city’s limits than around Lake Merced. Hike the mile-long Sunset and Horseshoe trails east of Lake Merced. The 4.5-miles Lake Merced Trail, which runs along the entire lake, will offer views of isolated pockets of wildflowers as well. // Skyline Blvd & Harding Rd (Parkmerced), San Francisco, sfrecpark.com
Pro Tip: It’s easiest to park alongside John Muir road and walk the quarter-mile to the trailheads.
For your viewing pleasure, hike the 2.4-mile California Coast Trail —and get ready to make all your Instagram and Snapchat followers green with envy. // Fort Mason, Bldg. 201 (Presidio), San Francisco, nps.org
Pro Tip: Both cyclist and pedestrians are welcomed on the trail. However, if you’re riding, make use of the dedicated biking lanes—like the one located on Lincoln Boulevard.
At more than 3,000-feet above sea level, Mount Diablo serves up views that you simply can’t come across anywhere else in East Bay. To find yourself knee-deep in milkmaids and baby blue eyes, take the seven-mile Falls Trail loop hike to see these indigenous flowers in all their soft-hued regalia. // 96 Mitchell Canyon and Rd Clayton, parks.ca.gov
Pro Tip: Water stations are few and far between, so be sure to fill your Camelbak to the brim before beginning your trek.
Henry Coe State Park
California’s second largest state park, Henry Coe State Park, comprises more than 87,000 acres of canyons and creeks, forest and fields. Nestled in between tree lines and riverbeds are swaths of the blossoms that come roaring back to life this time of year. Hike the three-mile Spring and Forest Trail loop to see a the palette of sun-warmed petals painting the landscape in all directions. // 9100 E Dunne Ave, Morgan Hill, parks.ca.gov
Pro Tip: Be sure to bring a few bucks with you; it’s $8 to park at Henry Coe State Park, and only cash is accepted.
Milkmaids (Cardamine californica)
(Photo courtesy of victoriannativeseed.com)
Baby Blue-eyes (Nemophila menziesii)
(Photo courtesy of grahamowengallery.com)
California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
(Photo courtesy of hote-r.net)
Coastal Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja affinis)
(Photo courtesy of asergreev.com)
Mariposa Lily (Calochortus sp.)
(Photo courtesy of americansouthwest.com)
Common Fiddleneck (Amsinckia menziesii)
(Photo courtesy of smmtc.org)
Downy Skullcap (Scutellaria incana)
(Photo courtesy of blogspot.com)
Spear Thistle (Cirisum vulgare)
(Photo courtesy of wildlifeinsight.com)
Dougla’s Iris (Iris douglasiana)
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata)
(Photo courtesy of scvnews.com)
Crimson Columbine (Aquilegia formosa)
(Photo courtesy of pinimg.com)
Woodland Star (Lithophragma sp.)
(Photo courtesy of fallbrookscource.com)
(Photo courtesy of outdorky.com)
Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium bellum)
(Photo courtesy of vineyardgazzette.com)
(Photo courtesy of iNaturalist)
(Photo courtesy of molvray.com)
(Photo courtesy of sdplantatlas.org)
Wind Poppy (Stylomecon heterophylla)
(Photo courtesy of anniesannuals.com)
Striped Coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata)
(Photo courtesy of blogspot.com)