6 Favorite Wildflower Hikes
There’s no better time to get out on the trail than spring. The rain recedes, the hills are green, and colorful wildflowers light up the already extraordinary vistas with amazing bursts of color. So if its spring, grab your hiking books quick and catch them before they’re gone.
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Lynch Canyon Open Space
Distance: 3 miles (6 miles round trip)
Lynch Canyon Open Space, north Vallejo, offers a dazzling array of wildflowers in the spring. Johnny jump-ups, California poppies, brodiaea, milkmaids, yarrow and lupine can be found all along the trail. Keep your eyes on the sky too. Waterfowl, and many raptors, including red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks, and the majestic golden eagle call Lynch Canyon home.
Directions: Starting at the park entrance, head north on Lynch Road and head west on the Tower trail and continue along the Northridge trail to the southwest boundary. Return back to the trailhead the way you came, or make it a loop via Kestrel and Middle or South Valley trails.
County: Contra Costa
Distance: 1.4 miles (2.8 miles round trip)
Once part of John Muir’s landholdings, Mount Wanda – named for his daughter – is short but vigorous climb the rewards hikers with views of Mount Diablo, Briones Park, the Carquinez Strait and lovely surrounding hills. Follow in John Muir’s footsteps and enjoy the California buttercup, shooting stars, woodland star, lupines and fiddlenecks that dot the trail.
Starting from the Franklin Canyon Road and Alhambra Avenue trailhead, follow the Mt Wanda trail for about 1.5 miles until you reach the western gate. Head back the way you came, but make a quick detour to the Nature trail, which reconnects with the Mt Wanda trail as you head back to the trailhead.
Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve
County: Santa Clara
Distance: 4.9 miles (9.8 miles round trip)
Sierra Vista is famous for blazing star, brilliant yellow annual flower appears late spring through early summer. Blue eyed grass–a blueish purple flower with yellow center that is part of the Iris family. It can be spotted from March through May. You can also see some golden displays of California poppies in this area.
Begin in a creek corridor and climb to high ridges on the east side of the Santa Clara Valley for a bird’s-eye view of nearby San José, the South Bay, and the Peninsula. The steep trail winds up a grassy, southwest-facing hillside.
Joseph D. Grant County Park
County: Santa Clara
Distance: 5.6 miles (11.2miles round trip)
Joseph D. Grant County Park has some of the earliest and largest wildflower displays in the Bay Area. Blue-eyed grass, bluedicks, johnny jump-ups, checkerbloom, California poppy, fiddlenecks, blue and white lupine, and popcorn flower all sprawl through grasslands along the trail.
Directions: Starting from the Edwards Trail Gate on Mount Hamilton Road, follow the Edwards Loop trail south for 1.2 miles, then continue south along the Heron trail for about a mile. Keep heading south along the Dutch Flat trail until you reach the Dutch Flat Trail Gate on southwest boundary of Grant Park, and head back the way you came.
Russian Ridge Open Space Preserves
County: San Mateo
Distance: 4.8 miles (9.6 miles round trip)
Enjoy some of the Peninsula’s finest views and a spectacular spring wildflower display. In the spring this preserve explodes with color as native wildflowers – primarily poppies and lupine – go wild.
Directions: Starting from Horseshoe Lake, follow the Sunny Jim trail (about a mile) to connect to the Ridge trail, crossing Alpine Road. Continue on the Ridge Trail for about 3 miles to Rapley Ranch Road and return via the Ridge Trail. If you’re looking for a shorter trip, loop around Alpine or Horseshoe lakes.
Windy Hill Open Space Preserve
County: San Mateo
Distance: 3.2 miles (6.4 miles round trip)
Windy Hill’s already amazing views are even more spectacular when the park’s lush grasslands come to life with wildflowers. Look out for colorful mule ear sunflowers, fiddlenecks, California poppy, checkerbloom, blue-eyed grass, redmaids, lupines, and popcorn flowers that peak in spring.
Directions: Starting at the Razorback Ridge Trailhead, follow Razorback Ridge Trail 0.3 miles to the Lost Trail. Continue on the lost trail for 2.3 miles to the Anniversary Trail. Follow the Anniversary Trail for about 0.5 mile to reach the Windy Hill summit trail. Return back the way you came.
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These trail descriptions are excerpted from the 2019 Guidebook. For details on all trails, trailheads and more buy the book from Wilderness Press.
For more resources to plan your trip, visit our Trail Tools page.