There are so many stunning spots to see Northern California wildflowers during the spring months, and in some places, into the summer. Don’t think that you have to make a special trip to Southern California to catch more than a glimpse of spring flower displays.

Put these flower fields in Northern California on your outdoor bucket list this spring and enjoy a bit of color after a gloomy winter. This guide covers everything you need to know to plan a weekend getaway to get your fill of wildflowers in Northern California.

But, if you’ve got your heart set on a trip to Southern California anyway, you should check out our guide to the best places to see Southern California wildflowers as well.

Northern California Wildflowers FAQ

Northern California Wildflowers and Golden Gate Bridge

Here are the answers to the most common questions asked about tracking down Northern California wildflowers and flower fields. 

We’ve even thrown in some information about the best flowers to grow in your Northern California garden so that you can enjoy beautiful blooms in your own backyard.

Where are the wildflowers in Northern California?

Let’s start by clearing up exactly what we mean by “Northern California”, since the term is a bit of a wishy-washy one. In this post, we’re drawing an imaginary straight line across California, and counting everything north of San Luis Obispo as Northern California. 

If you’re looking for Southern California wildflowers, we’ve got a comprehensive post for that as well. 

Now that’s out of the way, we’ll provide lots of in-depth information about wildflower locations further down in this post, but if you just want to consult a quick list, here it is! Scroll to the next question if you’re looking for San Francisco Bay Area locations.

  • Lake Tahoe
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve, Oroville
  • Pinnacles National Park
  • Point Reyes National Seashore
  • Yosemite National Park

Where are the wildflowers in the Bay Area?

Northern California Wildflowers

Head to Half Moon Bay to see acres of wild mustard growing in fields by the coast.

We broke out the list of San Francisco Bay Area wildflower locations to make it easier to find spots close to you. We go into detail about most of these locations, in this post.

  • Almaden Quicksilver County Park, San Jose
  • Año Nuevo State Park, Pescadero
  • Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, Antioch
  • Briones Regional Park, Martinez
  • Briones to Mt Diablo Regional Trail
  • Calero County Park, San Jose
  • Chabot Regional Park, Oakland
  • Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve, Morgan Hill
  • Edgewood Park and Natural Preserve, Redwood City
  • Filoli Gardens, Woodside
  • Grant County Park, Mt Hamilton
  • Half Moon Bay, South Bay San Francisco
  • Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Felton
  • Little Basin Redwoods State Park – Closed after fires
  • Marin Headlands, North Bay San Francisco
  • Milagra Ridge, Pacifica
  • Mt Diablo State Park, Walnut Creek
  • Pearson-Arastradero Preserve, Palo Alto
  • Pillar Point Bluff County Park, Moss Beach
  • Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve
  • Rancho del Oso, Davenport – Closed after CZU Lightning Complex Fires
  • Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve, Los Altos
  • Santa Teresa County Park, San Jose
  • Sweeney Ridge, San Bruno
  • Sunol Regional Wilderness, Sunol
  • Wavecrest Open Space, Half Moon Bay
  • Windy Hill Open Space Preserve, Portola Valley

When do wildflowers bloom in Northern California?

This is a great question, and the answer really depends on what the weather has been like in the winter months leading up to spring, and where you are geographically.

Generally speaking though, you’ll start to see wildflowers popping up in the Bay Area and Northern California in mid to late March, and will continue to see them in places with higher elevations (like Lassen Volcanic and Yosemite National Parks) into June. 

Rules and etiquette for viewing Northern California wildflowers

Blue eyed grass wildflowers

Blue eyed grass in Mt Diablo State Park. Picture: Stephen D Smith.

There are some golden rules that everyone who goes wildflower hunting should follow:

  1. Don’t pick the flowers! Leave them for others to enjoy too
  2. Don’t trample the flowers
  3. Stay on designated paths so as not to accidentally impact the soil where flowers could be trying to push up and out of
  4. Don’t leave anything behind. Pack out all your rubbish with you when you leave, including food scraps
  5. Be mindful that you’re not the only one trying to enjoy the wildflowers. Take your time, but don’t spend hours in one spot so others can’t enjoy them also

What flowers grow well in Northern California?

If you want to bring the wildflower atmosphere to your own backyard, these are the best kind to plant in Northern California:

  • California aster
  • California lilac
  • California poppy
  • Douglas iris
  • Fuchsia
  • Grevillea
  • Hummingbird sage
  • Indian paintbrush
  • Parry’s larkspur
  • Penstemon
  • Rock rose
  • Sea lavender
  • Spider flower
  • Yarrow

Where to see Northern California Wildflowers

Hopefully, there’s a spot close to you, where you can see wildflowers. And while we’ve tried to gather as many locations as possible, there’s bound to be a bunch that we don’t know about. Let us know of your favorite spot to see wildflowers, in the comments!

The easiest way to list these for my geographically-challenged brain, is alphabetical order. By the way, why not make wildflower visits just a part of a San Francisco day trip? Read our post for 26 great day trip destinations.

Almaden Quicksilver County Park

California poppies and other wildflowers

You’ll find a variety of wildflowers inside Almaden Quicksilver County Park in San Jose. Picture: Ron Horii.

  • Address: 21785 Almaden Road, San Jose
  • Hours: 8AM to sunset
  • Entrance fee: Free

We’re kicking things off in the southern-most part of the San Francisco Bay Area, with a visit to Almaden Quicksilver County Park. In case you’re wondering why “quicksilver” makes an appearance here, the park is on the grounds of what was once the second largest mercury mine in the world.

Park at the Hacienda Staging Area (off Almaden Road), and take the Mine Hill Trail. You can either walk the Mine Hill Trail Loop, which is 7.9 miles long, or choose to hike a section of it.

You’ll find a variety of different wildflowers from early spring including milkmaids, California buttercup, wall basket, nightshade, morning glory, shooting stars, vetch, and lupine. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch the sticky monkey flower blooming in early April.

Other wildflower trails include the Senador Trail to Guadalupe, and the Castillero Trail.

Bring your dog but keep it on a leash in the park. You can also explore the park on a mountain bike or on horseback. Don’t forget to bring your own water, as the only potable water sources are at the Hacienda and Mockingbird Hill entrances to the park.

Año Nuevo State Park

Bee perched atop a purple Seaside Daisy flower

You’ll see Seaside Daisies, like these, plus Indian warriors and white fairy lanterns in Año Nuevo State Park.

  • Address: 1 New Years Creek Road, Pescadero
  • Hours: 8.30AM to sunset
  • Entrance fee: Regular sized car $10, Senior (over 62) $9, Bus (10-24 passengers) $100.
  • COVID-19 Closures: The Año Nuevo Coast Natural Preserve, Elephant Seal Viewing Area, Visitor’s Center and Store are closed. The park and trails are open for use.

While the main drawcard to Año Nuevo State Park is usually the Elephant Seals giving birth to their pups, it is also home to some beautiful wildflowers such as the white fairy lantern, Indian warrior, and seaside daisy.

Head to the state park in April for the best chance of finding wildflowers. Hike the Año Nuevo Point Trail, which is an easy 0.8 mile pathway that starts near the Marine Education Center and takes you to the boundary of the Elephant Seal preserve. Part of the trail meets the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards for wheelchair accessibility.

Don’t bring your pets to the park, as they are not allowed inside and obviously cannot be left in cars. 

Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve

Orange California poppies with blue sky background

You’ll find California poppies, amongst many other species of wildflowers in Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve.

  • Address: 5175 Somersville Road, Antioch
  • Hours: 8AM to 5PM
  • Entrance fee: Weekends and some holidays, $5 per vehicle, or $4 per trailered vehicle, $2 per dog (excepting guide and service dogs)
  • COVID-19 Closures: The mine, Greathouse and Sydney Flats visitor centers are closed.

The Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve spans a whopping 8,533 acres of land that was mined for coal from the 1860s to the early 1900s. Nowadays, the hillsides of the park are known as one of the best spots in the East Bay hills to see wildflowers. Try the Stewartville and Ridge Trail Loop (7.4 miles) for the best chance of seeing wildflowers.

The preserve is covered with more than 2,000 species of plants including Mt Diablo manzanita, white butterfly Mariposa lily, blue dick, owl’s clover, bush lupine, arroyo lupine, and Ithuriel’s spear. See the East Bay Parks’ photographic guide to the park’s flowers if you’re curious enough to want to identify a certain bloom.

Briones Regional Park

Persian-Speedwell-Briones-Regional-Park

These delicate light blue/purple flowers are called Persian Speedwell and can be found in Briones Regional Park.

  • Address: 2537 Reliez Valley Road, Martinez
  • Hours: 8AM to sunset
  • Entrance fee: $3 per vehicle, $3 per trailered vehicle, $2 per dog

You’re more likely to find wildflowers in Briones Regional Park during late March and into April. Start from the Bear Creek Staging Area and either hike or bike ride the 2.5 mile Abrigo Valley Trail. Your dog can come too but make sure it’s on a leash.

You’ll find a vast array of wildflowers in Briones Regional Park, including the Himalayan blackberry, California Saxifrage, brass buttons, yellow Johnny-tuck, red-stem filaree, baby blue-eyes, and arroyo lupine.

Briones to Mt Diablo Regional Trail

As the name suggests, the 11.8 mile Briones to Mt Diablo Regional Trail connects Briones Regional Park to Mt Diablo State Park. 

It is a multi-use trail so you’ll see hikers, horses, and bicycle riders along the way. Plus the paved sections of the trail are wheelchair accessible (see the East Bay Parks map to find the paved sections)

You’ll see swathes of yellow wild mustard flowers, along with bursts of California poppies on this trail.

Calero County Park

California poppies in Calero County Park

Yes, you’ll find California poppies in Calero County Park, but there are also lots of other varieties of wildflowers too.

  • Address: 23205 McKean Road, San Jose
  • Hours: 8AM to sunset
  • Entrance fee: No fee if you’re parking at the trailhead parking area

Calero County Park is nestled in the eastern foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains and is beloved for it’s duality of uses. The Calero Reservoir allows for water sports like power boating, kayaking, sailing, water-skiing, and jet-skiing. You can do some catch-and-release fishing, because the mercury levels in the fish mean they aren’t safe to eat. 

But the park isn’t just about the water, you can also go hiking or horse riding on the 18.9 miles of trails in the back country section of the park. Visit in late March through to May to experience the wildflowers blooming in Calero County Park. Bring your dog but remember to keep it on a leash within the park.

Northern California Wildflowers in Calero County Park

The back country of Calero County Park offers sweeping views. Picture: Santa Clara County Parks.

Hike the Serpentine Loop Trail, a 2.7 mile loop through the woods and grass hills, or the much longer Bald Hills Loop. On this 8.4 mile hike, you’ll get views of the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Diablo Range, and most importantly, lots of wildflowers like tidy tips, Indian paintbrush, and sticky monkey flower.

Chabot Regional Park

Northern California Wildflower Blue-Eyed Grass

Visit Chabot Regional Park to see the sweet blue-eyed grass flowers. Picture: Brett Hondow.

  • Address: 999 Redwood Road, Castro Valley
  • Hours: 5AM to 10PM
  • Entrance fee: Free
  • COVID-19 closures: The campgrounds are open at 50 per cent capacity. 

Anthony Chabot Regional Park, more commonly known as Chabot Regional Park, and is nestled in the San Leandro Hills adjacent to Oakland and Castro Valley.

It can be hit-or-miss for wildflowers, depending on the amount of rain and sun the area gets during winter and spring.

Start from the MacDonald Staging Area and hike the Grass Valley Trail in April to find blue-eyed grass, wild radish, and California poppies, amongst others. It is an 8.3 mile out-and-back trail, with a stunning view of Grass Valley.

Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve

Black-tailed deer in a field of wildflowers

If you’re lucky you might see wildlife like this black-tailed deer amongst the wildflowers.

  • Address: 550 Palm Avenue, Morgan Hill
  • Hours: 7AM to sunset
  • Entrance fee: Free

Even though you’ll have to leave your pets at home (sorry puppies, you’re not allowed) to protect local wildlife, Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve is a great spot for wildflower aficionados.

Just south of downtown San Jose, the preserve gives stunning views of Coyote Valley and the Diablo Range.

Hike, cycle, or bring your horse (because we all have one of those, right?) to the preserve in late March to mid-April to experience wildflowers like coyote mint, yarrow, and the ubiquitous California poppy. 

Try the four mile Arrowhead Loop Trail for the flowers and the views of Mount Hamilton and Mount Umunhum.

Edgewood Park and Natural Preserve

Wildflowers in Edgewood Park & Natural Reserve

Tidy tips making their way up the hillside. Picture: Barrie Moore, Friends of Edgewood.

  • Address: 10 Old Stage Coach Rd, Redwood City
  • Hours: 8AM to varied closing times
  • Entrance fee: Free
  • COVID-19 Closures: San Mateo Parks will continue to close at 5PM until Monday, April 1. Guided spring wildflower hikes are cancelled, and the Bill & Jean Lane Education Center is closed.

Situated in the middle of the San Francisco Peninsula in Redwood City, Edgewood Park Natural Preserve is famous for its springtime wildflower displays. I visited last weekend (March 20) for a cheeky trail run in the rain, and managed to spot some wildflowers amidst the raindrops. See which flowers are blooming each week here.

READ MORE:
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Apart from California poppies, you’ll see hound’s tongue, checker lilies, tidy tips, California goldfields, silver bush lupines, and ruby chalice clarkia amongst the serpentine grasslands from early March through to late June. But the peak bloom is usually in mid-April, according to Friends of Edgewood marketing coordinator Barrie Moore.  You can take a self-guided tour or try the Serpentine Trail for the best chance of spotting wildflowers. 

Chick lupines with bumblebee

Chick lupines with a bumblebee. Picture: Barrie Moore, Friends of Edgewood.

Mr Moore also mentioned that “Edgewood does not typically have huge fields of big, showy blooms, like say the poppies in Antelope Valley, but we have tremendous variety and many native wildflowers are specific to our rare Serpentine habitat”.

No dogs or other pets are allowed into the park to protect the animals living there, which include deer, coyote, bobcats, and rabbits. You may also catch a glimpse of the threatened Bay checkerspot butterfly.

Filoli Historic House & Garden

Tulips and Cherry Blossoms in formal gardens

Filoli Estate’s formal gardens are a huge drawcard for Bay Area residents during spring. Picture: Barbara Fontes-King, Filoli.

  • Address: 86 Cañada Road, Woodside
  • Hours: 10AM to 5PM
  • Entrance fee:  Adults $25, Senior (65+) $22, Students & Military $20, Children (5-17) $15

You’re not going to see “wild” flowers here, but you will see the stunning formal gardens that bring thousands of people to the estate each spring. And Filoli is literally a few minutes drive from Edgewood Park, so you can experience two great wildflower adventures in one day!

Filoli is an estate made up of a historic house and 16 acres of formal gardens. Each year gardeners plant more than 75,000 bulbs so that the estate bursts with colorful blooms during spring like daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and blue violas.

READ MORE:
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You’ll also find 250 flowering fruit trees beyond the formal gardens out in the orchards.

Red tulips and cherry blossoms at Filoli Estate

Filoli Gardens are an Instagrammer’s dream year round, but especially in the spring. Picture: Liberty Reilly, Filoli.

You can’t bring your pets to Filoli and since it’s such a popular spot in the springtime, it’s best to book your tickets online in advance because they do sell out. 

Half Moon Bay

wild mustard flowers in Half Moon Bay

The wild mustard makes for a beautiful carpet along the Half Moon Bay coast.

Any Bay Area local will tell you that you can’t go past Half Moon Bay if you’re looking for wildflowers in Northern California. Just 25 miles south of San Francisco, but it feels like a world away from city and Bay Area life. 

Characterized by the beautiful California coastline and Pacific Ocean, Half Moon Bay is also known for farming of pumpkins, artichokes, flowers, and Christmas trees. So of course it’s teeming with wildflowers throughout the year. 

Wildflowers growing on the coastline with Pacific Ocean in the background

You’re most likely to see bright yellow carpets of wild mustard blanketing the green farmland and surrounding hills from as early as (late) January. The best places to see it are on the Cowell-Purisima Trail (7 miles), or on the Farmer’s Daughter Trail at Rancho Corral de Tierra. Take the Half Moon Bay Coastal Trail to see cliffside wildflowers.

READ MORE:
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You can also just drive Highway 1 south through the farmland and green space and see plenty of wildflowers. Be mindful that most of this land is private property so admire it from the right side of the fence, don’t trespass.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Pink Pacific Bleeding Heart wildflower

Who names these flowers? I present, the Pacific bleeding heart!

  • Address: 101 North Big Trees Park Road, Felton
  • Hours: Sunrise to sunset
  • Entrance fee: Regular sized vehicles $10, seniors (62+) $9, buses up to 24 passengers $50
  • COVID-19 & wildfire closures: Campsites by reservation (first come, first served campsites are open), visitor center and tours, and these trails are closed: Lost Empire, Pine Flat, Sunlit, Tan Oak, Big Ben, Ridge, S-Cape, North Fall Creek, and Buckeye.

Visit Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains for wildflowers and old-growth redwood trees during April.

READ MORE:
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Take a walk through the redwood grove to see trees as tall as 277 feet, 16 feet wide and about 1,500 years old. Then head to the River Trail (2 miles) to see California wildflowers like the common trillium, pacific bleeding heart, and redwood sorrel.

If you’re planning to bring your dog you won’t be able to hike the Redwood Grove Loop Trail. 

Lake Tahoe

Purple lupin wildflowers

Don’t miss the lupin blooming in the serene Lake Tahoe region

Unsurprisingly, there are lots of spots to see wildflowers in Lake Tahoe. And I know that the area straddles the California/Nevada border, so some of these spots will actually be Nevada wildflowers. But you’re already here, so why not?

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Keep in mind that Lake Tahoe is at a much higher elevation than most of the spots mentioned in this post, so wildflowers will bloom much later. Depending on the snow melt, you’ll start to see wildflowers blooming in Lake Tahoe in late April and into May. 

The US Forest Service has a great list of wildflower viewing areas that include Baldwin Meadow, Frederick’s Meadow, and the Taylor Creek Visitor’s Center.

You can also hike the Tahoe Rim Trail or the Meeks Bay Trail to see elephant’s head, rock fringe, penstemons, and white-flowered bog orchid.

Head to Big Meadow Trailhead for lupine, or the Galena Waterfall and Mount Rose loop for wildflowers in the first mile. Winnemucca Lake and Meiss Meadows for more beautiful wildflower displays.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Mountain Mule Ears in Lassen National Park

The mountain mule ear is a member of the sunflower family and a California native. It can be found on the volcanic hillsides of the Sulphur Works, Mill Creek Falls, and Butte Lake.

  • Address: Highway 89 (Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway), California
  • Hours: Always open (however roads are snowed in during winter and part of spring)
  • Entrance fee: $30 per vehicle, $25 per motorcycle, $15 per person on foot or bicycle

If May has rolled around and you think you’ve missed wildflower season in Northern California, don’t worry, Lassen Volcanic National Park has you covered.

The snow pack can stack up to 40 feet deep along the 30-mile highway that runs through the park, which can take up to two months to clear. Snow plows start their work in March or April, and then the road stays closed until the last of the ice has melted.

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The prolonged presence of snow means that the 700 flowering plant species in the park, start to appear at lower elevations in late May, and stick around at higher elevations through to September. 

You’ll find mountain mule’s ear, snow plant, western wallflower, California corn lily and silverleaf lupine inside the National Park at Warner Valley, Manzanita Lake, Butte Lake, Summit Lake, Juniper Lake, and Lassen Peak. 

See the wildflower guide for more information on blooming months.

Marin Headlands

California poppies overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge

Nothing screams California more than California poppies and the Golden Gate Bridge.

  • Address: Coastal Trailhead, next to the roundabout between Conzelman Road and McCullough Road, Sausalito
  • Hours: Sunrise to sunset
  • Entrance fee: Free

Marin Headlands is one of my favorite places in the Bay Area because you get spectacular views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, with the added bonus of being in a beautiful natural landscape.

READ MORE:
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Hike the Coastal Trail from the top of McCollough Road towards the SCA trail for those spectacular views of the city, East Bay, and the Pacific Ocean.

From March through April you’ll come across a variety of wildflowers including milkmaids, fetid adder’s tongue, shooting stars, Zigadene lilies, hound’s tongue and sticky monkey flower.

Other great wildflower trails in Marin include the Rodeo Valley Trail and the Bobcat Trail through Gerbode Valley.

Milagra Ridge

Northern California Clarkia wildflower

Claria, also known as farewell-to-spring, is native to North America and is found on coastal hills and mountains in the Bay Area.

  • Address: College Drive (off Sharp Park Road), Pacifica
  • Hours: Sunrise to sunset
  • Entrance fee: Free

Nestled between Highway 1 and Skyline Boulevard in Pacifica, Milagra Ridge is a haven of greenspace amongst the houses dotting the coastline.

The 1.5 mile Milagra Ridge Loop Trail is a great hike to see Indian paintbrush, silver lupine, clarkia, and checkerbloom during the spring months. 

Apart from the wildflowers, you’ll also get panoramic views of the coast when the fog stays away. You can see out to Mt Tamalpais in the north, and Montara Mountain in the south.

Bring your pets but keep them on a leash, and if you’re riding a bike, stick the the paved trails.

Mt Diablo State Park

California poppies on Mt Diablo

California poppies on Mt Diablo with views of the surrounding hills. Picture: Stephen D Smith.

  • Address: 1300 North Gate Road, Walnut Creek, or 2675 Mt Diablo Scenic Boulevard, Blackhawk
  • Hours: 8AM to sunset
  • Entrance fee: $10 per vehicle
  • COVID-19 closures: The Summit and Mitchell Canyon Visitor Centers are open with limited hours and capacity, and all group campgrounds are closed.

Mt Diablo State Park, in San Francisco’s East Bay, offers far-reaching views across the Bay Area and beyond. On a clear day from the summit’s observation deck you can see out to Yosemite National Park, Lassen Peak, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Farallon Islands.

But if you’re looking for wildflowers, you should visit between March and May for the best blooms, and check the Mount Diablo Interpretive Association’s wildflower identification guide for more in depth information.

Murchio Gap is one of the best spots to see an array of wildflowers, but it’s a strenuous climb halfway up the mountain. Try the 7 mile Mitchell Canyon – Back Creek Loop, with a 1700 foot elevation gain. If that sounds a bit too much, you can also see California poppies, which tend to bloom early (February and March) along North Gate Road.

Mt Diablo State Park is known for blue dick, Indian warrior, Indian paintbrush, Ithuriel’s spear, and baby blue eyes.

Dogs are not allowed on trails or on fire roads. Bring plenty of water with you for any hikes, as the water storage tanks in the park are low and water taps in picnic areas and at Rock City have been turned off.

North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve

Northern California Wildflowers in North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve

Lupines and California poppies within North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve. Picture: CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Jeb Bjerke.

  • Address: 2488 Cherokee Road, Oroville
  • Hours: Sunrise to sunset
  • Entrance fee: Purchase a 1-Day Lands Pass online $4.89 per person

If you’re looking for carpets of wild blooming flowers and panoramas similar to those in Southern California, you need to get to North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve.

There aren’t any paved hiking trails though, so if you’re planning to do some wandering, bring some sturdy closed-toe shoes.

While there are cattle on the land to help manage the grass, always stay at least 300 feet away from them so as not to scare them. 

Wildflower views in North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve

Even on a rainy day, the reserve is a beautiful place to be. Picture: CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Jeb Bjerke.

Visit from March to early May to spot a large variety of wildflowers in the reserve. This is a popular spot for wildflower viewing so you’re bound to be surrounded by others. 

Dogs are allowed into the reserve but must be kept on a leash.

Pearson-Arastradero Preserve

  • Address: 1530 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto
  • Hours: 8AM to near sunset (see specific times)
  • Entrance fee: Free
  • COVID-19 Closures: Most of the Redtail Loop is now one-way (see map)

The savanna grasslands and rolling hills of Pearson-Arastradero Preserve in Palo Alto are the perfect spot for wildflowers to grow, but you may also see deer, bobcats, and coyotes within the park.

Head to the southern facing slopes to see the biggest variety of Northern California wildflowers including California poppy, hound’s tongue, and jeweled onion. Hike the Redtail Loop to Arastradero Creek Trail loop with your leashed dog, to catch some wildflower views from late March to mid-April.

Pillar Point Bluff County Park

I visited in late summer when most of the wildflowers were done blooming. But the views are too good to pass up.

  • Address: Airport Street, Moss Beach
  • Hours: Vary, see here for more information
  • Entrance fee: Free
  • COVID-19 closures: The park will close at 5PM daily until April 1

The Pillar Point Loop Trail within the park is a wheelchair accessible 1.4 mile hike that will not only show you wildflowers in April, but also give stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. You’ll find the seaside daisy, yellow sand verbena, and Indian warrior, amongst other wildflowers.

READ MORE:
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Some of the wildflowers here are at their best when the sun is shining on them, so try to visit later in the day when the fog has burned off. You can bring your dog but make sure they are kept on a leash.

From the top of the bluff you can see the spot where the world-famous Mavericks surfing competition is held, and get views of Half Moon Bay and Pillar Point Harbor.

Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park wildflowers

The Northern California wildflowers that pop up in the spring months and are a drawcard.

  • Address: 5000 Highway 146, Paicines
  • Hours: East entrance, 24 hours, west entrance, 7.30AM to 8PM
  • Entrance fee: Private vehicles $30, motorbikes $25, hikers and cyclists $15, all valid for seven days
  • COVID-19 closures: Bear Gulch Cave and Balconies Cave are closed.

Pinnacles is one of the most underrated national parks (in my humble opinion). While it can get extremely busy in the spring time, a day trip to the park is a must if you live in the Bay Area. Arrive before 8.30AM for the best chance of nabbing a parking spot.

The park’s rocky spires are a favorite with climbers and are the remnants of an ancient volcanic field. Visit in March, April, and May to see wildflowers at their best. Pets are prohibited on all hiking trails. See our Pinnacles National Park day trip post for more information on wildflower hiking trails and visiting the popular park.

You’ll find shooting stars, manzanita, milkmaids, and Indian warriors first in January and February, and by March the bush poppies and buck brush begin to bloom, along with fiddleneck, peppergrass, and fiesta flower. By April you’ll see Johnny jump ups, gilia, suncups, black sage, and bush lupine.

Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore

Be sure to stay on the trails so as not to harm the wildflowers or grasslands.

  • Abbotts Lagoon
  • Chimney Rock Headlands
  • Estero Trail
  • Limantour
  • Tomales Point Trail
  • Palomarin

Northern California wildflowers begin to bloom on the Point Reyes National Seashore as early as February and are known to continue flowering until August if it’s been a particularly rainy spring and summer. 

Because of the range of habitats on the National Seashore, like grasslands, costal bluffs, woodlands, sand dunes, and salt marshes, you’re almost guaranteed to encounter a variety of wildflowers. 

If you’re visiting earlier in the season head to Abbotts Lagoon, Chimney Rock, and Tomales Point for the best chance of seeing wildflowers. The Chimney Rock Trail is just 1.6 miles but gives spectacular views of Drakes Bay and up to 25 species of wildflowers in mid-to-late March. Look out for blue violets, Douglas iris, checkerbloom, and blue violets, amongst others.

The 2 mile Tomales Point Trail runs through Tule Elk Reserve and is great for wildlife viewing, as the name suggests. Look out for the South African wandflower, and yellow bush lupine. The last section of Pierce Point Road often has wild mustard flowers growing.

Abbotts Lagoon and Keyhole trails are favorites in late March for big lupine, blackberry, and salmonberry. While near the parking area of Limantour Beach you may come across a carpet of Douglas iris, and bush lupine in early April.

Finally, head to the Estero Trail for Douglas iris in early April, and the northern section of the Coastal Trail from Palomarin around the same time for beautiful wildflowers.

Parts of Point Reyes National Seashore are closed due to the Woodward Fire. See here for more information.

Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve

  • Address: Northwest corner of Skyline Boulevard and Page Mill/Alpine Road intersection, Los Altos
  • Hours: Half an hour before official sunrise to half an hour after official sunset
  • Entrance fee: Free

In the heart of the Bay Area you’ll find Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve, which is known for its Northern California wildflower displays from late April through May. 

Hike the 4.9 mile Russian Ridge Trail for the best chance of seeing California poppies, lupine, Pacific starflower, two-eyed violet, and coastal larkspur. Later in the season (May through June) you’ll see gumweed, mules ears, farewell-to-spring, and brodiaea in the preserve. 

If you needed more reasons to visit, this is also a great place to spot Red-tailed hawks, Cooper’s hawks, and golden eagles in the Bay Area. Note that dogs aren’t allowed into this preserve.

Yosemite National Park

Black Bear in Yosemite National Park

Even the local wildlife love to wander through the wildflowers in Yosemite National Park. Picture: Mr M.

  • Hours: See the National Park Service website
  • Entrance fee: non-commercial vehicle $35, motorcycle $30, hikers, cyclists, and equestrians $20, valid for seven days

Because of its elevation, wildflowers in Yosemite National Park don’t start properly blooming until late May and early June. Visit Yosemite Valley and Wawona to see redbud, Sierra onion, lupine, Mariposa lily, penstemon, and flowering dogwood.

Tuolumne Meadows is a great spot to visit in late summer if you’ve missed the bloom everywhere else. You can find elephant’s heads, genetian, penstemon, yarrow, and shooting stars here. 

Find out more about spending a weekend in Yosemite (when Mr M managed to snap that bear photo from our campsite) in our two days in Yosemite National Park post.

Northern California Wildflowers Location Map

 

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