California Poppies (credit: Randy Yagi)
One of the popular annual rites of spring is to marvel at nature’s beauty when the wildflowers begin to awaken. Aided by a healthy dose of much needed rain this year, there are seemingly endless fields of radiant flowers bursting in most every color imaginable and perhaps the best spot to view the Bay Area’s finest displays of native flowers is across the Golden Gate Bridge in the North Bay. Although some species of wildflowers bloom through May, thousands of others continue to display a full spectrum of colors through August.
5000 Pressley Road
Rohnert Park, CA 95404
Crane Creek Regional Park is one of the most convenient spots in the North Bay to view large swaths of California poppies, the official state flower. Residing on 128 acres just east of Sonoma State University, the regional park offers at least four distinct areas of wildflowers that can be reached by one of the many marked trails. Perhaps the most obvious path through the rolling meadows of wildflowers and oak woodlands is to take is the Creek-Poppy-Fiddleneck Trail, a 1.2-mile loop with the trailhead just steps from the parking lot trail head. The park is open from sunrise to sunset and requires a $7 parking fee.
948 Fort Barry
Sausalito, CA 94965
With dramatic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco city skyline, the breathtaking Marin Headlands is a major hotspot for wildflower enthusiasts. A segment of the Golden Gate National Recreation, the Headlands is a peninsula at the southernmost end of Marin County and includes such popular attractions as the Marin Headlands Visitor Center, Headlands Center for the Arts, the Marine Mammal Center, Rodeo Beach, and Muir Beach Overlook. Home to a palette full of colorful flowers, including the California Wild Rose, Point Bonita Cabbage, California Aster and Sky Lupine in addition to more than 100 other varieties.
Point Reyes National Seashore
1 Bear Valley Road
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956
Slightly more remote than the Marin Headlands yet equally spectacular, the Point Reyes National Seashore offers the largest collection of wildflowers in the North Bay. Encompassing more than 71,000 acres along the Pacific Coast from Bolinas to Tomales Bay, the famed national seashore is home to nearly 850 wildflower species in a literal spectrum of colors. Among the most popular spots to see endless fields of wildflowers through August are Abbotts Lagoon, Chimney Point, and Tomales Point. Notable wildflowers to enjoy include the California Buttercup, Douglas Iris, Indian Paintbrush, Bush Lupine, and the California Poppy.
Skyline Wilderness Park
2201 Imola Ave.
Napa, CA 94559
One of the most dramatic displays of wildflowers can be seen in early spring throughout the Napa Valley and the rest of the California Wine Country. Each year, the valley’s vineyards are carpeted with dashes of gold, yellow and orange during the mustard blooming season. But as the mustard begins to fade while giving way to bud break, the Napa Valley still offers several gorgeous locations to see wildflowers for several more months. One of the more prominent spots is Skyline Wilderness Park a few miles southeast of Napa. A popular spot for hiking, biking, horseback riding and camping, the 850-acre park recently hosted its annual Wildflower Show and Plant Sale, but visitors can still enjoy native wildflowers like the Painted Lady, Goldfields, California Poppies, Yellow Wood Violet and Lupine.
Stillwater Cove Regional Park
22455 Highway 1
Stillwater Cove Regional Park with its stunning ocean views, is a hidden gem just north of historic Fort Ross State Park on Highway 1. It’s been named one of Sonoma County’s best wildflower walks by Sonoma County Tourism. The coastal park offers more than three miles of hiking trails through towering redwoods and magical fern groves, in addition to a secluded cove where visitors can explore tide pools. Recommended walks include the one-mile loop trail and the .5 mile trek to the historic, single room Fort Ross Schoolhouse, built in 1885.
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he received a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com