By The Watershed Project staff
After record-breaking rains, it’s time to head to the hills and see all the flowers in bloom! Here is a by no means complete list of some of our favorite hikes in Bay Area parks where wildflowers abound, along with many other plants and critters. Dress appropriately for muddy conditions and it’s best to go with a buddy, be it two-legged or four-legged.
Richmond/Berkeley: Wildcat Canyon Regional Park
This park stretches from the steam trains in Tilden Park on the southern end to Alvarado Park in the north. Inspiration Point is a popular starting point. On your walk you will see vast orange swaths of California poppies and sticky monkey flowers, and for mushroom fanciers, some classic red toadstools with the white dots can sometimes be found growing under Monterey Pines. Tilden is accessible by AC transit line 67. There’s also the Botanic Garden for people who want to see a lot of flowers all at once. From the Alvarado Park entrance, trails traverse chaparral habitat where there have been sightings of the Chaparral Yucca.
Oakland: Redwood Regional Park, Serpentine prairie. For rare plant fanciers, this is the place for you. For descriptions of the species and their bloom times, consult Serpentine prairie walk. Accessible by AC transit bus 39 (weekdays only).
Huckleberry—Experience a rare ecological niche with endemic species such as the huckleberry, a native blueberry. An interpretive loop trail is a perfect walk if you have an hour. You can make a longer day out of it by hiking to adjacent Sibley trail.
Castro Valley: Lake Chabot Park
At Lake Chabot you can combine a hike with a boat ride and fishing expedition if you’re so inclined. Or stick to the trail–in addition to wildflowers, I’ve also seen a rattlesnake there and numerous birds. Motivated hikers can make it all the way to Bort Meadow where California buckeyes and Madrone trees abound.
Pleasant Hill: Paso Nogal Park
Popular with dog walkers, this park also features 63 acres of trails and some beautiful spring flowers.
Marin: Tennessee Valley trail. Family-friendly hike through a range of habitats, ending at the beach. On our various hikes there we have seen myriad butterflies that are attracted to the checker blooms, lupines, blue-eyed grasses, and many more wildflowers species that make their home there. Wildlife sightings are also common: we’ve seen bobcats, owls, red-winged blackbirds, newts, and bumblebees.
Martinez: Briones Regional Park
This is a great place to see California newts in action! It’s a little late in the season now but they can be found mating in ponds January through March near the Alhambra Creek Staging Area. For a glimpse of the rare and unusual checker lily, the trails around the Bear Creek Staging Area are a good bet. A word of caution: several staff members have encountered a territorial cow in Briones. If a cow becomes aggressive, make loud noises, and move away from its territory without turning your back on it.
Concord: Mt. Diablo State Park
If you haven’t yet made it here, go! This is a big park, with something for just about everyone. Rock City is a great destination for kids–climbing on the sandstone rocks is great fun and you can drive all the way there. For wildflower fanciers, the Donner Canyon and Falls hike takes you through a range of habitats from seasonal wet meadows to chaparral to riparian zones. There are fabulous flowers from March-mid summer. In early September you may find tarantulas on the Mitchell Canyon trail.