One of our favorite ways to enjoy spring is to watch as nature puts on its show of breathtaking wildflowers. One after another, species burst into bloom with sprays of yellow, orange, purple and white, all across green fields and woodlands. This year the bloom arrived early due to warm, dry weather, making now a great time to put on your hiking boots and hit the trail in search of all that spring has to offer. While Van Hoosear Wildflower Preserve Walks are full for the season, there are many opportunities to see equally impressive displays of spring color on local trails throughout Sonoma Valley and County.
Want to have the experience of identifying the blooms you spot? iNaturalist is a free app for mobile devices, and a fantastic way to connect with community members and scientists around the world to support biodiversity conservation and learn about plant species at the same time. Click here to learn how to use the app and get instructions on how to get started using iNaturalist.
While Van Hoosear walks are full, there are still some events open at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park where you can go on a guided tour of flowers in bloom.
Senderos Flora: Domingo 20 de marzo, 10am-12pm
Wondrous Wildflower Walks Series: March 26, April 2, April 9, April 16, 2022 @ 10:00 am – 12:30 pm
Accessible Wildflower Outing: March 27, 2022 @ 10:00 am – 11:30 am
If these events fill up, or you’d like to take a solo hike, there are many wonders to be discovered at this very special community-run State Park. In an article last year the Press Democrat mentioned, “Visitors have a rare opportunity to observe the recovery of twice-burned land: native grasses and trees are resprouting…Native “fire follower” flowers peak in March to April. Spring wildflowers also include penstemon, trillium and the rarer golden fairy lantern and brownish fritillaria, a bell-shaped checker lily. Later blooms bring scarlet larkspur, farewell-to-spring, golden monkey flowers and yellow star thistles.”
What’s not to love? An added perk too? You can also stop by our gorgeous waterfall if you get your fill of flowers!
Who knew that close to downtown Sonoma there were plenty of wildflowers to see at the right time of year. The winding trails along Sonoma’s Hillside Backdrop offer great views of town, and wildflowers. Because the trails are oriented toward the south, they are warmer, and wildflowers start early. A good place to see milkmaids, buttercups, lupines, monkeyflowers, purple sanicle, and blue dicks, there are also less common flowers, like mission bells, Dutchman’s pipe, and sticky Chinese houses. The show peaks mid- to late March, but these open spaces offer wildflowers throughout the summer and fall for the discriminating hiker. The trails are maintained by community volunteers and staff from Sonoma Ecology Center and the Sonoma Overlook Trail Stewards, so be sure to thank them when you see them removing weeds or working on trails!
Left to right: Red Larkspur, Fremont Star Lily, Seep Monkey Flower.
If you’re looking for a slightly more strenuous hike near town, with views, wildflowers, and even wine tasting, Bartholomew Park has all of the above. About 3 miles of tails wind up the rugged hillsides behind the winery and picnic areas, and traverse many habitat types, including redwoods, chaparral, madrone forests, and streams, each with their own unique wildflowers. The different soils and slopes also provide a longer flowering season. It’s also a place where your dog can keep you company as you hike and look for flowers!
Crane Creek is home to rolling hillocks, and open oak woodland. Listen to the sound of chattering acorn woodpeckers as you stroll through its spectacular annual wildflower bloom. As a general rule, when exploring local parks, keep a lookout for trails with wildflowers in their names, such as the
Lupine and Poppy Trails which encircle several large wildflower meadows. The Fiddleneck Trail offers a slightly more challenging hike with a steeper climb to a ridgetop, but, as the name implies, you can expect to see many fiddlenecks – right now is the prime time to come see their namesake spiral bloom and bright yellow color.
If you’d like to make a day of bringing your wildflower wildest dreams to life, we can’t help but recommend Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve for a shaded and spectacular wander filled with beautiful wild rhododendron blossoms. Located adjacent to Salt Point State Park on the Sonoma Coast, Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve contains second-growth redwood forest and many rhododendrons that sprinkle the forest with delicate pink and white flowers. The large quantity of rhododendrons seen at the park are due to wildfire succession patterns being maintained by park staff to encourage the abundance of flowers. Typically coming into bloom in May, you may start to see flowers sooner due to the warm weather we’ve been having. You can call ahead and ask at (707) 847-3221.
If you’re looking for a wildflower jaunt that’s closer to home, an excellent option is a stroll through our beloved Sonoma Valley Regional Park. The Woodland Star Trail, which borders the park’s southern edge, plus the shorter Buttercup Trail and Milkmaid Trail are sure to impress with their namesake blooms. Keep an eye out for Common Fiddlenecks, Pacific Houndstongue, Baby Blue Eyes, California Poppies, Meadowfoam, and others.
Left to right: Blue Dick, Mariposa Lily, many Blue Dicks blooming together.
For a different flavor of wildflower walk, take a trip to the coast where the rugged bluffs and dunes support numerous species of native wildflowers like California poppies, yellow and blue lupine, sea pink, Indian paintbrush, western wallflower, and verbena. Not only will you be cooled down by the ocean breeze but you can have an opportunity to check out a different spectrum of wildflower display in this different ecosystem. Tempered by the ocean, flowers here also tend to start earlier and last longer than inland areas. Best paired with a picnic on the beach, or even as part of a trip up to Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve.
For a more strenuous outing, check out the variation in wildflower blooms as you climb Taylor Mountain at Taylor Mountain Regional Park. As you enter different microclimates you’ll see a variety of flowers in bloom, and be met with spectacular views of yellow wild mustard blooming in the fields around Santa Rosa beneath you. Visit the Sky Lupine Trail for a meadow of lupines as well as our State flower, the California Poppy!