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Best Bay Area Wildflower Hikes

California’s finest wildflowers are putting on a free show around the Bay and you and the kiddos are invited. From the trails of Twin Peaks to the shores of Pt. Reyes to the trails of  San Bruno Mountain here are a whole bunch of places to take your go take a hike and take in some local natives. Don’t forget your camera!

wild blue iris california san bruno mountains via flickr D&S McSpaddenPhoto credit: D&S McSpadden via Flickr Creative Commons

San Francisco

The San Francisco Botanical Gardens
There are acres of cultivated gardens here, but for the feeling of a coastal hike in the middle of the city, head to the California Native Garden where wildflowers and flowering trees bloom in abundance. Then head over to the children’s garden to let your kids dig in the dirt! Weekends offer crafts and garden projects just for the kids.

Ages: All ages, especially the newly-walking.
Open: Everyday, 7:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. (last entry at 6 p.m., hours change seasonally)
Cost: Free to SF residents; Adults/$7; children 12-17/$5; children 5-11/$2; children 4 and under are free. $15/family of two adults + two children of same household.
Online: sfbotanicalgarden.org

Twin peaks SF flickr Robert NymanPhoto credit: Robert Nyman via Flickr Creative Commons 

Twin Peaks
You may have driven visiting guests to the viewpoint at the top of this mountain, but have you ever hiked it? The informal trails that wind around Twin Peaks not only offer stunning views of San Francisco, they sport many a wildflower. Be sure and wear sturdy shoes and be prepared for wind. Kids can be on the lookout for the Mission Blue butterfly, a native species that has adapted to the high winds. Click here for a hiking map of the park.

Good to know: Coyote are frequently spotted on Twin Peaks so talk to your kids about what to do if you are lucky enough to see one (act big and loud, don’t run) and be sure and keep dogs on a short leash. Check out this article from Project Coyote about SF’s urban coyotes.

Ages: Trails can be narrow and steep. Best for 5 and up.
Open: Sunrise to sunset, every day.
Cost: Free
Online: sfrecpark.org/destination/twin-peaks

The Presidio
Miles of trails, fresh eucalyptus forests, historical buildings, and views of the Golden Gate Bridge around every corner, the Presidio is arguably one of the best places to feel like you’re in the woods when you aren’t. Check out this trail map to plan your hike.

Bonus: Hit the trails then hit up Off the Grid on Thursday nights or Sunday afternoons.

Ages: All Ages
Open: Sunrise to sunset, every day.
Cost: Free
Online: presidio.gov

East Bay

Niles Canyon/Sunol Regional Wilderness
You can hike through this beautiful valley just outside of Fremont or take ride on the historic Niles Canyon Railway to view the showy display. Either way you’ll be rewarded with views, abundant blooms, and plenty of sunshine. Check out our article about riding the historic rails here. To explore the Sunol Regional Wilderness on foot, check in at the park’s Old Green Barn Visitor Center and grab a map. There are trails for all ages and fitness levels, and this park also offers camping, and kids activities.

Ages: All Ages
Open: Everyday from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., later in the summertime.
Cost: $5 parking fee per vehicle
Online: ebparks.org/parks/sunol

Black Diamond Mines Regional Park East Bay Marcin Wichary via FlickrPhoto credit: Marcin Wichary via Flickr Creative Commons

Black Diamond Mines Regional Park
Go for the wildflowers, but stay for the awesome history lesson at this historical park and monument that includes a museum, mine tours, a cemetery, and more. Picnicking, camping, two visitors centers and more than 65 miles of trails make this an awesome place to spend an afternoon or an entire weekend exploring with the kids. Located south of Pittsburgh/Antioch.

Ages: All Ages
Hours: Every day, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (later in the summer)
Cost: $5 parking fee
Online: ebparks.org/parks/black_diamond

http://www.ebparks.org/parks/black_diamond

Mt. Diablo State Park
As the name suggests, hiking on this mountain can be pretty darn hot in the summer so take advantage of the spring weather and plan a visit soon. You’ll see tons of wildflowers without having to hike very far, but those who ascend the mountain will be rewarded with views like no other in the bay. Popular trails for wildflowers include Mitchell Canyon, Falls Trail, Back Trail, and Summit Trail. Many options for a variety of fitness levels and ages.

Good to know: Check the website for correct driving directions. The main park address in Clayton will not give you accurate driving directions. You can map it using Danville or Walnut Creek addresses provided online.

Ages: All Ages
Hours: 8 a.m. – sunset, every day
Cost: $10/vehicle (day use).Annual passes available.
Online: parks.ca.gov

Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve
Oakland’s very own round-top volcano rises above the region and offers impressive wildflowers as well as year-round beauty that feels miles away from the hustle and bustle. The 31-mile East Bay Skyline National Recreation Trail runs through this park, connecting Wildcat Canyon and Anthony Chabot Parks. You can drive to up Round Top Round and take the easy, breezy Round Top Loop Trail for some amazing sites. And all that ashen soil means wildflowers bloom abundant.

Ages: All Ages
Hours: Every day, 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. (Mar. – Oct., closes at 6 p.m. in the winter).
Cost: Free
Online: ebayparks.org/parks/sibley

cal poppies flickr Tom HiltonPhoto credit: Tom Hilton via Flickr Creative Commons

South Bay/Peninsula

San Bruno Mountain State Park
Bordering Brisbane, Daly City, and Colma this total-escape from the city is less than 15 minutes from downtown San Francisco, San Bruno Mountain State Park offers a myriad of guided and freestyle hikes. The Summit Trail, a moderate 3.1 mile hike offers great views of flora and fauna, including the Mission Blue butterfly.

Good to know: Although this is a California State Park, it is maintained by the County of San Mateo and admission is not included with a State Park Pass.

Ages: All Ages
Hours: Every day, 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. (Apr.- Aug., closes earlier in other seasons).
Cost: $6
Online: parks.smcgov.org/san-bruno-mountain-state-county-park

rabbit in edgewood park preserve via flickr by DawnPhoto credit: Dawn Ellner via Flickr Creative Commons

Edgewood Park & Natural Preserve
467 acres of woodlands and grasslands teeming with local flora and fauna, this is one of the South Bay’s best wildflower spotting parks around. Just off of 280 near Redwood City, you’ll be stunned by what this park has to offer: it’s a real hidden gem. The park’s proximity to the coast means that wildflowers bloom in abundance through June. Check out their upcoming guided wildflower walks here.

Ages: All Ages
Hours: Every day, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (Apr. – Aug., closes earlier other seasons).
Cost: $6
Online: parks.smcgov.org/edgewood-park-natural-preserve

Almaden Quicksilver County Park
There are several Santa Clara County parks that offer great wildflower viewing and both guided and free-roaming walks. The Almaden Quicksilver County Park has the added bonus of the Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum. It’s the perfect place to see one of the most stunning wildflower displays and learn about unique local history. More than 30 miles of hiking trails make for a grand adventure.

Good to know: Bring drinking water. There is almost no potable water in the park and it can get warm as we approach late spring and summer months.

Ages: All Ages
Hours: 8 a.m. – sunset, every day
Cost: $6
Online: sccgov.org.Almadenpark

Marin County

Mount Tamalpais
Known affectionately by Bay Area residents as Mt. Tam, this incredible peak is the jewel of the Bay’s scenic crown. With everything from redwood groves, ancient oaks, striking views of the ocean, the wildflowers are just half the reason to explore this park. You can hike, camp, stroll, drive, and even find a private meadow to dance! There are regular guided hikes on Sundays brought to you by Friends of Mt. Tam. Check out their printable wildflower guides!

Ages: All Ages
Hours: 7 a.m. – sunset, every day
Cost: $8
Online: parks.ca.gov

wildflower on Mt. Tam via Flickr MiguelVieiraPhoto credit: Miguel Vieira via Flickr Creative Commons

Point Reyes National Seashore
If you haven’t been over to the Point Reyes area yet this year, use the impressive blooms as an excuse and get thee to the coastline. This family favorite has insanely gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean, hikes that range from easy to rigorous, and a lighthouse! Wildflower hot spots include Chimney Rock which offers a short 1.6 mile trail and proximity to the lighthouse. Abbotts Lagoon is a 2.3 mile walk out and back along the lagoon and has a showy display of nearly every type of coast wildflower.

Ages: All Ages
Hours: Open every day from sunrise to midnight.
Cost: Free
Online: nps.gov/pore

Tennessee Valley Marin County via Flickr DBerry2006Photo credit: DBerry2006 via Flickr Creative Commons

Tennessee Valley
Wildflowers, abundant wildlife, native plants, hiking trails suitable for even the wobbliest toddler, and a shipwreck? You just hit the Marin County jackpot! Part of the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the Tennessee Valley is the local’s favorite spot. Generally less crowded than some of the other headland areas, the easy 1.7 mile hike from the parking lot to Tennessee Beach is a must with the kiddos. Time it with low tide to spot the wreck of the park’s namesake: the S.S. Tennessee.

Good to know: Dogs are not allowed on the main trail.

Ages: All Ages
Hours: Sunrise to sunset every day
Cost: Free
Online: nps.gov/goga/tennessee_valley

Rush Creek Open Space Preserve
Near Novato, this 522 acre preserve provides a beautiful backdrop for hikes, walks, and picnics. It’s diversity, which include marshland, broad-leaf forests, and Marin County’s largest stand of blue oaks, is showcased in the springtime display of wildflowers. Family-focused, they have an ongoing program of kidcentric activities, from wildflower walks to habitat restoration projects.

Ages: All Ages
Hours: 24 hours
Cost: Free
Online: marincountyparks.org/rush-creek

 

Have you gone on any wildflower hikes this spring? What’s your favorite hike with the kiddos?

~Amber Guetebier

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