Stroll along the trails of Twin Peaks, the shores of Pt. Reyes or the trails of San Bruno Mountain to see some of California’s finest wildflowers. Presented by Mother Earth, this free Bay Area show will dazzle little eyes with unique colors, shapes and blossoms. Don’t forget to bring your camera, plenty of water and sunscreen.

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
While this wildflower spot is in the middle of the city, it’s definitely got the feeling of a coastal hike. It’s got acres of cultivated gardens, which have wildflowers and flowering trees blooming in abundance. The California Native Garden is your best bet for “local” wildlife. Kids can head over to the nearby children’s garden, where they can dig in the dirt! There’s even crafts and garden projects on the weekends just for the kids.

Ages: All ages, especially early walkers.
Open: Everyday, 7:30 am – 7 pm (last entry is 6 p.m., hours change seasonally)
Cost: $7/adults; $5/children ages 12-17; $2/children ages 5-11; free to SF residents and children 4 and under; $15/family of 2 adults + 2 children of same household.

1199 9th Ave.
San Francisco, Ca 94122

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

Twin Peaks
You may have driven visiting guests to 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, but they also sport many a wildflower. Kids can keep on the lookout for the Mission Blue butterfly, a native species that has adapted to the high winds. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes and a thick jacket to ward off the wind. Street parking is widely available off of Crestline Drive and there is a small parking lot located near the Christmas Tree Viewing Area.  Muni line 37 stops along Crestline Drive and Muni line 48 stops along Portola. For a great view, go from peak to peak: Take the trail South from the Christmas Tree Viewing Area toward Eureka Peak (you will cross over Twin Peaks Blvd.) Then keep going on the trail toward Noe Peak. From there, you can turn around and head back or continue along the trail, which will cut across Twin Peaks Blvd. twice more. It even hooks up with a trail into Glen Canyon if you descend all the way down the mountain. Click here for a trail map.

Good to know: Coyotes 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). Be sure to 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, or bring the littles in a hiking backpack.
Open: Sunrise to sunset, every day.
Cost: Free

501 Twin Peaks Blvd
San Francisco, Ca 94114

The Presidio
Trails can go on for miles, but the sights are worth it. See 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 even though you aren’t. Hikes range from simple and quick to long and luxurious. Kids will enjoy the easy, .8 mile hike along the Lobos Creek Valley Trail, which offers lots of wildflowers and a bevy of birds and butterflies. You can park along Lake Street at 15th and walk up Wedermeyer Battery Caulfield Road to the trail head. Or take the Presidio Go Shuttle to stop #21 or #27. Slightly more challenging is the Mountain Lake Trail, which runs along the southern boundary of the Presidio. Highlights of this 2.6 mile hike (one way) include the Andy Goldsworthy’s Wood Line and the beautiful Mountain Lake which is currently being restored. The trail ends up at Baker Beach. Bonus: you can start this hike from the Julius Kahn playground, or detour there on your way back. If the over 5 mile trek is too much for the whole crew, you can access it at Arguello Gate near the Presidio Golf Course, or park near Lake St. and 14th Ave. and pick the trail up there. To make it uber-short you can get the Presidio Go Shuttle at Stop 23 just off Lincoln at Bowley St.

Check out this trail map to plan your hike.

Bonus: After your hike, head down to the Main Lawn Post and hit up Off the Grid on Thursday nights or Sunday afternoons to fill hungry bellies after the long hike.

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

East Bay

Niles Canyon/Sunol Regional Wilderness
Hike through this beautiful valley, which is just outside of Fremont, or take ride on the historic Niles Canyon Railway for a view of abundant blooms and plenty of sunshine. 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. Kids and parents alike will enjoy the scenic gorge at Alameda Creek, about two miles up-stream from the Visitor Center. This area, known as Little Yosemite, sports lots of postcard worthy spots. Note there is no swimming in the creek and boundary signs need to be obeyed as the land is a lease agreement. The Canyon View Trail, which is 1.39 miles one way, has a gradual upward slope but winds through Jacob’s Valley to Little Yosemite through grasslands full of wildflowers as well as oak woodlands. The steeper and more rigorous Eagle’s View Trail rewards hikers with stunning view of the park, Calaveras Reservoir and the South Bay. Lots of grassland means sweet wildflowers abound.

For a train ride, check out article about riding the historic rails here.

Ages: All Ages
Open: Everyday from 8 am – 8pm (later in the summer)
Cost: $5 parking fee per vehicle

1895 Geary Road
Sunol, Ca

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. There’s a museum, mine tours, a cemetery, and more for curious eyes. 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, the mines are said to be haunted. Try the Chaparral Loop Trail which starts at the Great House Visitor Center. It’s of moderate intensity (there are stairs) but keep an eye out for the Mt. Diablo Fairy Lantern, a rare wildflower that grows on the slopes. The Rose Hill Cemetery makes a great destination, kids will appreciate the history and you’ll love the abundance of flowers and impressive photo ops.

Good to know: It get’s pretty hot here in the summer months, so bring sun hats, sunscreen and plenty of water.

Ages: All Ages
Hours: Every day, 8 am – 8 pm (later in the summer)
Cost: $5 parking fee

5175 Somersville Road
Antioch, Ca 94509

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 make it to the mountain top will be rewarded with spectacular views. 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 entrances provided online.

Ages: All Ages
Hours: 8 am – sunset, every day
Cost: $10/vehicle (day use). Annual passes available.

96 Mitchell Canyon Rd
Clayton, Ca 94517

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 sights.

Ages: All Ages
Hours: Every day, 7 am – 10 pm (Mar. – Oct., closes at 6 p.m. in the winter).
Cost: Free

On Skyline Blvd., just east of Grizzly Peak Blvd./Diablo Dr.
Oakland, Ca

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, like the Summit Trail, which is a moderate 3.1 mile hike that 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 am – 8 pm (Apr.- Aug., closes earlier in other seasons).
Cost: $6

555 Guadalupe Canyon Pkwy
Brisbane, Ca 94005

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

Edgewood Park & Natural Preserve
With 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. Exit off 280 near Redwood City to be stunned by what this park has to offer. The park’s proximity to the coast means that wildflowers bloom in abundance through June. Check out their upcoming guided wildflower walks here. Try the Franciscan Loop trail for an easy to moderate 1.4 mile walk that includes lots of grasslands and a good chance of spotting horses riding on the trail. Be sure and take a rest at one of the benches along the way and take in the Bay views. The Sylvan Trail & Loop is also a popular trail for families and clocks in at 2.5 miles total. Almost any trail will offer you spectacular wildflowers and views. The most strenuous is the Edgewood Trail is about 2 miles and has a fairly steep incline (but will seem moderate to any SF city dwellers that live at the top of a hill!)

Ages: All Ages
Hours: Every day, 8 am – 8 pm (Apr. – Aug., closes earlier other seasons).
Cost: $6

2195 Edgewood Rd
Redwood City, Ca 94062

Almaden Quicksilver County Park
There are several Santa Clara County parks that offer great wildflower viewing, guided and free-roaming walks. And the Almaden Quicksilver County Park has the Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum — 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, but one of the real highlights is the Historic Trail. Enter the park at the Hacienda Entrance, and the trail head starts near by. This 5.1 mile loop includes 15 different significant spots, like the Casa Grande historic home, several mines, former town sites, and a view of San Jose. This entrance and trail head is also the closest to the mining museum.

Good to know: Bring drinking water. You can fill up at the Hacienda Entrance, but there is almost no other potable water in the park and it can get warm as we approach late spring and summer months.

Ages: All Ages
Hours: 8 am – sunset, every day
Cost: $6

21785 Almaden Rd
San Jose, Ca 95120

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! If you’ve never been to Mt. Tam with the kids, a good jumping off point is the East Peak Visitor Center, which is open on weekends from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. If open, you can find wildflower guides, maps, and a diorama of local birds and animals the kids will love. Even if the center is closed, it’s still a good place to start. The nearby Verna Dunshee trail is wheel-chair and stroller accessible and loops around the mountaintop with amazing views and a great self-guided tour through local flora, fauna, and geology. The Bootjack Day Use Area also makes a good starting point for families and includes a more rigorous trail that descends into Muir Woods.

Ages: All Ages
Hours: 7 am – sunset, every day
Cost: $8

801 Panoramic Highway
Mill Valley, Ca 94941

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, use the impressive blooms as an excuse and get thee to the coastline. This family favorite location 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 views of 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

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? This is the Marin County jackpot! Part of the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the Tennessee Valley is a local 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

591 Tennessee Valley Rd
Mill Valley, Ca 94941

Rush Creek Open Space Preserve
Near Novato, this 522 acre preserve provides a beautiful backdrop for hikes, walks, and picnics. It’s diversity, which includes marshland, broad-leaf forests, and Marin County’s largest stand of blue oaks, is showcased in the springtime display of wildflowers. Rush Creek is also family focused — they have an ongoing program of kidcentric activities, from wildflower walks to habitat restoration projects. The Pinheiro Fire Ridge Trail offers a moderate hike and amazing views, and the small circular loop that circles round Cemetery Marsh is the perfect stomping grounds for little feet.

Ages: All Ages
Hours: 24 hours
Cost: Free


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

—Amber Guetebier