The Best Wildflower Hikes Within Two Hours of Sacramento
April 21, 2021

The Best Wildflower Hikes Within Two Hours of Sacramento

Spring is the perfect season to get outdoors and enjoy all that Mother Nature has to offer! This time of year, it’s all about the warm weather, blue skies and — best of all — wildflowers! Colorful blooms are popping up throughout the greater Sacramento area, but there’s no better way to see the gorgeous displays than going on a wildflower hike. Whether you’re looking for an easy stroll or a challenging climb, there are plenty of hikes within a few hours of Sacramento where wildflowers are the stars of the show!


North Table Mountain
| Oroville

Length varies | Dogs allowed | Directions

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North Table Mountain is well known for its stunning wildflowers come spring. Ribbons of purple, gold, yellow and white spread along the basalt mesa, which is easily accessible by a mellow hike. Vernal pools, seasonal streams and waterfalls — including the impressive Phantom Falls — make this one of the best springtime hikes in the greater Sacramento area. A lands pass is required to access North Table Mountain and can be purchased online for less than $5.


Buttermilk Bend Trail
| Bridgeport

One way 2.3 miles | Dogs allowed | Directions

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Photo courtesy California Department of Parks and Recreation

Part of the South Yuba State Park, Buttermilk Bend is one of the most popular spots for viewing wildflowers near Sacramento. Poppies, lupine, buttercups and fiddlenecks line the trail as it winds high above the water, with awesome views of the canyon below. You’ll also spot butterflies, waterfalls and a historic covered bridge. There are docent-led wildflower walks beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m. on Sundays through May.


Cronan Ranch Trails Park
| Pilot Hill

Length varies | Dogs allowed | Directions

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Photo courtesy Bureau of Land Management

The wide-open grasslands and rolling hills of Cronan Ranch, about an hour from Sacramento, erupt in color during springtime. Take your pick from 12 miles of trails, from the easy Gerle Loop Trail to the tougher Down and Up Trail Loop, all of which also allow mountain bikers and horseback riders. Many trails also offer access to the South Fork of the American River — there’s even an old cabin that was used as part of a movie set. There are a few picnic tables scattered about, so bring lunch and make a day of it. Admission is free!


Deer Creek Hills Preserve
| Sloughhouse

Roundtrip 3.5 miles | No dogs allowed | Directions

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Part of a working cattle ranch, the oak woodlands of Deer Creek Hills are dotted with wildflowers in the springtime, including blue dicks, popcorn flowers and poppies. Self-guided hikes are available weekends from 9 a.m.–1 p.m. through June 6. Note: there is a strict 50-person limit each day, and reservations are required in advance with a $10 registration fee per person. Come summer, the preserve is open to mountain bikers.

 

Red Hills Recreation Area | Chinese Camp

Length varies | Dogs allowed | Directions

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Photo courtesy Bureau of Land Management

Just two hours from Sacramento, the Red Hills area of Tuolumne County erupts in a colorful display of wildflowers in spring. Buttery cream cups, purple bitterroot, yellow monkey flowers and golden poppies blanket the landscape. There are more than 17 miles of interconnected trails to choose from, including the Overlook Trail, Soaproot Ridge Trail or Old Stage Trail. If you’re a bird watcher, even better. The area is home to dozens of bird species, including bald eagles and roadrunners. There are no fees to enter the site.

 

Mokelumne Coast to Crest Trail | Valley Springs

Length varies | No dogs allowed | Directions

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Mokelumne River Canyon. Photo courtesy Barry Boulton/Go Calaveras

The section of the Coast to Crest Trail near Pardee Reservoir in the Mokelumne River Canyon is awash with foothill wildflowers, making it a fun and easy day trip from Sacramento. A stretch called the Longest Mile (between Patti’s Point and Gwin Mine Road) is especially colorful, with poppies, daisies, honeysuckle and lilies lining its edges. The first quarter of a mile is flat and easy and becomes more difficult as it climbs the river canyon, but the views are worth the challenge. Trail permits are required ($3) and must be purchased in advance.

Category Neighborhood Guides

Elizabeth Penney

Elizabeth Penney is a content writer for the Lyon Local blog. A Sacramento native with a marketing background, she shares her insider knowledge on restaurants, attractions and outdoor activities throughout the greater Sacramento area and beyond.