The Best Spring Wildflower Hikes Within 2 Hours of Sacramento
April showers bring May flowers, and with all the showers we’ve been getting this year, wildflower season is expected to be epic! Spring is the ideal season to dust off those hiking boots and get outside to enjoy all that Mother Nature has to offer. As much as we love fall hikes, there’s just something about a spring hike — warm weather, blue skies, and of course, 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! Note: Late-season storms in Northern California means some trails can be muddy or snowy. Please check conditions before you head out.
Folsom Lake | Granite Bay
Lupine is the name of the game around Folsom Lake. The striking purple blooms blanket the hillside surrounding the lake, offering great photo ops for visitors. The bloom is especially prominent near Beeks Bight on the western side of the lake near Granite Bay. Another good bet is Avery’s Pond Trail, a relatively easy trail that offers views of the water.
North Table Mountain | Oroville
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. With all the rain we’ve had, the falls should be especially raging this year! The out-and-back Phantom Falls Trail is approximately 4.1 miles. A lands pass is required to access North Table Mountain and can be purchased online for less than $6.
Buttermilk Bend Trail | Bridgeport
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. The trail is approximately 2.3 miles one way. There are docent-led wildflower walks at 10 a.m. Saturdays through May.
Cronan Ranch Trails Park | Pilot Hill
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
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 May. Although entry is free, pre-registration is required and a $10 donation is requested to support the preserve’s upkeep. There are also docent-led hikes on topics such as mindfulness and Native American history — even a ukulele sing & stroll! Come summer, the preserve is open to mountain bikers.
Red Hills Recreation Area | Chinese Camp
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
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.