Spring may be halfway done, but there is still time to head out into the hills and valleys of Marin and bask in the sight of gorgeous wildflower blooms. Here are some places to go:
Visitors can hike the foot trails and fire roads that circle the island, but for best wildflower viewing you'll want to head up the Sunset Trail to the top of Mount Livermore (788 feet) and come back down the North Ridge Trail. The total distance is about 4 miles. The views are incredible and will make you want to linger - make sure you catch your ferry back!
Near Novato and bordering Olompali State Historic Park, this open space preserve is a bit quieter than its neighboring park. There are a few different good options for exploring the preserve. Try this list on All Trails.com for an overview, including easier and harder difficulties.
- Wildflowers you can expect: Milkmaid, blue hound’s tongue, buttercup, iris, johnny-tuck, popcorn flower. Later in the season look for clarkia, brodiea, California poppy, yellow mariposa lilies, and venus thistle.
- Mt Burdell Trail Map (pdf download)
With 60 miles of trails, Mt. Tam offers a dizzying array of options. You can see them all and put something together yourself using this PDF Mt. Tam State Park brochure, which includes a contour map of the park and trails. Here are a few choices that should give you great wildflower vistas:
- Matt Davis, Nora Trail, West Point Inn Loop is a 3.9 mile "balloon" shaped trail, with a gentle climb that works well for beginners
- Phoenix Trail Loop is similarly gentle, though longer at 4.7 miles
- For a more strenuous hike, try the 6.5 mile Cataract Falls - Potrero Meadows loop, or the aptly named Steep Ravine Trail
One of the best places to go for wildflower views is Chimney Rock: the 1.75 mile Chimney Rock Trail offers views of Drakes Bay and the Pacific Ocean and is renowned for great spring wildflowers. The other is the 2.3 mile hike to Abbotts Lagoon - find a list of plants to expect along the trail here, and a description of the hike on Bay Area Hiker.
There are also helpful guides to wildflowers at Point Reyes:
Sandwiched between Tiburon and Corte Madera, this preserve was never developed because of a single flower: the Tiburon mariposa lily, which blooms mid-May through June. In addition to the Tiburon mariposa lily, you can expect milkmaids, Fremont's camas, buttercups, and shooting stars, blue-eyed grass, lupine, Ithuriel’s spear, and tarwoods.
The 7 mile Bill's Trail to Mount Barnabe Peak loop is ideal for wildflower viewing, but check ahead! It can be subject to seasonal closures. You can also try the more strenuous but equally spectacular Barnabe Peak Loop via Barnabee Road and Cross Marin Trail.
- Download a Park Brochure
- Wildflowers you can expect: Iris, woodland star, fringe cup, starflower, California larkspur, California poppy, buttercup, clarkia, creamcups, clovers, fiddlenecks
You can find out where people have spotted blooms by heading to the Marin Native Plants Facebook group. It's also a great resource for posting photos, help identifying flowers, and sharing in flower excitement with like-minded Marinites!
Marin's chapter of the California Native Plant society has these beautiful, color flower sheets for different locations around Marin.
Some other good sources for wildflower identification are the California Wildflowers site created by the California Academy of Sciences, which allows you to search by color, and UC Berkeley's CalPhotos: Plants database.
You can also check out a pocket guide from the library and bring it with you!
Park Passes and Experience Backpacks
As you're heading out on your wildflower explorations, our Marin Park Passes might come in handy. They allow for free entry and parking at specific locations within Marin County Parks, the Marin Municipal Water District, and Mount Tamalpais State Park.
While not an MCFL resource, Mill Valley Library's Wildflower Experience Backpacks may be checked out by anyone with a Marin library card. The kit provides all materials necessary for a self-guided walking tour of native wildflowers in Rock Springs. You can't place a hold on it, but you can pick it up during Mill Valley library's curbside service hours.
Enjoy your trek!