Boarding the boat for our trip to Anacapa Island – part of the Channel Islands National Park – we could hear an infant crying. Certainly most everyone was thinking, “Oh, great! A baby on a 12-mile boat trip! Are you nuts?” The Island Packers' boat, Vanguard, began its slow journey through the calm waters of Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard. Out into the open sea, we started to rock and bob – the infant was asleep within seconds. The rest of us faced forward, eyes wide open, awaiting a glimpse of the elusive Anacapa Island. Those of us beyond the rhythmic lullabies of babies could take solace in the postcard-perfect weather – light breeze, blue skies, and warm sun – as we embarked on our half-day journey to a land nearly forgotten by time.
When considering boarding a 68-foot-long boat to take a 12-mile trip out into open seas, traveling with children under the age of five probably doesn’t come to mind. However, our group included families with children of all ages and an infant. With just two miles of trails, Anacapa’s landscape is easy hiking and perfect for younger visitors – even parents packing a baby. The visitor’s center provides welcome shade and picnic tables for a lunchtime break. The center also has great interpretive displays and houses the original crystal and brass Fresnel lens from the island lighthouse. The landing cove offers great opportunities for snorkeling, swimming and kayaking – even for the younger set. The water temperatures are warmest during the summer months, topping out at around 65°. It’s a good idea to monitor exposure to the water or come equipped with dive suits.
Kids and parents will enjoy a thrilling below-water view through Anacapa’s underwater video program. Viewed by television from the island’s landing dock at or the mainland visitor center, this unique program features an interpretive dive through one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, the kelp forest. Kids can talk directly to the ranger interpreter and ask questions about the watery world below. This amazing program is available Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in the landing cove of Anacapa Island. It is open to the public free of charge and occurs at 2:00 p.m from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Off-shore, California sea lions and harbor seals are frequently seen and heard barking up a storm at overlooks Cathedral Cove and Pinniped Point. They are often seen during the Channel crossing – bobbing along and seemingly waving as you pass. Several varieties of whales and dolphins are spotted year-round on trips to Anacapa – and with luck you may find a pod of orca or common dolphin playing in the boat’s wake.
Despite obvious signs of human habitation, Anacapa retains much of its natural rugged beauty. Anacapa consists of three small islets, East, Middle and West, which are inaccessible from each other except by boat. Visitation is limited to the East islet and Frenchy’s Cove on the West islet. Most of island is primarily wilderness set aside for nesting Western gulls and the endangered California brown pelican. In the spring, kids and adults marvel at the throng of nesting gulls. Later in the season, downy baby gulls wait quietly, or not, for doting parents to feed them. And undulating brown pelicans soar overhead or line the cliffs overlooking the landing cove on East Anacapa.
In general, the island has a Mediterranean climate but the weather can be most unforgiving and dense fog is common during late spring. Calm winds and seas are more frequent at summer’s end. Consider seasonal changes when planning a trip to Anacapa or any of the Channel Islands.
The closest of the five islands that make-up the national park, Anacapa is only a ½-mile wide, about 5 miles long, with 200-foot cliffs. Though fairly stark in its natural state, non-native ice plant, a brilliant red, now blankets much of the island. Originally planted to prevent erosion, the creeping, mat-forming succulent is being removed as part of an environmental rehabilitation of the island. In the spring, forests of giant yellow coreopsis seem other-worldly. Other wildflowers – pale pink island mallow, vivid red paintbrush, and tiny island morning glories – create an eye-catching palette of colors across the island.
It’s fitting that Anacapa is the only one of the five Channel Islands to retain its American Indian name "Eneepah,” derived from a Chumach word meaning island of deception or mirage. I can tell you, this island is no mirage. It’s a dream come true for kids of all ages – grown-ups too!
When traveling to Anacapa or any of the Channel Islands, remember:
> Sunscreen, sunglasses, sunhat
> Seasickness Medicine (If you’re at all concerned or sensitive)
> Dress in layers
> Take plenty of water as there is no fresh water on the island
> Pack lunches and snacks
> Comfortable walking shoes
> Camera and binoculars
> Day-trippers can leave items at the Visitor Center but its best to travel light.
> Walk with care
> Take photos not flowers, rocks, shells, or other items found on the island…except trash.
> If you pack it in, pack it out
For families looking for the complete family escape with all the requisite amenities, the Embassy Suites Mandalay Bay Beach Resort is conveniently located near Channel Islands Harbor. All-suite rooms offer the luxury and comforts of home: living room, two televisions, two full baths, one king or two queen beds, and sleeper sofas, a refrigerator, microwave oven, coffee maker, and a well-lit dining table. Translation: Plenty of room for everyone to spread out and relax. A deep blue swimming pool, Jacuzzis, ping pong, non-motorized bikes of all kinds to ride along the beach promenade and miles of the most pristine beach just scream “family friendly!” Tons of Family Fun Packages the entire family will enjoy!
Forget the breakfast buffets; mornings at Embassy Suites are a real food fest! Besides an over-the-top expanded continental featuring fresh fruits and yogurts, full-cooked breakfasts include eggs, bacon, sausage, omelets, waffles, pancakes and more. And Embassy Suites may have the happiest “hour” on the planet. The two-hour soiree includes a variety of munchies from chips and salsa and trail mix to fresh vegetables and dip plus a full bar for parents…and kids! The Surf Room at Mandalay Bay features kid- and adult-friendly game area with pool table, foosball, big screen TV, or you can simply relax on the patio: The swaying palm trees and blue lagoons will keep you and the kids dreaming of Paradise.
Have a Whale of a Good Time by Barbara L. Steinberg
Each winter California welcomes the return of its official marine mammal, the gray whale.
The annual migration of more than 18,000 gray whales begins high in Alaskan waters. The giants then travel southward along California's coastline en route to their breeding and birthing waters in the bays and lagoons of Baja California. These majestic mammals hug California's shoreline at Point Reyes National Seashore, past the Farallon Islands, travel through Half Moon Bay and Monterey Bay, then follow the coastline past Southern California before reaching Mexico.
The whales travel 70 to 80 miles per day at a rate of three to five miles per hour. A spout of vaporized water, at times reaching 12 feet, becomes visible to watchers as the whales surface every three to five minutes to breathe. Their 12,000-mile round-trip trek is the longest known distance any mammal migrates on an annual basis. During the migration, the whales will travel in small groups and stay fairly close to the shoreline for protection from predators, such as killer whales. By mid-February, the migration pattern reverses as the whales lead their new-born calves back to the chilly Arctic waters of the Bering Sea in Alaska.
Gray whales—the only whale species to fully recover its pre-whaling population levels—may reach up to 50 feet in length and weigh up to 45 tons. Named for their gray coloring, the whales have mottled gray skin due to both natural pigmentation, and whale lice barnacle colonies. When swimming or hovering just below the surface, the whales may appear uniformly white or slate blue. One of the gray's more distinctive traits is its lack of a dorsal fin. Instead, a low hump is followed by a series of bumps down the back.
The initial sighting of the gray whale is exhilarating. The blow—a puff of steam standing up to 12 feet off the water—will appear; where there is one blow, others are sure to follow as whales tend to travel in groups of two to six. An amazing maneuver the whales perform is spyhopping. A whale may stick its head above water one or more times consecutively—it is believed that the whale is either getting its bearings or using gravity to help swallow. The most dramatic and exciting behavior observed is breaching. The whale will leap out of the water and fall to its side or back making a spectacular splash. This behavior can be perceived as a form of communication to other whales in the area or means of “back scratching” to release the numerous parasites from the whales' hides.
The four-month period from December through March is a celebration for aficionados of marine and coastal biology life as various festivals, cruises and events are planned in conjunction with the gray whale's yearly migratory pattern.
Point Reyes National Seashore, home of the picturesque Point Reyes Lighthouse in Marin County, has one of the best viewing locations. In addition, naturalist talks ,”Journey of the Whale,” are offered weekends and holidays during the season, 1:30 p.m. The Lighthouse Visitor Center is open from 10:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Thursday through Monday. Parking is very limited and weekends can be crowded. Th winter shuttle service runs December 31 through late March or mid-April, operating on weekends and holidays, weather permitting during whale-watching season. For details on the talks and shuttles, call the Bear Valley Visitor Center (415) 464-5100; open seven days a week. Checkout their Facebook page for updates on sightings.
Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma in San Diego is home to a glassed-in whale-watching observatory featuring whale exhibits and a taped narration, is being renovated but should re-open soon. The center is open daily 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Interpretive programs are available, call for information.
Other areas for active viewing include (counties listed from north to south):
Endert’s Beach Overlook. Approximately three miles off U.S. 101 on Endert’s Beach Road to the parking lot and viewing area which is a redwood deck built on top of a rock.
Battery Point. This is accessible only at low tide from the parking area at the foot of “A” Street in Crescent City.
Brother Jonathan Vista Point. Located on Pebble Beach Drive at Ninth Street in Crescent City. Viewing area is about 10 feet above the surface of the ocean.
Point St. George. Located about three miles northwest of Crescent City at the west end of Washington Boulevard.
Castle Rock, near Crescent City. The best location for viewing this island is along Pebble Beach Drive north of the Brother Jonathan Vista Point, south of Point St. George.
Humboldt County: Dry Lagoon, Humboldt Lagoons State Park, Freshwater Lagoon,
Redwood National & State Parks near Orick, Gold Bluffs Beach in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park,
McKinleyville Vista Point off U.S. 101, Palmer’s Point and Wedding Rock,
Patrick’s Point State Park, Trinidad, Scenic drive, south of Trinidad offers a number of spectacular vista points as well as access to beaches such as Luffenholtz Beach.
Shelter Cove. Take the Garberville/Redway exit off U.S. 101 to the Lost Coast.
Table Bluff. South spit of Humboldt Bay Trinidad Head at Trinidad Harbor, Trinidad.
Santa Cruz County: Pigeon Point, Greyhound Rock and Davenport Coastline
Monterey County: Monterey Peninsula, Big Sur
Los Angeles County: Catalina Island, and Korean Friendship Bell and Point Fermin Lighthouse, San Pedro
Orange County: Dana Point
Ventura County: Channel Islands National Park
Island Packers - The 3‐3½ hour non‐landing narrated whale-watching trips are offered from both Ventura Harbor and Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard. Trips depart almost daily at 9:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. All‐day trips with landing are also available on Anacapa or Santa Cruz islands. Camping is also available on all five islands. Advance reservations are advised and can be made by calling (805) 642‐1393.
California State Beaches also offer a number of programs and locations for viewing migrating whales. For details on what programs are offered, contact the state park listed below or visit www.Parks.ca.gov for general information on all state parks.
Fort Ross State Historic Park - (707) 847-3286
Garrapata State Park - (831) 624-4909
MacKerricher State Park - (707) 937-5804
Manchester State Beach - (707) 937-5804
Mendocino Headlands State Park - (707) 937-5804
Montaña de Oro State Park - (805) 528-0513
Morro Bay State Park Museum of Natural History - (805) 772-2694
Patrick's Point State Park - (707) 677-3570
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve - (831) 624-4904
Point Sal State Beach - (805) 733-3713
Point Sur State Historic Park - (831) 625-4419
Salt Point State Park - (707) 847-3221
Sonoma Coast State Beach - (707) 875-3483
Silver Strand State Beach - (619) 435-5184
California Festivals Celebrate Gray Whales
Whalefest Monterey—Welcome the grays at Monterey Bay, Point Lobos and Big Sur. Take part in this two-week celebration with whale-themed art shows, natural history exhibits, and children’s programs at dozens of cultural and natural history organizations, including the Monterey Bay Aquarium. For more information and a schedule of events, visit.
Whale Fiesta, San Pedro - Special speakers and presentations are included in weekend festivities at the enclosed whale-watching station at the end of Point Loma in San Diego. Weekend date to be determined by November.
For more information, call: (619) 557-5450.
Oxnard’s Celebration of the Whales - Taking place at Channel Islands Harbor, the celebration will include entertainment and exhibits highlighting the offshore migration of the gray whale. The event also includes island trips, speakers, and arts and crafts.
Dana Point’s Festival of Whales - After an opening ceremony at La Plaza Park with a two-day street faire, this spectacular event will kick-off with a grand display of tallships at the Dana Point harbor. The Orange County Marine Institute will sponsor a “Whaling & Art of the Sailor” exhibition, and the last weekend will finish with a “wag-a-thon” plus much more. For more information, call: (888) 440-4309 or (949) 472-7888.
Mendocino Whale Festival. Celebrate in the village's galleries and shops with premium wines from Mendocino's top vintners. Other highlights include chowder tasting, marine art exhibits, music and whale-watching walks on the headlands. For more information.
Fort Bragg Whale Festival. Along with dozens of microbrews provided by the Fort Bragg Rotary Club, the area’s top chefs will produce their favorite chowders. A marine mammal art exhibit and crafts fair are also part of the two-day festival. Experience the excitement of whales in motion with a boat excursion at Noyo Harbor. For more information.
Little River Whale Festival. Savor bites from the kitchens of the town's noted chefs, sips from Mendocino County
vintners, history and birding walks in Van Damme State Park, artist studio tours, fireside talks with local historians.
Long Beach Whale Watching. Explore the Pacific Ocean and enjoy an up-close and personal experience with the world's largest mammals. Special whale-watching packages offered by the Aquarium of the Pacific. and tours and cruises by Harbor Breeze Whale-Watching Cruises, and Pieroint Landing.
Morro Bay Whale Watching is waiting. The Dos Osos is an open-deck pontoon boat, so dress with additional layers. A seasoned crew and interpretive staff provide background and safety instructions. Gray whales visit middle of December through May. Sightings are virtually guaranteed. Other commonly seen marine life includes blue whales, minke whales, fin whales and Pacific white-sided dolphins.
Day Trip to Woodbridge Ecological Reserve by Barbara L. Steinberg
Saturday was winding down. A perfect December day in the Sacramento Valley and along the Sacramento River Delta (or California Delta depending who you ask). Dry weather brings balmy days and very cold nights. It also means clear skies and stunning sunsets for birders who venture to the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve/Phil & Marilyn Eisenberg Sandhill Crane Reserve during the winter bird migration. A major stop along the Pacific Flyway, it's especially popular with the B-52s of birds, the sandhill cranes. Their annual visitation attracts birdwatching enthusiasts from around the region and world. And reason to celebrate the 20th annual Sandhill Crane Festival in nearby Lodi, California.
Thousands of sandhill cranes along with similar numbers of geese, swans,
ducks, and various shorebirds spend fall and winter months in flooded farm fields along Woodbridge Road off Interstate 5. Each day at sundown -- yes, you can set your clock -- the spectacle begins. And then there are those rare days where sunsets are matched by a full-moon rise. The sounds and sights are breathtaking. In the fading light, the cranes appear ghostly in the shallow water. They will spend the night feeding, resting and courting. Their frenzied dance -- jumping and wings spread -- is part of the display.
Self-guided visitations occur daily. The reserve, property of the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, also has docent-led tours.These tours fill-up fast, so book ahead.
But whatever you do, don't miss this annual event -- migration and festival. I've been many times -- the wow factor is always the same. This video from 2011 tells the whole story. If you're really dedicated, morning visits can net you some spectacular views. Thank you to James D. Simon for this incredible YouTube video
Morro Bay is a Sensory Wonderland By Barbara L. Steinberg
Inhale. Watch the sun set behind Morro Rock, bark at sea lions, call to a night heron, and walk in silence beside a forest of pygmy oaks. At every turn, open spaces and environmentally sensitive biomes of extraordinary splendor await. Miles and miles of nature preserves, state parks, state beaches, and magical places with names like The Elfin Forest elevate Morro Bay’s allure. From a waterfront perch at the Inn at Morro Bay, only one question emerges, “What next?” Mother Nature worked overtime to create this canvas. It deserves all your attention.
Head for Montaña de Oro State Park toward shoreline and estuary views. In just a few miles, the road narrows; the “real” world drops away. Some days are sunny. Today, fog drapes the hillsides but without diminishing the heightened anticipation to reach Sandspit Beach – a four-mile “ecologically diverse” sand dune area separating Morro Bay from the Pacific Ocean.
One vehicle in the parking lot alludes to a park ranger, nowhere to be seen. Out of your own four-wheeler, the world is quiet. You zigzag along with the boardwalk, along sensitive dunes dotted with sand verbena and lupine. A slight rise in the dune and – suddenly – stillness to crashing waves! A view that thrills you to the bone.
Breathe. One seriously long, deep breath of the fog, the mist, the ocean air.
See. Open your eyes, wide! Really, really wide to an abundance of sand, shore birds, ocean debris, wildflowers, pounding surf. Incredibly, you are the sole inhabitant on this expanse of beach inside Montaña de Oro State Park. Imagine the coastal Chumash who once called this home.
Step. Follow the footprints – some four-footed – the comings and goings of previous visitors. The tide rushes up and laps at your feet, washing away remnants of your passing and those before you.
Gaze. Scan for signs of life. A troop of curlews hurries in and out of the surf chasing an elusive breakfast. A band of brown pelicans rises and falls with the light as if on some unseen carnival ride. Bashful snowy plovers sneak – left, right, left right – over dunes to protected nesting ground. A gang of turkey vultures nibble on the carcass of a dolphin, its mouth agape in a petrified smile. Heartbreaking, but it is the nature of things and now part of this memory.
Sun and fog debate which will prevail over today’s weather. Fog appears to be winning. Though a distance away, you linger in hopes that Morro Rock will reappear through the mist. Not to be on this adventure. After a mile on the spit, it’s time to turn back.
A ghostly surfer slips the top of a wave, a solitary figure, as you depart. Exhale.
Get a great workout and search for wildlife on this hike through the hills between Fairfield, Benicia and Vallejo. Solano Land Trust docents will guide you on an up to six-mile hike through this area, known as the King-Swett Ranches. Explore these lands that are both natural areas and working cattle ranches, learn about the plants and animals that call these lands home, and see sweeping views of Solano County and beyond. Participants will get a great workout while looking for birds and other wildlife that call this area home. Residents and visitors are encouraged to take advantage of this special opportunity if they can because these ranches in the hills between are otherwise closed.
When: Saturday, September 3, 2016
Where: King-Swett Ranches
What to bring: Hiking boots or trail running shoes with good grip, water, and snacks.
Register: Space is limited and pre-registration is recommended at conta.cc/2bKB7F3. Important details, including the meeting location, directions and registration information are available at the registration link above, and on the events calendar at solanolandtrust.org.
Solano Land Trust protects land to ensure a healthy environment, keep ranching and farming families on their properties, and inspire a love of the land. For more information about Solano Land Trust, its upcoming events and to make a donation, visit solanolandtrust.org.
For more information on wildlife and nature tourism locations, visit California Watchable Wildlife.
The sun was barely breaking through when fog began rolling in across the mouth of the Smith River. Where river and ocean unite feels holy. Harbor seals – almost ghostly – gaze out across the shallow. A community of cormorants Zen(ly) attempt drying their wings. Brown pelicans and gulls share the sandspit. A lone angler casts again and again. He confides it’s been rumored salmon are running better on the Rogue and Klamath rivers. Still, he’s content. I watch with quiet respect and retreat once my camera is
Some 30 miles away, we stroll a considerable spit separating the Klamath River from the Pacific Ocean. One more peaceful world, the lone inhabitants walking or sitting quietly we reverently contemplate this sacred space. The tide is returning and waves crash to the shore. A swift undertow – the cold water just licks my naked feet as I scramble away. The Klamath has journeyed far – 263 miles from Southern Oregon – to wed itself to the churning ocean.
These are the reasons why along the Wild Rivers Coast.
Plan your taste of Yuba-Sutter during autumn when harvests and seasonal festivals are abundant.
Highways and country roads link Yuba and Sutter counties to history-rich communities. A short drive from Sacramento, Gold Rush-era towns and multi-generational farmlands overlap in a most delicious way. From the Central Valley -- California’s agricultural heartland – to Sierra Nevada foothills, Yuba and Sutter’s proverbial plate overflows with both farm-to-fork and cultural and outdoor recreation delights!
Stop by Visit Yuba-Sutter’s visitor center for regional maps and brochures including the North Yuba Grown farm trail map, a guiding light to farm stands, wineries, and locavore shops north of Marysville. Soil, topography and climate inspire hand-crafted wines from Renaissance, Lucero and Clos Saron – Cabernet, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – and olive oils from Apollo and Athena’s Grove do the region proud. A feast for your senses, explore local art and seasonal fare at Yuba Harvest. The crème de la crèmeof tasty must-dos, the North Yuba Harvest Festival features more than 50 vendors.
Along Highway 99 in Sutter County, the striped awning above Stephen’s Farmhouse beckons. Farm-fresh pies and cookies, jellies and jams, pickled veggies of all kinds, and seasonal produce and walnuts will tempt the most discerning palate. Your favorite pooch will love the homemade Snicker Poodles.
Find the “Great Pumpkin” of your dreams at Bishop’s Pumpkin Farm in Wheatland. Old-fashioned hayrides and u-pick pumpkins, a historic carousel and fresh-baked cookies are just the beginning. Nearby, Salle Orchards offers more tastes of Yuba-Sutter year-round. Autumn means persimmons, pomegranates, pumpkins and 27 varieties of apples.
Drive, hike or bike the Sutter Buttes, the world’s smallest mountain range. Ancient volcanic soils and cool breezes breathe life into Cordi Winery’s grapes and award-winning wines. Bring a picnic and enjoy the view. Continue on scenic back roads to Sutter and the Sutter Buttes Natural & Artisan Foods. Bring an appetite for olive oils, infused vinegars, gourmet mustards, and dipping sauces. Among many award-winning products, their Blood-Orange Brownie Kit brought home Sofi gold at the 2015 New York Fancy Food Show. You can bring it home, too! In late November, look for Moody’s Middle Mountain Mandarins self-serve farm stand.
Lose yourself at the Sikh Festival, possibly the largest cultural event in California. The first Sunday in November, it’s a cacophony of color and aromas. Each November, harvested rice fields attract migrating wildlife. Along with thousands of tundra swans, nature enthusiasts arrive to celebrate at the annual California Swan Festival. Guided tours include Gray Lodge Wildlife Refuge and Sutter Buttes. An unparalleled experience, the Buttes’ privately owned lands are accessible only through Middle Mountain Interpretive Hikes.
Birding and hiking is a hungry business. Yelp reviewers love AJ’s Sandwiches, an easy stroll from Swan Festival H.Q. Chow down on gourmet burgers and specialty sandwiches with a side of pesto frips! Where, oh where to taste more? In Yuba City and Marysville, The Cookie Tree and The Candy Box are sweets central. GPS yourself to New Earth Market, Oregon House Grocery & Deli, and The Crave. Among scrumptious treats you’ll find J▪Heier Farms blackberry jams, Sunsweet prunes, North Yuba Bread, and POM pomegranate to satiate locavore retail therapy. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, Dancing Tomato Caffé’s daily mantra is farm-to-table.
With so many tasty options, make Yuba-Sutter a play and stay getaway. Many tasting rooms, country stores, and farms are seasonal or open weekends only. Always call ahead for days and hours of operation.
As originally published in Food & Travel Magazine, Fall 2015
What can I say that hasn't already been said about West Coast Falconry? This is one-of-a-kind! Once-in-a-lifetime! A California first! You'll want to go do it again and again! Okay, that negates the once-in-a-lifetime! The experience is a cross between wildlife education and raptor comedy routine. The falconers, Kate Marden and Jana Barkly, are a finely tuned performance -- and lets not forget the important component an impressive star cast of hawks, falcons, owls, and (yes) even a yellow headed vulture named Zopi. The falconers and the birds were really mugging for the participants and we were loving them back. You won't be bored -- time flies and pardon the pun.
Experience the love, trust, and bond of falconer and raptor. The relationship is clear. A variety of experiences, apprentice programs, raptor camps, special events and more. We got up-close and personal with a Harris Hawk, Barn Owl, Eurasian Eagle owl, and the sweetest Spectacled Owl named Owlsley.
Situated about 60 miles from downtown Sacramento in the picturesque Gold Country foothills above the Central Valley, the drive up and down Springs Valley Road -- into the wilds of Yuba County -- is just a bonus. Views are lovely. An adventure worth seeking.
At the West Coast falconry center you too can have a unique interaction with these birds of prey and have them land on your gloved hand. These magnificent creatures serve a vital role controlling pest populations – rodents and other invasive bird species. For agriculture they provide pest abatement at local farms and, yes, could act as a ring bearer at you upcoming nuptials.
Wildflowers are adding color to the landscape in California State Parks. Word on the streets is that this year's desert wildflower bloom is road-trip worthy and happening right now! A dry winter and unseasonably warm spring have brought an earlier than usual wildflower season in many regions.
Now is a great time to discover what California State Parks have to offer. It’s always a good idea to call before your visit, conditions can change due to weather. Please remember to stay on marked trails, take photos not flowers, and Leave No Trace!
Here’s a sample of where to find spring colors in California State Parks:
Calaveras Big Trees State Park, four miles north east of Arnold on Highway 4, is known for its wildflowers in June, especially along the Lava Bluffs Trail. The park phone number is (209) 795-2334.
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY
Mount Diablo State Park is located in the heart of the Bay Area and is known for its "bloom with a view". With the winter rains, increasing day light, and the warmth of spring triggers a bloom for many of Mount Diablo's native wildflowers. There are a number of beautiful flowers to view, especially in the chaparral and near grassy hilltops. Come take in the bloom of brightly colored wildflowers and enjoy the view that only Mount Diablo can offer. For more information, call the park at (925) 837-2525.
DEL NOTRE COUNTY
Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, seven miles south of Crescent City on U.S. Highway 101, has magnificent displays of rhododendrons that can be seen from the highway as well as numerous roadside turnouts in April and May, depending on the warmth of the spring. For more information call the Redwood National and State Park information center at (707) 464-6101, extension 5064.
FRESNO and MADERA COUNTIES
Millerton Lake State Recreation Area, 20 miles northeast of Fresno, features spring flowers on the Blue Oak Trail, an easy walk. Visitors taking a more strenuous hike on the Buzzards Roost Trail can also find spring flowers.
Azalea State Reserve, five miles north of Arcata, preserves outstanding examples of azaleas that generally bloom in April and May. The reserve has a parking lot and trails. For more information call the sector office at (707) 488-2041.
Humboldt Redwoods State Park, 20 miles north of Garberville, provides excellent displays of wildflowers along the Avenue of the Giants. Visitors will find Humboldt Lilies and orchids in late March to April and Dogwood in April into early May, depending on the warmth of the spring. For more information call the park visitor center at (707) 946-2263.
HUMBOLDT AND DEL NORTE COUNTIES
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is 50 miles north of Eureka and 25 miles south of Crescent City on Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway off of Highway 101. Careful observers in the park will find beautiful but elusive orchids among the ancient redwood groves as well as more prominent displays of rhododendrons along the parkway in late March through May. For more information call the park visitor center at (707) 464-6101 extension 5300.
IMPERIAL, SAN DIEGO and RIVERSIDE COUNTIES
Many flowers are already in bloom at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, east of San Diego via Highways 78 and 79. Park botanists feel the height of the bloom will be the first two weeks in March. For information call (760) 767-4684 or go on-line to: http://www.anzaborrego.statepark.org/wildflowers.html
LOS ANGELES COUNTY
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, 15 miles west of Lancaster on Avenue I, generally features its greatest blooming period in March and April, depending on rain for the State’s flower. For more information, call the park at (661) 942-0662. Information and photos about the park can be found online at www.parks.ca.gov For recorded information about the poppy reserve and the blooms, call (661) 724-1180. Due to an usually warm March, the poppies have (mostly) come and gone. But there's still so much to see and enjoy at sunrise and sunset.
Mount Tamalpais State Park, North of San Francisco's Golden Gate, features spectacular and easily-accessed wildflowers each spring. Visitors can get to the park from Highway 101 take Highway 1 to the Stinson Beach exit and follow signs up the mountain. The park phone number is (415) 388-2070.
Olompali State Historic Park, three miles north of Novato on U.S. 101, also features spectacular and easily-accessed wildflowers each spring. The par entrance is accessible only to southbound traffic from Highway 101. The park phone number is (415) 892-3383.
The Ford House, the visitor center at Mendocino Headlands State Park, will have a fresh wildflower show featuring local specimens during the month of April. The park surrounds the town of Mendocino. The park phone number is (707) 937-5397.
Pacheco State Park is a good place to visit in April for wildflowers. The park is on Highway 152, located 20 miles east of Gilroy. The park phone number is (209) 826-1196.
San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area, 12 miles west of Los Banos on Highway 152, features spring wildflowers throughout the park. The park phone number is (209) 826-1196.
For late season wildflowers, Bodie State Historic Park, 13 miles east of Highway 395 on Bodie Road, is blooming when the rest of California is wilting. The park’s 8,500 feet elevation insures that July is colorful. The sage brush landscape provides unique mixing of plants from both the Great Basin and High Sierra. Call the park at (760) 647-6445 for more information.
Andrew Molera State Park, 21 miles south of Carmel on Highway 1, features several different trails that display a variety of springtime flowers. The most popular is the Headlands Trail, which winds through a riparian forest, an open meadow, and onto a coastal bluff overlooking the Big Sur River mouth. Nearly every color of the rainbow is represented in the park's wildflowers, including lizardtail, common yarrow, California lilac, yellow bush lupine, seaside painted cup, sticky monkey flower, sea lettuce, California poppies, seaside daisies, seacliff buckwheat, black sage, and Douglas iris. This is a relatively flat, easy two mile round trip hike with two sets of stairs. For more information, call the park at (831) 667-2315.
Carmel River State Beach can be reached from Highway 1 in Carmel via Ocean Avenue and Scenic Road. Wildflowers can be found along the bluff trail. For more information call Point Lobos State Reserve at (831) 624-4909.
Garrapata State Park, 6.7 miles south of Rio Road in Carmel, features the Soberanes canyon/ridge trail that winds through meadows, a riparian zone, a lovely redwood grove and an exposed coastal ridge. On certain sections of this trail visitors may feel that they’re swimming through flowers, which can include Shooting Stars, Johnny Jump Ups, Blue Dicks, Golden Buttercup, Elegant Clarkia, Goldfields, Douglas Iris, Checkerbloom, Star Zygadine, Fushia-flowered Gooseberry, Trillium, Tidy Tips, Footsteps of Spring and a fantastic variety of Bush Lupine. Visitors can also encounter the more common Monkey Flower, Seaside Painted Cups, Coyote Brush, Lizard Tail Yarrow, Mock Heather and Poppies. Visitors are advised that this is not a particularly easy hike. The first couple of miles are relatively flat and easy but the ridge can only be reached by a steep climb. For more information call Point Lobos State Reserve at (831) 624-4909.
Point Lobos State Reserve, three miles south of Carmel on Highway 1, features a fairly easy hike with coastal bluff flowers. The park phone number is (831) 624-4909.
Salinas River State Beach, 16 miles north of Monterey and one mile south of Moss Landing, has a nice section of wildflowers along the boardwalk at Molera Road. The contact phone number is (831) 649-2976.
Zmudowski State Beach, one mile north of Moss Landing, features wildflowers in late spring, although many of them on non-natives. The contact phone number is (831) 649-2976.
Guided wildflower walks will be offered at South Yuba River State Park this spring. The guided walks will be on Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. The walks will be docent led. The meeting place will be at the South Yuba River State Park at Bridgeport in Penn Valley (Nevada County) Also, special group led wildflower walks will be offered by reservation. The walk is along a Historic Water Ditch with scenic views overlooking the South Yuba River. For more information, contact (530) 432-2546.
SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY
Montaña de Oro State Park, seven miles south of Los Osos on Pecho Valley Road, can feature hills covered with poppies, lupines, sticky monkey flowers, wild radish and mustard. Best time to visit is April and May. For more information call (805) 528-0513 Thursday through Sunday, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
SANTA CLARA and STANISLAUS COUNTIES
Henry W. Coe State Park, in the mountains south and east of San Jose, is a wonderful place to see spring wildflowers. Early in the year visitors may see white milkmaids, blue hounds tongue, or yellow buttercups. As spring progresses, the flowers become more numerous with goldfields, owls clover, butter and eggs, columbine, delphinium, and may more. Visitors might even get lucky and see the tiny purple mouse ears. Short wildflower walks - less than two miles and less than two hours - are given every Sunday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. from the middle of March through the Memorial Day Weekend. For more information see the park website at www.coepark.org. The park phone number is (408) 779-2728.
McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, 11 miles northeast of Burney on Highway 89, features a variety of wildflowers in the spring. The park phone number is (530) 335-2777
SHASTA and SISKIYOU COUNTIES
Castle Crags State Park, six miles south of Dunsmuir on I-5, has a variety of wildflowers in the spring. The park phone number is (530) 235-2684.
Kruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve, directly adjacent to Salt Point State Park north of Jenner, features a beautiful second-growth redwood forest mixed with Douglas Fir, Grand firs, Tanoaks and many Rhododendrons. Each May the green of the forest is punctuated by patches of pink as the rhododendrons bust into bloom. The wealth of rhododendrons is a direct result of normal plant succession patterns following a severe fire that once occurred here. Today, the regenerating forest is gradually overwhelming the rhododendrons. For more information, call the park at (707) 847-3221.
Woodson Bridge State Recreation Area, six miles east of Corning and I-5 on South Avenue, has a variety of spring wildflowers. The park phone number is (530) 839-2112.
Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, in Jamestown, features Wildflower Trains on April 11 and April 18, 2015. The special afternoon train departs from the Railtown 1897 Depot at 3:30 p.m. these two Saturdays only. Prior to boarding the train, passengers will have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with wildflowers of the Sierra Nevada foothills. The train features Interpretive Park Rangers who answer questions and point out flower groupings along the scenic journey through the Gold Country. Train capacity is limited, and reservations are suggested. Call (209) 984-3953. Regular steam-powered excursion trains also depart on-the-hour from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.