In Spring, kissed by winter rains, Sonoma County bursts with a colorful array of wildflowers, including deep orange poppies, bright blue iris, purple lupine, snowy milkmaids, yellow buttercups, blue-eyed grass, pink wild rose, and many other species.
So why not slip into a pair of hiking boots and hit the trail? You'll find dazzling color just about anywhere you go in this big, beautiful county, but here are 10 sure-fire walks guaranteed to expand your appreciation of wildflowers:
Stillwater Cove Regional Park (Jenner)
Located on the ruggedly beautiful northern Sonoma coast, Stillwater Cove is known for spectacular wildflower displays. These include many fairly rare varieties such as striped coral root, trillium, redwood violet, and thimbleberry. Stillwater Cove's 3.19 miles of trails wind beside creeks, beneath soaring redwoods, and through lush fern canyons (and a short trail detour will bring you to the historic Fort Ross Schoolhouse built in 1885).
Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve (Northern Coast near Gualala)
Late April and May are the best times of the year to glory in the Reserve’s spectacular rhododendron blooms—vibrant pink flowers that seem to glow against the surrounding green forest of second-growth redwoods, Douglas fir and tanbark oak. Five miles of hiking trails weave through the rustic Reserve, the spring streams are running, and you'll also see lots of ferns and coast-loving wildflowers.
Steelhead Beach Regional Park, Forestville
The intact ecosystem here, running beside the Russian River, offers the chance to see unique riparian plants and river wildlife. That includes forests, scrub thickets, and salmon habitats. Bring lunch, as the park contains a picnic area with barbecue grills. The parks department provides an online pdf map of Steelhead, too.
Sonoma Valley Regional Park (Glen Ellen)
In spring, 162-acre Sonoma Valley Regional Park is usually bursting at the seams with wildflowers. The beginning part of the walk is on a 1.2-miled paved, ADA-accessible path; others can continue on the dirt trail.
Sonoma Coast State Park (17 miles long, from Bodega Head to 4 miles north of Jenner)
Two excellent trails—Kortum and Pomo Canyon — begin at Shell Beach, located at about the park’s coastal midway point. Kortum Trail proceeds straight along cliff tops to Goat Rock, a beloved local landmark with a wonderful beach for tide-pooling. It’s a relatively easy hike, about five miles round trip. Pomo Canyon Trail leaves Shell Beach and heads east, crossing Highway 1 and then traveling upward into a redwood forest with a waterfall. This is a moderate hike, approximately 7 miles round trip.
Riverfront Regional Park (Windsor)
An easy hike with lots of wildflowers, the 3.12-mile trail at this family-friendly park next to the Russian River is great for small kids and slow walkers. Bring lunch (there's a picnic area with BBQs, volleyball court, and horseshoe pit); bass fishing is permitted in the two small lakes.
Crane Creek Regional Park (Rohnert Park)
With its broad grassy meadows and bubbling seasonal creek, the 128-acre park — which offers 3.5 miles of trails — is a great place to enjoy spring wildflowers; it’s particularly known for its brilliant display of cheery orange poppies, the official California state flower. Picnic tables are located throughout the park, and there's also an 18-hole disc golf course.
Offering stunning views of the Santa Rosa Plain, this 1,100-acre sit has four miles of trails along two routes — and it's renowned for spring wildflower displays.
Foothill Regional Park (Windsor)
Home to 6.8 miles of tree-shaded trails and three small fishing lakes, 211-acres Foothill hosts a diverse variety of wildflowers in early spring, including large amounts of the beautiful blue sky lupine, as well as poppies, sun cups, blue dicks, shooting stars, and other spring blooms.
Helen Putnam Regional Park (Petaluma)
This 216-acre park offers 6 miles of trails with ridgetops that offer far-ranging views of southern Sonoma County and northern Marin County. In spring, the sweeping meadows are liberally sprinkled with wildflowers, and throughout the year you'll enjoy the gazebo, a children’s play area, and a large fishing pond.
Written and photos #3 and #4 by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez.