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Spring Hikes with Mustard And Wildflowers

Sonoma County’s wild, wonderful mustard is back!  

The mustard plant is always at its most vibrant in February, and this year is no exception. Just about everywhere you travel in the county you’ll see the delicate, bright-yellow flowers carpeting the wintertime meadows, hillsides and—with spectacular flourish—vineyards, reminding us that spring is approaching.

Our wild mustard also ushers in the wildflower season, when numerous species and colors of native flowers blanket meadows, climb hills and transform every hike into an unforgettablae springtime memory. And this year’s generous winter rains, following on a few dry years, may produce one of the best wildflower seasons in years.

So lace up your hiking boots, dress in layers for changing weather, and take yourself off on one of these pre-spring guided hikes. Acacia trees will be blooming with their fuzzy, bright-yellow pompoms, most other plants will be budding, and early-blooming wildflowers will have begun to appear on the scene.

Saturday, February 20: Environmental Discovery Center, Spring Lake Regional Park, 1-4 p.m. – Enjoy a Family Nature Walk geared to kids. Led by a naturalist from the Discovery Center, the hike will highlight whatever plants are blooming, as well as local wildlife. The hikes are free; parking is $7 (free for Regional Parks members).

Saturday, February 27: Bouverie Preserve, 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. – Experience the beauty of the Preserve’s remarkably diverse terrain, which includes oak woodlands, grasslands, riparian woodlands, and vernal pools, and many wildflowers (including rare varieties). Hikers will be divided into small groups and paired with a knowledgeable Bouverie volunteer before taking off to explore; you’ll also learn about the birds, mammals, reptiles and insects that live or migrate through here. Hikes are free; donations appreciated.

Sunday, March 13: Jack London State Historic Park, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.  – Park naturalist John Lynch will lead hikers on a gentle, slow-paced 5-mile nature walk that features early blooming wildflowers (perhaps Indian Warrior, Mission Bells, Canyon Delphinium, Hound’s Tongue and Western Trillium), as well as mushrooms and birds and other animals. Fee: $10, and additional $10 fee for parking. More info: www.jacklondonpark.com

If you’d rather take off hiking on your own, here are a few good bets for pre-spring trails that will likely be abloom:

Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve (near Gualala). The rhododendron blooms are at their height of beauty in April and May, but they’re underway in March. While you’re here, visit nearby Salt Point State Park’s Pygmy Forest—a treat at any time of the year.

Sonoma Coast State Park, which runs from just north of Bodega Head to 4 miles past Jenner, offers a great trail running across seaside cliff tops. The Kortum Trail begins at Shell Beach and heads north to Goat Rock, near the Russian River’s outlet.

Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve in Santa Rosa is known for spring wildflower displays—particularly buttercups, which tend to bloom in early February—and you’ll also get wonderful views of the Santa Rosa Plain.

Foothill Regional Park in Windsor is another park famed for its wildflowers, which include blue sky lupine, blue dicks, shooting stars, and poppies.

Find more mustard viewing spots here: The Magic of Mustard in the Vineyards

Get a free Sonoma County map here.

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