5 Wildflower Walks in the South Bay
Recent rains in Silicon Valley and beyond are slowly turning our hills a verdant green. Soon to follow are stunning wildflower blooms that will blanket meadows, hillsides, and open spaces in the South Bay and on the Peninsula.
This abundance of beauty, along with gorgeous weather, makes the spring an ideal time to get outdoors and explore local trails and open spaces. There are hikes, trails, and pathways for every level of ability — from those looking for a leisurely stroll with pets or children to others wanting a more strenuous workout.
1. Arastradero Creek Loop Hike – Pearson-Arastradero Preserve
With over ten miles of trails to traverse, one of the most scenic is the 3.7-mile round trip Arastradero Creek Loop Hike in Palo Alto. Rolling hills carpeted in lush grasses and oak trees are home to various wildlife, including quail, cottontail rabbits, and redwing blackbirds. Not far off of highway 280, nature lovers will be treated to expansive, colorful views filled with wild roses, blackberry bushes, California poppies, and yellow fiddleneck. Sun-soaked south-facing hillsides will offer the most abundant wildflower blooms. Dogs on leash are allowed on this trail. With only 300 feet of elevation during the loop hike, it is a relatively easy path but plan for at least a two-hour adventure to complete the entire loop trail.
2. Arrowhead Loop – Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve
A sight to behold year-round, spring is incredibly stunning in the wide-open spaces of the 348-acre Coyote Valley preserve. Wildlife is abundant, from turkeys, vultures, and hawks to deer, bobcats, and, as the park’s name suggests, coyotes. The four-mile Arrowhead Loop trail takes from two to three hours and gains only 575 feet in elevation. Because of the abundant wildlife, dogs are not allowed on this packed dirt pathway, but it is a perfect place to hone your photography skills. There are undulating hillsides, rock outcroppings, sculptural oak trees, flowing creeks, meadows of orange poppies, white yarrow, pink coyote mint, and views galore. This preserve can be accessed from Highway 101, taking the Bailey Avenue exit to Santa Teresa Boulevard.
3. Bald Hills Loop – Calero County Park
On the southern outskirts of San Jose is Calero County Park, a remote respite bursting with beautiful vistas of the Santa Clara Valley, Diablo Range, and Santa Cruz Mountains. The 8.4-mile hike takes from six to seven hours and ascends to over 2,000 feet, so be sure to come prepared with food and water. Spectacular wildflower displays include yellow tidy tups, Indian Paintbrush, and sticky monkey flower. Butterflies flit around the hillsides, which are accented by ancient, gnarled oak trees. Dogs on leash are allowed. Visitors can access Calero Park from either Highway 101 at the Bailey Avenue exit or from Highway 85, taking Almaden Expressway to McKean.
4. Ridge Loop – Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve
South of Los Altos Hills off of Skyline Boulevard is the Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve and the Ridge Loop Trail. Poppies and lupine flourish in spring, followed by gumweed, mules ears, farewell-to-spring, and brodiaea in the early summer months. A bird-lovers paradise, golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, and Cooper’s hawk soar through the sky. A plethora of habitats and terrain dot the landscape, from canyons and forests to meadows and creeks. The 3.6-mile packed dirt loop gains 600 feet of elevation and will take about two hours round-trip. For a jaw-dropping panoramic view of the entire Bay Area, it’s worth it to climb Borel Hill.
5. River Trail – Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Just off Highway 9 south of Felton is an easy hike of only 2 miles that should take no more than an hour. The River Trail in Henry Cowell Redwoods is awe-inspiring. You’ll meander through towering old-growth redwoods and then along the lush banks of the San Lorenzo River. Stellar’s jays and blue herons call this area home, and steelhead trout swim in the clear waters of the river. The ground is carpeted with shade-loving blooms in spring, including magenta common trillium, pale pink bleed heart, and redwood sorrel.
Some guidelines suggested by the Open Space Trust when going on wildflower hikes:
Stay on-trail: this keeps habitats and species pristine and avoids damage to delicate plants and their environment.
Please don’t pick any flowers: This ensures they will return in abundance in following seasons.
Keep dogs on a leash (if allowed) at all times: This also keeps habitats intact and avoids any interactions with wildlife.
Clean your boots: Dirt, pollen, and seeds may find their way into the soles of your shoes or hiking boots. Cleaning them between each outing helps minimize the spread of invasive species of plants from one area into another.
It is always wise to check the weather forecast, bring a jacket, snacks, and water. Be sure to wear appropriate shoes or hiking boots and carry a face mask if you cannot maintain at least six feet of space from other hikers.
The beauty, warmth, and colors of spring beckon us outdoors. We are so fortunate in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area to have access to so much nature. Beaches, mountains, hillsides, meadows…they’re all around us begging to be explored.
For even more wildflower hikes, download the Peninsula Open Space Trust guide.