Mount Tamalpais overlooking Stinson Beach
Wildflowers in the Marin Headlands
Mount Tamalpais with San Francisco in the background
Posted in Blogging Marin on Wednesday, March 9, 2016 by MCVB Staff
By Megan Eileen McDonough
Come springtime, Marin County comes alive with thousands of wildflowers that pop up in valleys, plains and meadows. Everywhere from Marin Headlands’ ridges to the sand dunes is covered in wildflowers from late March through August. In total, the county has 33 open space preserves, including the Golden Gate National Recreation area and the Point Reyes Seashore, and, as such, Marin is home to some very rare and even exotic wildflowers.
Here are five of the best local hiking trails for spotting these colorful flowers in full bloom.
1. Abbotts Lagoon, Point Reyes National Seashore
Length: 2 miles
If you're looking for a leisurely stroll without breaking a sweat, do a loop around Abbotts Lagoon. Not only is this a prime spot for wildflower watching, but there's also excellent birdwatching. Make sure to snap some photos along the bridge that overlooks the lagoon. You’re in for quite a treat, we promise! If you're up for the challenge, head to the Great Beach, which is an extra half-mile jaunt on the sand, before returning to the loop.
2. The Yolanda Trail in Ross Valley, Mount Tamalpais
Length: 5.25 miles
Located on the north slope of Mount Tamalpais and across from the Golden Gate Bridge, the Yolanda Trail is easily one of our favorite spring wildflower hikes. It's a popular hike not only with hikers but with trail runners and equestrians, too. Sorry, no mountain bikes allowed! As the flowers bloom, you'll be able to see everything from sticky monkey flowers and white milkmaids to Indian paintbrushes.
3. Estero-Glenbrook-Muddy Hollow Road Loop, Point Reyes National Seashore
Skill: Beginner to intermediate
Length: 7 miles
Another great hike for spotting spring wildflowers is the Estero-Glenbrook-Muddy Hollow Road Loop. This area was actually burned back in 1995 by the Vision Fire, and now there are bishop pine trees growing where there used to be open grassland. Compared to other areas of the park, this trail isn't as frequented, so you might just get all the flowers to yourself. Keep an eye out for clovers, irises and California buttercups.
4. Chimney Rock, Point Reyes National Seashore
Length: 1.6 miles
Seeing a trend here? Wildflowers bloom in many areas of Point Reyes, as you’ve probably noticed, but the best viewpoints are in the woodlands, grasslands, beach dunes, scrublands and even salt marsh edges. Therefore, Chimney Rock is one of the prime locations for spotting the most vibrant varieties. The view from the top is pretty spectacular, and if you’re lucky, you might even see some elephant seals lounging lazily on the beach.
5. Coastal Trail, Marin Headlands
Length: 5.5 miles
This challenging but rewarding hike leads from Rodeo Beach to Hill 88 in the Marin Headlands. Since you're essentially hiking up the hill, expect a steep incline. Once at the top, take a breather and enjoy the bird's-eye views of Golden Gate National Recreation Area. On your descent, head down via the Wolf Ridge Trail and Miwok Trail. You'll pass along Rodeo Lagoon and will see lots and lots of colorful wildflowers, too.
Rules of the Road
As tempting as it might be to reach out and pick a wildflower, doing so is strongly discouraged. The best policy is to admire them with your eyes and not with your hands. After all, there are several rare and endangered plants in Marin, like the lady's slipper orchid and the adder's tongue. In fact, picking these varietals might actually get you in some serious trouble, as they are protected under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act. That said, they are rare for a reason, so it's unlikely you'll stumble upon them.
Hiking Safety Tips
Before you go traipsing through the fields in search of wildflowers, make sure you’ve packed all the essentials. Several of these trails are on the long side, so bring plenty of water with you. While the weather will likely be warm in the spring and summer, it never hurts to pack a rain jacket or a sweater in the event of surprise storms. Keep an eye on your surroundings, in case you wander off the beaten path. Many trails are well marked, but some areas are rather remote. With so much hiking, you're bound to get hungry along the way. Pack a few protein-loaded bars or munch on trail mix.
For all you need to plan your Marin County vacation, visit the Marin Convention and Visitors Bureau’s website or Facebook page, or download the mobile app.
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