Spring is here and with it comes spectacular displays of wildflowers all around Mendocino County.
After the severe drought, which reduced Lake Mendocino to a large puddle, this body of water is now full and is a great place for hiking and wildflower spotting. Take the Shakota Trail on the west side for premium bloom spotting. This moderate hike of seven miles one way is perfect for seeing wildflowers throughout the seasons.
The hikes around the lake are where you'll spot Indian Warriors and Iris in March, while April brings Diogenes' Lanterns, which are easy to spot with their golden nodding flowers, and Blue-eyed Grass and Mule Ears. Mariposa lilies blanket one particular meadow in May and occasionally you'll catch a glimpse of Firecracker Lilies. This is also a great place for bird-watching; if you're lucky, you'll see the bald eagles that nest at the lake.
Low Gap Park
The two park trails offer lots of wildflower opportunities: City View Trail and Canyon Creek Trails. In the spring and very early summer, you can see the vernal pool on City View Trail. Vernal—or ephemeral— pools are very fragile environments that teem with life, so observe only. Hike up through the grasslands to the forested areas and on the way see Ithuriel's Spear, Larkspur, Hound's Tongue, Mission Bells, and Monkeyflowers. Combine the two trails for a 4+ mile loop with spectacular views of the Ukiah Valley.
Coastal Mendocino County
Growing abundantly on the cliffs and headlands north of Fort Bragg and near Manchester State Park, seaside daisies produces waves of lavender blooms offset against the coastal grasses. Hike along the Haul Road north of Fort Bragg to see coastal buckwheat and stunning displays of Mendocino Paintbrush, considered an endangered plant. Yellow and blue lupines dot the coastal meadows as do the bright dots of poppies, which due to the coastal environment, display a variety of shapes and colors.
Woods and Forests
The winding back roads of Mendocino County offer many opportunities for wildflower spotting. Madrones and manzanitas are distributed throughout Mendocino County and are easy locate, with the distinctive bark and blooms. Montgomery Woods, on Orr Springs Road, is home to Trillium, Iris, and Wake Robins, all of which relish the damp and shady conditions. Calypso and Leopard Orchids are signs of spring and can be found along Orr Springs Road and in the Fern Canyon at Russian Gulch.