A “super bloom” of wildflowers this spring

This spring is going to be a “super bloom” of wildflowers, thanks to welcome El Niño rains after a prolonged drought. The biggest explosion of wildflowers in a decade is expected at Death Valley, one of the hottest and driest places on Earth.

In April, orange-and-gold California poppies carpet the hillsides in the foothills around Auburn, Grass Valley and Nevada City, one of the state’s best areas for wildflower hunting. Brightly colored wildflowers pop out of the American River Canyon and along the trails above the wild and scenic South Yuba River.

At Lake Tahoe, the snow plant, a striking red flower, emerges from the snow in spring. Fields of lupine appear around historic Truckee and on Donner Summit.

The blooms go on and on. In the Sierra “spring” typically doesn’t begin until July, and the wildflowers in places such as Yosemite High Country are in their prime in late summer.

The Tioga Pass road, climbing as high as 9,943 feet, is ideal for viewing Indian paintbrush, Shooting Stars, Western Columbine and other mountain wildflowers all summer long.

For those who can’t wait for High Sierra wildflowers, Daffodil Hill in Amador County opens its gates for the 76th season in March. The hill is carpeted with about 300,000 bulbs when in full bloom. It remains open until fewer than 25 percent of its daffodil blooms remain.

Just outside of Nevada City in Nevada County CA, “Springtime at Ananda” features 16,000 and 90 varieties of mid- and late-season Dutch tulips. The gardens are open every day in April from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

On the weekends of April 9-10 and 16-17, visitors can chat with the lead gardener, refresh with tea and maple scones at the gardens, or enjoy a picnic lunch.

The wildflower walks at South Yuba State Park also are a springtime tradition. State Park docents lead guided walks each Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., at least until Mother’s Day, May 8. Depending on how the flowers are blooming, the wildflower walks could go to mid-May.

The Buttermilk Bend Trail, which winds above the South Yuba River, is famous for the species that bloom on its hills and slopes, from Western Buttercups, Larkspur and Shooting Stars to Fairy Lanterns, Chinese Houses and Bird’s Eye Gilia.

Guided hikes last about two hours along the Buttermilk Bend Trail, an easy 2.5 mile round trip hike. To make your trip complete, visit the park Visitor Center, see the covered bridge (currently under restoration) and barn, both built in 1862, and the restored 1920s gas station.

(Photo: Elizabeth Carmel)

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