From seaside daisies on the coast to poppies aplenty in Palo Alto, check out our guide to Peninsula preserves and trails showcasing the best blooms.Less
Purchased and managed by the city of Palo Alto since the ‘70s, Pearson-Arastradero Preserve has over 10 miles of trails easily accessible off I-280 (Page Mill Road exit west). The Arastradero Creek Trail is a relatively easy, one-way 1.44-mile trail with moderate hills. The gravel and dirt trail is nice and wide in most locations. There’s little shade, so go early in the season for the best showing and to avoid the heat.
There are plenty of trails to explore at this Midpeninsula park. Follow the Clarkia Trail to the Sunset Trail, and then pick up the Serpentine Trail where the serpentine soil nurtures special natives. Look for chick lupine and purple coyote mint, an endemic wildflower that is limited to California. Western monarchs love to feed off this native’s pollen, so keep an eye out for this butterfly species that is experiencing an unexpected resurgence.
Spectacular views of the hills and ocean are on display at this popular trail. Access is easy just south of Poplar Beach on Highway 1. The 3.7-mile trail (each way) begins with a pleasant walk that meanders through meadows and agricultural land before you hit the cliffs and turn south. There’s a good opportunity to see hawks and pelicans as you search for native wildflowers. Seaside daisy (Erigeron glaucus) and common yarrow (Achillia millefolium) are always in bloom.
There are lots of trail options at this 3,000-acre preserve. Start at the Ridge Trail where Page Mill Road and Highway 35 meet on the northwest corner. Take the trail to the top of Borel Hill and soak in the 360-degree views. Continue to the Ancient Oaks and Charquin trails for a full 5.7-mile loop. You might spot vibrant red Indian paintbrush or white Fernald’s Iris on sloping sunny hillsides. Look for western houndstongue, which is part of the borage family and thrives under the shade of oaks.
Pulgas Ridge sits directly on the San Andreas fault line, so it’s not surprising that there’s serpentine soil in these hills. Take the Blue Oaks Trail to Hassler Loop. While you’re exploring the hills, look for magenta-hued Indian warrior (Pedicularis densiflora), a native perennial herb that blooms early in the season. It’s often found on slopes and attracts hummingbirds. Davy’s centaury (Zeltnera davyi) is a small pink native annual that blooms later in the season usually beginning in May.
Don’t let the looming hill intimidate you from making the hike to the top of Mori Point to spot coastal native wildflowers. Instead of starting at the Old Mori Point trailhead, mix things up and start your hike by walking the promenade that parallels Sharp Park Beach. When you reach the base of the bluff, go left to join Old Mori Trail to avoid the Bootlegger Steps. Look for creamy-yellow coastal tidy tips and vibrant yellow California goldfields that often grow together.