With springtime comes the search for wildflower walks to enjoy the multicolored beauty of sometimes fleeting blooms. Sierra foothills wildflowers are everywhere as are relatively easy hikes to view them – you just have to know where since you often can’t see the blooms from a road.
One hidden spot is off the so-called Foresthill Divide Loop trail in Placer County, only a few miles off Interstate 80 and fromAuburn.
Although the Foresthill Divide Loop — popular with runners and mountain bikers — is about 11 miles (including the little access trail near the west parking lot), you don’t have to go very far to find Sierra wildflowers. However, if you do want to go farther, there are loads of places along the trail that will take you even deeper into the beautiful Auburn State Recreation Area and along the Western States Trail too. But that’s another story. You seek Sierra foothills wildflowers.
Hide and seek with Sierra foothills wildflowers
Remember, we can’t tell you when the wildflowers will appear since every season varies, from approximately March to May at this elevation, but in 2015, they were out in late March and will hang on a bit longer. We’ve seen amazing poppy fields as late as May. Normally at this elevation your Sierra foothills wildflower hike will include a mix of lupine, Indian paintbrush, poppies, purpleheads (a.k.a. blue dicks … don’t ask….), wild clematis and others.
Once you exit 80 at Foresthill / Auburn Ravine Road, head east on Foresthill Road toward Foresthill. After about a mile you cross the North Fork of the American River on the Foresthill Bridge, which is a classic in itself – renown for a stunt in the 2002 movie “xXx,” in which Vin Diesel’s character drives a red Corvette off the span and parachutes out. At 731 feet above the riverbed, it is the highest bridge in California. It opened in 1973 and is worth a quick stop at the east side. Don’t try to replicate Vin Diesel’s Corvette trick though.
West trailhead for Foresthill Divide Loop
The west trailhead for the Foresthill Divide Loop is another 3.5 miles past the bridge. Keep a sharp eye open for the small lot on the right. Don’t go zipping by the U.S. Forest Service gate in your search of Sierra foothills wildflowers!
Unless you have a state park pass, you will need to pay $10 for parking there. Be sure to have exact change. You’ll stick your cash in an envelope and into the so-called “iron ranger” at the gate. (There are a few free-parking turnouts a bit up the road, but we believe in supporting the parks since we want to enjoy maintained trails and truly love having a port-a-potty too!)
Stepping out on your Sierra foothills wildflower hike
After stepping over the “walking gate,” head 100 feet or so up the little hill and bear left immediately. Off you go on your Sierra foothills wildflower walk! After about a half-mile you come to a Y. Bear right there and away from the busy road. After about another half-mile (there is a 1–mile marker on the right) you’ll see an unsigned little path to your right that is most definitely well traveled. Head out that way. You can go about another half-mile or so before it basically ends with great views over the American River. Those looking for derring-do could scramble farther, but we don’t advise it. All along the way you will start seeing flowers of one sort or another, especially when the hill is a sunny south-facing slope.
Click here to access an informational two-page sheet by the state parks about the trail with a small map of the immediate Auburn State Recreation Area.
Enjoy your Sierra foothills wildflowers hike!
Map of California
In the map below, pins mark the exact location of all the sites mentioned in our articles on California. Zoom in or out on the map using the controls. Switch easily from map to satellite view. Click on each pin to pull up a tooltip with the name and any additional information.
Villagio Inn and Spa
Feather River Fish Hatchery
Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve
Table Mountain Preserve
Spring Wildflowers - Foresthill Divide Loop Trail
Lynch Canyon Open Space Preserve
Wofford Acres Vineyards
Apple Ridge Farms
Larsen Apple Barn
Smokey Ridge Farmstand and Charcuterie
Allez French restaurant
UC Davis Arboretum
Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History
Alhambra Theater Historic Site - Sacramento
Today, the former movie showplace is not much of a show. And not many folks seem to even be aware of the meaning of these palm trees, and non-functioning fountain as they dash in and out of the store for groceries. A plaque that was said to be placed there was nowhere to be found when I visited. Read our story here.
Palo Corona Regional Park - Carmel
South Yuba River State Park - Bridgeport
Underground Gardens - Fresno
The Underground Gardens is what it sounds like: A weaving labyrinth of caverns, rooms and passages all dug underground and filled with fruit trees, vines and plants in spaces that open to the sky. This oddity was built – or shall we say, dug – by Italian immigrant Baldassare Forestiere for about 38 years starting in 1906.