Take a break from spring cleaning and go spring hiking. It’s getting warmer, and that means snowmelt is creating flowing waterfalls, wildflowers are blooming across California, and you can soak up some sun. While all the redwood parks deserve a visit, here are recommendations that can make your spring trips special. From whales to delicate flowers, there’s something for everyone this season.
Head out to Mount Tamalpais State Park in April or May to see migrating whales and amazing ocean views from high points along the coast — just north of San Francisco. Every spring, 20,000 gray whales head from Mexico toward Alaska to their feeding area, and you can see them on their way. Bring your binoculars and look from the Coast View Trail and the western portion of the Matt Davis Trail. For a closer view, try the Steep Ravine cabins or campground, and make a weekend out of it. It’s easiest to spot spouts when the ocean is calm. Don’t miss the redwoods and waterfall along Steep Ravine Trail.
As temperatures start to rise, head out to the peaceful oasis that is Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park near Santa Cruz. If it’s warm enough, or you’re adventurous enough, take a swim at the Garden of Eden, a swimming hole in the San Lorenzo River. The pool is most popular in the summer, meaning spring could be the season to get a little peace and quiet by the water.
For those who would rather pedal than hike, Arcata Community Forest has several great mountain biking trails. Just a short drive from downtown Arcata, the park has several miles of trails for beginner and intermediate riders, including the Community Forest Loop Road, a relatively flat and wide double-track. Trails are open to hikers and runners as well. Take a break to look for wildflowers, such as the beautiful, white trilliums that bloom in early spring throughout the redwood range.
It’s the season for an incredible display of white dogwood blossoms among the giant sequoia at Calaveras Big Trees State Park , a Sierra Nevada jewel. Take the Lava Bluff Trail off of Memorial Parkway to experience a variety of environments, and all the different flowers that go with them, including Hartweg’s iris, crimson columbine, monkey-flower, harvest brodiaea, snow plant, wild hyacinth, and lupine. Wear sturdy shoes, because this 2.5-mile loop trail has many steep sections, including some with challenging footing.
North of Leggett, off California’s Highway 101, Smithe Redwoods State Natural Reserve offers majestic old-growth coast redwoods and an amazing 60-foot-tall waterfall. While there is no visitor center, you can enjoy the beautiful and serene Frank and Bess Smithe Grove, as well as a picnic area, and fishing and swimming in the south fork of the Eel River. After enjoying the grove, take the trail that leads to Dora Creek Falls from the parking area. The trail is 0.25 miles beginning from the parking lot on the west side of the highway leading to the falls, which are on the east side near Dora Creek Bridge.