Whether you’re used to warmer climates or quite content in the cold, there’s no denying that spring is a pretty wonderful time of the year. All the life that seems to have been hiding within the earth emerges, and the world seems to become a more colorful, brighter, livelier place. If you happen to be in Northern California during the spring and summer months, you’ll find that HI USA has some pretty sweet spots to do some Julie Andrews “Hills Are Alive” spinning around amongst beautiful blooms (or just regular viewing and photo snapping if you’re not the spinning type). Pack a picnic and pile in a car with some of your new hostel friends to enjoy some of nature’s most delicious eye-treats, because there’s probably nothing more bonding than getting to see how simple and wonderful the world can be.
Chimney Rock at Point Reyes National Seashore
Considered to be one of the best places in the Bay Area for wildflower viewing, the Chimney Rock trailhead in the Point Reyes National Seashore is a favorite of hikers and photographers from March to May because of the spectacular display of bright yellow goldfields, golden orange California poppies and royal purple spikes of lupine carpeting the dramatic cliffs. It’s a fairly easy hike to get to the wildflowers (provided there’s no fog or wind) and you’re also likely to get bonus sightings of seals, birds, and possibly even some gray whales if you’re there in mid-March. Bring some snacks to enjoy at the picnic benches where you can take in the breathtaking combination of sea, sky and flowers.
How to get there: The trail start at the end of Sir Francis Drake road near the Point Reyes Lighthouse. From December to late March, Sir Francis Drake road is closed and there are shuttle buses from the Bear Valley Visitors Center.
Where to stay: HI Point Reyes hostel makes for an excellent base to do some exploring in this national park.
Mt. Tamalpais State Park in Mill Valley
Bursts of pretty purples, pinks and yellows await on the northern side of the Golden Gate Bridge in Mount Tamalpais State Park, which has a diverse range of trails for everyone from the casual hiker to the seasoned pro. Lupines and poppies dominate the landscape for most of the spring and summer, and if you happen to be there at the right time of the year (between late March and early April) you may even be treated to some magical wild orchids and deep violet irises. With the expansive Pacific sparkling blue on one side, and the kaleidoscope of flora on the other, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’ve somehow stumbled straight into heaven.
How to get there: Parking is available at the mountain’s East Peak Trailhead, which is the easiest trail from which you can see the flowers. The Stinson Beach exit up the mountain is the most convenient when coming north up along Highway 1.
Where to stay: Mount Tamalpais State Park is about a 40 minute drive from HI Marin Headlands hostel.
Pacific Grove in Monterey
Rent a bicycle and hug the shore along the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail, an 18-mile stretch in Monterey that leads to a striking sea of pinkish-purple ice plants at its south end in Pacific Grove. From early April through to the end of May, these almost fluorescent succulents shimmer brightly competing with the sea and the weather-beaten boulders between The Esplanade and Lover’s Point. There are benches dotted along the way so you can take a second (or many) to just breathe in the salty air and take in the magenta magnificence.
How to get there: The Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail is just a few blocks from HI Monterey hostel and there are plenty of places to rent bikes from.
Where to stay: The charming HI Monterey hostel!
McLaughlin’s Daffodil Hill near Sacramento
When William Wordsworth wrote his famous ode to hosts of golden daffodils, it’s not likely that he was anywhere near Sacramento, though the poem is very much applicable in this part of this world too – particularly at McLaughlin’s Farm, also known as Daffodil Hill. The family-run property opens up each spring when these sun-yellow bulbs are in bloom, and guests get to wander amongst four acres of 300-odd named varieties of daffodils. The farm generally opens from the middle of March through the first weeks of April, but it all depends on the whims of Mother Nature how long the blooms will last. If you don’t want to venture too far out of Sacramento, the State Capitol Park World Peace Rose Garden is a great place to visit for some serenity amongst nature’s jewels.
How to get there: Daffodil Hill is about an hour-and-a-half drive from Sacramento and easily accessible via Highway 16.
Where to stay: HI Sacramento hostel makes for a convenient and comfy base.
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