Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wildflower hikes in San Luis Obispo County

From Carrizo Plain National Monument in the east to Montaña de Oro State Park in the west, San Luis Obispo County is awash in color. Wildflowers are already showing their heads now, thanks to recent rains, and the show lasts through early May, carpeting hillsides, splashing across grassy meadows, and fringing coastal bluffs. Take a wildflower guidebook and a picnic, and hit the trail with the kiddies. Your only problem: where to go. Check out the ‘Wildflower Hotline’ at www.theodorepayne.org/hotline.html for updates on where wildflowers are blooming in California. Some top color spots:

Montaña de Oro State Park. Hike the Coon Creek Trail to see the buttercups and goldfields Montaña de Oro (mountain of gold) was named for. Wildflower checklist: Arroyo Lupine, Hummingbird Sage, Johnny Jump-ups, Purple Nightshade, Sticky Monkey Flower, Rush-Rose, and Meadow Rue. Where: The park is six miles southwest of MorroBay.

Estero Bluffs. Estero Bluffs is a relatively new tract of land managed by California State Parks. Wildflower checklist: California Poppy, Buttercups, Goldentops, Everlasting, Purple Nightshade, Peony, Johnny Jump-ups, Red Maids, Sticky Monkey Flower, Popcorn Flower, Fiddleneck, and Western Pearlwort. Where: Located north of Cayucos off Highway 1.

Shell Creek Area. Located on private property that allows public access, this is a natural flower bed bursting with color. Wildflower checklist: Fiddlenecks, Redmaids, Primroses, Chinese Houses, Indian Paintbrush, Owl’s Clover, Ceanothus, Pincushions, Larkspurs, Shooting Stars, California Poppy, Goldfields, Lupines, Blazing Stars, Baby Blue Eyes, Indian Warrior, Cream Cups, Woolly Blue Curls, and Violets. Where: Shell Creek is located off Highway 58 on the way to Carrizo Plain National Monument from San Luis Obispo.

Carrizo Plain National Monument. This vast plain (shown above) is one of the last vestiges of what the San Joaquin Valley used to look like—a carpet of grasses and blossoms. In spring, the monument is alive with wildflowers. Wildflower checklist: such as California Poppy, Goldfields, Owl's Clover, Phacelia, Baby Blue Eyes, Lupine, and Coreopsis. Where: Located in the far reaches of eastern San Luis Obispo County about 60 miles from Highway 101.

Need help planning a getaway to San Luis Obispo County? Call the San Luis Obispo County Visitors & Conference Bureau at 800/ 634-1414 or visit www.SanLuisObispoCounty.com.
PHOTO: Curt Bentzinger, courtesy of San Luis Obispo County Tourism.

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COPYRIGHT Lora Finnegan 2008-2009

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