Wandering the wildflowers

Walk and hike and bike

Feature photo by Michael Van Auken

There’s nothing so lovely as spring in Solano County. It boasts a variety of terrain that ranges from sweeping mountain vistas, to gently rolling hills and flat tidal marshes. We have included a hike or two outside of Solano because the wildflowers are just spectacular.

Peak season for Solano/Contra Costa: Mid-March to late April/May

Walk and Hike

Green Valley Falls

In the spring the lush green canyons and waterfalls might make you feel that you have suddenly been transported to Hawaii. Yet that is exactly what it feels like in this little canyon located in the hills between Fairfield and Napa. It’s an easy 2.2 mile hike with a little bit of elevation gain. Once you approach the falls, you’ll see that the canyon surrounding it is lined with moss, ferns, and dripping with water. It’s a pretty amazing place that is owned by the City of Vallejo Lakes System and is only opened to hikers four times a year with a guide. Generally, the four hikes are on Saturdays in April, May, and June and are limited to the first 30 people. Contact www.ridgetrail.org for reservations.

Stebbins/Cold Canyon Reserve

While there are a couple of wonderful trails here, the most popular is the Blue Ridge Loop. You can either start by hiking up the Blue Ridge Trail up the ridge and keep going, or follow the Homestead Trail up the canyon before climbing the ridge to the Blue Ridge Trail. You can also extend your hike by doing the Annie’s Rock loop; the views are amazing from there. Along the Blue Ridge you’ll get great views of Lake Berryessa and the surrounding mountains. Even better in the spring when everything is green with lots of wildflowers. Located off of Highway 128, west of Winters, Solano.

Rockville Hills Regional Park

It’s a little (not so) hidden gem tucked in the hills north of Cordelia that consists of varied terrain from rolling grasslands to oak forests. In the middle of the park there’s a sizable lake that makes a nice place for a picnic or to stroll around. In other parts of the park you can get great views of Fairfield/Suisun and the valley beyond, explore a small cave, and view the remnants of a small quarry. The best time to do this hike is in the spring when the hills are green and full of wildflowers. Rockville Hills has some early spring flowers. Milk maids, Indian Warrior, Buttercups, Popcorn flower, Small flowered Nemophila. Now starting to show Hound’s tongue, Scarlet fritillary, Mission bells, Amsinckia, wild pea, Castilleja, Blue dicks.

A path leading to an oak grove at Rockville park

Mount Diablo State Park

The state park surrounding this 3,849-foot peak about 28 miles southeast of Benicia usually sees blooms beginning in early March, sometimes lasting into May. Choose from a variety of hiking trails to see blue skullcap, Fendler’s meadow-rue, sanicula, Johnny-jump-ups, bush lupine, monkey flowers, globe lilies, California poppies, bird’s eyes, and wallflowers. Summit Rd, Walnut Creek, CA

The Bay Area Ridge Trail, south from the Tilden Park Steam Trains, Orinda

There are many of the woodland flower, trillium, on this trail blooming less than a quarter mile from the trailhead. There are great views of Mt. Diablo from various spots, along with hillsides of lupines, poppies, mule’s ears, blue dicks, and checkerbloom, among others. The trailhead starts across the road from the steam trains and heads south. 

Charles Lee Tilden Regional Park, 2481 Grizzly Peak Blvd. Orinda. 

Tilden Regional Park, Seaview Trail, Berkeley

This is a beautiful hike with great views in all directions that is very popular, especially with dog owners. There are loads of lupine bushes, poppies, paintbrush, mule’s ears, and other wildflowers that bloom throughout the spring. Try the unofficial or “social trail” that heads uphill to the left about two miles into this hike. In May there are lots of Ithuriel’s spear, fiddlenecks, paintbrush, baby blue eyes, sticky monkey, and more up in an open meadow above the main Seaview Trail. 

Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, Antioch

This park is over 6,000 acres and contains what remains of three old coal-mining towns. There’s a lot to explore, but be sure to visit the old Rose Hill Cemetery by hiking uphill on the Nortonville Road Trail. Continue up to the Black Diamond Mine Trail where there are yellow and white mariposa lilies among many other wildflowers throughout the season. Black Diamond Mines Preserve is due north of Mt. Diablo, and has lots of the same wildflowers with trails that are much less steep. 

Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, Upper Parking Lot, 5175 Somersville Road, Antioch. Weekend fees. 

Black Diamond hike scape

Bike

Rides from slow and leisurely to difficult and well, very difficult.

Benicia Recreation Area

Difficulty: Easy. Distance: 5 miles. Type: Out and Back. Approximate Time: 30 minutes.

This bike and pedestrian path inside the park is a great place to get out in nature, birdwatch, fish, and watch the ships pass by.

Green Valley Ride

Difficulty: Easy. Distance: 5 miles. Type: Out and Back. Approximate Time: 30 minutes.

This separate bike and pedestrian path runs parallel to Green Valley Road. Ride in the shade of trees that line the southern half of the trail, then the trail opens up to views of Green Valley as you travel north.

Alamo Creek Bike Trail

Difficulty: Easy. Distance: 10 miles. Type: Out and Back. Approximate Time: 1 hour.

Ride from one end of Vacaville to the other on this winding path that follows Alamo Creek.

A cyclist on Alamo Creek bike trail

Grizzly Island Trail to Rush Ranch

Difficulty: Medium. Distance: 7 miles. Type: Out and Back. Approximate Time: 1 hour.

This ride has a mix of calm local streets, a separated bike path through wetlands, and a county road with no shoulder.

Lagoon Valley Loop

Difficulty: Medium. Distance: 9 miles. Type: Loop. Approximate Time: 1 hour.

Lagoon Valley Regional Park is just off of I-80 with over 470 acres of natural landscape to explore by foot or bike. Daily and annual parking passes are available at the gate.

Three Valley Loop

Difficulty: Difficult. Distance: 18 miles. Type: Loop. Approximate Time: 2-4 hours.

Experience some of the most picturesque agricultural areas in the county on this ride.

Be prepared that most of these low-volume county roads have no shoulders, however some stretches provide bike lanes or separated bike paths.

Bridge to Bridge Loop

Difficulty: Difficult. Distance: 23 miles. Type: Loop. Approximate Time: 3 hours.

Two bridges, two counties, four cities, all surrounding the Carquinez Strait.

This ride has quite the variety with plenty of climbing and great views as your reward.

Vallejo, Benicia & Fairfield Loop

Difficulty: Difficult. Distance: 30 miles. Type: Loop. Approximate Time: 4 hours.

This popular ride for cyclists will test your lungs and your legs while passing through three Solano County cities and some of the best hillsides in the County.

Lake Solano Loop

Difficulty: Difficult. Distance: 36 miles. Type: Loop. Approximate Time: 4 hours.

Begin in Lagoon Valley Regional Park and head north through the orchards to Lake Solano. Pop over to the charming town of Winters to refuel for the ride back.

Martinez to Davis

Difficulty: Difficult. Distance: 61 miles. Type: One Way. Approximate Time: 6 hours.

For a grand finale, traverse the entire county by bike. Take in views of straits, marshes, and wetlands, then hills, valleys, and open space. And at the end, give your bike a break and head back to where you started by jumping on an Amtrak Capitol Corridor train where bikes are welcome. Great idea!