Red Hills Wildflower Hike
This is the best time of year to drive Highway 120 up to Groveland – green hillsides thanks to the recent rain and, as I noticed on my last drive down to Sonora, wildflowers lining the roadsides. On my drive I pass Chinese Camp, the very small town that is the portal to the BLM Area of Environmental Concern: The Red Hills, which I had recently blogged about this presidents day. Other than offering a dog/horse/mountain bike friendly experience, the Red Hills provide wonderful displays of foothills wildflowers in the springtime. Connecting these dots I decided to visit the Red Hills again last Friday for a short & enjoyable wildflower hike.
Wildflower Hike at Red Hills California
Trailhead: Take Red Hills Rd (Left off of 120 at Chinese Camp) and continue down the paved road over a couple of river washes (almost dry the days we went) to the large parking lot & signed area on the Southeast side of the road, it is the second signed area if you are coming from Chinese Camp. See on Google Maps
Distance: I hiked the Old Stage trail out and back for a total of 2.5 miles. Alternatively you could complete the loop from the old Stage trail to the Butterweed trail which would not be too much further (3.5 miles?), or continue down the old stage trail to make a longer hike. Check out the map on the BLM website.
Curtis and I arrived for our hike late on Friday afternoon, and found ourselves in an empty parking lot. I am guessing the typical round up of cowboys with horse trailers you find here on the weekend have work to attend on Friday afternoons! I took advantage of the opportunity to approach the covered billboard in center of the parking lot, which is normally surrounded by horse (that I would prefer not to bother) and found that the BLM does have a print out of the hiking map PDF posted there. Good to know for under-planned visits.
Additionally filed under the “Good to know” compendium of knowledge for anyone planning to hike in California this time of year – it is turkey hunting season! Curtis and I only remembered after hearing a suspiciously wooden sounding turkey call as we were hiking – deciding then that we should talk a little bit louder the rest of the hike. We were not turkeys, just humans that have wandered slightly off the beaten path searching for flowers! Not ideal for wildlife spotting (though Curtis did see one Jackrabbit), but just fine for wildflower hunting.
Red Hills CA Wildflower Guide
I decided to once again try my hand at amateur wildflower identification, like I did recently with wildflowers in the Merced River Canyon. I used the Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada, the CalPhotos database, and Google image searches as my tools for identifying these flowers. Below are my results… please let me know in the comments if you see I have any incorrectly identified!
I am guessing the wildflowers in the Red Hills should be around until late April or early May like the wildflowers in the Merced River Canyon. This part of the foothills dries out quickly once the hot weather begins, so I would advice to plan your visit earlier rather than latter. As I mentioned earlier, the Red Hills are dog friendly, and even equestrian friendly, and makes for a fun hike with your four legged companion.
Check out more photos in the gallery below: