Every spring, a hilltop in Northern California explodes in color, going from dusty to muddy to a riot of purples and golds seemingly overnight. Wildflower season doesn’t last long here, but it’s one of our most treasured hikes.
Directions: Table Mountain is in Oroville, California. From Sacramento, take Hwy. 99 to Hwy. 70, heading towards Oroville. Just past the town of Oroville, heading up the canyon, is Cherokee Rd. on the right. It’s a twisty narrow road, so please do drive slowly. You’ll pass an old pioneer cemetery, what remains of a gold rush bank, and then you’ll start seeing wide open fields. You’ll come around a curve and start to crest a hill, and you will there most likely see an overflowing parking lot on your right. Wildflower season is a big deal here. You’ll see why. If you’re using GPS, you can try putting in North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve, or 2488 Cherokee Rd., Oroville, California. Once you’re on Cherokee, it’s hard to miss.
This section of Table Mountain is open to the public and is entirely free. There are normally some Port-A-Potties here in the parking lot. Do bring your own water (lots in the summer) and a picnic. You can spend all day exploring and not see all the wonders of this place. Head left, and there’s Ravine Falls. Head right, and there’s Phantom Falls. Pick either direction, and find yourself immersed in a carpet of lupines, poppies and buttercups as far as the eye can see. Wear your tennies or hiking shoes, as the soil drains differently up here and you can suddenly find yourself in a wet spot or a little mud pit, especially right near the gate for the parking lot. We sacrificed a shoe to the mud pit here last spring. Within view of our car, after a full day hiking miles out, a wily mud pit snared Ally’s sneaker and sucked it right off her foot, never to be seen again (at least not yet). True story. It’s most muddy just before you leave.
You can also find bizarre, twisted oaks here, fun for climbing while you gaze out at the valley below.
There are cows that roam free up here. Don’t bother them, and they won’t bother you. They’re pretty happy cows. This is California, after all.