5 Of Our Favorite Spring Hikes With Wildflowers
Each season, Truckee provides natural attractions that visitors and residents can enjoy. Fall is about the foliage. Summer is the time to take in the sapphire waters of its alpine lakes. Winter provides a wonderland of alabaster white snow to enjoy. Spring though is about re-birth. A symphony of colors from the blooming wildflowers. Here’s five of our favorite spring hikes to take in the wildflower bounty and views.
Big Winter Means Even Bigger “Spring”
During each spring, the wildflower bloom in Truckee is spectacular. This spring is going to be one for the books. Unless you’ve been in a darkness retreat, you’ve seen that Truckee has just finished off one of the snowiest winters on record. This is a crucial component to create a bloom of historic proportions. And with so much snow lingering in the high mountains, this isn’t going to be a quick bloom but one that will likely extend through August.
How To Catch The Bloom
The basic rule is to follow the snowmelt. Like a good concerto, the wildflower bloom starts quietly in the lowest valleys with direct sun in the early spring and gets louder as the season wanes, reaching a climax in the upper elevations as late as June or July. In the deepest winters, such as this one, it means a later start to the bloom and later finish. Like anything that’s natural, it’s up to Mother Nature’s whim.
One of the first places to bloom in Truckee due to its plentiful sunshine is Martis Valley. Driving past on Highway 267, you may only see sagebrush, but if you go on a hike at the right time, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find a variety of native wildflowers. The 4.6 mile Martis Creek paved trail starts near Truckee Airport and finishes at Northstar Drive. Be sure to slow down and keep your eyes peeled for “micro-flowers.” Native species such as the blue eyed Mary are barely 5mm across which is as tiny as a pencil tip eraser.
Van Norden Meadow
Known by the Washoe Tribe as “Yayalu Ipbeh”, Van Norden Meadow is one of the largest sub-alpine meadows in the Sierra and a true wildlife paradise. It’s home to the headwaters of the mighty South Yuba River and filled with bountiful wildflowers. It’s no wonder that it's a habitat for Bald Eagles, endangered species, and hosts one of the richest butterfly faunas documented in North America. Due to it being at an elevation of 6,800’ above sea level, this blooms later in the spring and summer. One of the best ways to take in the meadow and Lake Van Norden is via the Summit Valley History trail.
A trail network known for its wildlife and wildflower viewing. Johnson Canyon is an intersection of trails such as the Warren Lake Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and provides access to the Donner Lake Rim Trail. To get panoramic views as well as a heaping plateful of wildflower viewing, we recommend taking the Johnson Canyon Overlook via Glacier Way Trailhead. Be aware that even in average winters, portions of the trail occasionally remain snow-covered through late summer.
Donner Summit Canyon
A hidden gem right under your nose that features picnicking with stunning bird’s-eye views of Donner Lake, historical sights to enjoy, and of course wildflowers. Most visitors on Highway 40 zip directly to either the Donner Pass Summit Tunnels or to take in the iconic “Rainbow Bridge” unaware of the Donner Summit Canyon trail. Starting near the western side of the lake, the route loosely follows the original route of the Lincoln Highway. Along this route, you’ll see Native American petroglyphs, stroll through the world’s first automobile underpass, and maybe even “feast” your eyes on a Turkey truck that careened off the road in 1955.
Cross over slabs of glaciated granite and stroll through wildflower lined streams to summit this iconic Truckee peak. Standing at 9,103’, its three turrets loom over Truckee and the surrounding scenery just like a castle. Hence the name. Due to its high elevation, this trail can be under snow until early July and makes it one of the the latest bloomers on our list of spring hikes. From the summit, on clear days you can see Mount Diablo in the Bay Area, the snow-covered Cascade Range, Lassen Peak way to the north, and all the mountains that ring Lake Tahoe. Or if reaching the top is not in the cards, consider heading another half mile on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and visit the historic Peter Grubb Hut built in 1938-39.