Wildflowers will be the stars this weekend in the regional parks, and recent rains give hope for a good show.
On center stage is the Spring Wildflower Festival at Sunol Regional Wilderness. Sunol is one of the East Bay's premier venues for wildflower viewing. The festival is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Sponsors are the park district and the Alameda Creek Alliance. Activities will include wildflower hikes designed for different ages, distances and topics; arts and crafts, live entertainment, and wildflower slide shows. It's a family-friendly event; you can bring a picnic lunch and make a day out of it.
Sunol Wilderness is located at the end of Geary Road off Calaveras Road, 5 miles south of Interstate 680 and the town of Sunol in southern Alameda County. At the bottom of the Calaveras Road off-ramp from southbound Interstate 680, turn left on Calaveras Road. The festival is free of charge; parking costs $5 per vehicle. For information, call 510-544-3249.
If you can't make it to Sunol on Saturday, there are two wildflower and plant walks Sunday at Garin Regional Park in Hayward, both led by naturalist Francis Mendoza. The first is from 10 a.m. to noon. Francis will talk about wildflower evolution and show how the flowers adapt to various habitats. The second walk, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., is about edible and useful plants, including tasting some plant foods.
For either program, meet Francis at the Garin Barn visitor center. The park is located at the end of Garin Avenue off Mission Boulevard. Parking costs $5 per vehicle; both programs are free. For information, call 510-544-3220.
Wildflowers are also the focus of a free macro photography clinic from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Briones Regional Park near Orinda, led by naturalist Trent Pearce. Trent will lead an easy 2-mile walk while giving tips on how to photograph flowers. Bring your own camera equipment.
Meet Trent at Briones' Bear Creek Staging Area. It's on the right side of Bear Creek Road about 5 miles east of the intersection with San Pablo Dam Road in Orinda. Look for the East Bay Regional Park District's Briones entrance, which is just past an East Bay Municipal Utility District staging area. Briones charges a $5 parking fee when the kiosk is attended. For information, call 510-544-2233.
If you want to hunt for wildflowers on your own, good bets in the regional parks besides those just mentioned are the Chaparral Loop Trail at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch, the Prairie Falcon and Volvon Loop Trails at Morgan Territory Regional Preserve east of Mount Diablo, and the top of the Seaview Trail at Tilden Regional Park in Berkeley.
One of the absolute best is Rocky Ridge on the Ohlone Wilderness Trail out of Del Valle Regional Park south of Livermore. The drawback is that it's a 2-mile uphill trudge to get there. But the wildflowers and views are worth the effort. You need a permit to hike the trail because it's partly on San Francisco Water Department land. Permits are available at Del Valle and Sunol Regional Parks.
Ned MacKay writes a regular column about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at email@example.com.