We ventured out on an Aliso Wood Canyons wildflower hike not really expecting to see this incredible variety of blooms.
Most people think of wildflowers in Southern California as fields of golden poppies or yellow mustard plants (non-native invasive species). True wildflower spotting takes a little patience and looking VERY closely at your surroundings. I’ve hiked this route many times before, but the colors we spotted in little pockets thrilled me to no end.
I originally took this hike with my husband in March 2016 and we try to repeat it every year around wildflower season.
Start at Canyon View Park and prepare to walk down a steep, but wide dirt path called Wood Canyon Trail. Downhill on your way down and uphill the whole way back. You’ll be dodging fast, but courteous mountain bikers along the way — so keep your wits about you.
This is the area where you will be hiking (but I don’t think these flowers are native since they are up at the park and not down in the canyon):
We started our walk just as the marine layer of clouds broke up, so it was nice and cool with blue sky breaking through above the oaks.
The first thing we noticed was the abundant Lemonade Berries. I’ve tasted them on guided ranger hikes, but wouldn’t recommend you try anything without someone knowledgeable along. They are still fascinating to look at up-close with their furry skin and gorgeous color.
These lovely purple flowers are called “Blue Dicks.” Hey, I didn’t name them. It’s short for Dichelostemma.
We even saw a heavenly grouping of these flowers all faced towards the sun’s rays streaming through the oak trees. Look in the background of the photo and you’ll see even more tiny purple blossoms.
The biggest bunch of flowers we came across were California Forget-Me-Nots in white bunches in front of fragrant Coastal Sagebrush.
You can see how SMALL these wildflowers really are. You will really have to look closely. Can you see the few purple flowers in here, too?
Then there were both orange and yellow Sticky Monkey-Flower mixed in amongst the still rusty Buckwheat.
I think this might be a Chaparral Pea? Forgive me if I don’t get the names right, I’m just giving it my best guess.
I didn’t see the buds yet, but there was evidence of California Wild Rose. The contrasting dark red of the thorns to the light and airy leaves made for an impressive photo capture.
Oaks are the trees of my childhood. I climbed them, felt their bark on my hands, and the prickle of their dry leaves on my bare feet. Their knotted trunks and twisty branches line the trails of this hike.
Upon closer inspection, even the oaks were blooming!
And another new sight for me was blooming Poison Oak! See the light green blossoms near the “leaves of three?”
Ranger Laura from Nix Nature Center, who later served as my Certified Interpretive Guide teacher, introduced me to the maple smell of California Everlasting. If you think you smell pancakes with syrup on a hike in Orange County, this flower is probably nearby.
These California buttercups brightly greeted us as we started our ascent back up the hill. I love their scientific name: Ranunculus californicus.
In my photos these flowers looks so big and brilliant, when in reality they are almost miniscule bright spots in a sea of greens and browns. I love roses that show off the color of sunset with oranges and yellows. Native Deerweed mirrors my favorite color combo in small flowers along a stalk of delicate dark green leaves.
While you are walking, remember to listen. We heard the trickling of water in the creek. We heard choruses of frogs coming from the creekbed and the buzzing of bees on flowering trees. We heard hawk calls and twitters from little oak woodland birds. We saw big black stink bugs walking on the trail.
- Park at Canyon View Park and hike to the back to catch the trail down.
- Watch for the normal hazards of poison oak and rattlesnakes, but along this trail the most likely hazard you’ll encounter is tripping on a tree root or deep rut in the trail.
- A jogging stroller would work here, but it would be a hassle for the downhill & uphill. I’d opt for a backpack child carrier instead.
- Stay aware of your surroundings – especially because of mountain bikers, poison oak, & snakes. Even though I got these photos, I never left the trail. I know better than to stick my foot somewhere where I can’t see what’s waiting for me.
- There’s only a short period of time when the hills are green and wildflowers are blooming (in late March to early April) so don’t expect to see these sights every time you hike here.
- Remember to bring water, sunscreen, a hat, snack, etc. I always have my backpack with my first aid kit and all of the items I listed. We also started off in jackets and then put them in the backpack for the walk back up the hill.
- Don’t leave anything valuable in the car, because trailheads are notorious for vehicle theft.
- Definitely no restrooms on the trail. Just a portable toilet at the park.
- Official OCParks.com information on Aliso and Wood Canyons
- Official OCParks.com Aliso and Wood Canyons trail map (the section we hiked was the public access gate at Canyon View Park down Wood Canyon Trail and turning around right about the lower junction with Wood Creek Trail)
Originally published in March 2016.