As spring approaches, one of Northern California’s most colorful displays of wildflowers starts popping at Table Mountain Ecological Reserve near Oroville. Due to the above average rainy and cold winter, expect the best blooms to be in April when masses of sky lupines, owl’s clover, and California poppies will blanket the hillsides. All around them are stands of oaks, seasonal ponds called vernal pools and several waterfalls. The most active and well-known is 165-foot Phantom Falls, accessed by an easy 4.2-mile (round-trip) hike. Actually, it really seems like a walk. To reach the falls, follow the main trail heading west from the parking lot and take the fork in the trail to the right.
The place is absolutely beautiful, so bring a picnic lunch and just wander over acres of countryside that will be covered in color. Overall it is a nice hike, very easy for kids and the trails are generally flat or gently sloping. Wear hiking boots and bring plenty of water. In April, the mornings can start off cool enough for a lightweight jacket but turn into a 90-degree day by the afternoon.
Getting There: Take Hwy 70 headed for Oroville from Plumas/Lassen Counties. Exit at Nelson Ave # 48 and turn left heading east for about 1 mile and through the roundabout taking Cherokee Road. Portions of this road become narrow and windy and when it splits at 2.2 miles, stay left on the main road for another 3.9 miles to the reserve parking lot on the west side. You can’t miss it, clearly marked with bright blue porta-potties.
The trailhead is the parking area (free) with additional parking allowed along the road when the lot is full. A CDFW Lands Pass must be carried by each visitor who is 16 years of age or older, however, if holding a valid California hunting or fishing license you are exempt. You can print the 1-day Lands Pass at the time of purchase ($4.58) at www.ca.wildlifelicense.com/InternetSales/ or by phone (800) 565-1458.
Dogs are allowed but must stay with you at all times on a leash 10-foot maximum. Be aware if you bring your pet, there are free ranging cows. Have a wonderful day and don’t forget the sunscreen lotion.