The North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve (near Oroville, CA) is one of my favorite wildflower sites to visit. I try to get there every year, and I’m never disappointed. I’ve written about it in prior years. It is one of the most accessible wildflower sites that I know of. You can see wonderful vistas of flowers without even getting out of your car, but if you do get out and wander around it gets even better!
It is a large property, and you don’t need to follow the trails. The only issues you have to deal with are cattle (not a big problem), and paying attention to how to get back to your car. There are a lot of deep canyons that make navigation a challenge, sometimes. But it is worth it!
I’m not going to post my GPS track for this visit, because we wandered quite a bit. I was trying to find a particular feature, which I didn’t find, but we stumbled across an area that we haven’t visited before. And then my path back to the car (off trail) was interrupted by multiple canyons. Our short hike ended up taking almost all day, BUT it was worth it, as we found several flowers that I’ve not seen here before.
I highly recommend that you download the North Table Mountain map from the Chico Hiking Association if you plan on visiting North Table Mountain. It is invaluable. It shows the best locations to visit, and most importantly it has the GPS coordinates of each point of interest. I used this map, along with a GPS app on my iPhone, to navigate to various points. I would like to point out, however, that this map mislabels some of the features, particularly the names of the falls.
Normally people head off northwest across the table top towards the waterfalls of Coal Canyon. That is always a great option, as there are many interesting flowers to see. This year, however, the flowers in that direction weren’t as bountiful as other years. They were still good, but not as good as I’ve come to expect.
This year the best locations were southwest of the parking lot, in Beatson Hollow. After wandering around the oak savanna area in the southern end of the Reserve we ended up at Beatson Junction (see the hiking map). There is a well established trail that leads to this area (which we didn’t take at the beginning of our hike). There were cascades of flowers flowing down the hillsides, the best that I’ve ever seen at North Table Mountain! Here’s one example, there are several more in the photo gallery at the end of this article.
Purple Owl’s Clover, Foothill Poppies, Sky Lupine, all cascading down the hillside.
The North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve is located on Cherokee Road, north of Oroville, CA. It is best to park in the parking lot at the location on the map below. Lots of the land in this area is private, if you start from the parking lot and head west you will generally be on the reserve. Note that on weekends this parking lot can be very crowded.
During the flowering season there are portable toilets at this location.
In 2018 the California Department of Fish and Wildlife added this site to the CDFW Lands Pass program. This means that each visitor that is 16 years old or older must have a pass to access the property. At the time I’m writing this article the passes are $4.32 per day, or $25.10 for a calendar year. You can purchase this in advance, or obtain one by phone. They are not available for purchase at the site. I recommend that you get one.
Timing is Everything
The season for North Table Mountain is highly dependent on rainfall and temperature. It can get quite hot up there in the late spring, and often it is quite windy, so I suggest checking the weather forecast before visiting. I generally aim for late March and early April. If the table top is drying out, head down into the canyons. The collection of flowers that you see will vary throughout the season for all of March and April, possibly into May.
After rainfall there are waterfalls in many locations.
Wildflowers of Table Mountain Guidebook
If you are planning on visiting the area I recommend purchasing a wonderful guide for the area, Wildflowers of Table Mountain by Albin Bills and Samantha Mackey. It talks about the history of the area, the geology (which is what makes this area so unique), and the animals you may see. Most of the book contains photos and interesting line drawings of the flowers that you will commonly find in the Reserve, along with tips on how to identify them and possibly where to find them. There also is a comprehensive list of flowering plants in the back of the book. It is very useful!
Here’s a sample of a few of my favorites from this hike. Please feel free to correct any errors I may make.
This was the first time I’d come across the Prairie woodland star at this location. This flower is found only in California. It was down in the canyons.
We found lots of California pipevine swallowtail butterflies. The were feeding on the Blue Dicks.
Bitter root is probably my favorite flower here. You’ll find them in the very exposed, black lava areas.
Red larkspur is another flower I’ve not come across here before. Also found down in the canyons.
You can scroll through the photos below, or if you click on one it will show you a larger view with more detailed information. All photos are available for purchase in a variety of formats. In addition to flower closeups I have a large number of landscape shots.
Here’s a listing of what I found on this visit. As you can see, this is a very extensive list of native plants, which is one of the reasons why this is such a wonderful place to visit. There are some other flowers that we didn’t see on this trip, which you can view in my article from a few years ago.
- Bird’s eye gilia (Gilia tricolor ssp. tricolor)
- Bitter cress (Cardamine oligosperma)
- Bitter root (Lewisia rediviva)
- Blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum ssp. capitatum)
- Bolander’s woodland star (Lithophragma bolanderi)
- California goldfields (Lasthenia californica ssp. californica)
- California man-root (Marah fabacea)
- Canyon nemophila (Nemophila heterophylla)
- Caraway leaved lomatium (Lomatium caruifolium)
- Cascade Onion, aka Volcanic onion (Allium cratericola)
- Caterpillar phacelia (Phacelia cicutaria)
- Common fiddleneck (Amsinckia intermedia)
- Douglas’ sandwort (Minuartia douglasii)
- Douglas’ violet (Viola douglasii)
- Dwarf sack clover (Trifolium depauperatum var. depauperatum)
- Foothill poppy (Eschscholzia caespitosa)
- Fringe pod (Thysanocarpus curvipes)
- Frying pans poppy (Eschscholzia lobbii)
- Goosefoot violet (Viola purpurea ssp. quercetorum)
- Ithuriel’s spear (Triteleia laxa) on the road up
- Kellogg’s monkeyflower (Diplacus kelloggii, formerly Mimulus kelloggii)
- Lilac pretty face, aka Glass Hyacinth (Triteleia lilacina)
- Longbeak stork’s bill (Erodium botrys)
- Miner s lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata, possibly Claytonia parviflora)
- Needleleaf navarretia (Navarretia intertexta)
- Poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum)
- Popcornflower, multiple species (Plagiobothrys fulvus, Plagiobothrys nothofulvus, Plagiobothrys stipitatus var micranthus)
- Prairie woodland star (Lithophragma parviflorum var. trifoliatum)
- Purple owl’s clover (Castilleja exserta ssp. exserta)
- Red larkspur (Delphinium nudicaule)
- Red maids (Calandrinia menziesii)
- Sacramento valley buttercup (Ranunculus canus)
- Seep monkey flower (Mimulus guttatus, new name Erythranthe guttata)
- Shining pepper grass (Lepidium nitidum)
- Sierra mock stonecrop (Sedella pumila)
- Sky Lupine (Lupinus nanus)
- Thread linanthus (Leptosiphon filipes)
- Valley tassels (Castilleja attenuata)
- Western buttercup (Ranunculus occidentalis)
- White meadowfoam (Limnanthes alba ssp. versicolor)
- White tipped clover (Trifolium variegatum var. major)
- Whitestem filaree (Erodium moschatum)
- Whitewater crowfoot (Ranunculus aquatilis var. diffusus)
- Yellow carpet (Blennosperma nanum var nanum)
The following are non-native plants that we found on the hike as well. There were others, I just didn’t take photographs of each.
- Dove’s foot geranium (Geranium molle)
- Field madder (Sherardia arvensis)
- Mouseear chickweed (Cerastium fontanum ssp. vulgare)
- Spiny buttercup (Ranunculus muricatus)