The Boot Hill trail is southwest of Clear Lake in Northern California, and we found a nice collection of wildflowers on a short hike there in early March 2020. This was a 2.5 mile loop through a mixture of chaparral and mixed oak/pine foothills.
The area around Clear Lake has many interesting trails where you can find wildflowers, but they are scattered throughout the hills and it can be hard to find information about them. This makes it difficult to decide on when to go, because the area can be very dry. Once the weather starts getting warmer, it may be harder to find wildflowers.
There wasn’t a big variety of wildflowers, but some species were very abundant. Here’s a sample of a few of my favorites from this hike (click on the image to see a larger view).
Clearly, the star of the hike was the very abundant shooting stars. We found them on almost every section of the trail! In addition to all of the plants that were blooming we saw a very large number of plants that were just in leaf, probably due to the dry spring weather. I expect that in a wetter year the hills will be covered with them!
We found our first baby blue eyes of the season.
While in the area we also visited a serpentine outcropping (not on this trail) where we were very excited to find a group of Purdy’s fritillary just starting to bloom. These were just 2″ tall.
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The hike starts off from an inconspicuous trail marker on the side of the road. Lots of pine and oak (and some poison oak), and you start off up the hill. It doesn’t look very attractive from here! But once you get started, shooting stars on both sides of the trail.
Note that this trail is used by equestrians and mountain bikers, although on this visit there was a sign saying the trail was currently only open to hikers.
As you head up the hill, watch for side branches. All were marked by small trail signs similar to the one at the trailhead. Stick with “Boot Hill” until you get to the “boots”, then you will generally follow the signs for “knee knocker” back down.
There is a reason why this is called “boot hill”…
This is a 2.6 mile loop with around 450′ of elevation change. The trail is narrow but relatively clear, not very difficult. Wildflowers are scattered along the way, just keep an eye out for poison oak if you go off trail.
Here’s the track that we followed:
Boot Hill and Knee Knocker
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From Highway 29 about 2.5 miles west of Kelseyville, go south on Highland Springs Road. After 3.8 miles you will come to a “Y”, keep to your right. 500 feet later you will see a large open dirt parking lot on the south (left) side of the road. Park there. The trailhead is just across the street. There is a small trailhead sign, hard to see if you are driving past.
There are no restroom facilities at the trailhead.
Timing is Everything
We hiked in early March 2020, a very dry year. Temperatures reached the lower 70’s, but there was enough shade on the trail to keep it comfortable. The trail was very dry this time, but if it has been raining I’m going to guess that it will be muddy and a bit slippery on some parts. Early March is a good time for the shooting stars. Early February would be good to see all the manzanita in bloom. In most years I think that it is going to get pretty hot by the time May rolls around.
Boot Hill Wildflowers Listing
Here’s a listing of the native plants and lichens that we found on this visit. The ones listed in color are endemic to California (that is, found only in California). “nif” means “not in flower”.
- Baby blue eyes, Nemophila menziesii var. menziesii
- Birch leaf mountain mahogany, Cercocarpus betuloides
- Chamise, Adenostoma fasciculatum (nif)
- Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana
- Manzanita sp.
- Mosquito bill, Primula hendersonii
- Oakmoss, Evernia prunastri
- Pacific hound’s tongue, Cynoglossum grande (Adelinia grande)
- Pacific Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum (nif)
- Rusty popcorn flower, Plagiobothrys nothofulvus
- Soap Plant, Chlorogalum sp. (nif)
- Turkey pea, Sanicula tuberosa
- Warrior’s plume, Pedicularis densiflora
- Woolly indian paintbrush, Castilleja foliolosa
- Woollyfruit desertparsley, Lomatium dasycarpum
Some of the plants in the gallery were from sites other than Boot Hill that we visited on the trip.
- Adobe lily, Fritillaria pluriflora on the way back home, in the Knoxville Wildlife Area. CNPS rank 1B.2
- Bitter root, Lewisia rediviva (nif) on a nearby serpentine outcropping
- Purdy’s fritillary, Fritillaria purdyi on a nearby serpentine outcropping. CNPS rank 4.3
- Scytheleaf onion, Allium falcifolium (nif) on a nearby serpentine outcropping