Wildflowers in Plumas County & Lassen Volcanic Park
June 18, 2018 by: Sharon Roberts
Late spring and early summer are the best times to view wildflowers in Plumas County and Lassen Volcanic Park. The forests in and around Plumas County are home to over 2,000 different species of plants, including many rare and gorgeous wildflowers. With the hills, valleys, and meadows ablaze with flowers and diverse plant life, this is a particularly magical time to visit our little corner of California. Here is our guide to exploring wildflowers in Plumas County and Lassen Volcanic Park.
Feather River Scenic Byway
Take a drive down the Feather River Scenic Byway (Highway 70 through the Feather River Canyon) and you will be greeted with a breathtaking rainbow of color: the yellows of waterfall buttercups and monkeyflowers, the reds of the redbud shrub, the blues of silver lupine, and so much more. With its beautiful and diverse terrain, this route will also take you past cascading waterfalls, rugged canyons, and historic railways. From Feather River Canyon, you can access numerous hiking trails (including parts of the Pacific Crest Trail), campgrounds, and fishing holes. Rafting and kayaking is also excellent during this time of year.
Lassen Volcanic Park
Some of the best wildflower viewing is located within Lassen Volcanic Park. Different flowers bloom at different times, but you can expect to see some beautiful blooms from late May all the way into September, making it an especially long season for wildflower viewing. Our favorite spots to go within the park are:
- Warner Valley (late May through early July)
- Manzanita Lake (late May through early July)
- Summit Lake (late June through early August)
- Kings Creek Trail (late June to August)
- Sierra Corydalis, (Monkeyflower and Blue-pod Lupine can all be found on the trail in the Spring)
- Lassen Peak (late July through September)
Indian Valley/Tayorsville and Gennesse
There are many great hiking, biking, and fishing opportunities in the Indian Valley area. We recommend a stop in Tayorsville for a sandwich at Young’s Market to take with you. It is worth the 30 mile drive to visit Antelope Lake, a sparkling mountain lake that sits at an elevation of 5,000 feet. Along the way you will pass the Heart K Ranch, which is a great spot to stop and explore. If you prefer to view just from the car ,Stampfli Lane and the Indian Valley Arm road are great paved back roads to explore. Birding is also excellent along these roads.
Butterfly Valley Botanical Area
The Butterfly Valley Botanical Area, located just north of Quincy, reaches its color peak in June. Encompassing about 500 acres of stunning forests and meadows, this local treasure was designated as a botanical area in 1976 due to its rich diversity of plant life. It is home to 12 species of orchids, 24 species of plants in the Lily family, 9 species of ferns, as well as poppy, buttercup, wild rose and lady slipper. The Butterfly Valley Botanical Area is a great place to view the pitcher-plant, a yellow plant that traps insects and then digests them. The area gets gets its name from the butterfly shape when viewed from the sky.
Lake Basin Recreation Area
Lakes Basin Recreation Area boasts over 30 miles of scenic trails filled with a diverse array of wildflowers and plant life: Western coneflower, bigelow’s sneezeweed, yellow monkey flowers, white bog orchids, blue monkshood, and so much more. At the higher elevations, you’ll find unbeatable views of the Sierra crest and the 20 beautiful lakes in the basin. These lakes are great places to camp, fish, boat, swim, and windsurf. It is also a popular area for hunting, mountain biking, and nature study.
Roads Around Chester & Lake Almanor
Cruise around Chester and Lake Almanor and it won’t be long before you find yourself surrounded by blooming wildflowers. You’ll see bitterbrush, serviceberry, bush monkey, Indian paintbrush, California poppies, fawn lilies, purple camas, larkspur, yellow butterweed, and others. Pack a picnic and bring your fishing pole just in case.If you’d like to take a drive to see some of the blooms, we recommend:
- Midway between Canyon Dam and Highway 36
- East shore of Lake Almanor along Highway 147
- Highway 32 just south of Chester
- Red Clover Valley
This is about 11 miles from Hwy 89 on the west side of Lake Almanor. Take Humbug Road (county road 309/307) go about 10 miles across Humbug Valley. Left turn onto Forest Road. You'll find a meadow which is fenced off to keep cattle out. You may duck through the fence to view the wildflowers: Sierra Crane Orchid, Sierra Corydalis, Douglas spiraea and Giant Red Paintbrush. Since you are in the area take time to visit Soda Spring. Yellow Creek is nearby and offers some good trout fishing.
Willow Lake Botanical Special Interest Area
Willow Lake is a designated a Botanical Special Interest Area. Blooms are especially beautiful from July 'til August. It is an easy drive north of Chester. Follow signs to Domingo Springs and continue to forest road 29N114, turn right. This is about 4 miles of dirt road to Willow Lake.
Willow Lake had mats of sphegnum mass which are two feet thick or more. You can walk on the mats and bounce on the top of the lake. The area is home to many unusual plants many which are rare in California, such as American schechzeria and two carnivorous plants, English Sundew and Round Leaf Sundew. From Willow Lake it is a nice hike into Lassen National Park and Terminal Geyser.
Day Trip from Lake Almanor
Lost Creek in the Hat Creek Ranger District is another Wildflower Hotspot from April to May. It is a good psot for Arrrowlead Balsamroot, Applegatge’s Paintbruch, Spurred Lupine, and Round Ookow or Brodiaea.
To get here from Chester, take Hwy 36 east to Westwood. Left on A-21 ( or Mooney Road). Left turn on Hwy 44. Take a minute and stop at Hat Creek Rim Overlook. On a clear day you will be able to see the back of Lassen Peak, Mt. Shasta and the valley you are headed two. This is a nice rest stop with clean bathrooms and mounted telescopes for viewing. Bring a few quarters. Continue on 44 to 44/89 junction and turn right. You will pass entrance to the Subway Caves, another fun stop. Continue onto Wilcox Road, make a right turn, and go about two miles to Forest Road 34N17. The its about three miles to the parking area. This is also an access area for fishing. Walk the trail upstream past the hydroelectric generating stations. From there, the base of Lost Creek Canyon is about one mile.
Planning a trip to Plumas County? Book a stay at the historic St. Bernard Lodge, the perfect bed & breakfast for exploring Lake Almanor and Lassen Volcanic Park.