Page Revised: 6/18/10


Available Site Reviews

Topanga State Park

Circle X Ranch

Rancho Simi Open Space

Castro Crest

Date of Reviews

6/13 & 6/9 & 6/8 & 6/2 & 5/29 & 5/15.

6/11 & 5/31.



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        I’ve done some casual looking around recently but few long hikes.  You can still find some pretty good flower displays here and there but most areas moved into the ‘Late Spring’ if not ‘Summer.’  It is certainly time to begin choosing your flower hikes more strategically.  Sections closer to the coast and other more sheltered areas will generally be doing better.  One of my personal favorite flowers that I’ve begun to see here and there are the Rein orchids.  It looks like it might be a pretty good year for them.  Another group of flowers worth braving the growing heat and gathering dust is the mariposa lilies.  Similarly, the scarlet larkspurs are just getting going and I saw a very nice patch of wild roses this afternoon.  Even in the heat of summer there are still many flowers in bloom but they tend to require more hunting to find and look less dramatic when compared to their showy springtime cousins.

        As always, if you want to contact me or submit a flower report my email address is at the at the bottom of this page. See you on the trails.

        – ed.




Old Topanga Canyon

Backbone trail toward Saddle Peak

         Date: 6/13



        After crossing the creek we saw gum plant, sow thistle, golden stars, oyster plants (still some blooming after a month), and purple clarkia.  We found Fish’s milkwort in the shady area by the stream, white sage up the hill a ways, English plantain, narrow-leaved milk weed, and California thistle.  After climbing the steeper hill, we saw fringed Indian pink, heart-leaved penstemon, narrow-leaved bedstraw, yellow mariposa lily, lance-leaf dudleya, rattlesnake weed, and scarlet larkspur blooming to the right of the rock overlooking the steam, which is as far as we went.  The flowers on some species are beginning to fade such as sticky monkey flower, elegant clarkia, black sage, black mustard, purple nightshade, large flowered lotus, and golden yarrow.

        – John & Barbara.


Circle X Ranch

Grotto Trail

         Date: 6/11



        The Grotto Trail is beginning to fade but still looking quite good for many flowers. We judged the flower display to be fair to good. Highlights included elegant clarkia and purple clarkia, a lot of bush monkey flower looking quite nice, creek monkey flower and then down further scarlet monkey flower, Fish’s milkwort, snowberry in bloom with its tiny pink flowers, some of our attractive native thistles (as well as some of the more villainous non-native thistles,) both chalk and lance-leaved dudleya, bush mallow, a few leftover hummingbird sage, black sage, and a quite a bit of lush looking buckwheat. Some of the later spring flowers are still getting ready to bloom like the scarlet larkspur.

        – As reported by John & Barbara.


Topanga State park

Nature Trail

         Date: 6/9



        The trail starts in the shaded picnic area at the far end of the Trippet Ranch parking lot.  For a quarter you can buy a self guiding flyer that explains the numbered posts.  The trail starts under the oaks, passes the old nature center and goes through some more trees and into a meadow area.  There we found purple clarkia and sticky madia.  Back into the trees and then the trail crosses a fire road.  When you get to marker 9 the flower show begins with sticky monkey flower, deerweed, bush lupine, wild morning glory, California everlasting, cliff aster and vervain.  At marker 10 you start out on a portion of the trail with a view of the Pacific Ocean and a still greater profusion of flowers.  There is black sage, elder flower, California buckwheat and bush sunflower.  Looking out to the surrounding slopes you can see dozens of flowering yuccas.  At marker 11 the delicate bush mallow are just coming into bloom.  There are narrow leaf milkweeds as the trail again meets the fire road.  The day we were there the milkweeds were covered in ladybugs, 5-10 per cluster of flowers.  Turn left at the fire road.  Walking down the road there are blooming elegant clarkia and golden yarrow.  At a marked sign the Nature Trail leaves the fire road and turns right down a dirt trail.  There is blooming honeysuckle and California milkweeds that are so close to blooming they should almost count.  The trail rejoins itself, you again pass the old nature center and return to the parking lot.

        – Dorothy Steinicke


Topanga State park

Musch Trail

         Date: 6/8



        The Musch Trail is really lovely.  It leaves from the Trippet Ranch parking lot in Topanga Canyon State Park, briefly travels along a paved road then turns right onto a dirt trail at the water fountain.  This is a trail that meanders through meadows, woodland and chaparral in fairly rapid succession.  It ends at the fire road that connects Trippet with Eagle Rock so you can make a loop of it. 

        A lot of the most brilliant flowers have finished their displays but there are still plenty of flowers on this hike.  If you go fairly early in the morning you are likely to see quite a few deer.

        Starting out alongside the duck filled pond there are wild roses in bloom.  Continuing through the meadow portion there are vetch and sticky madia. Entering the chaparral I found a tunnel of heart leaf penstemon intertwined with chamise overhanging the trail.  There was also California everlasting, California buckwheat, Black sage, golden yarrow, slender tarweed and canyon sunflower.  Back in a meadow there was flowering yucca, purple clarkia, golden stars, farewell-to-spring and narrow leaf milkweed that was covered in iridescent green beetles.  Also on the trail were hummingbird sage, vervain, purple nightshade, Indian pinks, Turkish rugging, wild morning glories and cliff aster.  A lovely hike.

        – Dorothy Steinicke


Topanga State park

Backbone Trail

         Date: 6/2



        I hiked the Dead Horse Trail early in on an overcast morning.  The meadow where the trail begins, just outside the Trippet Ranch parking lot was filled with deer.  There were at least 15 including two spotty fawns.  The flowers were great.  There was sticky monkey flower, wild rose, purple clarkia, sticky madia, vetch and slender tarweed all growing alongside the meadow.  Entering the chaparral there was chamise, black sage, deerweed, turkish rugging, vervain, California everlasting, flowering yucca and woolly blue curls.  The trail meanders between chaparral and riparian woodland and crosses a bridge over a still-flowing stream.  In the wooded areas I saw canyon sunflower, purple nightshade, popcorn flower, elder flower, caterpillar phacelia, hummingbird sage and golden yarrow with heart leaf penstemon making a scarlet canopy overhead.

        – Dorothy Steinicke


Circle X Ranch

Backbone Trail

         Date: 5/31



        I know I've said it before, but I think this season may be the best ever for flowers.  We hiked the Mishe Mokwa loop on Memorial Day.  We were stunned at the great masses of flowers and also at flowers still in bloom that usually have finished long before Memorial Day.  

        Standing at the Sandstone Peak entrance to the trail we could see flowering yucca, California buckwheat, black sage, golden yarrow, chamise and Turkish rugging.  Hiking toward the peak we started seeing the exquisite yellow mariposa lilies.  These are large and striking.  Over the course of the trail we probably saw 50 of them.  There were also a lot of the more common, and usually earlier Catalina Mariposas that I think of being long finished by late spring.  There were also cliff asters, woolly blue curls, bush lupine, the red dudleya, heart-leaf penstemon, farewell-to-spring, purple clarkia, sticky monkey flower, popcorn flower, Chinese houses, golden star lilies, peninsular onions and purple nightshade.  On the way up to Sandstone Peak we saw caterpillar phacelia, cudweed aster, owls clover, pitcher sage, blue dicks, chalk live-forever, star lily and prickly phlox.  Continuing on the trail we saw globe gilia, yerba santa, larkspur, California everlasting, yellow pincushion, yellow monkey flower and rock rose.  The meadow that blooms with shooting stars in February was covered in various clarkias and wild brodiaea. On the way to Split rock we added cinquefoil to the list.  Split Rock was thick with lady bugs.  On the way up from Split Rock we added large flower phacelia and willow herb clarkia to the list.  Magnificent flowers all the way around.

        – Dorothy Steinicke


Topanga State Park

Backbone Trail

         Date: 5/29



        Today’s hike was the ninth leg of the 2010 Backbone Trail series co-sponsored by the National Park Service and the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council.  We are hiking west to east covering one segment every two weeks.

        We finished the hike series with this hike from Trippet Ranch in Topanga Canyon to Will Rogers State Historic Park in Pacific Palisades.  The day offered light winds, unlimited visibility, and temperatures in the mid seventies.  An even 70 native species were in bloom.  Topanga offered a few treats from the get-go with rose, brodiaea, and several clarkias.  After taking in Eagle Rock and continuing to the Hub we spent most of the hike on the spine of the ridge out of Will Rogers. 

        This ridge contains the same general flora from end-to-end.  Or, in this year’s case, I should say wall-to-wall.  The bees and checkerspots were having trouble deciding between golden yarrow, California buckwheat, slender tarweed, bush monkey flower, and 4 phacelias. All appeared to held together by dodder’s golden thread.   The yucca moth must have been happy to avoid all of the competition.  Of note were: rock rose, Turkish rugging, notable penstemon, whispering bells, white and violet snapdragons, chaparral pea, rattle weed, and a lone white pincushion.

        Oh, to hold these memories until next year’s hike series.

        – Ralph Waycott


Rancho Simi Open Space

China Flat Trail

         Date: 5/28



        We hiked up the China Flat Trail from Lindero Road to the top situated in the Cheeseboro Canyon unit of the NRA. I was specifically looking for flower that used to grow up at the very top after the area burned a few years back. However the area has had a chance to recover and it no longer has that just-burned look with the unique flora that goes with that. Along the way up the steep hill we saw a number of things in bloom but far less than just a few weeks ago. Things have really dried up here in the northern portion of the Rec Area since the last rain. It is an indication that it is time to start choosing your flower hikes more strategically and visiting the areas that are closer to the coast or otherwise more sheltered. Flowering highlights included truly incredible masses of lush deerweed, some nice yerba santa, California buckwheat, caterpillar phacelia, golden yarrow, sun cups, turkish rugging, sapphire wool stars, a few early slender tarweed, three different lupines, bush mallow, black sage, bush monkey flower, woolly blue curls, yucca, scarlet pimpernel, quite a bit of dodder in bloom, wild morning glory, and up at the very top one single lilac mariposa lily. There were many butterflies about enjoying all the golds of late spring. Fair.

        – ed.


Castro Crest

Backbone Trail

         Date: 5/21



        We did a quick hike on the backbone trail going west starting at the Corral Canyon trailhead.  We did not go all the way to Latigo Road but turned back once the trail started rising up out of the woodland and into the chaparral.  One of the things I like about this hike is that the first part goes through a recent burn so over the last few years I’ve been able to watch the plants recover from that burn. Most of the early herbaceous fire-followers have given way to taller shrubs and plants. The area is still very low and lush and has many plants that flower profusely. The chamise is beginning to flower well and it contrasts nicely with the masses of yellows from the deerweed, sunflowers, yarrow and monkey flowers. As the trail drops down lower we get into older and taller growth that provides shelter for a wide variety of flowering plants. I was in a hurry so did not do a species count but it would have been quite respectable.  Flowering highlights included wild morning glory, black sage still looking better than the best of most years, buckwheat blooming profusely, bush mallow, bush poppy, slender sunflower, a wonderful display of wooly blue curls, caterpillar phacelia, some California chicory, purple nightshade, popcorn flower, yucca, rock rose (not counting the big cultivar escapee up at the parking lot) red skinned onion, blue larkspur (i.e., the later one,) many scarlet pimpernel, sticky cinquefoil, dove lupine, Spanish clover, the tiny pygmy madia, meadow rue, angels gilia, globe gilia, very healthy looking hummingbird sage, scarlet bugler, mountain dandelion, Indian pink, California blackberry, Chinese houses, blue-eyed grass, fairy lantern, fiesta flower, sapphire wool stars, skullcap, and the California wild rose.  Very Good.

        – ed.


Saddle Peak eastward

Backbone Trail

         Date: 5/15



        Today’s hike was the eighth leg of the 2010 Backbone Trail series sponsored by the National Park Service and the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council.  We are hiking west to east covering one segment every two weeks.  With just one hike in the series remaining after this one, we looked forward to entering Topanga State Park.  Our day began in bright sunshine at the summit near Saddle Peak with low clouds enshrouding the coastal slopes below.  We followed the Fossil Ridge Trail to the east and examined many pectin (clam) shell impressions in the basal portion of the Miocene age Topanga Formation.  Crossing chaparral/oak woodland before descending into a glorious Hondo Canyon and a Bay Tree Woodland.  Down and down we switch backed through fern covered slopes before entering Topanga Meadows and an open grassland.  Crossing Old Topanga Canyon, climbing over a ridge and down again to Topanga Canyon brought us to Dead Horse Trail and ultimately back to Trippet Ranch.  We counted over 78 flowering plants with some highlights including: several clarkia (elegant, farewell-to-spring, purple, and willow herb), oyster plant, star lilly, wild rose, large flowered phacelia, and Catalina mariposa lily.  The most amazing discoveries were two very unexpected fire poppies and three color variations of elegant clarkia (white, purple, and salmon).  The next hike culminates in our annual celebration at Will Rodgers State Historic Park.

        – Greg Sweel, Lyne Sosa, Bob Ableson, John Millrany, Julie Berger.



Contact Information:


Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area


401 West Hillcrest Drive
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360



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