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North Table Mountain in Spring

View carpets of lupines, goldfields, and more at a reserve near Oroville, Calif.

Lupines at North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve, Oroville, Calif., image
Photo credit
Photo: Carr Clifton/Minden Pictures
Photo caption
Lupines spread across Table Mountain reserve.

One of California’s most vivid floral displays starts popping in late February at North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve near Oroville, an hour north of Sacramento. In most years more than 100 kinds of wildflowers spread in a multicolored carpet as spring approaches.

“It’s a gorgeous place,” says Bruce Forman of the California Department of Fish and Game, who started tours at the 3,315-acre reserve in 2010. The reserve encompasses most of Table Mountain, an undulating basalt mesa 1,590 feet in elevation that formed from a lava flow more than 14 million years ago.

Blooms usually peak in March and April, when masses of sky lupines, frying-pan poppies, goldfields, and popcorn flowers blanket the landscape. All around them are stands of oaks and seasonal ponds called vernal pools; six waterfalls splash from the mesa. Visitors can explore the site at any time or join naturalists on tours. Led on Saturdays March through April, tours start at the entrance on Cherokee Road 10 miles north of Oroville. Sign up on the reserve’s website; tours fill quickly. (916) 358-2869,

This article was first published in March 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.