North Table Mountain, California lies near the towns of Oroville, Paradise, and Chico north of Sacramento and San Francisco, 1.5 and 3 hours by car respectively. It’s easy hiking from one field of flowers to another, as well as one waterfall to another.
North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve Hiking
There is basically one big North Table Mountain trail, which is almost a loop. However, it’s easy to do just certain pieces of it by going out-and-back. Many hillsides spectacularly covered in springtime California wildflowers are visible from the trailhead and four waterfalls are within a 30-minute stroll from the North Table Mountain trailhead. The trailhead is a parking lot, with additional parking along the road.
I highly recommend visiting mid-March to early May if you’d like to view the North Table Mountain wildflowers. They are amazing—full hillsides covered in purple Sky Lupine, with California poppies and light pink, yellow, white, bright pink, and many other flowers interspersed.
If you’re fascinated by flowers, I recommend these two books, which are specific to the area.
This book has all the flowers! Wildflowers of North Table Mountain.
This book has many flowers and color photograph plates pages in the center: Flumes and Trails of Paradise.
North Table Mountain Phantom Falls
Phantom Falls is the most well-known waterfall. However, there are 14 in the area, and in a 7-mile easy day hike, I saw five of them. The hike is great and surprisingly uncrowded, because even on a crowded Saturday in late April (height of wildflower season), most people stay very close to the parking lot.
We had one waterfall entirely to ourselves, and 2 others with just a few people off in the distance—we sat on rocks overlooking two waterfalls, while the other hikers were at the top of each of those falls.
Many of the falls dry up or decrease to a trickle past May, as rainfall often ends around March.
Weather North Table Mountain – Oroville, CA
For North Table Mountain weather, check Paradise or Oroville, California weather. Those are the closest cities. Chico is also nearby.
I visited the first weekend in April, and the morning started off cool enough for a jacket, mostly because a cool wind was whipping through. By 9 am it was hot and the air was completely still. Sweating, I took off my jacket and sweated some more. It was definitely a 90-degree day!
Take plenty of water and a snack or lollipop to keep your sugars up if you go hiking in the heat.
What to Bring on Your North Table Mountain Hike (and not leave behind)
You can hike a couple of miles or 7+ miles to see wildflowers and waterfalls. Bring walking shoes. The trails are generally flat or gently sloping. Bring hiking poles and hiking boots, if you need them. There are a couple of steep hillsides that are not very long (3-5 minutes going uphill).
The place is absolutely beautiful, so I’d recommend bringing a picnic lunch. Be careful about not leaving any micro-trash. Pack it in, pack it out. Leave no trace. And, please x 1,000,000: pack out your toilet paper and orange peels! They take a year to biodegrade, don’t ya know?
Tips: Cost, Parking, Dogs, Cows, etc.
North Table Mountain Wildflowers are so amazing. This place is truly a hidden gem! Come from mid-March to early-May for them.
Cost. Entry is sort of paid. You’re supposed to have a pass or any current hunting or fishing license. However, only the Park Warden can issue tickets. So, if the Warden is not present, and you don’t have a pass, it’s unofficially free. It’s good to support the land, and you can purchase a pass online or upon arrival from your phone. Parking is free.
Bring some cash, in case the woman selling cold drinks, beef jerky, jams, and other items is there. She also had baggies of fresh whole strawberries– refreshing on a hot day!
Parking. During the height of wildflower season, parking is easy on weekdays. However, on weekends or holidays, the parking lot gets quite full by 10 am. I’d estimate that near to 100 cars can park. Parking is free.
Sun Protection. Use it! I forgot and got completely burnt. Don’t be like me. It’s painful. Bring your long-sleeved shirt, hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen for your nose and hands. I guess, wear pants, too.
Safety. I was not alone on this trip, but considering all the other tourists around, it felt super safe. It’s just people enjoying nature.
Are Dogs allowed at North Table Mountain Ecological Preserve? Dogs are allowed! Obviously, it’s a reserve for nature, and the rules state dogs must be on-leash 10-foot maximum. Of course, it should stay on the path with you at all times. Also, be aware, there are free ranging cows.
Toilets. When I visited at the height of wildflower season, there were about 20 porta-potties in the parking lot. The official website says that the toilets are only available during wildflower season. There are no restaurants or other places for potential public toilets within a 20-minute drive, and a lot of people visit this area. Bring your hand sanitizer, as there is no water.
Downloadable Map of North Table Mountain
Download and print this 1-page map with my route through the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve, which passes 5 waterfalls and millions of wildflowers during wildflower season. At least it seemed like millions.
This PDF should open, and then you can download it onto your phone or computer or print it– no password or login needed. Any questions or problems, just let me know! wildflower_hike_north_table_mountain_map_downloadable
Driving north from Sacramento the drive time is about 1.5 hours. Go to Hwy 70 in Oroville. Take Exit 48 at Grand Ave. and go East for 1 mile. Turn left onto Table Mountain Blvd. and go for a tenth of a mile. Turn Right on Cherokee Road and go 6.3 miles north to the reserve. Official access is through a parking lot on the west side of Cherokee Road.
Other Things I Did Nearby
Hiking along Flumes is another all-day activity.
Milkshakes in Paradise at Fosters Freeze 646 Pearson Rd, Paradise, CA 95969. After a hot day of hiking it’s the perfect dinner. Triple berry is deliciously fruity.
National Yo-Yo Museum in Chico. It’s in the back of a store, but quite cool. Get your photo by the huge Yo-Yo!! I did it, and it only takes a few minutes. Free entry.
Oregon City Covered Bridge is a short drive from the Ecological Preserve, just off the road when driving to Paradise. It’s one of the last remaining covered bridges in California.
Cherokee cemetery is a picturesque place. It’s near the old town of Cherokee.
Food and Accommodation in Paradise, Oroville, and Chico
In Paradise, I had milkshakes at Fosters Freeze and a Baskin Robbins. The Fosters Freeze triple berry shake was so delicious and filling that it was my entire dinner one evening.
Another night I had a delicious dinner at B Street Public House, which is in downtown Chico with easy, free street parking. The pancetta and cheese sandwich is massive! I could only eat half, after my appetizer of a trio of deviled eggs.
Both Oroville and Chico have hotels. Chico is a university town, with a California State University (CSU) campus. The downtown is cute and walkable.
A North Table Mountain Campground does not exist, despite what the internet might tell you. However, if you sleep in your vehicle, you could sleep in the parking lot. It would not be the best experience on a weekend night. Passing cars zoom by with headlights on, of course. And, the parking lot is a really nice, calm spot for star watching on a clear night, or just chatting with friends. So, other vehicles drive in and out of the parking lot until midnight, at least.
The closest official campground is at Lime Saddle. However, I didn’t want to pay for a campground that only gets 2 stars on Yelp.com, so did not stay there.
Airbnb’s in Chico are available for $30 a night, plus you get a real bed. They’re probably around the same price in Oroville and Paradise. If you’ve never stayed in an Airbnb before, give it a try. Read the reviews carefully! And, use this link for a discount when signing up.
Flumes of Paradise – coming soon!
Yellowstone National Park – for amaaaazziinng natural sights!
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Photography tips: Get your camera or phone set up for the Rule of Thirds in just a few minutes. And, I have a whole bunch of photography tips on Pinterest. Click here to read them, with photo examples.