Spring puts on quite a show at North Table Mountain in Oroville. The wildflowers that tenaciously cling to Table Mountain’s volcanic soil are fed by the seasonal springs and pools so that between late February and late April, the flowers pop up in a chaotic chorus line of color. This guide aims to inspire you hike Table Mountain so that you can see the show for yourself. Read on for some practical information on how and when to visit along with some serious eye candy that will make you want to go now.
The Awesome Landscape of North Table Mountain in Oroville
The volcanic geology on Table Mountain is the result of a 40 million year old lava flow which spread over Northern California and into what is now the Central Valley. Over time, geologic forces wore down the lava, but there are some large shelves of it remaining, including at North Table Mountain. This ecological reserve has deep ravines with towering basalt cliffs, meadows and mounds of volcanic rocks.
The porous lava absorbs California’s winter monsoon rains, releasing the water into a series of streams which have cut deep ravines into the land. The area also has marshy patches and seasonal vernal pools which hold water deep into spring. Even if you aren’t a geologist, this matters because the confluence of rock and rain creates the perfect environment for the seasonal wildflower show.
The flowers carpet not only the meadows, but they flow down the ravines like “poppyfalls” and they ring the mounds of volcanic rock like elvish fairy circles. It’s truly stunning.
When you visit, give yourself plenty of time. There are tons of hiking trails, waterfalls and flowers and you’ll want to make a lot of stops for taking pictures and gazing at the lovely landscape.
Table Mountain FAQ
Are Dogs Allowed at Table Mountain?
Yes, leashed dogs are allowed.
Do You Need a Park Pass to Visit Table Mountain?
Table Mountain is a California State Ecological Reserve. Each visitor over 16 must purchase a day pass. The pass costs under $5 and is issued by the California Fish and Wildlife Service. You can purchase the pass on their website.
If you forget to do it in advance, there is a QR code on the parking lot sign and you can do it on the fly. A valid hunting or fishing license also works, just bring it with you.
How to Get to Oroville’s Table Mountain
From Sacramento, take Highway 70 68 miles north to Oroville. From central Oroville, take Table Mountain Road north to Cherokee Road and then proceed 7.5 miles to the trailhead parking lot.
Be aware that Cherokee road is quite narrow and it would be difficult to transit it in a large RV. There is a parking lot on site which holds ~30 cars. You can also park along the road on the grassy pull-outs. There are port-a-potties on site but no water or any other services.
When to Visit Table Mountain
March and April are the best times to visit Table Mountain, because that’s when the wildflowers are blooming. You can certainly hike on Table Mountain any time. But if you go in the winter, be mindful of rain, which can make the rocky pathways up and down the ravines pretty slippery. Hiking in the summer months will be hot with temperatures of 90’+.
Best Time of Day to Visit Table Mountain
You have a couple of options for the best time of day to visit Table Mountain. It’s very very popular in the spring, so if you want to beat crowds, avoid the middle of the day.
Iff you are going primarily to view Phantom falls, then you may want to plan a late afternoon hike. The falls are west-facing, which means that they are in shadow in the morning and easier to see later in the day.
Sunset would be a lovely time to visit the area but be aware that hiking on the rocky terrain in dim light will be tricky.
What Kinds of Wildflowers are at Table Mountain
There are tons of different kinds of wildflowers at Table Mountain. The most prolific (and showy) are lupin, poppy, meadowfoam, purple owl’s clover, goosefoot violet and buttercups.
3 Popular Table Mountain Hikes
Phantom Falls Hike
Phantom Falls is the most popular Table Mountain hike. It’s a 4.2 mile out and back with 521 feet of elevation gain. A lot of the terrain undulates through the wildflower fields. The hike traverses a ravine and be sure to stop and take a look at Ravine Falls along the way. Once you are at the Phantom Falls overlook, you can hike further down to the top of the falls.
We also recommend the you hike west about .25 miles along the top of the ravine and then look back to get a wide angle view of the falls. There are some lovely oak trees in this area that would make a nice spot for lunch.
Hollow Falls Hike
This is an easy 1.5 mile, 242 foot out and back hike. You wander along the stream that feeds the upper Beatson Hallow. There are lots of flowers along both sides of the stream and the lovely Hollow Falls at the end. This is a good hike if you have smaller kids or are short on time.
Hollow Falls, Beatson Falls & Phantom Falls Loop
This longer loop trail offers up the best of Table Mountain. It features four waterfalls, three ravines, oak chaparral, cows and million dollar views. It’s a 6.7 mile loop and the AllTrails app says that it has 895 feet of elevation gain, but it feels like more than that because you have to go down and up three ravines.
Please note that the trails to both Beatson Falls and to Phantom Falls from the trailhead are very clearly marked with trail signs and a well worn path. Things get a little murky on the overland stretch between Beatson Falls and Phantom Falls. What appears to be the main trail actually leads away from the path that you want. You’ll want to take a left turn on what appears to be a stock trail.
The path is more obvious if you start at Phantom Falls and run the loop counter-clockwise. But if it’s busy, or in the morning, you’ll want to get to Phantom Falls later, which argues for a clockwise direction that goes to Hallow Falls and Beatson Falls first.
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What to Take on a Table Mountain Hike
- As mentioned above, download the Alltrails app. Or at least print this trail map before you go. On our recent hike, we had two different parties ask us where the parking lot was, and they were surprised to be told that it was over two miles away overland.
- Bring lots of water and food. If you are bringing a dog, bring water for them too. Even though they can drink from the streams, they may need extra.
- Wear proper footwear. You can do the shorter hikes in tennis shoes, but sandals aren’t a good match for the rocky terrain. Trail runners or hiking books are even better. We’ve put well over 1,000 miles on the Hoka Speedgoat trail runners. They have strong foot cushioning and decent grip.
More Nature-y Things to Do in Northern California
- Do an additional spring excursion to see the Almond Blossom blooms in the Central Valley.
- Hike the Donner Pass tunnels near Tahoe City.
- Visit nearby Malakoff Diggins State Park for more hiking and mining history.
- Check out our list of ALL California State Parks and plan your next ourdoor adventure.
See our Table Mountain webstory.
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