Magazine article Sunset

Chasing Spring: A Guide for 2011: Blow the Dust off Winder with These Fresh-Air Day Trips-Blooms Gone Wild, Bike Trips in the Blossoms, and Gushing Falls, for Starters

Magazine article Sunset

Chasing Spring: A Guide for 2011: Blow the Dust off Winder with These Fresh-Air Day Trips-Blooms Gone Wild, Bike Trips in the Blossoms, and Gushing Falls, for Starters

Article excerpt

1 A petal drive-by

For some of the best blooms on the Central California Coasts cruise along Shell Creek Road in Santa Margarita, where meadows are carpeted with baby blue eyes, goldfields, and tidytips. Petal peepers park in roadside pullouts for photo ops and picnics. From Santa Margarita, take State 58 east 20 miles and turn left on Shell Creek Rd.; San Luis Obispo visitor bureau, 805/541-8000.--ANN MARIE BROWN

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2 Wildflower wow factor

One heck of a spring show is on view at Anza-Borrego, California's largest state park. First-timers can't miss the Borrego Palm Canyon Trail, a 3-mile round-trip flowering with brittlebush, desert lavender, and ocotillo. For a hike twice as long, there's the 6-mile round-trip into Hellhole Canyon for blooming barrel cactus, lupine, and phacelia, plus Maidenhair Falls. Four-wheeling flower fans, scope out the sand verbena and dune evening primrose on the 20-mile Coyote Canyon Jeep Trail. 760/767-4205.

--A.M.B.

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3 Faucet's on Multnomah Falls is only a half-hour from Portland--and you don't even need to get out of your car to check out this 620-foot tiered stunner. More than 2 million people a year make the trip--it's Oregon's most popular outdoor spectacle. Take the short hike to the stone footbridge. Look up. Look down Now you know why. Insider tip: Grab a spot in the smaller lot across from Bridal Veil Falls (also worth a looky) and walk to the main event. http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/columbia

--NINO PADOVA

4 High-def blooms

Every spring, the beige washes of the Sonoran Desert are flooded with Technicolor blooms, especially after heavy winter rains (fingers crossed). Desert marigold, coral firecracker bushes, violet stalks of lupine, and a psychedelic array of wildflowers lure hikers to the Superstition Mountains, 40 miles east of Phoenix. For the best of the best, try Lost Dutchman State Park, which we love most in the golden light of late afternoon, azstateparks.gov--JEFF PICKER

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5 A surprise gusher

Grand Falls is an unexpected oasis in the high desert near Flagstaff. These 185-foot cascades on the Little Colorado River are a cool chocolaty brown and roar to life with spring snowmelt. You won't see anything until you're just about right on top of it--then get ready to feel the mist and hear the rush. Call to double-check the flow ahead of making the 40-mile drive from Flagstaff. discovernavajo.com/grandfalls

--NORA BURBA TRULSSON

6 Our new seaside hangout

A new park meets a new beach/and we call that a love connection. Take deep breaths of salty air on the bluffs and dunes of the 3-mile loop trail at Chambers Creek park near Tatoma, Washington, which now hooks you up with just-opened Puget Sound beach. Cross the new footbridge at Central Meadow (a kite flyer's heaven) and walk south for primo sandcastle building. After you build your masterpiece, the A-list fish and chips--and a killer view--are waiting for you at Chambers Bay Grill ($$; chambersbaygolf.com), where you can watch squally March weather make rainbows over the Sound. piercecountywa.org/ccp--JIM McCAUSLAND

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7 Brake for lemon bars and daffodils

The new Bites by Bike tour leads you through Portland's prettiest neighborhoods--ablaze with pink camellias, cherry blossoms, and early daffodils--with stops for spring's best eats. Brake at locavore hubs for, say, thin-crust pizza with local feta and spring greens, puckery mini lemon bars, seasonal microbrews, and veggies at the Portland Farmers Market, where the first asparagus and morels of the season will be waiting when the market reopens mid month. $69 for 31/2-hour tour; pedalbiketours.com--IVY MANNING

8 For your waterfall life list

Feather Falls, north of Sacramento, has the same thrill as Yosemite Falls--minus the crowds. …

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