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Wildflower walks on Marine's Ring Mountain.

Wildflower walks on Marin's Ring Mountain

Even if nothing bloomed here, Ring Mountain Preserve in Marin County would be enticing to hikers, with its open views over San Francisco, Angel Island, and the hill-hugging towns of Sausalito and Tiburon. But in spring Ring Mountain blazes with wildflowers. One reason so many unusual plants grow here is that a huge outcrop of serpentine (a gray-green rock) underlies much of the hill. Not all plants can tolerate its mineral content, but many thrive. Some 377 acres of this prime Marin hill country, just 15 miles north of San Francisco, are protected by The Nature Conservancy, which offers free guided walks in the preserve during the spring wildflower display. From April through June, you might see Tiburon paintbrush (yellow), Oakland star tulip (pale pink), or the rare Tiburon mariposa lily (cinnamon-and-yellow flowers). You'll also find native California bunch grasses in abundance--blue wild rye, purple needlegrass, and California oat grass. Note that it's illegal to pick any of the plants. The Nature Conservancy's walks are offered Sundays at 10, from April 8 through June 17. They cover natural history topics--geology, plants, insects, birds. Or hike to the 602-foot hilltop on your own on the 1 1/2-mile loop trail; pick up an informative handout, changed seasonally, near the roadside entry. You'll climb past lush riparian areas with small groves of wind-pruned bay trees in the swales, and up to the bald, rocky knob for knockout views. The trail is moderately steep, and it's often windy at the summit. The preserve, in Tiburon, is open, free, daily during daylight hours. From U.S. Highway 101 at Corte Madera, follow Paradise Drive southeast about 2 miles. After you pass Westward Drive, look for a preserve sign and fire road. Park on the shoulder of Paradise Drive.

PHOTO : Awash in a sea of buttercups, hiker pauses to sketch scene

PHOTO : In a sheltered swale below summit, Nature Conservancy tour learns about native

PHOTO : plants--including grove of bay laurels--on the mountain

PHOTO : Botanist guide shows off rare California native grasses
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Title Annotation:Marine County, California
Date:Apr 1, 1990
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