Blooming wildflowers and gushing waterfalls can only mean one thing: spring on North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve! The mountain—actually a basalt mesa—is worth a visit any time of year, but it comes alive in spring, when its hillsides explode in color and its seasonal waterfalls are in great form. The granddaddy of them all is 165-foot Phantom Falls, accessed by an easy 4.2-mile (round-trip) hike.
To reach the falls, follow the stream to the left of the parking lot. You’ll soon reach a shaded oak grove; take the fork in the trail to the right and head northeast. You’ll traverse vernal pools and lava outcroppings while surrounded by fields of lupine, buttercups, clover, and poppies.
First stop: Ravine Falls, a good spot for a picnic. A half-mile farther along is the star attraction, Phantom Falls. Watch the hawks soar overhead, gape at the vastness of the canyon below, and marvel as the water dissipates into a rainbow mist. Fantastic, indeed!
Beer Bonus: Before heading home, stop by Miner’s Alley Brewing Company (2053 Montgomery St., Oroville). At $9, the beer flight is a steal, and you can taste the peppercorn pale ale and chocolate porter without committing to either. Each pairs well with the buffalo chicken sandwich, pulled pork sliders, and house-made rosemary fries.
To reach North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve, from Hwy. 70 in Oroville, take Grand Ave. (Exit 48) and head east. After 1 mile, turn left on Table Mountain Blvd. then right on Cherokee Rd. Continue about 6 miles until you reach the parking lot on the left side of the road. Note: A California Department of Fish and Wildlife lands pass is required. Purchase in advance from CDFW for around $4. Dog-friendly!