Saving the California oaks

They’re majestic, they’re imperiled, and they’re the most Californian of all trees. Follow our guide to see them in their spring glory.

Bill Marken

Where the wild oaks are:

Northern & central California

Bidwell Park, Chico: Oak woodlands (of 7 species) spread across one of the country’s largest city parks. At One-Mile Recreation Area, along Big Chico Creek, valley oaks reach more than 100 feet tall.

Cosumnes River Preserve, Galt: South of Sacramento, valley oaks in dense forest and meadows; 4.5 miles of trails.

Kaweah Oaks Preserve, Visalia: Just off State 198 (and a good stop on the way to Sequoia N.P.), near-pristine forests of valley oaks.

Peter J. Shields Oak Grove, UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, Davis: A grand collection of 100 types of oaks, including 8 California species plus many others from around the world. A cool stop on I-80.

Southern California

Malibu Creek State Park, Calabasas: Trails in this Santa Monica Mountains park lead to savannas studded with coast live and valley oaks. $12/vehicle;

Oak Glen Preserve, Oak Glen: Known for its apples, The Wildlands Conservancy’s preserve at the base of the San Bernardinos also showcases oaks.

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Santa Barbara:The Woodland Trail shows coast live oaks nurturing a rich community of plant life (lemonade berry, toyon). $10;

Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, Murrieta: A nearly 10,000-acre reserve noted for its Engelmann oaks, found mostly in parts of San Diego and Riverside Counties. $3;

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