Charity Valley isn’t as well known as its neighbor, Hope Valley, but it is worth a visit to see a variety of high-country wildflowers. There are several trails in the area, but this year we just took a drive along the road into the valley, looking for wildflowers along the roadside. This visit was in late May 2020, and wildflowers were just getting started.
Here’s a sample of a few of my favorites from this hike (click on the image to see a larger view).
Goosefoot violet is striking, with deep green leaves and bright yellow flowers. We found these in several spots along the way.
Nevada lewisia has dime-sized flowers with small leaves, smaller plants than the violets, nestled in the pine duff.
If that isn’t small enough for you, we found several plants that have flowers that are just a few millimeters across. You have to get down on your hands and knees to see these! Dwarf groundsmoke, Cushion cryptantha, Slender phlox were found at various places along the drive.
If you click on lightbox image below you will be able to scroll through all of the plants (and other things) that we found on this hike. All photos are available for purchase in a variety of formats.
This is a well paved road that winds along the Carson River and up into the valley, which has a large meadow. It was too early for wildflowers in the meadow itself, but there were numerous turnouts and wide spots along the road where you could get out and walk about. Some areas were very exposed and dry, some were shaded by trees. Quite a variety of places to look.
Here’s the route that we followed:
Move your mouse along the elevation graph to show the location on the map. The Refresh icon will re-center the map. The Expand icon will expand to full screen.
Charity Valley is in Alpine County. Head up Highway 88 past Carson Pass and down into Hope Valley. When the forest starts to open out into a meadow, look for a sign to Blue Lakes Road on the east side. If you come to the junction of Highways 88 and 89 then you’ve gone too far – the road is about 2.5 miles west of the junction.
We drove about 5 miles up the road, stopping at several places along the way. I’m not sure how far the paved road goes. There are references to several trails in the area but I didn’t spot the trail heads. Lots of the area here is marked as private property.
Timing is Everything
We had a wonderful, clear day. Temperatures were in the low 70’s and there was no snow on the ground. The hills all around were dotted with snow, and the popular Carson Pass trail was very snowy. Blue Lakes Road can be closed in May in years that have a heavier snowfall than this year.
Charity Valley Wildflowers
Here’s a listing of the native plants that we found on this visit. I don’t have pictures of all of these in the gallery, as many that I took are low resolution pictures using my phone camera (I use those for iNaturalist observations). “nif” means “not in flower”. In most cases the scientific name will be a link to a reference source such as Calflora.
- Arrowleaf balsamroot, Balsamorhiza sagittata
- Brewer’s navarretia, Navarretia breweri
- Brown’s peony, Paeonia brownii (nif, but I know that there were some flowering there, somewhere)
- California hesperochiron (aka meadow stars), Hesperochiron californicus
- Cushion cryptantha, Cryptantha circumscissa
- Dwarf groundsmoke, Gayophytum humile
- Foothill deathcamas, Toxicoscordion paniculatum
- Goosefoot violet, Viola purpurea
- Mt. Hood pussypaws, Calyptridium umbellatum
- Nevada lewisia, Lewisia nevadensis
- Plantainleaf buttercup, Ranunculus alismifolius
- Reflexed rockcress, Boechera retrofracta
- Sanddune wallflower, Erysimum perenne
- Sierra juniper, Juniperus grandis
- Slender phlox, Microsteris gracilis
- Spreading phlox, Phlox diffusa
- Sulphur buckwheat, Eriogonum umbellatum
- Wavy leaf paintbrush, Castilleja applegatei
- Woolly mule ears, Wyethia mollis
We also found these other interesting items:
- Western Carpenter Ant, Camponotus modoc