Charlie Russell Nature Photography

Early Hope Valley Wildflowers

Small camas, Camassia quamash
Small camas, Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora

Hope Valley is best known for its wonderful fall colors, but it also is a prime wildflower site. Since it is at a lower elevation than the nearby Carson Pass wildflower hot spot you can find a wonderful array of flowers while there is still snow at the higher elevations. And access is very easy! Here’s a look at some early season Hope Valley wildflowers from late May 2020, right next to the highway

The Flowers

Here’s a sample of a few of my favorites from this hike (click on the image to see a larger view).

There was a surprising number of Foothill deathcamas in bloom this time. It has a more compact head than other species of deathcamas that we see at lower elevations. From a distance, we thought that these were yellow blossoms, but when you look close you see that the blossoms are white with VERY prominent yellow anthers.

Foothill deathcamas, Toxicoscordion paniculatum
Foothill deathcamas, Toxicoscordion paniculatum

Tucked in several low damp spots near the Carson river we found quite a few Western dog violets.

Western dog violet, Viola adunca ssp. adunca
Western dog violet, Viola adunca ssp. adunca

I love finding what I call “micro flowers”, teeny tiny flowers that many people never notice. There were several species here, including small flowered blue eyed Mary (a name much bigger than the flower), a small popcornflower that I haven’t ID’d to species yet, and dwarf groundsmoke (flowers about 2mm across)

Dwarf groundsmoke, Gayophytum humile
Dwarf groundsmoke, Gayophytum humile

The flower that I was hoping to find this time was small camas. There were quite a few in bloom!  I love the intense blue color.

Small camas, Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora
Small camas, Camassia quamash ssp. breviflora

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.


For this visit we just wandered in the general area of the Hope Valley Wildlife Area parking lot. There is a walkway heading north, which takes you along a small meadow and then out across the river. You can hike quite a ways on the old road/trail there, which we have done in the past. On this visit we didn’t need to go anywhere other than the area around the parking spot, because there were so many flowers right there!


The parking lot is just west of the junction of Highways 88 and 89 in Alpine County. You can either go east from the Carson Pass area on 88, or south from the South Lake Tahoe area on 89.

Note that this is a California Lands Pass area, so you need either a daily or annual CDFW Lands Pass to be able to park here.

There is a maintained vault toilet at the parking lot.

Timing is Everything

We visited in the last few days of May 2020, and the weather was wonderful. Low wind, temperatures in the low 70’s at the most. There was no snow on the ground here, although the mountains around the valley were snow-capped. This was the start of the wildflower season, and most of the flowers were close to the river (which runs close to the parking lot). We also visited Charity Valley on the same trip. In other years we’ve come here in late June, and there was a greater variety of flowers, but a different collection.

Hope 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 some that I took are low resolution pictures using my phone camera (I use those for iNaturalist observations). “nif” means “not in flower”. None are listed as endemic to California, which isn’t surprising since this spot is so close to the border with Nevada. In most cases the scientific name will be a link to a reference source such as Calflora.

We also found these other interesting items:

  • Golden Moonglow Lichen, Dimelaena oreina
  • Common lichen, Family Teloschistaceae
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