Spring beckons you to go outdoors

Springtime wildflowers all in bloom throughout Malibu. Photo by Julie Ellerton/TMT

Spring is here. Daylight savings time is upon us and it’s time to get outdoors. With nearly perfect weather in Malibu and after a long winter COVID-19 surge that kept many of us masked and indoors, this is the perfect time to spend time outside with nature.

The Point Dume headlands area is currently teeming with coreopsis. The yellow wildflower blooms every spring on top of the cliffs at the Point Dume State Nature Preserve. While you’re there, follow the boardwalk to the viewing platforms at the tip of the headlands overlooking Westward Beach. 

This is still whale watching season and if you stare out toward the Pacific you’ll likely catch a glimpse of a Grey whale. Their migrating season is from February to April. And according to Malibu Parks and Recreation Commissioner Suzanne Guldimann, “A walk around the bluffs almost guarantees a look at the local sea lion colony, either hunting and playing in the water, or resting on the rocks at the base of the cliffs.” If you’re really adventurous, try rock climbing the steep cliff at the end of Westward Beach.

At Malibu Creek State Park, you’ll find lupine in bloom. The purple stalks are blanketing meadows at the site that covers more than 8,000 acres. California poppies are also starting to brighten up hillsides with their orange glow. Most of the park is lush and green now. Due to a fairly dry winter it shouldn’t be too muddy to hike the park’s famous trail to the “M*A*S*H” TV show site, but there is water in the creek, so use caution. Along the creek, you’ll encounter ponds and volcanic rock formations all under the ridge of 2,000-foot tall mountains that make up a segment of the Backbone Trail.

Avid Malibu hiker and birdwatcher Trish Oster visits Malibu Creek State Park nearly every day. 

“I see deer every time I hike,” she said. “The red-tailed hawks are patrolling the area. And the turkey vultures seem to be everywhere soaring on the thermals. We’ve had the very beautiful Lewis’s woodpecker with us all winter. Their numbers are starting to dwindle now as they are leaving on their migration to central and northern California.”

Oster, also an expert bird photographer, shoots her subjects daily at the Malibu Lagoon, where she says shorebirds who spend the winter in Malibu are fattening up for their migration in the next month. 

Because it’s spring, she said, “Love is in the air for certain species like Mallard ducks, Canadian geese and American coot who are all creating a stir, sparring and chasing each other. The osprey is back, fishing in the ocean and the lagoon.”

Exploring tide pools is another relaxing adventure to try in the springtime, especially before the summer crowds arrive. When the tide goes out, an underwater world becomes visible. You may find crabs, mussels, starfish, and sea urchins when tidepooling at rocky beaches such as Leo Carrillo, Lechuza, El Matador, Point Dume, and even near Coastline Drive. Just remember: check a tide chart before you go and do not take any sea creatures out of their habitat and home with you.

If waterfalls beckon you, the once sleepy trail to Escondido Falls in Malibu has become a major attraction, especially since the internet revealed its location a decade ago. The 150-foot tall waterfall is an easy 3.8-mile roundtrip hike from Pacific Coast Highway and Winding Way. But, since the falls became an Instagram sensation, parking is tough to come by if you’re not there early, especially after a rain. 

Parking on Winding Way is prohibited. Parking on PCH is hard to navigate. Read the signs. Parking on the beach side of PCH can be downright dangerous since there are no crosswalks at that location. 

It’s also not recommended to access the fall’s slippery upper reaches. Signs warning of the dangers are often purloined by thrillseekers trying to reach the top. There have been numerous injuries and rescue attempts there. Know that the lower 50 feet are plenty stunning, including the hike to get there that passes through a field of mustard and fennel.

Another winning Malibu hike would be at Charmlee Wilderness Park. 

Guldimann said she just saw “lots of yellow canyon sunflower, yellow and orange deer weed, purple hummingbird sage and lavender bush lupine. With the lack of rain this year, spring wildflower season is going to be short, but there are still plenty of flowers blooming right now. One thing that seems to thrive regardless of how much rain we get is poison oak, so keep an eye out for ‘leaves of three’ and stay on the trails.” 

The city is sponsoring a hike at Charmlee April 2. Visit malibucity.org for information.