Ladybug Hike at Redwood Regional Park

To the many mysteries of winter and animal survival techniques, you can now add colonies of ladybugs clustered on trees like holly berries on a frosty December morning. Each year from November through February, thousands, if not millions, of the kids’ favorite red bugs converge to Redwood Regional Park in Oakland, CA, surfing the right winds to the exact spot their folks converged to in previous years. And then, they throw massive “pajama parties” – spoon position, everyone! This winter, you can schlep the kids to Oakland and guarantee they’ll see something they’ve never seen–handfuls of ladybugs. Here is how I found them on my ladybug hike.

Wintering Ladybugs at Redwood Park

I’d heard about Redwood Park’s ladybugs but didn’t want to disappoint my young hikers. After all, it’s a 3-mile round trip to see these little creatures and I had to get the info right. A ranger at the East Bay Regional Park District suggested I check the junction of Stream Trail and Prince Trail, starting from the Skyline Gate. That’s exactly what I did.

Equipped with my “hot cocoa” kit (thermos of hot water and tiny marshmallows), I hit the trail with 3 girls between 6 and 8 years of age.

From the Skyline Gate parking lot, Stream Trail gently goes down as a wide dirt path into the canyon surrounded by oak and pine woodlands.

Playing nature bingo and checking off boxes with nature icons, the girls walked effortlessly though one element wanted to know if we were close. “Soon,” I said, “but not yet – keep looking for ladybugs.”  I looked at my trail map but since there’s only one trail, it was hard to get sidetracked.

How to Spot Wintering ladybugs

Just before Eucalyptus Trail, we saw our first ladybug colonies. “Where are they?” asked the girls. It’s like when you look at a pointillist painting up close. You don’t know what the painting is all about until you step back and take a second look. With ladybugs you look at a regular stump surrounded by dried grasses and blink twice before you realize the grasses are swarming with ladybugs. Yes, swarming is the right word – they are literally everywhere you look. Our ladybug hike was getting interesting!

The girls giggled and couldn’t believe their eyes. They started singing “Ladybug, ladybug, oh lady-ladybug” and scoured the area to find more bugs. Good, I had their attention now. “Wait, we are going to find more. Keep walking!”

We just had another half mile to go to the junction of Stream Trail and Prince Trail so that was easy. Plus, now we were thick in redwood forests by the creek and the girls were chasing each other on the trail. Oh, it was so pretty.

Finally we reached the promised junction. At first, we didn’t see anything. “Where are they?” OK we might be candid but we were really expecting to find them waiting for us with a big ladybug banner at the junction.

That’s when we looked towards the creek. The fence posts and gate had a reddish coloration. We stepped closer. Bingo!

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Ladybug Bonanza

Hundreds of them. Thousands of them. Passing hikers told me this was just the beginning, that there would be much more as the winter got colder. I was dumbfounded.

This was way more than the square foot patch I had anticipated. Wow! The girls were going “ooh” and “aah” and “ooh” and “aah” again, pulling on my sleeve to show me their findings. Ah the excitement!

To celebrate, we popped the “hot cocoa” kit and sat on the bench (at the junction) to refuel before our hike back. Rare are the opportunities you can go in nature and expect to see wildlife at a given point. It makes you appreciate the Bay Area even more.

Return Route | Make It a Loop!

For our hike back, we opted to go the ridge route to add variety to our scenery. We turned left (north) up Prince Trail, spotted mushrooms on the way up – including a really cool orange jelly fungus called Witch’s Butter – and at the top turned left (north-west) on East Ridge Trail.

The views were beautiful and a few well thought benches provided perfect vista points on the redwood mountains. Our ladybug hike was proving to be more than we anticipated.

As winter afternoons go, the day was getting darker and I knew the sun would set in less than an hour. I encouraged the girls to hurry up and after they found pine cones to kick, it was a literally a walk in the woods.

“Mom, I know what I want to do on hikes – kick pine cones!” said the 6-year old who kicked the same pine cone on the last quarter mile.

We made it back to the car just around twilight, making the ladybug hike a 2-hour affair including  hot cocoa and ladybug breaks. Not bad to uncover a winter mystery.

Practical details to Spot Wintering Ladybugs in the Bay Area

  • Redwood Regional Park
  • The Skyline Gate is roughly half way between Joaquin Miller Road and Sibley Volcanic Regional Park on Skyline Boulevard.
  • Free parking
  • Do not collect ladybugs.
  • November through February.
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Laure Latham

Laure is an author, environmental advocate, blogger, open water swimmer and now mother. She's passionate about inspiring families to enjoy the outdoors with their children, learning to unplug and living a healthy lifestyle, giving kids life skills and exploring the world around us sharing Family Friendly, Fun Ideas for the whole family on Frog Mom.

14 Responses to “Ladybug Hike at Redwood Regional Park”

  1. November 21, 2011 at 10:04 am, Timecheck said:

    Thanks for the reminder. I’ve seen them there before, but the time of year never fixed itself in my brain. Now we have a place to take our granddaughter next time she’s over.

    Reply

  2. November 21, 2011 at 10:08 am, Frog Mom said:

    Oh – and apparently it’s just the beginning. There will be way more when the temperature drops. Isn’t that amazing?

    Reply

  3. November 22, 2011 at 9:15 am, Dan P. said:

    Wow—those photos are unreal! I love the emphasis on embracing local opportunities to get out in nature. I was up in Sonoma over the weekend, and took a hike up Baldy Mountain. National Parks are spectacular (and California is certainly blessed with these), but in a lot of ways a state park that’s a little more humble (and not overflowing with people!) is a nice refreshing experience.

    Reply

  4. January 04, 2012 at 4:24 pm, Once a small seed said:

    Thank you so much for the tip. We went today. It was so amazing. Once, a long time ago, I saw something similar in the south bay. I had no idea they did it every year and in the same spot.

    Reply

  5. January 10, 2012 at 7:03 am, Valerie said:

    Thank you very much for posting! We visited the ladybugs and loved it.
    http://journeyleaf.typepad.com/journeyleaf/2012/01/ladybugsdefinitely-plural.html

    Reply

  6. January 10, 2012 at 7:04 am, Valerie said:

    We visited the ladybugs yesterday! Thanks so much for posting about this. We’ll always treasure the memory.

    http://journeyleaf.typepad.com/journeyleaf/2012/01/ladybugsdefinitely-plural.html

    Reply

  7. October 03, 2012 at 4:42 am, Frog Mom in a KEEN Ad for Hiking Shoes | Frog Mom said:

    […] before heading out in the wild. As for the outdoors, I opted for Redwood Regional Park as it was ladybug season and we hoped to find a few clustered around the creek […]

    Reply

  8. July 09, 2013 at 1:25 pm, Local Loves: Redwood Regional Park in Oakland, CA | Alyssa & Carla said:

    […] – The Stream Trail is easily walked by all levels, but you might want to leave the bike at home since they are only allowed for less than a mile.  The Ridge trails (both East Ridge and West Ridge) are wonderful for amazing views of the area, but can be challenging.  The French Trail is almost 8 miles and a great option for a day hike, with bathrooms and picnic spots at intervals along the way.  (It’s been a while since I hiked all the trails, but a quick Google search will help you find CRAZY run/hikes and normal ones.) […]

    Reply

  9. October 20, 2014 at 1:35 pm, diana said:

    Wondering if early November it too early? This would be awesome for our cub scout troop.

    Reply

    • October 28, 2014 at 12:07 am, Frog Mom said:

      Hi Diana, it would be an awesome outing for cub scoots and November might not be too early if the temperatures are right. Since the ladybugs gather in clusters to winterize, it’s more a question of cold than month. If you call the East Bay Regional Parks, they’ll be able to tell you but I’ll also try to find out on my end.

      Reply

  10. December 27, 2014 at 9:27 am, Lindsay said:

    Thank you so much for the info! I’m hoping to take my 3 and 6 year old on this hike next week – would a B.O.B. stroller be able to handle the trail? Thanks!!

    Reply

    • January 08, 2015 at 6:15 am, Frog Mom said:

      Hello Lindsay, I was enjoying the Spanish outdoors when you went! Did you go with the BOB stroller in the end? There are a few steep parts but the trail should be ok. Thanks!

      Reply

  11. January 07, 2015 at 10:46 pm, Diana said:

    Thank you for posting this. My family had a great time on the hike!! I shared this page on my blog… http://mrsodaniels.blogspot.com/2015/01/happy-2015.html

    Reply

  12. December 10, 2017 at 3:57 pm, Frog Mom said:

    […] autumn, I don’t think I’ve ever seen honey bees in the winter. Could they be doing as ladybugs do in the winter? Here you’ll find out about the amazing survival techniques of wintering […]

    Reply

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