The National Sierra Heritage Scenic Byway is primarily on State Highway 168, which ties the Sierra Nevada with eight foothill and mountain communities. The route rises 9,000 feet in elevation from the San Joaquin Valley to within viewing distance of the Kaiser, Ansel Adams and John Muir Wilderness Areas.
The Wildflower Trail, of which half of the trail follows the Scenic Byway, can be taken any time during the year as it is a lovely foothill drive. It is a fabulous trail for everyone, but especially for photographers. The trail can be done in a leisurely stop-for-photos four-hour drive.
A historic Magnolia Tree can be seen on the Old Town Historical Walk in Old Town Clovis, which is beautifully landscaped with various blossoming trees and flowers throughout the year. Information on the trail is available at the Clovis Big Dry Creek Historical Museum and the Clovis Chamber Hall (an original endowed Carnegie Library Building built in 1914.)
Driving south on Clovis Avenue and then east on Ashlan Avenue, you will begin to see the contours and colored shades of the foothills. Ashlan curves into Watts Valley Road and you will begin to see Popcorn Flowers and Fiddleneck and European species of wild mustard and wild radish that have naturalized in many parts of California. Approximately every other year during the month of April, as you come upon the Pittman Hill Road, you will see a spectacular view of Wild Poppies. Popcorn Flowers and Lupine pop up everywhere in late February and March.
There is a rest stop at the Humphrey’s Station location of a historical plaque. Continuing on, RV’s, trailers, trucks and cars will turn left onto Lodge Road to continue the trail, jogging right into Highway 168 and driving up the “four-lane.” Cars only may continue up the “Old Tollhouse Road,” which is very steep and narrow and not recommended for RV vehicles.
Drive up the four-lane to the rest stop and you can view the Carpenteria. This rare shrub is evergreen, with large, showy white flowers with bright yellow centers. Carpenteria is one of California’s rarest shrubs, found only in foothills of eastern Fresno and Madera counties, and it can be seen flowering from April through June.
At the top of the four-lane, at Pine Ridge, turn left onto Auberry Road. A drive through Alder Springs, Meadow Lakes and historical Auberry in late March or early April is breathtakingly pink with all the Redbud Bushes, some the size of trees. The view is enhanced with blossoming Buck Brush, a large lilac-looking bush with tiny cream-colored starlike blossoms.
As you drive out of Auberry on the Auberry Road, turn right onto Highway 168 again and drive into Prather. Take the right leg of the “Y” and continue on the Auberry Road down to the valley. You will again see Popcorn Flowers, Lupine and Fiddleneck in early spring and Farewell-To-Spring, a lovely pink flower, and Buckeye, a long spiked beautiful white flower in May.
Turn right on Copper Avenue to Willow Avenue; turn left and follow Willow to Bullard. In early spring, along this drive, you will see tree fruit varieties in bloom. Turn left on Bullard and drive back into Old Town Clovis.
The dedication of the Sierra Heritage Scenic Byway and the Wildflower Trail
In the spring of 1995, a Clovis Chamber of Commerce Staff Member began taking photos of the wildflowers along Highway 168 from Clovis to Shaver Lake. Because of these photos, the Clovis Chamber, working with a 1994 Chamber Director from the Sierra National Forest, began the paperwork to establish the Sierra Heritage Scenic Byway and The Wildflower Trail.
For the first time, up to 1995, the Sierra National Forest (the Federal Government), Caltrans District 6 (the State) the local Fresno County Road Maintenance, the City of Clovis Planning Department and Clovis Community Bank (now know as Central Valley Community Bank), the Clovis Chamber of Commerce and the Foothill Chamber of Commerce worked together to successfully complete a project.
Working with the Fresno County Roads Maintenance Department and the Clovis Planning Department, the encroachment permits were applied for to put up the Wildflower Trail signs. The Sierra National Forest provided the U.S. Byway signs and were installed by Caltrans.
The four year project was started by a Sierra National Forest representative and a Clovis Chamber of Commerce representative who worked with Federal, State, County and local entities. The Byway and Trail were dedicated on March 18, 1998.