McKenzie Table Mountain Preserve is great for spring

Now that spring is finally here, it's time to stretch those legs that have been cooped up all winter long.

There's no better time to find your footing than during the McKenzie Table Mountain Preserve's annual open house.

Generally closed to the public, the 3,000-acre preserve in the Fresno County foothills near Millerton Lake is open to hikers, bird watchers and wildflower enthusiasts from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

At their own pace, visitors can either stroll the Discovery Trail, an easy 3.5-mile loop in the lower part of the preserve, or take a more challenging 6-mile hike to the top of Table Mountain, a series of volcanic mesas formed by ancient lava flows. Besides wildflowers, which are abundant this time of year, the main attractions are vernal pools that are home to fairy shrimp and awesome views of snowcapped Sierra peaks.

Owned by the Sierra Foothill Conservancy, a local nonprofit public benefit corporation, the McKenzie Preserve sits along the north side of Auberry Road about 3 miles east of the Millerton Road junction. Look for the large corral and gate, then drive right through.

Go to www.sierrafoothill.org for details and a printable map to the parking area or call (559) 855-3473. Bring your own lunch and water. Dogs are not allowed on the preserve because of the presence of cattle, which graze on the property.