Each spring, during the months of March and April, the high Mojave Desert comes alive with vibrant splashes of orange. The poppy bloom can be extraordinary in during the rare years where winter rainfall has been plentiful.
Best of all they can be found just a short drive from the concrete clad skyline of downtown Los Angeles. So forget about tiptoeing through the tulips. This is southern California, grab your camera for some posing with the poppies.
Here’s how to experience the spectacular poppy reserve in Antelope Valley, California. With all the essential information you need.
WHERE TO GO
Located just an hour or so north of Los Angeles, and 14 miles west of Lancaster, the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve is a 1,763 acre State Park that was created in 1976 to celebrate and preserve the gorgeous California State flower. Google maps can show you the way!
WHEN TO GO
The blooms happen from mid-March through mid-April. Check the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve website to see the status of the blooms. Typically peak time is near the first weekend in April, but winter rainfall will dictate the timing and size of the bloom.
TIPS FOR A STELLAR EXPERIENCE
1. Arrive early in the day.
There are several reasons for arriving early at the Reserve. The first is to avoid the crowds that descend upon the park mid-day, and the enormous bathroom lines that come with them. If you wait until later in the day, you could be waiting 30 minutes for the pleasure of using a honey bucket or pit toilet. Also, the winds tend to kick up in the afternoon. It is much nicer to see the blooms gently swaying in the morning breeze than leaning over in gale force winds.
2. Pick a sunny and warm day.
Poppies are a bit fickle in that the blooms only open during the warmth of the day. Cloudy or cool days or evenings, mean the blooms will tightly closed and won’t provide the best photos.
3. Choose your parking.
If you arrive early enough there may be room in the parking lot, which will cost $10. If you are open to walking a little bit, you can park for free along the road leading up to the park entrance. Just make sure your vehicle is completely parked in the dirt, not on the pavement to avoid a fine.
4. Commit to taking a hike.
Around the immediate vicinity of the visitors center, the blooms aren’t as lush and concentrated. You must commit to taking a 1.5+ mile hike to the north or east side of the park. Directly east is a fairly easy and flat hike that most people select. However, if you are willing to gain some altitude and burn a few extra calories, the Northern loop will reward you will fewer crowds and a spectacular swath of poppies nestled between two hills.
5. Stay on the trails.
The poppies are a protected plant in the State of California and it is a fineable offense to pick or destroy them. Keeping on the trails not only protects the poppies but also keeps you safe from the rattlesnakes that are native to the area and tend to hide among the blooms.
WHAT TO BRING
Sunscreen and a hat. The park is a grassland and located in the high desert. There is no shade. Unless you want to be burned to a crisp, lather up and protect yourself from the strong sun.
Comfortable shoes for hiking. Although the park has well-groomed trails, they are still hiking trails. This is not the place to wear heels or flip-flops, leave those in the car and lace up a pair of sneakers.
Water. It can get warm very quickly and there can be a strong dry wind that kicks up dust. This park doesn’t have drinking fountains or concession stands. Bring a bottle of water or two.
Facial tissue or allergy medication. If you suffer from allergies, hundreds of acres covered with blooming wildflowers, grasses and blowing dust could be a thing of sneezing nightmares if you are unprepared. Pack a few tissues and please don’t litter.
Camera. These blooms are spectacular, you will want to snap a few hundred photos in your attempt to capture the amazing wash of color along the hills.
Experiencing the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve is something that should be put on everyone’s bucket list. Don’t worry about the crowds, there is plenty of space for everyone to enjoy Mother Nature’s artistic flare.