Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve State Natural Reserve is one of the best places to see blooming California poppies. But do you really need to go all the way there?
California Poppies in Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
Every day, commuters are stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, regular for I-5 North in early morning and after business hours. Driving with a speed of often 10-15 miles per hour, regular drivers exercise more than just patience while driving from high desert to Los Angeles for work.
From mid-February through May, when California poppies add a pop of color to normally barren hills of the Antelope Valley, this driving pattern extends to weekends as well.
The California poppy bloom season is not to be missed. Millions of orange flowers transform the desert land into a vibrant oasis. With this vivid mosaic of color, the entire Antelope Valley looks as if it’s been set on fire.
During the wildflower season, residents of LA and nearby towns flock to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve daily to feast their eyes on this once-a-year blooming display. The time of the poppy bloom changes slightly every year depending on weather and winter/early spring precipitation.
While several places in the Los Angeles area offer incredible opportunities to witness California super bloom, the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve is considered the ultimate destination to see the blooming golden flowers.
Why We Never Go to Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
Similar to the majority of the locals, we hit the road and drive in the direction of the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve as soon as the California sun warms the earth enough for the wildflowers to emerge.
In an attempt to escape the crowds, we depart early in the morning. Never once arriving at our destination without making a stop or two along the way, we normally get to the California poppy fields by the time the wildflowers have opened their petals and turned to the light.
But other wildflower hunters are already at the reserve. Dressed up for photoshoots – some professional, some done by themselves – single visitors and whole families roam the blooming poppy hills in search of that perfect spot.
Never Arriving at Our Final Destination
Year after year, bloom season after bloom season, our GPS always showed the same final destination – the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve. But we hardly ever made it all the way there.
In fact, for the past 6-7 years, we entered the territory of the reserve only once. And even this short trip was just to enquire about the bloom that was unusually late. Dry winter diminished any chances of the California poppies to adorn the yellow-brownish land of the Antelope Valley that year.
Yet during a good year when enough winter precipitation and spring sunshine create favorable conditions for the poppies to bloom, the whole area transforms. The orange wildflowers spread out far outside of the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve.
Acres of land radiate spring festivity and cheerfulness. The blooming California poppies pop up on both sides of Munz Ranch and Lancaster Roads. You still have a good 5 miles to get to the reserve, which by this time hosts way too many visitors to have a relaxing morning in the flower fields.
The wildflower lovers seem to occupy every poppy “isle”, separated from each other by a network of tiny trails. With such an influx of the wildflower enthusiasts, parking quickly becomes an issue. On top of that, being a state-protected land, the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve charges parking fees.
Skip all the Hustle and Bustle
We gladly skip all of these. Instead our car pulls over by the side of the road where it’s safe and is allowed to do so. Far fewer people end their California-poppies hunt among these small hills. The blooming fields never look too overcrowded here. Parking… You may still have difficulties finding a spot. But the situation is never discouraging in these parts of the valley.
And since people normally look for more “orange” ground farther down the road and closer to the actual Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, you can claim one decent-size corner of the field and spend as much time as you need here. With enough room to roam around, other flower-field visitors normally respect your privacy and find their own unoccupied wildflower bays somewhere else.
We’ve been going to these unofficial California poppy fields in the Antelope Valley for years. And while there is nothing wrong with visiting the reserve, especially if you plan a professional photoshoot, these unnamed, unclaimed lands covered with the California cups of gold quench our wildflower thirst to the fullest. The flowers are exactly the same here or 10 miles down the road after all.
Things to Know before Going to See Wildflowers in and Near Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
The Antelope Valley comes alive with the seasonal flower display as early as mid-February. The flower bloom may last until late May. The duration and density of the flowery blanket, however, vary year to year, depending on the weather conditions.
The Antelope Valley is located in northern Los Angeles County and is part of the Mojave Desert. Roughly 16 miles east of the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve sits the city of Lancaster. It takes a little bit over 1 hour to get to the area from Los Angeles.
The Best Time to See California Poppies in the Antelope Valley
Midmorning is best for viewing the California poppies in their full glory. The weather is warm enough for the wildflowers to open. Gusty desert wind may force the poppies to close their petals in the afternoon.
Wildflower Field Etiquette
Although wild and rather unfussy, the California poppies are still fragile plants. The flowers are susceptible to frequent tantrums of the weather and lack of precipitation. Add to this a large number of careless visitors longing to see the wildflowers year after year, and you can get a full recipe for a gradual disappearance of these California natives.
To protect the wildflowers, the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve asks its visitors to refrain from picking the poppies and trampling the plants. Stay only on the designated trails to protect the complex root system.
Same rules apply to the areas outside of the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve. It’s up to us to make this world a bit prettier and preserve the poppies for future generations.
Places to See Near Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
- Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park (7 miles west of the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve)
- Saddleback Butte State Park (36 miles east of the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve)
- Vasquez Rocks Natural Area (42 miles south of the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve)
- Red Rock Canyon State Park (60 miles north of the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve)