Now Is The Time To Visit The Iconic California Poppy Fields
April 6th is California Poppy Day. The drought-tolerant, self-seeding, ever-so-sunny flower is a California native (and the state flower) that has been a part of California State lore for almost as long as people have inhabited the region. Before development encroached on poppy habitat, entire foothills of land were covered in a shocking orange hue for an effect that had Spanish explorers seeing “rivers of gold” on the San Gabriel mountains from their ships at sea (more than 30 miles away!)
Much like the Japanese celebrate their beloved cherry blossoms in springtime, early Californians once made a ritual of picnicking in these never-ending fields of sunny blooms.
Golden poppies still thrive in the Golden State in clusters on foothills, highway abatements, abandoned lots and gardens, but the sprawling fields of flowing gold are largely a thing of the past. The good news is that you can still experience these incredible carpets of color at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, located in Lancaster, California, about an hour and a half drive from Los Angeles. Wildflowers are, of course, not always on schedule, so peak blooming times, duration, and intensity vary from year to year, depending on the season’s temperatures and rainfall. Typically, the best times to visit are the months of March, April, and May, with peak blooms usually falling in mid-April. To help catch the best display of poppy flowers, the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve has set up a handy Wildflower Hotline (661-724-1180) and website postings for frequent updates on the status of the blooms. Among the poppies visitors can expect to see pops of other colorful wildflowers, such as purple filaree and yellow goldfield, which also change as the season progresses.
Golden poppies are stunning in their simplicity and color and best experienced in multitudes. A trip to the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve makes a great day trip to experience a shining moment of the Mojave Desert Grassland habitat. At the very least, you can’t beat pictures of yourself and loved ones surrounded by one of California’s true natural wonders. Make it an annual tradition, or a once-in-a-lifetime memory you won’t soon forget.
Visitors Take Note
The Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve is located at 15101 Lancaster Road in Lancaster, California. The park, which has 8 miles of gentle trails to explore, is open from sunrise to sunset and charges $10 per vehicle. Winds can be very strong in the area, which can cause blooms to close, so be sure to check the weather and bloom forecast before you visit. Bring some sunscreen, a hat, good walking shoes, water, and a picnic– then, kick back, explore, and enjoy the unforgettable view!