Distance (round-trip)

3.3 mi

Time

1.5 hrs

Elevation Gain

230 ft

Season

Spring

Weather

A short and easy but breathtaking stroll through the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve – a 1800 acre reserve of prime California poppy real estate. Accessible for just about everyone, this small unit of the State Park system is a must-see during bloom season, when the low hills become absolutely covered in carpets of orange.

For up-to-date wildflower information, call the Poppy Reserve’s wildflower hotline at (661) 724-1180. Regional wildflower info is available from the Theodore Payne Foundation’s Wild Flower Hotline at (818) 768-3533.

After seeing some pictures and reading about some other hikers’ bloom-viewing experiences in the Antelope Valley, I decided to finally make the small trek up north to see what all the fuss was about – and I was not disappointed.

I decided to take the slightly-longer drive in, along the 138 E. That rural road is known for its own share of wildflower blooms, and the impressive roadside poppy displays were a great way to warm up my eyes for all the orange they were about to see. If you’re headed to the Poppy Reserve during bloom season, try to take the extra time to drive along this road – it’s worth the side trip.

IMG_2647

IMG_2651

The actual Poppy Reserve itself was pretty busy when I went – due both to the fact that the poppies were in full bloom and also probably to the fact that nearby Lancaster was holding its annual California Poppy Festival. But after a short wait to get into the parking lot, I headed onto the reserve’s 7-mile trail system.

IMG_2663

When you pay to park, the rangers will give you a small brochure with some helpful information about the different plants and animals you’ll see on the trail, as well as a small trail map. The system ranges from easy to moderately-easy inclines, and while the paths are very easy to follow, some of the trails are not “named,” so it can be a little disorienting to try to figure out where in the tangled loop of criss-crossing trails you actually are. Of course, you could just spend your time wandering around and not worry too much about getting lost – everything loops back around eventually.

IMG_2664

There are a few viewpoints marked on the map, often on the tops of low buttes or hills. From this vantage point, the sheer number of poppies really comes into full focus:

IMG_2672

IMG_2680

IMG_2684

… as well as the crowded parking lot during the peak bloom:

IMG_2670

IMG_2679

I went up to the closest vista point to the parking lot, where I spotted a few patches of non-poppies in the north end of the reserve. So, after the short descent, I avoided the crowds near the visitors’ center and headed north on the Loop Trail.

This area was much less crowded than the areas closer to the parking lot, but still had some pretty impressive poppy blooms on display, as well as a good mix of other colors:

IMG_2688

IMG_2690

IMG_2692

IMG_2694

IMG_2696

After looping around the north end of the park, I was greeted with the crowds on the South Loop – who had very good reason to be there. The south-facing slopes of these hills were almost a solid carpet of orange, and were attracting their fair share of admirers and photographers.

IMG_2700

IMG_2703

*** note: although this hike is very easy, be sure to bring sunscreen and water with you on this hike. Even in spring, temperatures can get pretty hot in this area of California, and there is absolutely NO shade on these trails outside of the Visitor’s Center.

For the best information on current blooms, be sure to check the Theodore Payne Foundation’s Wildflower Hotline before you head out (seasonally operational).

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Modern Hiker, Author of "Day Hiking Los Angeles," Walking Meditator, Native Plant Enthusiast.





Accessible

Kid-Friendly

Views / Vista

Trail Map

23 Comments

Susan w

Susan w Mar 26, 2017 14:03In reply to: maryrocks33

Yes! Went today! Amazing!

Leave a Reply to Susan w Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Susan w Mar 26, 2017 14:03

We arrived around 9 am and it was windy and cold! So bring a fleece! Poppies were not blooming yet but by 1130, they were fully open! Parking lot got full and was closed off and a lot of people parked on the side of the road.
Beautiful and worth going!!!

Leave a Reply to Susan w Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Casey Schreiner Oct 7, 2015 14:10In reply to: Lou

Spring, if and when the flowers are blooming. Otherwise you're not gonna see much!

Leave a Reply to Casey Schreiner Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Lou Oct 6, 2015 20:10

What is the best time to visit.

Leave a Reply to Lou Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Wilderness Backpacker Nov 2, 2010 18:11

Wow, the pictures of the flowers are just stunning. The desert can hold such surprising beauty. This is certainly a hike that is worth the mention!

Leave a Reply to Wilderness Backpacker Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The ZQMX Blog » Blog Archive » Lancaster, Home of the Beautiful Mojave Desert Nov 1, 2010 18:11

[...] home to one of the largest collections of flowers to be seen. During this time, you can visit the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, where 1,700 acres of poppy fields can be viewed. Lined with trails, you can walk through the vast [...]

Leave a Reply to The ZQMX Blog » Blog Archive » Lancaster, Home of the Beautiful Mojave Desert Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Susan Oct 3, 2010 22:10

I've been out to see the poppies, but never been on that particular trail. The flowers are in full bloom and are really blanketing the land there. I'd love to come out and see it next year.

Leave a Reply to Susan Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

maryrocks33 May 24, 2010 23:05

Are the poppies still blooming in full effect? Anyone been in the last few days?

Leave a Reply to maryrocks33 Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Oh poppies! Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve California | Cohabitaire May 24, 2010 19:05

[...] Comprehensive trail details can be found on Modern Hiker. [...]

Leave a Reply to Oh poppies! Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve California | Cohabitaire Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Chris Ronk May 21, 2010 13:05

I took my daughters there a few weeks ago for the first time. As beautiful as those pictures are, they do not do this natural spectacle justice. The colors are so vivid it feels like you are in a dream.

I feel fortunate that I live in the area, and I will continue to go every year.

Leave a Reply to Chris Ronk Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Modern Hiker Apr 30, 2010 11:04In reply to: the actors diet

Not in the State Park preserve, no.

Leave a Reply to Modern Hiker Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

the actors diet Apr 30, 2010 08:04

i'm assuming doggies aren't allowed, right?!

Leave a Reply to the actors diet Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Laura Apr 28, 2010 15:04

Wow, that's absolutely beautiful!

Leave a Reply to Laura Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Alison Apr 28, 2010 11:04

I just want to agree with the posters who say to check the wind forecast -- it makes a pretty big difference -- and absolutely go on a weekday if you can. As beautiful as it is, most of what I remember from being there are the overflowing toilets, long lines to park and hoards of people on the trails.

Leave a Reply to Alison Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Karina Buck Apr 27, 2010 18:04

We went up today and had a wonderful day walking the poppy paths. Weather was really pleasant, windy but not cool enough to close up the poppies. Not too crowded cuz it was Tuesday. It's a great year for poppies. Go now, the bloom is peaking!

Took the 138 East from the 5 to get there, then meandered home via the scenic Lake Hughes Road. Highly recommend!

Leave a Reply to Karina Buck Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Donna Hull Apr 27, 2010 06:04

Stunning photos. I'm putting this on my list for my next spring trip to California.

Leave a Reply to Donna Hull Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

megan Apr 26, 2010 18:04

My boyfriend and I went here today. It was great. I was blown away with the color. They were almost neon orange and it was awesome. I couldn't imagine going on the weekend when it was packed. There were still a good amount of people there for a Monday. I would recommend this for anyone. Easy hike. great views right from your car.

Leave a Reply to megan Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Andy M, USA Apr 26, 2010 18:04

GeekHiker is right: if the wind is blowing, the poppies close up and the color isn't as brilliant. Visitors may want to check the wind forecast before heading up there if flexible on time. It is often windy in the high desert. From these pictures, looks like it was a nice still day! When I was up there, it was 30 mph wind! :)

Leave a Reply to Andy M, USA Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Alan Takushi Apr 26, 2010 17:04

Thanks for the information and also including your breathtaking pics. I've lived in SoCal all my life (more than I care to say) and keep telling myself to check this place out some day. It truly is an amazing place!

Leave a Reply to Alan Takushi Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

David Apr 26, 2010 14:04

Stunning ! We don't have colors like that in Florida.

Leave a Reply to David Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GeekHiker Apr 26, 2010 12:04

Looks like a pretty good bloom this year! I haven't been in a few years myself. I think I only made it there once when the wind wasn't blowing and all the poppies were open. Sometimes I wish I could just take a month off from work, stay in Lancaster, and wait for the perfect photography weather...

Leave a Reply to GeekHiker Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tweets that mention Hiking the Antelope Valley California Poppy Preserve | Modern Hiker -- Topsy.com Apr 26, 2010 11:04

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Casey Schreiner, Ben Wilde. Ben Wilde said: Hiking the Antelope Valley California Poppy Preserve: A short and easy but breathtaking stroll through the Antelop... http://bit.ly/dgjHgf [...]

Leave a Reply to Tweets that mention Hiking the Antelope Valley California Poppy Preserve | Modern Hiker -- Topsy.com Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Greg Stenson Apr 26, 2010 10:04

This is pretty impressive; also, pretty sad considering I lived out in Lancaster in 1993-1994 and had no clue this even existed!

Leave a Reply to Greg Stenson Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *