Growing up in Los Angeles, I would always see the brilliant orange California Poppies growing here and there every spring. There were some around the neighborhood and at the side of the highways at times. And if the rains were really good, there would be pockets of clusters on a neighbors hillside. It’s been our state flower since 1903 (thanks to botanist Sarah Plummer Lemmon) so watching them bloom every spring was really no surprise. But how about poppies as far as the eye can see? Acres and acres and acres of orange petals…
With California’s epic rain fall this past winter, So Cal is experiencing what is being referred to as a super bloom: more wildflowers over an extended period of time. This seemed to be the best opportunity to head out and experience this amazing sight for myself.
Our closest natural poppy field is the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve. Just about an hour east of our home near Los Angeles, my daughter and I headed out for a little day trip one Sunday to see this amazing flower field for ourselves.
There was still snow on the mountains, which I haven’t seen this late in the year in a long time.
We decided to go around the back end of the reserve as it was the weekend and I figured there would be a lot of people trying to visit the reserve on the tiny two lane roadway.
We stopped off the side of the road before heading around the hill to the reserves main entrance, and took some shots there before continuing on. I heard it’s often windy in that area and the day we went was no exception. The wind was blowing so hard I was afraid I wouldn’t get a decent closeup photo of the flowers.
After our quick stop for a few photos, we headed over to the official reserve park entrance, were you’ll find eight miles of hiking trails and great views due to the hills, but we couldn’t even get in! There were so many people there we would have had to hike in almost two miles just to get back to the entrance after parking on the roadside and then started hiking into the fields. Ummmm, no thanks. Instead, we turned right back around to our sweet, little poppy field we first found on Avenue D and 140th St, which I highly recommend as an alternative viewing spot, with no hills and no parking fees.
And this is all we needed. A place in the fields to sit. To be still. To watch the wind wash over the flower fields in waves. To chat and catch up on life. To take photos. It was perfect. It was what memories are made of.
Some of the other wildflowers you may see while visiting are lupine, coreopsis, owl’s clover and cream cups.
California Poppies are native to both California and Mexico, but their habitat extends north to Oregon and as far east as New Mexico. Native Americans used poppy leaves medicinally as a mild sedative (as it contains a different alkaloid then opium poppies.) The pollen was used cosmetically and the seeds were used in cooking, as they still are today.
I wouldn’t mind heading back in the next week or so, as more lupine and other flowers come into bloom. Here are some thoughts on what I’ll do when I come back next time and tips if you decide to go and experience this beauty for yourself:
- The wildflower bloom is typically March through April, with the peak time usually the end of March or beginning of April. (This years super bloom is extending this time through May. Check the California State Parks website for updated information.)
- Go during the week and go early. The mornings are calmer in regards to both wind and the amount of visitors.
- Visit the Interpretive Center, only open from March 1st through Mother’s Day weekend. You’ll find exhibits, paintings, video orientations and a gift shop benefitting their non-profit association.
- Make a day of it and visit one of these other local state parks (Did you know your parking pass is good for the day at any other state park with the same or lower parking fee?):
- Ripley Desert Woodland State Park – native Joshua Trees and Junipers; seven miles to the west.
- Saddleback Butte State Park – more wildflower super blooms but different from the poppy reserve, as well as Joshua Trees (campsites are also available here); 32 miles to the east.
- Red Rock Canyon State Park – gorgeous desert cliffs, buttes, rock formations and more wildflowers. Look for petroglyphs left by the Kawaiisu Indians; 60 miles north
Let me know in the comments if you’ve gone or other fields you’d recommend to visit.
One last photo: my daughter wanting nothing to do with the wind.
Here’s a short little video of our trip: