This past weekend I invited 4 women to join me in a weekend, girls-only, camping getaway. The trip was based around making it to see the poppy fields. There are a few options for someone looking to see poppies in southern California, the most well known being Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve. Being only 1-2 hours out of Los Angeles, we chose to see them in Antelope Valley.
Poppies bloom in Southern California as early as mid February and can last until early May at the latest. This leaves a short window of time to see them in bloom.
We came in from 45 minutes east where we were camping, Saddleback Butte State Park near Lancaster. The drive took us mostly on side roads the whole time. The last mile came to almost a complete stop with traffic backed up waiting to get into the State Park. Along the side of the road cars lined the shoulder, while tourists piled out to see the poppies. I had read several reviews by people talking about being able to park on Lancaster road and walk up to the reserve to bypass the fees of entrance. We decided to pull over and park about a quarter of a mile east of the entrance to the park and give it a shot.
Where we were parked, flowers already lined the grassy area, so we decided to take a peak in that area before heading up to the actual Reserve. We soon realized we were about to get exactly what we came for – poppies! Walking up the hill from the parking (heading north and towards the reserve) there’s a point where you go over a small hill that opens up to a huge field filled with poppies. 200+ people were scattered around what seemed to be at least a 1/2 square mile field, densely populated with flowers.
We honestly didn’t feel the need to head into the Sanctuary after the beautiful view we had just outside of the fenced area. It was the most incredible sea of orange I’ve ever seen! Towards the back (north end) of the field, we could walk up to the barbed wire that lined the sanctuary fence and get a peak. Had it not been so packed, we would have loved to have gone into the actual reserve. Maybe next year!
There are even easier, alternative ways to get to the location we found without the walking up the hill. Just East of where we parked (approximately .5 miles East of 150th St. W – which takes you up to the Reserve entrance) was a small dirt road you could take north to drive up to the main part of the field of poppies (the one we saw outside of the official Poppy Reserve). It’s small, so it only allowed for traffic coming from one way at a time, but it can help in getting quicker access to the bulk of the flowers without needing to walk up the hill from the street parking.
The poppies are said to be sensitive to cold weather and lack of light, so be sure to check the weather for the evening ahead of time before planning your trip. We had some intense wind during our visit, so always be prepared with warm layers to throw on if needed.
Also note that during poppy season it tends to be packed. There were more families there with their photographers taking pictures than I could even count. It made it a bit difficult to get nice photos without it looking like a prime tourist spot, but you could usually find a quieter area. Given the short distance from Los Angeles (1 – 1.5 hours) it’s definitely a must see while the poppies are still blooming!
Check the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve’s website for more details on visiting and for updates on the bloom.
Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve
15101 150th St W
Lancaster, CA 93536