6 easy ways to see the Poppy Fields in Southern California
If you live in California, you know spring is poppy time. The relentless winter rains have made for spectacular super-bloom displays this year. And you don’t want to miss them.
Of course you do want to avoid the swarms of tourists invading SoCal’s poppy parks. I have a few savvy tips for enjoying fields of gold with fewer hassles. But first, let me explain.
If you read this blog you know how crazy I am for California poppies from my posts on how to grow them, where to view them, when the poppy became our state flower, and why I picked them for this blog’s logo.
So I get it. But even I am not as cray as the crowds in SoCal’s poppyville right now.
Unless you’re living under a rock or taking a social media detox, you’ve heard the buzz about Poppy Mania, Poppy-palooza, Poppy-ocalypse, and the backlash of #Don’tDoomTheBloom.
Over in Lake Elsinore the mayor shut the poppy area down for a day because of too many tourists. Apparently, people are behaving badly — stepping, sitting, sprawling, and even landing a helicopter in the middle of the poppy fields.
They’re flattening flowers for the glory of the ‘Gram. Sigh.
Antelope Valley hasn’t been as bad as Lake Elsinore. But who can say if the buzz will bring bigger crowds or make people stay away. Don’t stay away. Just be savvy.
6 Savvy Ways to See Antelope Valley Poppies
1. Know when to go
The SoCal wildflower season can start as early as mid-February and go through May. But the peak viewing period is usually late March or early April. Sunny days are best because poppies unfurl only in sunshine and close up with overcast skies. Go early on a weekday to avoid the crush.
2. Find poppy fields on the side of the road
You don’t have to go into the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve if you don’t want to wait in long lines to pay entrance fees. You can drive by fields of poppies on the edges of the park right along the road, if you know where to look.
This is also a savvy strategy for people traveling with dogs, too, since they’re not allowed in the park.
Our friends the Vilatta’s took every Antelope Valley poppy photo on this page simply by pulling over on Highway 138 in Lancaster on their way home from a SoCal race weekend. (The entrance to Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is around the bend on 150th Street West.)
You can also park for free on Lancaster Road, just outside Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve. Either way, you may see some traffic along these roads if you go on the weekends when more people are headed to the park.
Do drive carefully. You won’t be the only drive-by poppy peepers. Watch out for erratic fanatics slowing down to take photos out their car windows. Beware of families spilling out of car doors in unexpected places.
3. Ask the locals where the poppies are poppin’
Wherever and whenever you go, you’ll find shop keepers and friendly local families who know exactly where the poppies have recently popped up in their town. This may be different at different times. So just ask.
4. Visit the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve at off-peak times
Avoid the crowds headed to the park by going early and midweek. On busy weekends and holidays, the parking lot ($10 fee) often fills up and closes as early as 9am.
If you want to spend more than a few minutes peering at poppies, a visit to Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve is well worth it. You can enjoy eight miles of trails through rolling hills, with park benches along the way and a few accessible paved walkways. Stop at one of the park’s shaded picnic tables (first come, first served) overlooking the valley to the San Gabriel Mountains.
5. Take the Park’s poppy smartphone tour
On your smartphone, you can get notifications along the Poppy Reserve trails. You’ll get alerts about the best photo and audio spots and learn about the park’s natural and cultural history. Find out more on the Antelope Valley Events page, just before poppy season in early March.
6. Call the Poppy Reserve’s wildflower hotline
For Antelope Valley bloom status updates, conditions, and crowds, call the poppy hotline: 661-724-1180.
Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve: Know Before You Go
The reserve is located 15 miles west of Highway 14 near the city of Lancaster. The visitor center is a half mile north of the intersection of 150th St W & Lancaster Road.
Address: 15101 150th St W, Lancaster, CA 93536
The park is open from sunrise to sunset daily year-round.
(Cash, Visa and Mastercard accepted)
$10 per vehicle
$9 per vehicle with a senior on board (62 and over)
$5 per vehicle with DPR Disabled Discount Card
For more information on planning your visit to Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve in Lancaster, California, see the website: www.parks.ca.gov.
SAVVY TRIVIA: Want to know how Antelope Valley got its name? The area used to be a huge pronghorn grazing land. Not really an antelope, but it was often called the American antelope or pronghorn antelope. Between 1882 and 1885, Antelope Valley lost around 30,000 antelope through hunting or relocation.