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Explore the Beauty of the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

9 min read
Explore the Beauty of the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

Where to see the poppies in Los Angeles? What time of year do the poppies bloom?

With all the rain in Los Angeles in 2023, we would have been severely disappointed if there had been no super bloom after all the sacrifice spent these past months indoors. Of course, we can’t guarantee what it will be like next year, but Spring delivered a beautiful masterpiece this year.

One of the magical things about Spring in California is the wildflowers that bloom across the state. If we are destined for a super bloom, everyone is at the edge of their seat, waiting to experience an explosion of color throughout different parts of the state, including us. The super bloom happens every few years or so.

Among the most popular of places to see poppies is the Lancaster Poppy Fields in Antelope Valley.

The Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve spans over 1,700 acres of poppy fields and hiking trails. The dramatic landscape of rolling hills covered with bright orange poppies draws visitors far and wide – don’t be surprised when you see busloads of people at the reserve.

It’s a popular destination for hikers, photographers, and nature lovers, or if you just want to experience some extra joy of color.

featured blog image | antelope valley poppy reserve | antelope valley poppy fields
Explore the beauty of the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve. The Lancaster Poppy Fields is a must-see in Southern California in the Springtime.

Every year, from around mid-March to the end of April, the fields come alive with a sea of vibrant orange poppies and other wildflowers. It’s a sight to see! One that helped us forgive all the rain from the season.

Even when there isn’t a super bloom, poppies make their grand debut, as the California Poppy is an annual plant. Maybe not as abundant, but it’s still worth visiting the Lancaster Poppy Fields.

In all seriousness, water brings life. It’s nice to get out, take a scenic drive and see the mountains flourishing in green and specks of colors from the wildflowers.

Visiting the Lancaster Poppy Fields is one of our favorite day trips from Los Angeles. It’s only an hour and twenty-five minutes from Pasadena, taking the scenic route via the Angeles Crest Highway (2) to Lancaster. It was much easier and faster to get to than The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, though it was also worth it.

In this article, we share what you need to know if you’re visiting the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, including the best time to visit and what to expect when you’re there.

Lancaster Poppy Fields

viewpoint of trails at the antelope valley poppy reserve

Where can I see poppies in Lancaster?

One popular place to see poppies in Lancaster is the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve. This reserve is about 15 miles west of Lancaster and is known for its stunning display of California poppies.

Additionally, several hiking trails and fields in the area offer opportunities to see poppies in their natural habitat. As you explore Antelope Valley, you will see plenty of poppies and wildflowers along the side of the road.

Some people combine the day trip to the Lancaster Poppy Fields with seeing the wildflowers along Gorman Hills, 35 minutes west of Antelope Valley.

In 1976, the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve was established to conserve the California poppy. The reserve is located in Lancaster in Los Angeles County.

The California Department of Parks and Recreation manages the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve. The reserve boasts eight miles of hiking trails, picnic areas, and a visitor center where visitors can learn more about the history and ecology of the area.

poppies in lancaster
Fun Fact: The California Poppy became the official state flower in 1903.

Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

What is the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve address?

The official address is: 15101 Lancaster Rd, Lancaster, CA 93536 [Google Map It]

Parking at the Reserve

Parking is available at the reserve for an extra charge of $10. Your parking ticket is valid for same-day use if you visit another California State Park.

Is Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve free?

The Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve is free. Parking, however, is $10 per car. You can avoid paying for parking by parking on the off-shoulder of Lancaster Road.

When should I visit the poppy fields?

The best time to visit the poppy fields is typically the end of March to maybe-mid April. During this time, the California Poppy blooms in the fields and covers patches of the hills in vibrant orange. They’ll start to dwindle around mid-April, so you’ll start seeing less of them, but that shouldn’t keep you from visiting the area.

There is a Poppy Live Cam that allows you to keep an eye out for the blooms.

Remember that it can get crowded on weekends and during peak bloom, so plan your visit accordingly. The earlier in the day you go, the better. You want to avoid the crowds.

We went during the afternoon because that was the only time that worked for us, and it was already crowded but not unmanageable. We did park further down Lancaster Road and avoided the long line to get into the parking lot, as it would have taken much longer to get in. It was only an additional 5-minute walk to the entrance, and we were fine with that.

Of course, do what works best for you and your situation. If you have little ones or are traveling with someone that can’t walk too far, you may want to line up to enter the parking lot to be closer.

field of wildflowers at the entrance of the poppy reserve with a red ranch home in the distances
An amazing sight from the entrance of the reserve of a farm surrounded by a sea of wildflowers.

Are dogs allowed in Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve?

Dogs are not allowed in the Antelope Valley Poppy California Reserve. However, we saw some people with their dogs on a leash outside the reserve.

How long do the poppies bloom in Antelope Valley?

close up of poppies in the wild while exploring lancaster

The actual timing can vary depending on the weather and other environmental factors. However, the poppies are typically in bloom from mid-March to late April.

We visited in April, and the poppies were at peak full bloom. The landscape was beautiful, with pops of orange from the poppy fields and other colorful wildflowers.

And even if there were little to no poppies, the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve has great hiking trails and views of the surrounding hills and canyons.

Are there bathrooms at the Antelope Valley Reserve?

Yes! There are a few porta-potties available at the entrance. Keep going towards the visitor center; you’ll find several more porta-potties and a few real bathrooms.

bathrooms antelope valley poppy reserve

Tips for Visiting the Antelope Valley Poppy Fields

patch of poppies at the top of tehachapi vista at the antelope valley reserve

Wear Comfortable Shoes

The easiest and best way to explore the poppy fields is by foot, so wearing the right footwear is essential. While there are paved paths, there are also dirt paths. So think about that when you start to reach for flip-flops.

Wear Layers

It can be cooler in the morning and then warmer in the afternoon. A light jacket or sweater might be a good idea for the morning, but you’ll start taking it off if you’re still there in the afternoon.

It was warm in the afternoon when we were there.

Don’t Forget Sun Protection

You’ll probably be outside for a few hours, so staying hydrated is important. Bring a reusable water bottle. You might want to bring some snacks, like a granola bar, just in case.

If you desire, you can pack a light lunch to eat at a picnic table.

Arrive Early

If possible, we like to arrive early, but it didn’t work out that way this time. We still recommend that you plan to go earlier in the day to beat the crowds, avoid the harsh afternoon sun and get parking.

We were there on a weekend afternoon and didn’t think the crowds were too bad once we were in reserve, as everyone was spaced out. However, parking was a different story. There was a line down Lancaster Road to get into the parking lot.

Don’t Pick the Flowers

single poppies along the edge of the reserve

One of the first things we saw at the Lancaster Poppy Fields was people leaving with poppies they had picked off the ground.

It was sad to see because picking flowers is not allowed. Respect nature. You’re better off taking photos.

Did you know that Poppies will lose their petals quickly if improperly cut or picked?

Stay Within the Trails

Admire the beauty of the poppy fields and stay within the trails. Don’t step on the flowers – it’s rude!

Stop and See the Flower Fields Along Lancaster Road

Stopping to admire the poppy fields along Lancaster Road.

While it is encouraged to only enter through the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, some of the best poppy fields are off Lancaster Road. Drive up and down Lancaster Road, and you’ll find fields of poppies that you can stop to admire and take photos of t.

Food trucks and other vendors will also sell local goods along the road.

Where to stay in Lancaster, CA?

Personally, we'd stay closer to the city of Los Angeles and drive in. However, if you plan to explore the area and do other things near and around Antelope Valley, here are some hotels nearby. You will still need transporation to the poppy fields. Residence Inn by Marriott Palmdale LancasterFairfield by Marriott Inn & Suites Palmdale WestElement Palmdale Alternatively, you can book a vacation rental via Booking.com Aparments or Vrbo.com.

Activities to Do at the Poppy Reserve

You can spend as much or as little time at the Lancaster Poppy Fields as you want. The reserve is open from sunrise to sunset, giving you enough time to enjoy the scenery, hike, or relax in one of the many picnic areas.

Here are some of the things you can do at the Antelope Valley Reserve:

Hike the Trails

couple hiking the antelope valley poppy reserve trail

There are over eight miles of trails inside Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, many providing ample viewing opportunities for the poppies and other wildflower species. You’ll also find a paved trail designated for wheelchair users.

You will want to grab a handy park map as you enter the park, either from one of the handy mailboxes along the entrance or from the park ranger as you enter the park.

The most popular trail is the Valley Vista Point Trail which is the shortest and takes you up to the hilltop for some stunning panoramic views of the poppies and the surrounding hills.

If you want to hit a longer trail, take the Lighting Bolt Trail and the path to Antelope Butte Vista Point, the longest trail at 1.5 miles.

Take Photos

woman taking photos with her mobile phone at the antelope valley reserve
While the iPhone camera is our go-to and the most readily available, this is a good opportunity to bring your other camera. On the hand, we also had our Sony a7iii.

You won’t be able to resist taking photos, and you shouldn’t. While stopping and taking it all in is nice, having your memories recorded in photos is also nice.

You will surely get some amazing shots with the bright orange poppies contrasting against the blue sky. Just remember to stay on the designated trails and respect the flowers.

Check Out the Other Flora

poppies and action daisies at the reserve
California poppies mixed in with action daisies.

The California Poppy is not the only flower that blooms in the Reserve. Many other wildflower species exist, such as action daisies, goldfields, lupine, fiddlenecks, red maids, etc.

You may even see Joshua Trees.

Enjoy a Picnic

picnic tables at the antelope valley poppy reserve

The reserve has some picnic tables available. You can pack lunch and some drinks before or after hitting the trails.

Keep an Eye Out for Wildlife

As you hike, keep an eye out for signs of life. The Lancaster Poppy Fields are home to various animals, birds, and reptiles. Antelopes, rabbits, bobcats, hawks, owls, butterflies, roadrunners, and rattlesnakes are some ones that may be spotted in the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve.

Visit the Visitor Center

The visitor center has exhibits on the flora and fauna of the reserve, as well as information on the area’s history. You can also purchase souvenirs, snacks, and drinks here.

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