It looks like it's time to head out to the Antelope Valley. For the past few weeks, areas outside the state's official poppy reserve, like the so-called Boulevard of Poppies, have been displaying a nice bloom. Now, officials at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve are saying their flowers appear to have hit peak bloom and will last throughout the rest of the month (the nearby Poppy Festival is next week).
But if you're expecting one of those jaw-dropping sights like we had four years ago, when fields were awash in orange, don't. Rick Reisenhofer, State Parks Superintendent for the area, tells me that this year's bloom is at about 50 percent in his estimation. That's not bad when the past few years felt more like zero percent. And with springtime green grass to accentuate the colors, it's enough for me to head up, as well as many others: the reserve's parking this week has been filling up.
The reserve has nine miles of trails, mostly easy with gentle rolling hills. Docents are currently pointing visitors to the north and south loop trails, which take you through two miles of blooming poppies. Also recommended for good views of the reserve and Antelope Valley are Tehachapi Vista Point and Kitanemuk Butte, both which are short hikes. Make sure to ask docents in the visitor center upon arrival in case things change. They can also point you to good spots outside the park.
If You Go: Parking at the reserve (15101 Lancaster Rd, Lancaster, California 93536) is $10. Dogs, unless they are service dogs, are not allowed on the trails or cannot be left inside vehicles. Cloudy days, wind, and colder weather can cause poppies to curl up, so make sure to check the weather before you go if that matters to you.