Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
- Location: 15101 Lancaster Road, Lancaster. From the 14 Freeway, take the Avenue I exit and head west for 14 miles (Avenue I becomes Lancaster Rd. along the way). The park entrance will be on the right. Parking is $10 per vehicle. During the peak season, the lot gets crowded on the weekends so plan accordingly.
- Agency: Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve State Natural Area
- Distance: 5.7 miles
- Elevation gain: 650 feet
- Suggested time: 3 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG
- Best season: March – May; call the park hotline at (661) 724-1180 for reports on wildflower bloom or check their website
- USGS topo map: Del Sur
- Recommended gear: sun block; sun hat
- More information: Trip descriptions here and here; Yelp page here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 8
The California Golden Poppy is our state’s flower and the Antelope Valley can be one of the best places to see them. In the spring, especially following heavy rains, the bloom is a stunning sight. The green hills are blanketed with thousands of orange poppies and on days of good visibility, the distant San Gabriel and Tehachapi ranges add to the scenery. Keep in mind that the area is completely exposed and that high winds are common.
The park has eight miles of trails. A stroll of any length can be enjoyable; one doesn’t have to hike a specific route to experience the poppies, but those who want a little more of a workout can try this 5.7-mile double loop around the perimeter of the park.
From the parking lot, follow the paved walkway past the visitor center to the beginning of the Poppy Loops. (For now, ignore the trail branching off to the right – that will come later.) Head toward the Tehachapi Overlook and turn left onto the South Poppy Loop Trail. For the next two miles, follow a more or less level loop clockwise around the base of a hill, taking in views of the poppy fields.
When you complete the loop, instead of going back to the parking lot, turn left on the trail signed for the Kitanemuk and Antelope Butte Vista Points. You head uphill, staying straight as another trail branches to the right. A climb brings you to the Kitanemuk Vista Point, where you get a 360-degree panorama. You continue along the ridge, following the signs to the Antelope Butte Vista Point (3.7 miles from the start and the highest point in the reserve, at 3,041 feet above sea level.)
After enjoying another 360-degree view from the Antelope Butte Vista Point, take a sharp right and head downhill, back toward the poppy fields. At 4.7 miles, you reach a T-junction; you can take either route as they converge again in about 0.6 miles. Soon after they rejoin, take a left on a trail signed for Valley Vista and get one last view of the area before heading back to the parking lot.
In addition to the poppies, keep an eye out for purple lacy phacelia, yellow goldfields and white forget-me-nots. Wildlife includes caterpillars, whiptail lizards and rattlesnakes – so watch where you step even as you enjoy the panoramas.