Poppies are beautiful when they cover the desert hillsides in orange flowers. But poppies are also fickle: If there’s too much rain, the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve can only expect a moderate poppy season. Too dry? Not a great bloom either (but you could still see some other wildflowers).
Which leads us to this year’s peculiar season: A spectacular bloom never quite arrived at the reserve itself, but some remarkable displays did pop up just outside the gates. Brome grasses and fiddlenecks have outcompeted poppies at much of the reserve—and as we’ve now passed the peak of the bloom, expect the color to quickly fade along the fragrant hillside.
If you don’t want to deal with the line of cars to enter the state park (which likely isn’t worth the hassle at this point in the bloom cycle) and simply want to pose—in front of, please, not on—a carpet of bright orange flowers, you’d be better served by the shoulder of Highway 138 north of the reserve or the grid of dirt roads just east of the park on the north side of Lancaster Road. With summer-strength heat on its way, though, expect these blooms to be fleeting, as well. You’ll find more details in our full guide to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve.
In a typical year, peak poppy season is usually from March to mid-April—a short window if you want to catch the blooms at their height. Check the park’s website for the latest bloom status or tune in to the livestream.