Last weekend I took a trip to the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve to see the flowers, which are in full bloom. The California poppy has been the state flower for over 100 years. (And no, it’s not the poppy variety used to make opium.)
It’s best to visit the preserve on a sunny day and after the poppies have had time to warm up and open their petals. Rangers at the park indicated that the poppies will be around for at least another week, which means you have a perfect Mother’s Day destination for this Sunday. If you go from Los Angeles, I recommend taking Interstate 5 to highway 138 to get there, but then returning via the winding set of country roads (primarily Lake Hughes Road) to cut southwest through the Angeles National Forest to join the 5 at Castaic Lake. Just make sure you have a full gas tank and water. On your way to the park, take the opportunity to check out poppies and other wildflowers along the roads. There is a particularly nice field of California poppies as you drive along Lancaster Road just before you reach the park.
For your visit to the preserve, don’t forget your hat, sunblock and sunglasses. You’ll especially need the sunglasses – the shocking orange color of the poppies is surprisingly hard on the eyes. I was happy I also brought my camera to document the visit. Looking back at my photos from my visit, I almost couldn’t believe I had experienced so many wildflowers and so much color in one place. Finally, bring a picnic, otherwise you’ll be jealous of the families chowing down at the picnic tables at the poppy preserve trailhead.