Is the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve Open?
The Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve is open year-round. However, the best time to see the poppies is March through May.
Visits during peak bloom can be crowded, so it’s best to plan ahead and arrive early. It’s also a good idea to visit during mid-morning, when the weather is warming up and the flowers are more likely to be open.
How to Get There
The best time to visit the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve is late spring (April and May), although blooms can occur throughout the summer. However, it can be difficult to predict what the reserve will look like as conditions change from year to year.
The State Reserve sits atop California’s most consistent poppy-bearing land, but other wildflowers (owl’s clover, lupine, goldfields, cream cups) also share the Mojave Desert grassland. Because of this, the duration and intensity of color varies from year to year.
The park gets very crowded during peak poppy season. The main parking lot fills up early, and the line to pay fees and get a permit can be long. If possible, park outside the reserve and walk in to avoid this issue.
The reserve charges a nominal parking fee, and there are options for handicapped parking along the roadways near the park entrance. The reserve is open sunrise to sunset, and parking fills up quickly.
The landscape radiates spring festivity, and the hillsides glow with Technicolor swaths of orange, yellow, purple, red and golden blooms. Even the shoulder of a nearby two-lane road is ablaze with flowers, and visitors pull over to get out of their cars to walk amongst them.
While picking poppies is illegal on state land, and trampling flowers ruins them for years to come, some visitors don’t seem to understand that. Don’t lay on or pick flowers, and stay on the trails to help preserve this beautiful area. And keep an eye out for Mojave green rattlesnakes!
The trails at the reserve are well-marked and preformed so that you can safely enjoy the poppy fields without trampling them. It’s a good idea to follow the trail rules, including staying on the trails, not picking flowers, and not lying down on the field for the “perfect Instagram photo,” as this can damage the flowers for years to come.
A small visitor center has maps, dioramas, an audio-visual presentation about the ecology of the reserve and floral paintings by Jane S. Pinheiro, the artist whose efforts helped save this wildflower meadow from being plowed for farming or covered with asphalt as urban areas expand. There are also a few port-a-potties at the entrance and on road verges if the reserve parking area fills up, which can happen quickly during peak weekend visits.
The Poppy Reserve is a popular destination, so expect crowds. Getting there early is recommended. A per-vehicle parking fee is charged, so make sure you bring enough money to cover the cost.
The flowers generally begin to bloom in mid-February and last through May. Typically, the best time to see them is during a sunny mid-morning. It’s important to visit on a warm day with no wind, as the poppies close up quickly in cold or windy conditions.
The reserve has a number of miles of trails, including a paved section for wheelchair access. If you’re looking for even more adventure, there are several close park options, such as Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park and Saddleback Butte State Park. Just be sure to follow the National Park Service’s leave-no-trace principles.
Despite it being a dog-friendly park, the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve has some pet policies. Dogs are not allowed to wander off trail, and you’ll need to leash them at all times. The reserve’s website also notes that you can only bring two dogs per person.
The reserve also warns visitors to be mindful of the flowers. They ask that you don’t pick or walk on the poppies—that would wilt them and thwart the seeds for next year’s bloom. Additionally, drones are prohibited. Lastly, be sure to wear proper footwear, and plan to visit in the early morning or later afternoon. The flowers close up when they get too hot or shaded, and a late-afternoon visit will also help you avoid the crowds.