Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

The winter’s bountiful rain has brought a “super bloom” to Southern California. Colorful flowers are blossoming everywhere but especially here at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve.
Hiking Distance: Around 8 miles for the day

Driving Directions:

To the Poppy Reserve: From Highway 14 drive 15 miles west on Ave I.

To Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park:  Continue west on Ave I another 7 miles.

   The day before my hike I experimented with my macro lens.

             I arrived at the Reserve just before sunrise.  I paid $10 to the iron ranger, stepped out of my car and right onto the trail. I hoped for a little alone time before the crowds arrived. This park has about eight miles of hiker-only trails.  Photo 3 – The first trail led up to a viewpoint. On top, a beautiful young woman practiced yoga in the rays of the rising Sun.


Looking from the first viewpoint

        There are two loops, one heading east and the other west. I decided to go east first while the Sun was still gentle. There are three trails that head in this direction – lower, middle and upper along the ridge. The windy upper route has great panoramic views (bring lip balm), the lower has the most flowers.  Photo 2 – I noticed an RV parked below. You can camp here.


The morning light was amazing.  The fields glowed orange, radiating with lifeforce. I felt very lucky to be in this place at this moment.

   Looking back at the first viewpoint

The hills to the south were so odd.

70’s Album Cover


         Soon I reached a junction for Antelope Butte Trail, a continuation of the large eastern loop. I took it and kept heading east.  Photos 2 and 3 – What about the poppies? They were closed for the first couple of hours but still pretty.  Photos 3, 4 and 5 – Eventually the trail made a turn north toward a ridge.

   Two crows battle over the perfect stick. Can you blame them?


I reached another viewpoint in the northeast corner of the park.

In the distance stands dozens of massive turbines, what I believe to be the Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm.

   More renewable energy – To the west of the wind farm are large stretches of jet black land.  Could this be Antelope Valley Solar Ranch?

             The trail makes a hairpin turn to the south.  Photo 3 – After a short down and up I glimpsed backed to the northeast viewpoint.

From the ridge I viewed the poppy fields below.

   Some poppies began to open their petals.

        Photo 2 – The ridge trail


As the Sun got brighter the poppies opened.  More color was revealed.  In addition to orange poppies, purple and yellow flowers and frosty green bushes added variety to the landscape.  I’m accustomed to shades of brown, beige and green.  I felt like someone seeing color for the first time.


This big hill (photo 1) is Fairmont Butte.  The flower field at it’s base is vibrant.

        I completed the loop of the upper and lower trails. I headed east again, this time on the middle trail. This one offers its own unique perspective.  Photo 2 – What I thought to be a craggy ridge due south was actually covered in trees, something this area is noticeably lacks.

The middle trail is high enough to get a broad view but also close to the flowers.



   The middle trail eventually ends near the junction for Antelope Butte Trail. The thickest concentration of poppies was here.

Vital Orange

             Trail creatures



I returned on the lower trail.  I passed the first viewpoint (photo 3) and began the western loop.


        The park had become extremely crowded.  The western loop seems to be the more popular route. I felt disheartened by people stomping around in the delicate poppies. How could they not know?  Using a bullhorn, a ranger tried to keep them back.

Heading toward Fairmont Butte.


Photo 1 –  Lots of yellow flowers.  Photo 2 – That orange color, I’m reminded of the cheese powder in Kraft Mac n’ Cheese.


Flower Fruit Punch


   The western loop rounds a large hill.

        The parking lot was now jam packed. Cars were lined up on the road waiting for a spot.  I passed the interpretive center and went on my way.


My day of hiking was not done yet. I got back on the road and made my way over to Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park.  Here there’s a short hike through a virgin Joshua tree forest. There are two trails totaling about 1 1/4 miles.  Near the entrance are a couple of shaded picnic tables and a kiosk.  I proceeded passed the signed trailhead for the very short nature trail loop, which leads right back to the kiosk in 1/4 mile.  I then followed the a wider, unmarked trail heading east. This is the longer loop.


   I love how these trees split off from the main trunk and form multiple tops, growing in different directions like snakes atop a Medusa’s head.


Not as colorful as poppies but very cool.


Some get confused and grow back down toward the ground.

        I was a bit late to see their white flowers.  There were some nice pods, however.

I really felt like I was in the desert now. I wandered alone in the heat like a prophet from an ancient land.


Photos 2 and 3 – Beavertail cactus  Photo 4 – I found a treasure hidden in a tree, a painted rock.

This was a really fun day.  When it’s cool enough I’ll be back to this desert again.

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