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Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve

Antelope Loop Trail

From Visitor Center to Antelope Butte Vista Point is 2.5 miles round trip
with 300-foot elevation gain; Season: March-May

The California poppy blooms on many a grassy slope in the Southland, but only in the Antelope Valley does the showy flower blanket whole hillsides in such brilliant orange sheets. Surely the finest concentration of California’s state flower (during a good wildflower year) is preserved at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve in the Mojave Desert west of Lancaster.
 
The poppy is the star of the flower show, which includes a supporting cast of fiddlenecks, cream cups, tidy tips and gold fields. March through Memorial Day is the time to saunter through this wondrous display of desert wildflowers.

The poppy has always been recognized as something special. Early Spanish Californians called it Dormidera, "the drowsy one," because the petals curl up at night. They fashioned a hair tonic/restorer by frying the blossoms in olive oil and adding perfume.

At the reserve, you can pick up a map at the Jane S. Pinheiro Interpretive Center, named for the painter who was instrumental in setting aside an area where California’s state flower could be preserved for future generations to admire. Some of Pinheiro’s watercolors are on display in the center, which also has wildflower interpretive displays and a slide show.
 
Antelope Loop Trail - Seven miles of trails crisscross over and around the hills on the 1,760 acre reserve. Some trails are gentle slopes, but many have slow climbs and descents. Check with park staff for the best hike for your abilities.
  
Directions to trailhead: From the Antelope Valley Freeway (California 14) in Lancaster, exit on Avenue I and drive west 15 miles. Avenue I becomes Lancaster Road a few miles before the Poppy Reserve. The reserve (day use fee) is open Sunrise to Sunset daily.

Spring wildflower displays are always unpredictable. To check on what’s blooming where, call the Wildflower Hotline at (661) 724-1180 before making the trip.
 
The hike: Begin on the signed Lightening Bolt Trail to the left of the visitor center. The trail passes through an orange sea of poppies and fiddlenecks, then there is a steep slow climb to Kitanemuk Vista Point, 0.75 mile from the visitor center. Atop Vista Point are those flowery symbols of faithfulness and friendship, forget-me-nots, and an unforgettable view of the Mojave Desert and the snow-covered Tehachapis.

After enjoying the view, continue on to Antelope Butte Vista Point, where another lookout offers fine desert panoramas. From here, join the south loop of the Antelope Loop Trail and return to the visitor center.

However at the Antelope Vista Point end, there are two grades that are very steep, and not recommend to anyone but the most experienced hikers.

After you’ve circled the "upper west side" of the Poppy Reserve, you may wish to extend your hike by joining the Poppy Loop Trail and exploring the "lower east side."  Which is our most popular because it’s gentle most of the way with only a couple moderate grades, and has a nice display of poppies.

© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author.  To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at www.thetrailmaster.com.