The California Poppies are a beautiful sea of color in shades of red, orange and yellow. Yearly their bloom is a sought after carpet of colorful beauty in the hills of CA. A super bloom is pretty rare and only supposed to happen about once every ten years. California has had 2 in the last three years. A super bloom means the perfect conglomeration of all the right weather conditions and there is great rainfall in late fall and early winter with cooler day time temperatures and nights. California’s weather has been more rainy in the last few years and the shift in weather has increased the beauty and majesty of the blooms and of the frequency of getting to seek out a super bloom. One of my favorite things about living in Ca was going on a poppies hunt every spring. I have found the sweetest spot in the hills inland that is not as trafficked as some of the key spots known by many that I give all the details for below.
The state flower of California blooms yearly between February-May. The bloom normally happens in March-April and of course varies year by year. The prime time viewing in full bloom is normally mid March to April. The timing depends on the weather, rainfall and temperatures of the year.
There are several spots that you can go to see the blooms including Antelope Valley, Lake Elsinore, and Chino Hills specifically for the California Poppies.
Peak season: early March to early April
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in San Diego county is one of the main spots to see carpeted with flowers. There is a 1.5-mile Borrego Palm Canyon Trail from Borrego Palm Canyon Campground to see yellow brittlebush, purple desert lavender, and flaming-red ocotillo. Or you can hike in three miles into Hellhole Canyon to see flowering barrel cactus, lupine, and phacelia, plus cascading water at Maidenhair Falls.
Joshua Tree National Park is another prime location to seek out the superbloom. Recommended spots are the Bajada Trail and Cottonwood areas of the park as well as hikes in the lower elevations in the south part of the park have the most bloom. There are also later in the spring beavertail cacti with magenta pink blossoms so vivid that you can spot them from 50 yards away from prime locations such as the Black Rock Canyon area or the Wonderland of Rocks. Both the iconic Joshua tree and its cousin the Mojave yucca will bear spectacular creamy white flowers.
Los Angeles County
Peak season: mid-March to early April
The hills west of Lancaster are known as Antelope Valley which is the most famous place to go see the poppies. Antelope Valley California State Poppy Reserve has thousands of visitors yearly. There are 8 miles of trail to walk around and through the flowers. There is a 2.5 mile north and south loop that is the most popular. There is a viewpoint called Tehachapi Vista Point.
For status updates, check the reserve’s site or phone the Poppy Reserve Wildflower Hotline at 661/724-1180.
On the coastline, Point Mugu State Park in Malibu and the Santa Monica mountains has lots of blooms. Hike the Chumash Trail uphill from Pacific Coast Highway: in the lower stretches, you’ll see poppies, lupine, and mariposa lilies, while up higher you’ll find the more exotic chocolate lily and blue globe gilia.
How to get there
My favorite spot that is the closest drive is visiting Chino Hills in the spring. Chino hills is only 30 minutes outside of Orange County north on the 91 to the 71. The park is only 36 minutes outside of LA and is outside of Yorba Linda, CA. This park is my favorite because it is not as populated as some of the areas especially Antelope Valley because that is the official state poppy reserve. This is a great quieter low key spot to go poppy trekking through the trail system in this park. I think there is just as beautiful poppy views and experiences here that are not a shared experience with thousands of visitors.
Chino Hills State Park
Chino Hills is my favorite secret spot to seek out the superbloom. The California Poppies come alive on the trails in the park and it is the perfect place to hike out in orange fields beauty. The silky orange petaled flowers cover the park like a carpet and it is a much more private environment to experience the poppies. Chino Hills is a state park that offers biking, picnicking & hiking plus on-site bathrooms & water spigots. There is a campground in the park called Rolling M Ranch campground as well. There are over 3,000 acres of open space and 48 miles of trails available for use and enjoyment. There are 16 trailheads that lead to 28 trails throughout the Chino Hills community. The trails are used for running, walking, hiking, cycling and horse riding in the park. There is a trail map for free here. There is also a county website here that has links to describe the most popular trail hikes here.
Upper Bane Ridge Trailhead is one of the first trails that starts on the ridge from the right when entering the neighborhood northern entrance and that is the trail that I followed trail running to find the poppies. The sidewinder trailhead splits off of that trail and is the one that takes you deeper into the park off the beaten trail. These were the spots I loved on my trail run and found thousands of poppies and hills covered in color to sit and behold.
October – March
8am-5pm 7 Days a Week
April – September
8am-7pm 7 Days a Week
Fees are $5.00 per vehicle ($4.00 seniors age 62+).
Pay cash or check at the self-pay Iron Ranger box next to the kiosk, or cash and credit card to kiosk attendant when present.
**Tip: You can park for free outside of the park entrance in the neighborhood at the bottom of the hill. This will save you the money if you want and be more exercise to ascend the hill to even get into the park. I trail ran up from the neighborhood and it was an awesome run and scenic views.
The following State Park Passes are accepted at Chino Hills SP year-round:
- California Explorer Vehicle Day Use Annual Pass
- Golden Poppy Vehicle Day Use Annual Pass
- Limited Golden Bear Pass
- Golden Bear Pass
- Disabled Discount Pass (1/2 price camping and day use)
- Distinguished Veteran Pass
Chino Hills Campground
*******Chino Hills State Park has a scheduled campground closure in place for July 15th – November 30 2019 to accommodate a water line project. During this time, the campground will be closed to all camping and day use visitors. The closure will also affect access to Ranger Ridge Trailhead leading from above the campgrounds.
The Rolling M Ranch Campground at Chino Hills State Park is available by reservation online or in person. Fees for camping are $30 per night. Please click the reservation link for availability, or call 1-800-444-7275 (PARK). The campground is accessible via the Chino Hills entrance of the park at 4721 Sapphire Rd, Chino Hills CA 91709. Due to its limited features, the campground is designated a Primitive Campground facility.
The Campground has 20 campsites, trail access, potable water and flush toilets. Campfires/ground fires are not permissible, but there are BBQ grills at each site. Check-in is 2 pm and checkout is 12 pm. Plan ahead to arrive at your campsite before dark. Animals are allowed but must be leashed. There is no after hours vehicle access to the campground. Guests planning to arrive after park closing hours must make prior arrangements by calling 951-780-6222. Camping must be in designated spaces only. We do not allow back country or off trail camping within the park.
The gates are locked in the evenings during the following hours:
– 5:00pm October 1st – 1st Sunday in April
– 7:00pm 1st Sunday in April – September 30th
Gates open at 8:00 am.
When gates are locked, there is no vehicle access into or out of the campground.