Orange is the color of optimism. One of the best ways to soak up the spectacular colors and boost your spirits this spring is by seeking out fields of magical California poppies in full bloom covering mountains and seaside meadows (especially in late March and early April). Don’t miss out on a rejuvenating wildflower walk this spring. You can find the best blooms with this guide on where to see poppies in Southern California.
April 6 of each year is officially designated as California Poppy Day.
Address: Lake St, Lake Elsinore, CA 92530 Contact info: (858) 467-4201 Peak bloom: Mid-March Cost: Free
Just keep in mind that parking is limited. In 2019, a shuttle service was set up to take people from the Lake Elsinore Outlets to the trailhead, so this is a good option in a super bloom year.
Anza-Borrego State Park
Address: 200 Palm Canyon Dr., Borrego Springs, CA 92004 Contact info: (760) 767-4205 Peak bloom: Mid-March Cost: $10 to park
Stop by the Desert Nature Center, run by the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association at 652 Palm Canyon Dr.
Chino Hills State Park
Address: 4721 Sapphire Rd, Chino Hills, CA 91709 Contact info: (951) 780-6222 Peak bloom: Mid-March Cost: $10
Little purple flowers called “blue dicks” are also usually interspersed through the orange, perfectly contrasting the poppies.
It’s a great walk in early spring but there’s no shade on these grassy hills, so it’s not a hike for a hot day.
Malibu Creek State Park
Address: 1925 Las Virgenes Rd., Cornell, CA 91301 Peak bloom: Mid-March Cost: $12 to park
Closer to the coast, Point Dume has stunning hiking trails along the bluffs, where you can enjoy wildflowers at your feet and views over the Pacific Ocean.
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
Address: 15101 Lancaster Rd, Lancaster, CA 93536 Contact info: (661) 724-1180 Peak bloom: Mid-March Cost: $10 to park
If Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is too crowded, head seven miles west to Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland. This is where poppies and wildflowers grow between otherworldly Joshua Trees.
A Few Quick Tips
Call the Wildflower Hotline: (760) 767-4684 for updates on California poppy fields.
Visit mid-morning: after the poppies have opened up but before the afternoon winds disturb the blooms. Sunset is also a good time.
Come prepared to hike with good shoes, plenty of water, and snacks.
Get down low to take pictures of the orange flowers with a blue sky as the background for a more impressive shot.
Stick to the trail, as wild California poppies are delicate and easily destroyed by trampling.
For more information on California poppies, please contact the Native Plant Program at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A little More Information On These Cheerful Flowers
On March 2, 1903 the California poppy, Eschscholzia californica, became the official state flower of California (Ca. Government Code Section 421). The plant's bright orange flowers are an unmatched symbol of the Golden State. This cheerful plant's bright orange flowers were perhaps viewed as a floral representation of the “fields of gold” sought during the gold rush. Indigenous Americans even once used California poppies as medicine to combat anxiety and as a sleep aid.
The California poppy is commonly seen blooming in the spring and summer along country roads and freeways throughout much of the state.
It is often believed that there are laws prohibiting the cutting or damaging of the California poppy because it is the state flower. While there is no law protecting the California poppy specifically, California Penal Code Section 384a requires written landowner permission to remove and sell plant material from land that a person does not own, and removing or damaging plants from property that a person does not own without permission may constitute trespass and/or petty theft. However, these laws do not prevent the collection of California poppies on private land by the landowner.
California poppies are a beautiful and easy-to-grow addition to your garden, and although you may choose to pick them from your property, they last much longer in the ground!