Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve – 6 miles, moderate
Flowers are pretty. I hope no one would argue this point. In California, the Poppy is King; one flower to rule them all.
Antelope Valley is the only remaining place where large fields of our state flower still remain. Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve was created to protect this resource. More than poppies grow there. A plethora of wildflowers paint the hills every spring. This spring was no exception. The flowers peaked a couple of weeks ago and so we hopped in our car and headed South. This was the best bloom is 3 years and it was spectacular. I can only imagine what the reserve must look like at its best.
Orange, yellow, purple, white, green. My eyes were amazed the entire time. I just kept exclaiming, “It’s just so beautiful!” The main loops toward Tehachapi Vista point are considerably more busy. The trail up to Tehachapi Vista itself is paved and wheelchair accessible and the Northern leg of the loop had the best blooms. The Antelope Loop towards Antelope Butte Vista Point attracts fewer visitors. The southern leg of this loop was partially overgrown and we were alone. No matter where you venture, the colors will be spectacular! Our chosen route touched all areas of the park and amounted to a 6-mile moderate hike.
Ripley Desert Woodland State Park – 1 mile, easy
The park opens at 9 AM ($10 day use fee) but the poppies do not open until about 10 AM (later if it’s cold or windy). When we arrived at 7 AM, all the poppies were curled up as they stood against the strong wind. By 10, the color on the hills was much more intense as the flowers opened to the sunlight. Ecstatic with our experience, we headed West on Lancaster Road to the Ripley Desert Woodland State Park. This land was donated by Arthur Ripley, a former farmer that preserved this small stretch of Joshua Tree and Juniper Forest as it once was and willed it to the state upon his demise. Park along the side of the road and enjoy the 1-mile loop or the shorter 1/3-mile loop, or both. You can acquire a trail guide at the Reserve’s Visitor Center or at the trailhead.
From there, we headed to Lancaster for a brew at Kinetic Brewing (great onion rings!) and finally to Angeles National Forest for the night. Currently, large sections of the forest are closed due to fire damage so check conditions prior to your trip.
Saddleback Butte State Park – 5 miles, moderate, 1,200 ft. gain
On Sunday, we headed to the nearby and infrequently visited Saddleback Butte State Park. The park offers campsites, an equestrian trail, and hiking trails. We opted to head to the top of the butte. From the campground, a steep, sandy 2 mile climb to the 3,651 foot summit awards a 360 degree view of Antelope Valley and the Mojave Desert. From there, we head down trail to Little Butte Trail; a relatively flat loop led us back to our car. The entire trek was 5 miles with a little over 1,200 feet of elevation gain.
Antelope Valley Indian Museum State Historic Park – 1-2 hours
Nearby is the Antelope Valley Indian Museum State Historic Park. The museum houses artifacts collected by the original proprietor, Howard Arden Edwards, as well as his successor, Grace Wilcox Oliver. A $3 day use fee allows you access to the museum and the grounds. Allow 1-2 hours for this side-trip, depending on your level of interest.
Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area – moderate to strenuous loops
One last hiking stop for the day took us to Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area (Los Angeles County Park). This park has 2 trails. We did the 1-mile loop that leads down into the bowl. However, we very much desire to revisit the park to climb the 3.7 miles to the Devil’s Chair. For those looking for a longer hike, the Devil’s Chair Trail connects with the Burkhart Trail and other interesting U.S Forest Service lands surrounding the county park.
After all that tough hiking, head to LA for food, beer, and attitude. Cruzer Pizza on Prospect Avenue is the best vegan pizza we’ve ever tasted and their Daiya stuffed garlic breadsticks are to die for!
For more information on and adventures in state parks, visit our California State Park Guide.