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Weekend Sherpa

Late Bloomer

Money may not grow on trees, but gold is growing from the ground! The annual bloom at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve is running a bit behind this year due to March’s funky weather, but things are beginning to pop over 1,800 acres of gentle hills, and there’s even talk of an extended season. Get up close to California’s bright-orange state flower on an easy 3.3-mile hike. From the visitors’ center, follow a quarter-mile incline to the Tehachapi Vista Point for views of—you guessed it—the snow-capped Tehachapi Mountains. Here, the poppies compete with grape soda lupines and bright yellow goldfields that from a distance could be mistaken for a 1970s shag carpet. Descend to the Poppy Trail’s north loop, now aglow with “cups of gold.” Keep an eye out for a maroon, white-tipped flower known as owl’s clover: do you see an owl’s face in the center of the bloom? Follow the trail back to the visitors’ center to see more poppies on parade.

BONUS: For extra blooms with a view, make the three-quarter-mile ascent to the 2,970-foot Kitanemuk Vista Point where forget-me-nots and poppies mingle with southern views of the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountain ranges.

The reserve is located 15 miles west of Lancaster and about 85 miles north of Los Angeles. From I-5, take Highway 138 east and turn right on 170th St. West. At the end of this street, make a left on Lancaster Rd. Continue 2 miles before making a left into the reserve (15101 Lancaster Rd.). Vehicle parking $10. Trail maps available at the visitors’ center. From the visitors’ center, head west (right) and follow signs for .25-mile to Tehachapi Vista Point. Descend to the Poppy Trail’s north loop and follow for 1.2 miles until circling back to the visitors’ center. A few yards north of the center, follow the signs for .75-mile to Kitanemuk Vista Point. Open sunrise to sunset. No dogs.

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