(credit: seecalifornia.com)

Our state flower is the California poppy, a perennial wildflower that begins to bloom in late winter with April being the usual height of its blooming season. The best spot to see it in all its glory is in Los Angeles County, at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve where the elevation and climate are ideal for the flowers, which bloom spectacularly in the spring. With the right balance of rainfall and sunshine, there are years when all 1,745 acres of the Reserve are ablaze in orange poppy blossoms.

(credit: seecalifornia.com)

Jane S. Pinheiro Interpretive Center

15101 Lancaster Road
Lancaster, CA 93536
Wildflower hotline: (661) 724-1180
Hours: 10 – 4 weekdays, 9-5 weekends

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Begin your visit by dropping in at the Jane S. Pinheiro Interpretive Center for a short video, exhibits, and a tour of the gift shop. You can also sign up for guided tours of the Reserve here. If you pack a lunch, this is where you’ll return for the shaded picnic tables, which are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

According to the Reserve’s website and poppy hotline (check it before you make the drive), the late winter storms of 2011 have been a mixed bag for the wildflowers, delaying the height of the blooming season into May. Although the poppy blooms are a bit sparse, there are still plenty of other beautiful wildflowers to be seen along the Reserve’s eight miles of trails including: tall, blue grape soda lupine, purple owl’s clover and white Fremont pincushions.

The reserve is less crowded during the week but regardless of when you visit, plan to arrive in the morning, when the poppies are blooming — they tend to close up in the afternoon. And don’t stray from the trails, poppies thrive in the same conditions as rattlesnakes! Parking: $10 per vehicle

(A manually-operated wheelchair is available for share; one of the Reserve’s trails is paved for ADA-compliance. Dogs, horses, and mountain bikes are also prohibited.)

(credit: Natcheryl's Cafe)

Natcheryl’s Cafe

The Whole Wheatery
44264 N. 10th St W
Lancaster, CA 93534
(661) 945-0773
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Since the best time go to see the flowers is morning, you’ll be hungry by lunchtime for sure. Head into Lancaster for a planet, and heart-healthy, vegetarian meal at Natcheryl’s Cafe in The Whole Wheatery, a nearly 30-year-old health food store. Here you can get a super duper peanut butter and honey extravaganza with raisins and bananas. Who needs a picnic lunch? Or try the freshly made apple, beet, and ginger juice. You did just frolic in the wildflowers, after all.

(credit: Donna Schwartz Mills)

The Cathouse

3718 60th Street West
Rosamond, CA 93560
(661) 256-3793
Hours: 10 – 4 daily (Closed Wednesdays and Major Holidays)
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While you’re in the area, pay a visit to the Cathouse. Oh yeah, that’s what I said! The Cathouse is the Exotic Feline Breeding Compound’s Feline Conservation Center. You can walk around and hang out with beautiful exotic cats, and the random peacock. Many exotic cats are actually born here. One of my favorites was the super cute baby Fishing Cat, which is actually native to Asia. Admission: Adults $5, Kids $3, Kids under 3 FREE

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Donna Schwartz Mills is the blogger behind SoCal Mom.