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The Best Places to See Wildflowers Near L.A.

Poppies at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve (Photo by peggyarcher via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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Following that bit of rain we finally got a couple of weeks back, wildflower season is officially underway. Here is a list of five of our favorite places to see wild blooms of yellow coreopsis and California poppy.
Saddleback Butte State ParkWildflowers have already begun to bloom at this state park in Lancaster, park rangers say. It’s 17 miles east of Lancaster, so it’s a bit of a trek from L.A., but you’re rewarded with lush fields of little yellow flowers. The state park surrounds the Saddleback Butte, a granite mountaintop 3,651 feet above sea level, on the western edge of the Mojave Desert. The two-and-a-half-mile Little Butte Trail and two-mile Saddleback Butte Peak Trail are real climbs, but the view at the top that you get of the Antelope Valley and Mojave Desert are well worth it. One-day passes are $6 per vehicle, while camping at one of their 50 spots is $20 per night, and it’s on a first-come, first-served basis.

The entrance to Saddleback Butte State Park is on 170th Street East, between East Avenue J and East Avenue K.

Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve

Just 35 miles west of Saddleback Butte State Park is a world-renowned place to see poppies. Named one of the country’s top 10 spots to see wildflowers by Fodor’s, the 1,780-acre Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve has eight miles of hiking trails to see gorgeous fields of orange California poppies. The best time to see them is typically mid-April, but even then the timing and duration of wildflower blooms isn’t set in stone. Rangers say it should be a better bloom than last year’s though, according to KCET, and right now they’re seeing a few patches of poppies already, with lots of young buds waiting out any possible heat waves or late-season freezes that could endanger them. Make sure to check in to see how the bloom is faring before heading out. (Note: You can even call this hotline at 661-724-1180 to check to see if there are wildflowers.) If you need a weekend to pick, there’s a California Poppy Festival slated for April 26-27 in Lancaster, with food, music and plenty of opportunities for poppy-gazing. It’s $8 to park at the state reserve.

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To get there, Zach Behrens offers: While taking the 14 freeway may be the shortest route, going up the 5 freeway to the 138 will yield you the most scenery.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree is known for its prevalent yucca brevifolia (that’s the tree you see on the U2 album of the same name, for the botanically challenged). But it’s also home to a stunning annual wildflower bloom, the latest of which has already begun, according to Friday’s Wildflower Bloom Report from the state park. They advise visitors to look in the Lower Covington Flats area, in the northwestern part of the park between Black Rock Canyon and Joshua Tree, for yellow flowers like the desert fiddleneck (Amsinckia tessellata var. tessellata) and desert dandelion (Malacothrix glabrata), as well as the white flowers Steve’s pincushion and whitedaisy tidytips (Layia glandulosa). The nearly 800,000-acre park has nine campgrounds and is located near the suddenly hip communities of Joshua Tree and Pioneertown, making for a great weekend trip.

Joshua Tree National Park is located off Highway 62 in Twentynine Palms. To get to Covington Flats, take La Contenta south off the highway.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

The 600,000-acre Anza-Borrego State Park near San Diego can be a great place to see wildflowers. Unfortunately there hasn’t been a wildflower bloom so far this year, and a park ranger told LAist she didn’t know that there would be one this year, due to the drought. Still, some lovely purple flowers have popped up in Fish Creek, according to NBC, and there’s a wildflower hotline you can call at (760) 767-4684 to check and see if a wildflower bloom is happening. ‘Cause if it is, look:

However, wildflowers or no, there’s still plenty to do there, like camping or staying in one of their nifty-little cabins and hiking to the Borrego Palm Canyon oasis.

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Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is located off Highway 78 in Borrego Springs. It’s about a two-hour-and-forty-minute trip from L.A.

Circle X Ranch

If schlepping to a huge state park ain’t your thang, there are some hikes pretty close to L.A. where you can see wildflowers, like the Circle X Ranch in Malibu. Hiking 1.5 miles to the top of Sandstone Peak, the highest mountain in the Santa Monica Mountains, offers stunning views of the ocean and the inland valleys—on a clear day, you can even see Anacapa Island, a volcanic Channel Island that sees its own ridiculously gorgeous wildflower bloom. According to the recreation area’s site, visitors should look for small bunches of white flowers in July and August. The former Boy Scout ranch also has a cave and waterfalls in its Grotto trail, which you can take virtually in the video below.

Circle X Ranch is located at 12896 Yerba Buena Road in Malibu. Turn onto Yerba Buena Road from PCH or exit the 101 at Kanan Road.

Photos: The California Poppy Reserve is at its Peak