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Photos: The California Poppy Reserve is at its Peak

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Checking out wildflowers is a game of patience and flexibility. That's because you can't plan for them every year (like when there is a drought) and you can't predict when each species' bloom will peak (Anacapa Island's giant coreopsis already came and went). For those seeking to see the states state flower, the California Poppy, now is the time as the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve and surrounding areas are at their best right now. And true to every year, it won't last for long.

Some 90 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, the state natural reserve and surrounding areas are abloom with patches of orange, as if a giant toddler took his crayon to the slopes of the rolling hills that sit between the Sierra Pelona and Tehachapi mountains. In some areas, you'll also find yellow and purple.

Parking is $8 at the State Reserve, where a few miles of easy walking paths let you see the sights, but near it along the 138 Highway and Lancaster Road, you'll see a plethora of tourists pulled to the side of the road to take photos and play in the fields (please, be careful not to step on the flowers. These are not official viewing sites.).

While taking the 14 freeway may be the shortest route, going up the 5 freeway to the 138 will yield you the most scenery.

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A visit is a day trip at maximum, but can easily be done in a half day. To check the status of the flowers, call bloom information hotline at (661) 724-1180. Poppys are kind of like "little people"--as a friend of LAist noted--and close up on cloudy days and at night, so make sure you're visiting during a sunny day.

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