The State Flower Never Disappoints
From my home in Temecula, I followed Interstate Route 15 north 50 miles to reach the northern entrance of Chino Hills State Park along Sapphire Road. Alone in my car, I still exclaimed, “Wow,” as hills covered in bright, 5-foot-tall black mustard (Brassica nigra) came into view. I threw on my hiking shoes and sprinted over to the trailhead, adjusting my camera settings en route as if the flowers might run away. While I did enjoy a short hike in the park, the panoramic vistas near the entrance were by far the best.
Plus, I spotted bright orange California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) dappling the base of the hills and making the scene even more dramatic. After that, I couldn’t wait to hit the road for Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, 100 miles farther north, where I’d find even more poppies. Botanist Sarah Plummer Lemmon drafted the legislative bill, which passed in 1903, naming the California poppy the official state flower.
To reach the reserve, I followed California State Route 71 north to Interstate Route 210 West and Interstate 5 North to San Francisquito Canyon Road, which weaves through the Angeles National Forest. Once there, I took some time to savor the landscape’s soft color palate by perching on a wooden fence to enjoy a snack.
Situated at the western tip of the Mojave Desert, Antelope Valley’s arid landscape makes an ideal backdrop for the poppies. The cheerful flowers stand out, even during drier years when there isn’t a super bloom. Eight miles of clearly marked walking trails through the park keep people from disturbing the wildflowers.