Chasing Poppies: SoCal Superbloom 2017

Thanks to a much needed winter of heavy rainfall, the deserts of Southern California recently erupted in a “super bloom” of wildflowers – including the famed California poppy. Considering our failed attempts to see the super bloom this year, it seems a bit silly to write a post about it! But I wanted to share what we learned from the experience (tip #1: do your research before you start driving). Here’s hoping this post helps others next time a super bloom comes around. 🙂

Back in March, word of the #superbloom had been quickly spreading via social media, but hadn’t intrigued me enough to consider seeing the blooms for myself… until I saw this.

Photo credit: @haserad
I had never heard of Diamond Valley Lake until our friend Ken posted an iPhone shot on social media.

Still, I let days and weeks pass before making any solid plans to drive out to the lake. Finally, nearly two weeks after seeing Ken’s photo, we set aside a weekday for a day trip. Golden hour is my favorite time to shoot and I figured it would make for some beautiful photos of the poppy fields.

Diamond Valley Lake is about 1 hour and 45 mins east of Long Beach (about 45 minutes northeast of Temecula) – very much doable as a day trip from LA/OC. We ended up heading out a little later than planned and stopped by a poppy field in Wildomar (the intersection of Clinton Keith Rd and Salida Del Sol) on the way. As Garrick pulled up to the field, I rolled down the window and surveyed the scene. Several other cars had parked along the roadside, and eager families, couples, and photo enthusiasts were already out in the carpeted field of orange.

I wasn’t impressed.

After taking a lousy iPhone shot from the passenger seat, I muttered “Ehhh… the lake will be a lot better,” and we promptly drove away.

About 40 minutes later, we were greeted by two things – a sign that read “Welcome to Diamond Valley Lake” and a closed chainlink fence… with a lock on it.

My heart dropped.

“What do you mean, it’s CLOSED???” My mind raced as I tried to brainstorm our options after driving two hours to get to this location. I begged Garrick to look for another way in. I asked him if we could hop the fence. He (wisely) shot down my ideas, reminding me that I was a) not very good at climbing fences and b) wearing a dress… and he turned the car around.

Still reeling from the disappointment, I frantically looked up #superbloom on Instagram in a last minute attempt to salvage the day. The photos tagged at Walker Canyon looked promising, so it became our impromptu backup plan as we headed back west on I-15. Garrick jokingly pointed out wildflowers on the side of the highway to cheer me up. “We made it!” he grinned. “We can go home now.”

By the time we parked at Walker Canyon, it was 5:30 pm. Last minute research on my phone informed us that the poppies had most likely already closed their petals for the day – up until then, we had no idea they did that!

We had just over an hour to make the mile-long trek into the canyon, where the best blooms could be found. The trail had us couch potatoes huffing and puffing as we made our way up, but I’m pretty sure it would be considered easy for anyone else. 😛 Both of us sneezed and sniffled our way through the flowers as the sun went down over the hills. The poppies were closed, but golden hour was glorious.

I don’t even know what he’s doing here. But it makes me laugh. 🙂

 I love love love how this dress from Anthropologie twirls!

We were fortunate enough to find plenty of clearings and patches of dirt in the fields. No poppies were harmed in the taking of this photo.

One of my favorite shots from the day.

I’m grateful to have an easygoing fiancé who shares my sense of adventure. Despite the fact that we didn’t find what we were looking for, we learned a lot of useful information about poppies that will come in handy next year. 😉

Tips for Seeing the California Superbloom:

1. Don’t wait!
The flowers are so dependent on weather conditions that if you wait a week after the last rainfall, you might miss your chance to see entire fields in bloom.

2. Use Instagram or to keep track of the blooms.
Try searching #superbloom, #walkercanyon, #diamondvalleylake, or your location of choice to see the most recent photos people have taken. Check the user reports at for daily updates on where to find wildflowers!

3. Make sure the trail you’re planning to visit is open.
Diamond Valley Lake is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Don’t make the same mistake we did by driving two hours to see a locked fence!

4. Plan on seeing the poppies midday, around 10 am – 3 pm.
My friends went to Walker Canyon at 6:00 am to catch the sunrise. They didn’t know the poppies didn’t open their petals until later in the day. We made the opposite mistake!

5. Wear comfortable shoes you don’t mind getting dirty.
The trails were super dusty and the best scenery was about 1 mile into the canyon.

6. Bring plenty of water.

7. Take allergy medicine before you go.

In the end we made the best out of the situation and I loved the photos we took. Can you imagine what it would have looked like if we had make it to the lake (OR if the poppies were fully open)?! Hope this post helps someone see the next superbloom that comes around!

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