Among the Wildflowers


Adding this to the things I love about San Diego: after a rainy "winter" in Southern California, we tend to get what's called a "Superbloom" around mid-March.

The first time I heard about this phenomenon was around 2016/2017 when I got to experience my first desert Superbloom in the Anza Borrego desert. And this year, our rainy season was rewarded with an entirely different Superbloom experience: the Walker Canyon Ecological Reserve poppy fields in Lake Elsinore.

Last Thursday, I impulsively decided that I had to get out to snag a few poppy-filled Instagram shots because otherwise what kind of basic blogger would I even be? The next morning I got up with the sun and left my neighborhood at 7am to scoop up my friend Megan and make the roughly 90 minute drive up the 15N. 

How to Get There

The primary exit for the poppy field hikes is Lake Street (Exit 81). Coming from San Diego, turning right off the exit and making your first right will put you in the middle of the parking nightmare that is Superbloom traffic. You can park on either shoulder of the long road running parallel to the reserve and then walk back to the trailhead at the start of the road. 

You can also turn left (again, coming from San Diego) off of the exit, where there is an overflow lot. That does get filled up pretty quickly as well and is about a quarter mile walk from the entrance to the trailhead. 

Last resort? Apparently you can get off the freeway a little earlier at Nichols Road (Exit 78) and park at the Lake Elsinore outlets, where a shuttle will take you to the fields for a $5 round trip ticket. Just note that no pets are allowed on the shuttles, so if you're trying to get some Instas of your pup in the poppies, you're going to have to brave the parking off Lake Street. 

A final note: this year they temporarily had to shut down both exits because Lake Elsinore didn't have the infrastructure to handle the thousands of visitors that were flooding their town. I wouldn't be surprised if that happens again during this Superbloom or for future Superblooms, so be sure to leave early, go on a weekday if you can and check the Lake Elsinore Facebook page or other social media outlets before you go to ensure it's still accessible.

What to Expect

First of all, expect to be overwhelmed by Walker Canyon. This isn't just some flat flower field like the flower fields in Carlsbad. This is miles of gorgeous trails and during a Superbloom, breathtaking views. The trails are well maintained but kind of tough in places... I wore sandals and definitely struggled with some of the loose rocks and gravel on the steep inclines and declines.

Also, this is an ecological reserve. While there are sections of dirt off the trail and amongst the poppies that you can use to stage your shots, if you deviate from those and trample the flowers be prepared to be poppy shamed, either in the moment or after on social media.

Full disclosure: I picked one poppy as you can see in these photos, but even though it's hard to tell from the angles, we never walked on or put the blanket down on any poppies during our trip. So I guess you can say one poppy was harmed in the making of this post. Sorry, poppy. I swear I made up for it... I'll get into that at the end.

Finally, dogs are allowed on the trail, but please, please be sure you bring leashes, bags and water for them to respect the reserve and your fellow poppy fanatics. And keep an eye out for rattlesnakes!

Can't Make It? 

Then I'll let you in on a little secret: about 6 or 7 years ago, Ryan and I used to guerrilla garden on the side of the freeway across from our old apartment next to Aero Club Bar. We spread hundreds of golden poppy seeds there and only saw a handful of blooms (you can see it in this post) before we left that apartment and moved to Ocean Beach.

Well this year, I happened to drive by and found out there's a Superbloom there as well! If you're hoping to bask in the poppy madness but don't want to deal with the drive, go grab a pint at Aero Club, sit by the window and enjoy our rogue beautification project!