Ultimate Guide to the Poppy Superbloom // Lake Elsinore, CA

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So yes, I was in that mass crazy chaos that happened about two weekends ago (St. Patty’s Day weekend). It was the first really warm weekend (low-80s) that Southern California has had in months. Therefore, it’s no surprise that everyone and their mothers were out to see the poppy superbloom that was happening in Lake Elsinore.

Disclaimer: No poppies were hurt in any of these photos. We stayed on the main trail or in an open patch of dirt. Anyone reading this should adhere to the same guidelines. I saw numerous tourists, kids, and pets trample through the fields and it pains me to see nature get destroyed over a picture. Please say something so future visitors can enjoy. Lastly, it is illegal to pick any poppies on state land. I saw some girl make a full blown flower crown :/

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GETTING THERE

Driving from Los Angeles, I would recommend taking the the 60 East or 10 East > 71 South > 15 South. It usually takes about an hour and a half to get to Lake Elsinore. We actually tried going to the poppy superbloom twice. First was on Saturday where we left LA around 3:30 pm thinking we would get there around sunset. As we left LA, we noticed the time to get to Lake Elsinore was increasing, not decreasing. It said it would take us about an hour and 55 minutes. After, 30 minutes of driving, it only reduced to an hour and 45 mins. We decided to cut our losses and drive back home. We weren’t going to make it in time.

So, our new plan was to wake up and leave the house around 7:30 am the next morning. Of course, I went out with my girlfriends the night before and couldn’t get it together until 10:00 am. We finally set out and traffic was a moderate hour and 30 mins. Once we got closer and closer, traffic started getting heavier and heavier.  You can literally see the superbloom right off the freeway, which inherently creates the slow crawling traffic. The sun is almost at high noon now which made the lighting really harsh. We decided to wait it out until the lighting got a little bit better by running some errands. We also had lunch with my boyfriend’s sister and brother-in-law since they were in the area. This actually worked out since we got to find little secret pockets of poppy fields that weren’t being overrun by tourists.

WHERE TO TAKE PICTURES

Walker Canyon (Most Crowded)

Walker Canyon is the ultimate place for the poppy superbloom. It’s where you see all the hills and valleys covered in bright orange poppies. It literally looks like someone dropped can of orange paint all over these hills. This is the most popular spot so count on a lot of traffic and even more people. You used to be able to drive to the canyon, but now you have to take a $10 shuttle. The poppies are ONLY ACCESSIBLE BY SHUTTLE. If you care more about the landscape, don’t mind people being in your pictures, and are willing to go through the craziness, then Walker Canyon is not to be missed. If you care more about taking some nice pictures with the poppies, I suggest you find other alternatives like the ones below.

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Railroad Canyon Rd. (Few Crowds)

We were on our way to lunch and noticed that there were some poppy fields right off this road. It’s more of a local’s road, but there were far fewer people here than there were at Walker Canyon. We just parked on the side of the road and walked right up.

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Papa Johns (No Crowds)

This came as a recommendation from my boyfriend’s sister. My boyfriend and his sister’s parents live in Lake Elsinore and were consequently already in the area. There is a hill behind a super small strip mall where there’s a Papa John’s Pizza. We parked in the the parking lot, walked behind the building, and climbed our way up. There was only one other group there taking photos as well.

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INSTAGRAM

Open vs. Closed Poppies: Getting the best pictures of the poppy superbloom really depends on what you’re going for. During the strong daylight hours, you are going to get beautiful wide-open poppies. Unfortunately, the lighting is right over your head which doesn’t make it great for human portrait photography. If you shoot in the early or evening hours, the poppies tend to close up, but you have softer lighting for your photos. In the end, you have to decide what you want out of your pictures. I would say our best pictures were take at an hour before sunset (around 5:30pm).

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Something to Sit On: For all the sitting down shots, I had to squat or actually sit in the dirt. So if you care about your clothes getting dirty, I would try to find a handkerchief or something.

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TIPS

Status Updates: Check the City of Lake Elsinore’s Official Instagram for updates on poppy superbloom in Walker Canyon. Even though the roads were open when we went, I believe they are now officially closed to tourists. The only way to get to the poppy fields is by a $10 shuttle. Otherwise, looks at alternative places besides Walker Canyon. Below was posted as of last week (3/21/2019).

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Police: If you do park in undesignated parking spots, you will get ticketed. On our way to the main trail of Walker Canyon, we saw everyone pull to the side of the freeway and start parking. Yes, the freeway! So we decided to join in and look around ourselves. After 30 mins of walking around the canyon, we heard a police siren go off. Needless to say, we started seeing everyone on the hill briskly walking/running back to their cars. We closely followed suit. Our car was parked further up the road so as we were walking up, we saw the police officer get out of his car with a ticket machine in his hand. Be warned!

Bug Spray/Sunblock: You are in nature! There are going to be bugs. This is more if you are going to take pictures during the evening hours. As the sun sets, all the bugs start coming out to feed. Also, it was hot the day we went. Totally did not bring/wear sunblock and was a little burnt by the end of the day.

Shoes: You will be hiking up a hill. Wear appropriate shoes. I wanted to wear my cute wedges or even my Chanel Espadrilles, but in the end, went for my old dirty white All Star Converses.

Be Mindful: Lake Elsinore is not built to be a tourist destination so you will have to wait no matter what. Also, please leave the poppy fields better than before. Do not leave you trash or trample through the poppy fields. Lastly, be mindful of all residents of Lake Elsinore. People that live there are still trying to live their daily lives and get to work on time.

 

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