Chino Hills State Park: The Complete Guide

Chino Hills State Park

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Chino Hills State Park

Address
4721 Sapphire Rd, Chino Hills, CA 91709-6118, USA
Phone +1 951-780-6222

During the Mexican Republic era, massive cattle ranches, like Santa Ana del Chino and La Sierra Madre, were established in the Chino Hills of Southern California. Cattle ranching continued after Mexico ceded California to the U.S. And then, in 1948, Rolling M Ranch, the current site of Chino Hills State Park's campground, was founded.

The state started converting Chino Hills into a park in 1977, but it was officially granted park status in 1984. At that time, the park was 2,237 acres large. Various private landholders have since sold their parcels to the state, and the park has expanded to more than 14,000 acres which, today, are enjoyed by those looking to flee the urban jungle for an escape to a peaceful oasis. The undulating grassy hills, oak and sycamore-dotted woodlands, and quiet scrub-covered valleys here provide the perfect environment to hike, bike, bird, picnic, camp, or ride horses.

Things to Do

Chino Hills State Park, located in the Santa Ana Canyon, makes a wonderful public space to bike, hike, and horseback ride on 90 miles of undulating trails. Along these trails, you can view wildlife, including 200 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, and amphibians who call this "biological corridor" home. Several types of Central and South American birds nest here annually in the spring to raise their young in riparian zones. Certain species, like the Least Bell’s Vireo, the California Gnatcatcher, and the Coastal Cactus Wren, are considered rare, threatened, or endangered. 

Search for a variety of rare plants and trees that also live in Chino Hills State Park, including the last of a few thousand acres of walnut woodlands, black walnut trees, and coast live oaks. Chino Hills State Park protects several hundred acres of these species, as well as the Tecate Cypress, now found in only a few places nationwide.

The park's small Discovery Center, located in the nearby town of Brea, is worth a visit to check out its educational exhibits on animals, plants, climate issues, wildfires, and the park's history. It’s a popular place for school trips during the week, as staff and volunteers lead nature hikes, talks, and junior ranger programs for kids.

Settle down for a picnic with a view at one of the shaded picnic tables at the two vista points in Bane Canyon. Or, camp at the small campground which accommodates RVs.

Best Hikes & Trails

More than 90 miles of multi-use trails zigzag their way through the grasslands, hillsides, forest, and creeks at Chino Hills State Park. Hikes range from approximately 1 mile to 16 miles in length and gain up to 2,240 feet in elevation above sea level. Night hiking, even if you’re camping here, is forbidden, and both hikers and bikers should note that equestrians have the right of way on the multi-use paths.

  • Bane Canyon Loop: The wildflowers on this 5.8-mile, heavily trafficked trail are certainly worth sharing. Come after a spring rainfall to gain the full experience. This trail has some ups and downs and is rated as moderate. You can also complete the shorter, 3.4-mile version of the loop, as well.
  • Coal Canyon: This 9.8-mile out-and-back trail starts on pavement, and then turns into a fire road. The hike features a waterfall and Picnic Rock, which some have described as a mini-Moab, and is frequented by mountain bikers. Near the top, enjoy a small juniper grove, something not usually encountered in this ecosystem.
  • San Juan Hill: The views from the top of San Juan Hill are worth the undulating grunt up on this 8-mile, roundtrip loop. Go in the spring to view the wildflowers, watch out for snakes, and make sure to pack sunscreen, as there is little shade cover.
  • Four Corners Loop Trail: This 5.4-mile loop includes moderate uphills and downhills, with a steep climb right off the bat. You can enjoy a dip in the seasonal creek if you time your outing right. Mountain bikers frequent this trail, and the singletrack is very narrow in parts, so exercise good trail etiquette.

Where to Camp

Surrounded by hills and featuring a historic barn, windmill, and cattle chute, the Rolling M Ranch Campground (the only campground located within Chino Hills State Park) contains 20 sites and gives you easy access to some of the most popular trails in the park. Amenities include potable water, flush toilets, showers, and picnic tables and barbeque grills at each site. This campground can accommodate trailers up to 28 feet, and off-piste camping is not permitted. Animals are welcome but must remain on a leash and kept inside a vehicle or your tent overnight. There is no vehicle access to campsites after dark and night hiking is prohibited. Reserve your site ahead of time, especially during wildflower season and busy holiday weekends.

Where to Stay Nearby

Several independent and chain hotels are located within close proximity to Chino Hills State Park. Escape from the city in comfort, as you enjoy the amenities of home during your park visit.

  • Hotel Chino Hills: The Chino Hills Hotel is located 20 minutes from downtown Los Angeles and nearby Chino Hills State Park. Choose from standard and executive king and double queen rooms, and enjoy on-site amenities, like an indoor pool, hot tub, and fitness center.
  • Ayres Hotel Chino Hills: This Chino Hills lodging option features 124 studio and one-bedroom suites, an outdoor pool and hot tub, a fitness center, and a meeting room. Complimentary breakfast and happy hour can be enjoyed with your stay, and rooms come equipped with Celestial Sleeper beds, free Wi-Fi, and flat-screen televisions.
  • TownePlace Suites by Marriott Ontario Chino Hills: This pet-friendly hotel features private kitchens with each room and an outdoor patio with Weber grills, so that those on a budget can eat in. Choose from a one-bedroom studio, or a single-king or double-queen suite. An outdoor pool and fitness center are located on-site.

How to Get There

Chino Hills State Park is located at 4721 Sapphire Road, Chino Hills, California. It is about 30 miles from Riverside, 39 miles from downtown Los Angeles, and 109 miles from San Diego. To get there, take I-91 to Highway 71 North, then turn left at Soquel Canyon. Proceed to Elinvar and turn left. Elinvar then merges into Sapphire on the left; the park entrance is on the right.

Accessibility

Chino Hills State Park provides many opportunities for people with disabilities to enjoy the natural setting. Rolling M Ranch Campground offers two accessible campsites, and routes to the restroom are easily accessible. The picnic areas east of the Discovery Center and adjacent to the Native Plant Nursery are handicap accessible, with accessible parking nearby. The 200-foot-long Native Plant Trail is deemed accessible, as well as the Discovery Center, and its parking, routes, and restrooms.

Tips for Your Visit

  • The best time to visit Chino Hills State Park is early in spring when the wildflowers are abundant, the hills are green (pending rainfall), and the animals are active. Otherwise, plan your visit between late September and May, but take note that the summertime temperatures can be hot.
  • Park passes, such as the California Explorer Vehicle Day Use, Golden Poppy Vehicle Day Use, Limited Use Golden Bear (not valid between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day), Golden Bear, and the Distinguished Veteran Pass, are accepted here. The Disabled Discount Pass qualifies the holder for half-price camping and day use, as well. 
  • The park closes for at least 48 hours following more than a quarter-inch of rain, due to the soil’s high clay content. The extremely slick trails and roads make activities treacherous and foot traffic after a rain can cause damage to the paths. The park also closes when the National Weather Service issues a Red Flag Warning for extreme fire danger.
  • Rattlesnakes live in Chino Hills State Park, and, occasionally, they come out to sun themselves on the trail. If one crosses your path, give it space and time to slither away. Snakes feel the vibration of your footsteps and generally don't strike at humans unless provoked.
  • Always check the weather, dress in layers, drink lots of water, and bring a first-aid kit.
  • Cell phone service is generally inaccessible in most sections of the park.
  • Park trails are open from sunrise to sunset, and parking lots operate between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily.
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California's Chino Hills State Park: The Complete Guide