29 December 2015

A Short Jaunt Through Chino Hills State Park

Along the South Ridge Trail, this view takes in the overlap of gently rolling hills of a section of Chino Hills State Park, looking towards the Santa Ana Mountains in the Cleveland National Forest.
Today was a great day to get out on a hike through our local crown jewel of the outdoors: Chino Hills State Park.  The weather was cool, but the sun was out in a cloudless sky, and there was hardly a soul to be seen in the few hours out on the trails-only one biker was encountered from 11:30 to 2.

After the 3-mile drive in via the new Bane Canyon Road entrance, the walk started at the Rolling M Ranch, the headquarters during the years when much of the northeastern portion of the park was privately owned--first as part of Rancho Santa Ana del Chino, then by the Chino Land and Water Company, then from 1921 by the Pellissier family of Whittier and, finally, from 1948 by Christopher Hendra's Mollin Investment Company until 1720 acres were sold for the park.

Along the lower portions of the South Ridge Trail, what appears to be a discarded metal water tank from the private ranching years sits among the slopes with Mount Baldy, Ontario Peak and Cucamonga Peak rising from the San Gabriel Mountains in the distance.
Two main trails head west from the ranch site and the walk started with the South Ridge Trail, which eventually, as its name cleverly indicates, follows the southern boundary of the park over on the Yorba Linda side.  The hike took in the first 2.5 miles of the trail, which include some lung-bursting and quad-burning climbs up steep sections, but there is a payoff.

Towards the top (there is more climbing to the highest elevations on the trail) there are a pair of Edison transmission towers where excellent views can be had, mainly of the areas looking out toward Ontario, San Bernardino, Norco, Corona, Riverside, the Santa Ana Mountains, and, on clear days (and today was pretty good), beyond to the Big Bear/Lake Arrowhead area, Mount San Gorgonio, and Mount San Jacinto.  Discerning eyes can even, on occasion, pick out Mount Palomar, way off in San Diego County.

On a level area near two Edison transmission towers after a steep ascent on the South Ridge Trail are panoramic views like this from Ontario at the far left to Temescal Canyon at the far right.  At the center in the distance is San Gorgonio Pass flanked by Mount San Gorgonio at its left and Mount San Jacinto on its right. Note, too, how the gently rolling hills in the foreground contrast with the steeper, wrinkled hills at the eastern edge of the park along the 71 Freeway/Expressway.
Today's trek was limited by time, so the walk headed back down the steep trail to take a side trail that meets up with the Telegraph Canyon Trail, the other of the two main trails noted before.  Telegraph Canyon is, by far, the longest of the trails in the park, spanning a good 9 miles one way.  A few miles in is Four Corners, a meeting point of several trails, which, these days, boasts a covered picnic table and a porta-pottie--in the 90s when this blogger did a lot of trekking through the park, there was just an exposed table.

Time did not permit heading out to Four Corners, though, so the final 2 miles of the walk consisted of heading back, mainly downslope, on the Telegraph Canyon trail back to the ranch.  On the way, though, was passed the trailhead for what was once the most beautiful part of the park--the Hills for Everyone Trail.

Just right of center is the fairly-new state park campground and the equestrian area just to the right.  In the background is south Chino, Eastvale and Norco, Riverside and out to Mount San Gorgonio in the distance.
From the mid-90s and into the early 2000s, this blogger enjoyed several walks along this gorgeous route, which wound through a heavily wooded (oaks, sycamores and black walnuts) area with a creek that had water a good part of the year.  After 10-12 mile hikes via the steep climbs on the South Ridge or the Raptor Ridge Trail leading to the North Ridge and then a return by Telegraph Canyon, a great way to finish the day was to stroll through the cool shade and pause to dip a toe in the creek along the Hills for Everyone route.

Unfortunately, the trail was not maintained when the state went through the worst of its economic crises and the park barely had any staffing or services and erosion and other problems caused the closure of the route.  Someday, perhaps, the work will be done to bring the Hills for Everyone back to life, because it was the highlight of a visit and it is sad to see it in its decrepit state.

The views west aren't quite as panoramic and steeper hills to the southwest are there, as well, but here is a nice look out on the Telegraph Canyon Trail to Four Corners, about dead center, and the hills along the North Ridge Trail looking out towards Brea.
After about 2.5 hours and 5 miles, the walk concluded.  It would have been better if twice the time and distance could have been invested and covered, but that will have to be for another day.

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