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Coordinates: 33°57′16″N 117°42′07″W / 33.954325°N 117.701855°W / 33.954325; -117.701855

Chino Hills State Park, a premier natural open-space area in the hills of Santa Ana (near the intersection of Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties) is a critical link in the Puente-Chino Hills biological corridor. Its 12,452 acres (50.39 km2; 19.46 sq mi) encompass stands of oaks, sycamores and rolling, grassy hills that stretch nearly 31 miles (50 km), from the Santa Ana Mountains to the Whittier Hills. Chino Hills is vitally important as a refuge to many species of plants, and as a link between natural areas essential to the survival of many animal species.

Chino Hills is also a place where people can escape the pressures of urban life and find peace and solitude in a natural setting. Visitors can camp for a few days or simply enjoy a walk, horseback or bicycle ride over trails that meander through valleys and along ridge tops through woodlands, sage scrub and grasslands. Sixty miles (100 km) of trails and fire roads also offer excellent opportunities for viewing wildlife and native plants. Facilities consist of a picnic area, equestrian staging area, pipe corrals, a historic barn, water spigots and restrooms. Most of the trails accept multiple use. However, a few trails are designated for hiking only, because of safety issues or the potential for damage to habitat.

Contents

History

Over the centuries, many people have made use of the open spaces and plentiful water, plant and animal resources of the Chino Hills. Prior to European contact, the Gabrielino Indians, who lived along the Santa Ana River basin, set up temporary camps for gathering acorns, elderberries, walnuts and other seeds.

After the Spanish founded Mission San Gabriel in 1771, the Chino Hills were used extensively for grazing by mission cattle. During the Mexican Republic era, the hills were used as spillover grazing from such surrounding Mexican ranchos as Santa Ana del Chino and La Sierra Yorba. After Mexico ceded California to the United States in 1848, the land was still used primarily for grazing.

Private land acquisition began in the 1870s and continued into the 1890s. In 1848, the 1,720 acre (7 km²) Rolling M Ranch was established and the land leased to nearby landowners for cattle grazing. Some late nineteenth and early twentieth century oil exploration and mining activity also took place in the northwestern section of what is now the park. A ranch house, barn, and several windmills and watering troughs serve as reminders of the cattle ranching days.

In 1977, the California legislature passed a resolution directing California State Parks to conduct a study on acquiring Chino Hills land for park purposes. A local citizen group, Hills for Everyone, worked closely with California State Parks and the legislature to create the park with an initial acquisition of 2,237 acres (9 km²). In 1984, the State Park and Recreation Commission officially declared the area a unit of the State Park System. Since that date the park has been expanded by numerous land acquisitions from various private landowners.

Location

The park is located 10 miles (16 km) northwest of Corona in the city of Chino Hills. Take the 91 Freeway to Highway 71-North, or the 10 Freeway or 60 Freeway to Highway 71-South. Exit on Soquel Canyon and turn west. Proceed to Elinvar and turn left. Elinvar and Sapphire (right) is the park entrance. It is also possible to enter the park from the residential street named Rim Crest, off Fairmont Blvd., in Yorba Linda. This entrance is very small, almost unnoticeable, and many locals do not even know about it. It is on the South Ridge trail, and street parking is available on Rim Crest between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., although the park closes at sunset. It is not even possible to see the actual entrance, which is only a small gate and rundown welcome board, from Rim Crest. One must walk around the corner (there is a house in the way) via the dirt path next to the large gas pipeline. It is forbidden to enter the dirt path with any vehicle despite the driveway appearance. In addition, parking on the residential street that begins at the end of Rim Crest, named Blue Gum, is prohibited entirely except by permit, and it is a dead-end. The only way "out" by vehicle is the same way one came, back down Rim Crest to Fairmont again. Please note, in reference to the directions above, that if you intend to enter the park at the Rim Crest entrance you will have to hike several miles to the nearest official headquarters or campgrounds, and, again, there is no overnight parking (or even a parking lot for that matter). Furthermore, it is most convenient to exit SR-91 at Yorba Linda Blvd. in order to arrive at this entrance. There is no Fairmont Blvd. offramp from the 91. It is a discontinuous thoroughfare that ends at La Palma Ave. on the northern side of the 91 and Santa Ana Canyon Rd. on the southern side. Thus, head north from the 91 after exiting on Yorba Linda Blvd., which itself is between the exits of Imperial Hwy. and either the 241 toll road or Gypsum Canyon Rd., depending on which way you're traveling on SR-91. In any case, head north to Village Center Dr., turn right on it, and take it till it ends at Fairmont Blvd. Turn left onto Fairmont, heading up the hill, and be looking for Rim Crest on the right. There are several residential streets off of Fairmont, but turn right onto Rim Crest and head up the hill. At the end of that street is the "driveway" onto the dirt path which goes around the house to the left to the State Park boundary/fence/entrance. Note that Rim Crest ends at a bend in the road, where the bend to the left becomes Blue Gum and should not be entered. If one heads eastbound on the South Ridge trail, which would be to the right of the welcome sign, there is a quick incline that offers spectacular views on clear days of, among other things, various neighborhoods in Yorba Linda, San Antonio City Park, Disneyland, Downtown L.A., Knott's Berry Farm, the Santa Ana River, the 91 freeway, the Santa Ana River fishing lakes, the beach, the ocean, and Catalina Island. Any amount of haze in the atmosphere, though, will significantly inhibit one's ability to see much in the distance. There is a portion not contiguous south of SR-91, centered around the fire exit, Coal Canyon Road.

Park Policy

  • Hours: 8:00 a.m. to sunset.
  • Fees: Day-use: $4.00 and camping fees: $12.00. Additional Vehicle (camping) $4.00.
  • Speed Limit: 15 mph (24 km/h) for all vehicles and bicycles.
  • Vehicles off road: Motor vehicles may not be driven off road or in the back country.
  • Smoking: Because of the high fire danger, smoking is prohibited.
  • Campfires: Permitted only in designated fire rings, which are established in each campsite; not permitted during fire season. Generally, fire season runs from May to September, but may change. Please see Rangers for more information.
  • Trash: Pack it in, pack it out!
  • Weapons: Weapons of any kind are prohibited.
  • Trails: For safety's sake, stay on designated trails and don't hike alone. Be aware of wildlife, especially rattlesnakes.
  • Collecting: Animals, plants, rocks, dirt and artifacts are protected by law and may not be disturbed or collected.
  • Dogs: Dogs are welcome at Bane Canyon Road, McLean Overlook, the Rolling M Ranch and in the campgrounds. They must be on leash at all times and are not allowed in the backcountry or on trails. Pets must not be left alone at any time.
  • Park Closure: The park will close for 48 hours following rain of more than one quarter inch. High clay content in the soil causes "greased" trails and roads. Use during this time makes hiking, bicycling and equestrian activities hazardous and causes severe rutting of trail and road surfaces. The park is also closed during times of extreme fire danger.

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