The grassy hillsides of Chino Hills State Park, which covers 13,000 acres in eastern Orange County and western Riverside and San Bernardino counties, are turning green these days in response to winter rains. Winter also brings episodes of crystal-clear atmospheric conditions, when panoramic views from places like the Chino Hills reveal the shining Pacific Ocean on one side and a number of snow-capped mountain summits in the opposite direction.
San Juan Hill, the highest point of elevation in the park, is accessible on foot or by mountain bike from a trailhead conveniently located on the outskirts of Yorba Linda — the Orange County community which happens to house Richard Nixon’s birthplace and presidential library.
From the intersection of Fairmont and Yorba Linda boulevards in Yorba Linda, drive 1.5 miles north on Fairmont to Rim Crest Drive on the left. Go a short half mile north on Rim Crest to the designated trailhead, on the right. Curbside parking is available here.
On foot, head uphill a short distance to signed South Ridge Trail (an old fire road). Turn right, heading east along the South Ridge toward San Juan Hill. For three miles the trail’s gently curling course takes you through a near-treeless landscape. Tall grasses on both sides of the trail sway in the stiff afternoon breezes typically blowing up Santa Ana Canyon from the west. This fact is not lost on kite flyers, who sometimes practice their art here. Keep an eye out for small herds of deer, which roam this section of the park with impunity.
After just over three miles of general ascent, take the narrow side trail on the right leading 0.1 mile to the San Juan Hill summit, elevation 1781 feet. Nearby high-voltage powerlines somewhat spoil the view of mountains to the east; in other directions, however, the vista is pristine.
This article contains information about a publicly owned recreation or wilderness area. Trails and pathways are not necessarily marked. Conditions can change rapidly. Hikers should be properly equipped and have safety and navigational skills. The Reader and Jerry Schad assume no responsibility for any adverse experience.
San Juan Hill
Scope out the Inland Empire and Orange County from San Juan Hill in Chino Hills State Park.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 105 miles
Hiking/biking length: 6.4 miles round trip