Spring in Southern California is a truly special time – the whole area comes alive with pretty blooms and colorful wildflowers. There are many places to experience the season in Southern California (like seeing the ranunculus flowers in Carlsbad), but one of the best is to see the Chino Hills State Park wildflowers.
I never even knew this place existed, but as soon as I saw photos of it, I knew I would have to go. Imagine lush green hillsides, with vivid orange poppies and purple wildflowers. Or later in the spring, the entire landscape being covered with yellow mustard flowers, for as far as the eye can see.
I was too late to see the poppy bloom (and our winter was pretty dry this year), but I was able to witness the mustard blooms and it was truly a magical sight! All the yellow blooms on the hillside literally took my breath away. I’ve always loved seeing the mustard blooms pop up while I was living in Northern California (in San Francisco), but I’d never seen anything like this before.
Want to know how you too can see the Chino Hills State Park wildflowers? Keep on reading for everything you need to know!
How to See the Chino Hill State Park Wildflowers
Where is Chino Hills State Park?
Chino HIlls State Park is located in Chino Hills, located on the southwestern corner of San Bernardino County. It is about 40 miles away (45 minutes) from Los Angeles, and 25 miles (35 minutes) from Orange County. Seeing the Chino Hills wildflowers makes the perfect spring day trip!
The address is: 4721 Sapphire Rd, Chino Hills, CA 91709. This will take you to the north entrance of the park.
How much is admission at Chino Hills State Park?
The day use fee for Chino Hills State Park is $5 (or $4 for seniors 62+ of age). Do note that they limit the number of cars inside the park, and there may be a line to get in during busy times (especially on the weekends during the wildflower season).
We didn’t feel like waiting around in the traffic to get inside the park, so we found street parking nearby and walked in (as did many other people). Do note that if you choose to walk in, you will have to walk about ¾ mile uphill in order to get to the main part of the park – it was no easy feat on a warm, sunny day!
Admission is included if you possess the California Explorer Vehicle Day Use Annual Pass, Golden Poppy Vehicle Day Use Annual Pass, Limited Use Golden Bear Pass (not valid Memorial Day through Labor Day), Golden Bear Pass, Disabled Discount Pass (1/2 price camping and day use), and the Distinguished Veteran Pass.
When is the park open?
Chances are, if you are reading this post, you are probably interested in seeing the Chino Hills wildflowers and will be visiting in the spring, when the park’s summer hours are in effect (first Sunday in April – September 30th) and open from 8am to 7pm.
Winter hours are in effect from October 1 – the first Saturday in April, and the park is open from 8am to 5pm.
The park’s gates close after these hours, so be sure to leave by then, if you are only there for the day!
The park is closed for 48 hours after it gets more than ¼ inch of rain. It is also closed when a Red Flag warning is issued, as well as times of extreme fire danger.
Can you camp at Chino HIlls State Park?
Yes – there are 20 campsites available at the Rolling M Ranch Campground inside the park. The campground also has potable water, showers, and flush toilets. Campfires/ground fires are not allowed, nor are charcoal BBQs, due to the threat of wildfires.
The fee is $30/night – reservations can be made up to six months in advance here.
If you want to see the Chino Hills State Park wildflowers at sunrise or sunset, this is probably the best way to do so!
What is Chino Hills State Park known for?
Chino Hills State Park provides refuge for biodiversity, serving as Chino-Puente Hills wildlife corridor. It is a major botanical habitat reserve for both resident and migrating wildlife. The 14,000+ acre park is managed as an open space preserve where all plant and animal life are protected.
In the spring, the park comes alive with a spectacular display of wildflowers, making it one of the most popular times to visit the park. It is especially stunning during a superbloom year – I visited during a dry year, but it was still pretty incredible!
The park also boasts 90 miles of trails with plenty of scenic vistas, perfect for hiking, mountain biking, or even horseback riding.
When see the Chino Hills wildflowers
In the early spring (March-ish), the park’s hillside begin to become transformed into shades of orange and purple, as the California poppy and purple wildflowers begin to bloom. The grass turns into a super lush green as well! It is said to be especially spectacular in a superbloom year, after a winter of heavy rain.
Unfortunately, this was a dry year and I missed the poppy blooms of early spring. In the late spring, however, the wild mustard blooms begin to take over, and the hillsides transform into a really magical shade of yellow. I’d always loved seeing mustard blooms in other parts of California, so when I started seeing photos of it showing up on Instagram, I knew I would have to visit to see the Chino Hills State Park wildflowers!
The park is very popular during these spring months, and can get crowded. Visit earlier in the day (when the park opens) for the least amount of crowds. If you want beautiful lighting for photos, visit closer to the end of the day (right before it closes) to get the magical golden hour light.
Unfortunately, our schedule only allowed us to visit midday (around 2:30pm), and it was a bit crowded and the light was harsh, but we were still able to get tons of gorgeous photos of the Chino Hills State Park wildflowers!
Where to see the Wildflowers in Chino Hills State Park
Chino Hills State Park boasts 90 miles of trails, many of which have ample wildflower viewing opportunities.
We ended up walking along Bane Canyon Road (the park’s main road), since this is the road we took to get into the park. We then went down the Bane Ridge Trail, which runs along the road. There are tons of mustard flowers along both the trail and the road, with ample photo opps of the Chino Hills wildflowers!
The trail combines with the Upper Bane Ridge Trail to create the Bane Canyon Ridge Loop, which is 5.8 miles. We only did part of it (the flat part…lol), and then turned around at the Bane Canyon Overlook, and walked back on the road. I did read that the further up you go, the better views, especially when the poppies are in bloom!
We also did a small part of the Pomona Trail, which intersects the Bane Ridge Trail after the overlook. There are tons and tons of mustard wildflowers along this trail as well. We only walked a short bit of it because there were a ton of people, and we were already tired from walking into the park and doing the other trail (it was also hot that day!).
However, a friend of mine went up to the top and said the views get infinitely better as you keep going up (and there are far fewer people up there as well), so I suggest going up further than us if you can!
What kind of wildflowers are at Chino Hills State Park?
What kind of wildflowers you will see will largely depend on when you visit the park.
If you visit earlier in the spring (March-ish), and especially if it is after a wet winter, you will be lucky enough to see the California poppy blooming all across the hillsides. Unfortunately, this was a dry winter and we missed the very short poppy season so we didn’t get to see them and I can’t say much about them.
After the poppies are done, the hills get taken over by the black mustard (the yellow flowers), and the hills are covered in a magical shade of yellow! This is what I got to see and it was absolutely mesmerizing, and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before!
In addition to the mustard, the wild radish flowers also bloom – these are the white and light purple flowers that you see scattered throughout the park.
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASEEEE remember to not pick or trample on the flowers!
Once they are trampled, they will not come back. Let’s enjoy the flowers responsibly so that everyone can enjoy them too, for years to come!
Just a note – there are ways to take photos of the flowers to make it look like you’re actually in them. I found large empty spaces around the flowers to stand in, but with a patch of flowers in front of it. Because of this, it gives the illusion of being in the flowers.
You can take some beautiful photos of the Chino HIlls State Park wildflowers without ruining them – it’s all about perspective, angles, and being creative!
One other thing about mustard flowers…
While beautiful, one thing to note about the black mustard flowers is that they are not native to California and basically weeds. It can also be invasive to the surrounding native plant species (i.e. poppies), and can suck away all the nutrients and energy away from them.
Therefore, it is important to brush away any petals that may have gotten onto your clothes and shoes before leaving the park, so as not to unknowingly transfer it to other areas, where it can take over the plant life there!
What to wear/pack for Chino HIlls State Park
- A cute sundress: Perfect for some springtime photos. Wear something that’s solid colored or a subtle pattern – light colors are best to contrast against the yellow of the mustard. I wore a white maxi dress like this one.
- A hat: there is no shade at the fields, so this will keep the sun out of your eyes. Wearing a cute straw hat will also look cute in photos (you know, that blogger look!), especially if you’re shooting from behind!
- Sunglasses: I forgot mine (whoops), but it’ll help prevent squinting into the sun.
- Sunscreen: The park’s trails are in full sun, so slather on that SPF!
- Comfortable Walking Shoes: Chances are you’ll do a fair bit of walking when seeing the Chino Hills wildflowers. Allbirds are my new favorite travel shoe – you’ll stay comfortable all day! If you want to look cute and be comfortable, Rothy’s are my go-to as well.
- Reusable water bottle: All that sun and walking will probably make you thirsty!
- A camera: There are soooo many photo ops of the wildflowers at Chino Hills State Park! Most of my photos in this post were taken with my Sony a6000 and 50mm f1.8 lens, or my iPhone.
Other things to know about visiting Chino Hills State Park
- Watch out for rattlesnakes! This is also a good reason not to go off trail. If you encounter a rattlesnake, stop and see if it will move out of the area. If it doesn’t, turn around (don’t disturb it further) and notify a ranger.
- Dogs are permitted in the park, however they are not allowed on trails. They are allowed on the park’s roads.
- Don’t stop or park anywhere that isn’t a designated parking spot.
Other things to do in Chino Hills
- Looking for more wildflowers? Consider also checking out the La Sierra Drive trail. This trail is about 2 miles long, and features more opportunities to see the Chino Hills wildflowers, including the mustard bloom!
- Check out the Egyptian Building – the ornate building is a replica of an Egyptian monument and you can find it in the Commons shopping center. Random, I know, but it’s super cool and definitely worth checking out! It is said to eventually become a restaurant. It is located at 4525 Chino HIlls Pkwy.
- Visit the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu temple. The inside of the temple is currently closed, however, you can admire it from the outside – it has some intricately ornate architectural details that will take your breath away!
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