McDermont and Sycamore Trails (Chino Hills State Park)
- Location: Yorba Linda. From the 57 freeway, take Orangethorpe exit and head east for 4.2 miles. Turn left on Kellogg, go 1.8 miles and turn right on Yorba Linda Blvd. Go 0.3 miles and turn left on Fairmont. Go 1.6 miles and turn left on Rim Crest. Follow Rim Crest to its end and park on the corner of Blue Gum and Rim Crest. From the Riverside area, take the 91 freeway to Yorba Linda Blvd. Go northwest on Yorba Linda Blvd. for 2.4 miles, and turn right on Village Center. Go a mile and turn left on Fairmont. Go 0.3 miles and turn right on Rim Crest.
- Agency: Chino Hills State Park (home page here)
- Distance: 8 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,100 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance, elevation gain)
- Suggested time: 3.5 hours
- Best season: October – May
- USGS topo map: Yorba Linda
- Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock
- More information: Trail map here; Yelp page here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 6
This loop explores some of the lightly traveled high country in the middle sector of Chino Hills State Park. To be sure, the views and scenery aren’t as varied or attractive as they are on more popular destinations such as Gilman Peak or Water Canyon–expect power lines and barbed wire–but the hike still offers a solid workout from the conveniently located (and free) Rim Crest trailhead. On clear days, the vistas from the North Ridge Trail include Old Saddleback, the Orange County coastal plains, the ocean, the San Gabriel Mountains and more.
From Rim Crest, follow the Easy Street trail half a mile as it drops into Telegraph Canyon. Turn right and head east, gradually uphill on Telegraph Canyon, Chino Hills State Park’s main artery, passing the turnoffs for Gilman Peak and the Little Canyon Trail. As you ascend, the terrain becomes more pleasantly shaded, both from oaks and sycamores.
At 1.6 miles, you reach a Y-junction with the Sycamore Trail. This is the start of the loop, which can be hiked in either direction. By going counter-clockwise, as described here, you can continue your moderate ascent in the shade of the canyon. At 2.3 miles, you pass by a picnic table; this is a nice place to rest for a few minutes before continuing east.
At 2.9 miles, you reach the McDermont Trail, a fire road which leaves the friendly confines of the canyon. The next mile or so is the most thankless section of the hike, as the McDermont Trail heads sharply uphill on exposed terrain. The grade levels out after about half a mile and the trail bends east, reaching a T-junction (3.8 miles from the start). Turn left and make another steep but short climb on a connector trail, bringing you to North Ridge. Here you get a panoramic view of Telegraph Canyon with San Juan Hill, the highest point in the park, to the south.
Turn left and head west on North Ridge, following the trail through several ups and downs, taking in views on both sides. At 5.2 miles, turn left on the Sycamore Trail, which heads back toward Telegraph Canyon. A group of oak trees makes for a nice rest spot on the descent. The trail makes an S-curve, passes by a rusted water tank and drops back into Telegraph Canyon, where it completes the loop at 6.4 miles. Retrace your steps on the Telegraph Canyon and Easy Street Trails back to your starting point.
As a variation, you can make the lower portion of this hike into a loop by using the South Ridge and Little Canyon Trails either on your way out or in. This adds about 100 feet of elevation gain.
Text and photography copyright 2014 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.