Skully Ridge/Lower Aliso Canyon Loop (Chino Hills State Park)

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  • Location: Chino Hills State Park. From the 71 Expressway, take exit 7 (Soquel Canyon Parkway/Central Avenue.) Head southwest on Soquel Canyon Parkway (turn right if you’re coming from the north, left if from the south) for a mile. Turn left on Elinvar Drive and go 0.2 miles to the signed entrance of the park, right after Elinvar becomes Sapphire. Follow the newly paved road for 2.6 miles; several sections have only one lane for traffic in both directions so exercise caution. At the self-serve kiosk, pay the $5 day use fee. Park in the Lower Aliso Canyon day use lot which is on the left side of the road, shortly before it begins to curve back north.
  • Agency:  Chino Hills State Park (home page here)
  • Distance: 6.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 700 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Best season: October – May
  • Dogs: Not allowed
  • Cell phone reception: None in the lower areas; weak to fair on the Skully Ridge Trail
  • Water: Fountains and sinks at park entrance kiosk; faucet at trail head
  • Restrooms: Full restrooms at park entrance kiosk; chemical toilets at trail head
  • Camping/backpacking: At Rolling M Ranch
  • More information: AllTrails report here; Chino Hills State Park Yelp page here
  • Rating: 7

Updated April 2018

This hike explores the southeastern end of Chino Hills State Park. It’s best in the spring when wildflower blooms are impressive, but it can be enjoyable on any cool day with good visibility. Highlights include panoramic views of the San Gabriel Mountains, northern Santa Anas and if the air is clear, San Gorgonio and San Jacinto.

From the parking area, follow the trail into lower Aliso Canyon. A pleasant 0.6 mile stroll through along the canyon floor brings you to a junction with the Skully Ridge Trail. By hiking counter-clockwise, as described below, you get most of the ascent out of the way sooner. Turn right and follow the road past the turnoff for Water Canyon, after which the trail makes a hairpin left turn and begins the only major ascent of the route, climbing just under 300 feet in the next 0.6 mile.

After reaching the top of Skully Ridge, head left at the junction (the Bobcat Ridge Trail branches off to the right) and begin making your way south. For the next two miles, the trail follows the rolling ridge line, with Brush Canyon on your right and Aliso Canyon on the left (note the trail, your return route).

At 3.2 miles from the start, bear left on the Brush Canyon Trail. As of this writing, the Skully Hill Trail is closed and the Aluvial Fan Trail at the southern end of the park is densely overgrown with mustard grass and tumbleweed, so the Brush Canyon Trail is your best return option (although you can continue along the ridge for a while more before retracing your steps). The Brush Canyon Trail drops down into Aliso Canyon, meeting the trail after one mile. Head left and head north back toward your starting point.

You soon reach a Y-junction with the Elevator Trail, an alternate route that soon rejoins the Lower Aliso Canyon Trail. The trail passes several sycamores, willows and oaks (though none provide any significant shade) and crosses two footbridges before completing the loop. Retrace your steps 0.6 mile back to the parking area.

Aliso Canyon, Chino Hills State Park
Start of the hike
Skully Ridge, Chino Hills State Park
Following Skully Ridge
Aliso Canyon, Chino Hills State Park
Oak in Aliso Canyon
Aliso Canyon, Chino Hills State Park
Footbridge in lower Aliso Canyon


Text and photography copyright 2018 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.

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