Sonome Canyon Loop (Chino Hills State Park)
This loop explores the lightly visited corner of Chino Hills State Park that sits north of Carbon Canyon Road. Some hikers might be turned off by the fact that a substantial portion of the hike is on paved streets and that the trails have little shade, but the loop provides a good workout conveniently located to north Orange County and the Inland Empire, with panoramic views of the area. With the Bane Canyon entrance to the park closed until April of 2015, this hike makes a nice alternative, especially for hikers who feel as if they’ve run out of trails to explore in this area.
The hike can be done in either direction and with over a mile of the route using residential streets, there are several possible starting points. Hiking clockwise from the end of Lilac Lane as described here is advantageous in that it breaks up the longest ascent of the hike and bypasses the thankless task of a steep, exposed climb on paved Olinda Drive. If you are hiking in the late afternoon, you can plan to time your hike so that you are off park lands by 5pm, finishing the route on the residential streets.
From the end of Lilac, follow the trail into the park. The route is signed as the Lilac Trail on the park map but as the Sonome Canyon Trail at the park entrance. It ascends steadily, making a sharp right turn at about 0.3 miles and climbing a ridge beneath telephone lines. Make your way uphill, following either the winding path or the steep fire break. At about 0.7 miles from the start (450 vertical feet), the trail levels out. Look for a dirt path branching off to the right (La Vida Trail on the map) and take it.
You now begin a mile-long descent into Sonome Canyon, a tributary of Carbon Canyon. This stretch of the trail is enjoyably quiet, you are on the north side of the ridge which blocks out much of the sounds of civilization. If visibility is good, you can see the San Gabriels poking above the opposite side of the canyon.
At 1.7 miles, you reach the bottom of Sonome Canyon. The trail stays level until the two mile mark, when it makes a hairpin right turn and begins a steady ascent to another ridge (2.5 miles). Here, you reach a T-junction with paved Olinda Drive, where can enjoy a panoramic view to the south including the Chino Hills, Santa Ana Mountains and Orange County’s coastal plain.
Head downhill on Olinda Drive which is open only to service vehicles, enjoying an aerial perspective on Carbon Canyon. After 0.6 miles, the road leaves the park and becomes residential. It continues its steep descent for another half mile before reaching a junction with Olinda Place, by the fire station. Turn right, go a short distance on Olinda and turn right again on Lilac. Follow it uphill, gradually gaining 100 feet of elevation on the way back to your starting point.
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.