San Juan Hill from Rolling M Ranch (Chino Hills State Park)
- 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. 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 where available at Rolling M Ranch, 3.2 miles from the entrance and about 0.6 mile past the Aliso Canyon day use area.
- Agency: Chino Hills State Park (home page here)
- Distance: 5.4 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,050 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, distance)
- Suggested time: 2.5 hours
- Best season: November – May
- Recommended gear: sun hat sunblock
- Dogs: Not allowed
- Cell phone reception: Weak
- Water: Fountains and sinks at park entrance kiosk
- Restrooms: Full restrooms at park entrance kiosk
- Camping: At Rolling M Ranch
- More information: Trail map here; Yelp page here
- Rating: 6
San Juan Hill (elevation 1,781 feet), the highest point in Chino Hills State Park can be approached via the South Ridge Trail from either direction. The eastern approach, described here, originates from the Rolling M Ranch area of the park. Despite the $5 day use fee (the approach from Orange County is free) this is a good hike to keep in mind if you have already hiked San Juan Hill from the west or if you live in the Inland Empire. On clear days, the views are excellent, including Catalina Island, Mt. Wilson, San Gorgonio, San Jacinto and more.
Begin by heading south on the paved road, passing the eastern end of the Telegraph Canyon Trail (if you decide to do this hike as a loop, that will be your return route). In 0.2 mile, make a hard right on the South Ridge Trail. You climb almost 500 feet in the next mile, enjoying ever-increasing views for your efforts. At 1.6 miles from the ranch (1.4 miles from the start of the South Ridge Trail) you reach a Y-junction. Head left and begin the next major climb, picking up 500 feet in the next 0.9 mile.
At 2.5 miles from the start of the hike, you reach a junction on a shoulder just below San Juan Hill. Bear left on a service road (not the Old Edison Trail, which heads downhill) and almost immediately look for a use trail branching off to the right. Follow it a few hundred yards (it’s overgrown and narrow but not too difficult) to the top of San Juan Hill. Here you can enjoy a view of the Orange County coastal plain, San Juan Canyon, Telegraph Canyon, Mt. Baldy and more.
You can return via the same route, or if you prefer to make a loop, head down the west side of the peak via another use trail, rejoining the South Ridge Trail. Almost immediately, bear right on an unsigned, overgrown but easy to follow service road which drops down to meet the Bovinian Delights Trail. Follow the Bovinian Delights Trail to Four Corners, pick up the Telegraph Canyon Trail and head east for 2.5 miles back to Rolling M Ranch. This route adds about 0.8 mile and 100 feet of elevation gain.
Photo gallery (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)
Text and photography copyright 2017 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.