Sidewinder/Upper Aliso Canyon Loop (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. Park where available, noting posted restrictions.
- Agency: Chino Hills State Park (home page here)
- Distance: 5 miles
- Elevation gain: 950 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 2 hours
- Best season: November – May
- Recommended gear: sun hat sunblock long pants and sleeves
- Dogs: Not allowed
- Cell phone reception: Fair to weak at trail head and for the first half-mile, none inside the park
- Water: Available at restrooms on Bane Canyon Road one quarter of a mile past the turnoff for the Sidewinder Trail
- Restrooms: Full restrooms on Bane Canyon Road one quarter of a mile past the turnoff for the Sidewinder Trail
- Camping: At Rolling M Ranch
- More information: Trail map here; AllTrails report here; Yelp page here
- Rating: 6
This loop explores the lightly traveled Sidewinder Trail in the northeastern corner of Chino Hills State Park. As of this writing, the famous “Superbloom” of Spring 2017 is still going on strong – so much so that on some stretches of this hike, the non-native mustard plants are growing across the trail, requiring some bushwhacking. In some spots, the plants form a virtual tunnel. Bull thistles, another invasive plant recognizable by their bright purple flowers and sharp leaves, are also prevalent, especially on the Sidewinder Trail. A few bunches of golden poppies are holding out in clusters along the hillsides as well.
Begin by walking uphill on paved, one-lane Bane Canyon Road, keeping an eye out for traffic. After half a mile and about 250 feet of elevation gain, you reach the turnoff for the Sidewinder Trail. Follow it through towering mustard flowers to a junction, one mile from the start. Here, you get some good views south toward the Santa Ana Mountains and Lower Aliso Canyon. Turn right to stay on the Sidewinder Trail which soon reaches a dirt clearing. Look for an obscure trail (still the Sidewinder) dropping off to the right. It hugs the ridge before dropping into a virtual forest of mustard flowers – thick to the point of nearly blocking out the sun.
At 1.4 miles from the start, keep an eye out for a faint trail branching off to the right (unsigned). This is the Upper Aliso Trail and the start of the loop. By hiking counter-clockwise, as described here, you save the most interesting part of the trail for last and get more of the uphill out of the way sooner.
The Upper Aliso Trail drops briefly into a tributary of Aliso Canyon and then climbs through more mustard growth before emerging onto a ridge. Now free of the plants, the trail skirts the upper rim of Aliso Canyon and Raptor Canyon before dropping down to meet the Fault Line Trail (2.6 miles from the start.) Stay left to continue on the Upper Aliso Trail, which travels for a pleasant 0.4 mile along Raptor Canyon, partially shaded by oaks and black walnut trees, before reaching the south end of the Sidewinder Trail.
Turn left and follow the Sidewinder Trail, which parallels Aliso Canyon. You soon reach a pleasant, shaded spot where Aliso Canyon absorbs a tributary; late into the spring, there still may be running water here. The Sidewinder Trail continues north before returning to the junction with the Upper Aliso Trail (3.6 miles from the start). From here, retrace your steps on the Sidewinder Trail back up the hill and down Bane Canyon to the park entrance.
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.