Profile: Chino Hills State Park

Although primarily consisting of rolling grasslands, the park boasts many native plant species.

Being a resident of Southern California has its perks. World-class beaches, soaring mountain peaks, and living in one of the worlds five Mediterranean climates are a few of the obvious. One of the lesser appreciated aspects is the relative abundance of natural areas and open spaces. I’m specifically talking about an area near and dear to my heart, Chino Hills State Park.

For those of us who advocate for native plants and wildlife gardens, familiarizing ourselves with our local ecosystems is key to deeper understanding. The last time I found myself exploring the area it dawned on me that it might be both fun and insightful to write a series of blogs exploring some of the many aspects that make up a natural area in this little corner of the world. Insights that can be utilized in many ways by people who understand the importance of what Mother Nature has to teach.

Originally the area now encompassed by CHSP was inhabited by the Gabrielino Indians. The indigenous people utilized the area for hunting game, gathering acorns, elderberries, walnuts, seeds and other sources for food and shelter.

Once the Europeans arrived and founded Mission San Gabriel in 1771 the Chino Hills were used extensively for grazing by mission cattle. During the Mexican republic the park was also utilized for grazing by surrounding Mexican ranchos Santa Ana Del Chino and La Sierra Yorba. Cattle use continued until the 1970’s until finally in 1984 State Parks and Recreation officially declared the area a part of the state park system.

Today CHSP is considered a premier natural open space containing over sixty miles

Along Telegraph Canyon Sycamore and Coast Live Oak line the trail.

of fire roads and trails. The Park’s 14,100 acres contain prime real estate from the counties of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange.

Additionally the area provides an anchor parcel for the Puente Hills Wildlife Corridor, a vital natural resource to an extraordinary diversity of animals and plant life.

Fortunately for me the western most entrance to the park is a mere 10 minute drive from my home in Brea. In an on-going effort to educate and advocate both for myself and the public, I have made it a priority to spend more time exploring the area’s diverse plant and animal life.

Although primarily consisting of rolling grasslands made up of invasive European species, many native plant species still exist in the park. Stands of trees, shrubs, perennials, and annual plant species combine to make up the parks abundant and diverse flora.

Plants from several Plant Communities co-mingle throughout the park.

Several plant communities serve as the foundation of life in the park. They include coastal and alluvial sage scrub, riparian, southern oak woodland, and mixed chaparral. Micro communities exist within the latter two plant communities boasting the rare and endangered species Juglans californica southern California black walnut and Cupressus forbesii Tecate cypress respectively.

Chino Hills State park is not unlike our native plant wildlife gardens in that it is a relatively tiny microcosm of habitat surrounded by a sea of urban sprawl. It is in a continual state of both restoration and preservation supporting nature as she plays out her natural rhythms as they have occurred for millennia.

Those of us who advocate for the native garden and wildlife owe it to ourselves to support, explore, learn and pass on the information we acquire about our native open spaces. In doing so we insure that future generations will be inspired and continue to be stewards of the beautiful lands we’ve inherited.


© 2012, Rob Moore. All rights reserved. This article is the property of Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. If you are reading this at another site, please report that to us

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About Rob Moore

Rob Moore is a California Landscape Designer specializing in drought tolerant and native plants at his company, California Native Landscape Design. Rob has designed gardens in San Diego, San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Orange Counties, and has lectured on design elements at Tree of Life nursery, and Wild Birds Unlimited. He has written for APLD's (Association of Professional Landscape Designers) The Designer Magazine and was recently published in The Journal of California Native Plant Society’s Fremontia. Follow Rob at his blog, and on Facebook and on Twitter @LandscapeRob


  1. Donna@Gardens Eye View says:

    Rob I too am trying to explore more natural wild areas around…what a lovely place with such rich history.
    Donna@Gardens Eye View recently posted..Simply The Best-May

  2. Carole Sevilla Brown says:

    Rob, what a beautiful place! We can learn so much from exploring the natural areas around us: what plants form each community, what works together, what birds are drawn to particular habitats, etc. When we study these areas, we are so much better informed when we plan our wildlife gardens.
    Carole Sevilla Brown recently posted..Starting From Scratch In the Wildlife Garden

  3. Bill Jones says:

    Hi Rob, We visited the Telegraph trail in Chino Hills state park this weekend and wondered what this plant was with the strange little nuts and/or fruits on it – I’m curious what it is, Can you recognize it??

    They sort of smelled like turpentine so I’m guessing its some type of sumac ??

    • Rob Moore says:

      Hi Bill,
      The plant in the pictures attached does not look native. Did you by chance
      find it along side of the trail (south side) next to a creek crossing?

      • Bill Jones says:

        I found out that it is probably a California Black Walnut (Juglans californica) it is endangered but in Chino Hills park is one of the areas where it has managed to survive.



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