Friday, September 25, 2009

Head To The Hills – Chino Hills State Park

Tucked away, in between the hustle and bustle of Anaheim and Ontario we found one of LA’s hidden gems. Chino Hills State park is an immense park boasting more than 14,000 acres of nature stretching nearly 31 miles. Chino Hills State Park is one of the most well-maintained, low-key, yet easy to get to state parks that I have been to in Southern California. We found this massive park on a fluke. We were driving by and saw a sign so we decided to check it out. Located minutes from the 71 freeway, we were shocked at what we found there. Not only was the 2 mile drive along the dirt road easy, but it was an instant transformation. It was like walking through a door from the noise and pollution of LA to rolling hills of Montana. We were so impressed that we instantly decided to stay the night.

The campground (Rolling M Ranch and Campground) at the park is small, about 20 sites around one loop. For the most part the sites were all pretty good. They were spacious, had great views of the blossoming hillsides, equipped with fire pits, tables & grills. We drove the loop once to choose our spot for the night and decided on site #9, which was on the upper part of the loop, looking out over the “valley” and bordered along the back by high grass and a colorful palate of wildflowers.

Once parked, we began our site set up, much easier with just the two of us (we are now down to just over 5 minutes.) With our tent, chairs, cooking area, cooler and everything else in place we took a stroll to check out the bathrooms and see how they measured up. The bathroom building was immaculate! There were several flush toilets and two free hot showers.

As there was only one other site being occupied this night, we decided to have a nice relaxing dinner and just sit back and relax by the fire. We still had about 2 hours before the sun went down so we explored a bit, picked flowers and just sat, listened and exchanged our thoughts on how nice it was there.

Just before sunset, it started to get a bit chilly so we layered up and threw another few logs on the fire. The campsites are very open, no shade or shelter from the elements there. The wind coming through the hills was “COLD.” Once we got jackets on and positioned in the right spot by the fire, we sat back and could hear the wildflowers and the tall grass behind us swaying in the wind. Not something that we heard too often in LA. A bit later we heard the infamous call of the coyote. Not one or two…my guess would be closer to a dozen. They seemed to get pretty close. It was kind of cool as it just made me feel more and more like we were way out in some rural forest.

The chatter between the coyotes lasted about an hour before they moved on to another area. The stars were out in force, the air crisp and cold and the fire was now a low flicker, so we prepared the site for the night and crawled into our tent. Thankfully the ground, although it was mostly dirt, was not too hard. We just got back from several days in the rocky desert and I don’t think my ribs and hips could take another beating.

All in all I would say that this campground would fall into my top five in the area. Please note that there is not much to do there for children unless they like to hike and explore trails. There are more than 60 miles of hiking trails within the park and plenty of hillsides to play on, but no playgrounds, swimming or organized activities.

Yahoo! Map of Campground area

About the campground:
# of sites – 20
Tenting vs. RV – TENT ONLY - NO RVS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Bathrooms – 4
Showers – Free (hot)
Water – Spigots scattered around campground
Electric – No
Convenience Store – No
BOA Recommended sites – 8, 9, 10

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