All of the flowers without any of the mayhem! That’s the 3.4-mile, lightly trafficked Sidewinder/Upper Aliso Canyon Loop Trail in Chino Hills State Park. The trail starts off on the popular (meaning crowded) Upper Aliso Canyon Trail. Looking up into the hills, you can see patches of bright orange California poppies, and quite possibly some cottontail rabbits as you hike through the park’s grasslands. After three-quarters of a mile, you’ll reach the turnoff for the Sidewinder Trail. The trail is overgrown in sections, but still easy to follow. It loops around the rolling green hillsides during the course of a whopping 364 feet of elevation gain, passing the occasional vista point overlooking the park, as well as more patches of poppies.
But poppies aren’t the only flowers you’ll see. Canterbury bells, lupine, sand verbena, desert lilies, sunflowers, and evening primrose all create a brilliant display no matter where you look. Sure, you could go join the mobs at a superbloom, but the Sidewinder Trail has something those places don’t: peace, quiet, and solitude. Keep left at both of the forks to complete the loop. After around 2 miles you’ll meet up again with the Upper Aliso Canyon Trail and then head back out the way you came, creating a lollipop loop. If you have extra time, add on any of the other forks, such as Bane Ridge or Raptor Ridge Trails. With so many interconnecting options, you can make the hike as long as you want. Be sure to utilize the free park map on offer at the entrance station—it’s easy to get turned around on the park’s 90-plus miles of trails.
Chino Hills State Park is located off of the 71 freeway in Chino Hills. From the 71, exit Soquel Canyon Pkwy. and head west. Make a left on Elinvar Dr., then a left on Sapphire Rd. The park entrance will be on your right, on Bane Canyon Rd. Drive for a few minutes up a somewhat steep hill until you reach the entrance station. From there, continue for several more minutes until the road leads you into the parking area for the Rolling M Ranch and campground. The trailhead is at the far end of the parking lot. No dogs.