Sometimes the biggest secrets are, well, big. Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden is an 86-acre gem, hidden away in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains in Claremont. In a way, it’s as big as all of California, given its dedication to the native plants (more than 2,000 species!) of our endlessly fascinating state.
The garden comprises a two-mile border trail, inner trails that can take hours to explore, and a single entrance trail that passes by a native wildflower meadow, a recreated Tongva Native American hut, and a palm oasis on your way to some benches beneath an ancient, majestic oak. From there, continue north to trails that wind through all sorts of California ecosystems, including chaparral, desert, and pine forest. In quick succession, you’ll encounter classics like sage, sumac, and oaks, but also Joshua trees and boojum, bays and junipers, and Torrey and Coulter pines as you truly feel like you are trekking through a condensed version of our beloved state.
Now head south, taking the Indian Hill Mesa route to the current “Game of Thorns” exhibit, which portrays millions of years of botanical warfare between California natives and their predators. Like the rest of this fascinating secret garden, it is totally bingeworthy!
TIP: Check the website for a calendar of current events, and don’t leave without checking out the Grow Native Nursery for ideas on drought-resistant gardening at home.
Take I-210 to the Towne Ave. exit and turn south. After a mile, turn left on Foothill Blvd., and after another mile, turn left at the sign for the garden at College Ave. Parking is free. Admission is $9. No dogs.