Most OCCNPS field trips are free and open to all, but read the trip outlines to be sure they fit your needs. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, appropriate trail shoes, a camera, a notepad and lots of enthusiasm. Rain may cancel CNPS trips.
For rain cancellation status or other updates check this page after 7 PM the evening prior to the trip or contact Ron Vanderhoff (firstname.lastname@example.org or 949 337-5462).
Upcoming trips (past trips at end of article):
Fall Color Trip, Trabuco Canyon to Falls Canyon – Sun., Nov. 18
11-17, 7 PM Update: Rain or shine, we're on for tomorrow - though rain seems unlikely. Dress warmly.
11-11 Update: I checked the canyon today and all looks good. Not as much fall color as last year because the nights haven't been quite as cold, but it's still beautiful. There is water in the creek and over the waterfall. Another shower between now and Sunday would make it even better. Two very uncommon plants were in the canyon today, Helenium puberulum and Lobelia dunnii, and we will see both. Remember to check the "Please read" paragraph below. There are a few fallen trees to negotiate and 2-3 stream crossings. The most challenging spot is about half way and requires climbing up about a ten foot high rocky spot using both hands and negotiating the rock with carefully placed footholds. Also, note that a USFS Adventure Pass or Day Pass is required, but we will carpool from the meeting spot. If you have a pass, please bring it!
We will hope for clear fall skies and brisk fall temperatures as we celebrate the colors of the season right here in Orange County. The drive up the gravel road of Trabuco Canyon is an adventure in itself, but we won’t go all the way to the end (unless a few brave souls insist). We will stop just inside the National Forest boundary where the Big Leaf Maples and Western Sycamore usually glow at this time of the year. After a brief enjoyment of the canyon and its colors we will hike one mile up little known, but beautiful and shaded Falls Canyon. With luck (fall rains) we will end at a beautiful 30 foot waterfall. Along the way we will explore for plants, seeds, fall fruits, lots more fall color and other signs of the season.
Meet 8 AM at the intersection of Trabuco Canyon Road and the large and obvious gravel wash of Trabuco Creek (at the unsigned Trabuco Creek Road). This is just 150 yards SE of Rose Canyon Road (which is signed). Free and open to all. Bring trail shoes, hat, sunscreen, water. No restrooms or water. A USFS Adventure Pass is required for parking at the trailhead. Leader: Ron Vanderhoff, assisted by Mike and Cathie Field.
Physical Difficulty: Moderate to moderately strenuous.
Please Read: This is a narrow canyon hike on only a partial trail. The most difficult part of the trip is the first 50 feet as we navigate from our cars, down into and across Trabuco Creek to the canyon mouth. In the canyon there are areas of boulder hopping and a bit of scrambling. There are also 3 or 4 stream crossings and feet might get wet. Poison oak is encountered moderately along the trail as well. Car travel from the meeting area to the trailhead is best in an SUV or other high clearance vehicle, but passenger cars can make it - just don't bring your new Lexus! Plant Intensity: Moderate. Time: Approx. 2 hours, following the drive up Trabuco Creek Road. In site of all these warnings, it's a terrific fall trip!
Following the Falls Canyon trip, a couple of us might drive further up Trabuco Canyon and make the 6 mile hike up to OC's only colony of Madrones (Arbutus menziesii).
The Native Plant Season Begins - at the UCI Ecological Preserve – Sun., Feb. 26
An easy and perfect first trip of the year. Only a short drive to this urban native plant oasis at the edge of the UC Irvine campus. We will search for early blooming wildflowers and other specialties of these 60 acres, part of the Nature Reserve of Orange County. The trails here are relatively easy, with short walking distances and a minimal amount of up and down.
The Ecological Preserve consists of coastal sage scrub and grassland habitats. Depending upon rainfall, some of the plants we will search for include Goldfields (Lasthenia), Shooting Star (Dodecatheon), Dudleya multicaulis and D. pulverulenta, Wild Hyacinth (Dichelostemma), Popcorn Flower (Plagiobothrys & Cryptantha, Cylindropuntia and maybe an early blooming Catalina Mariposa Lily (Calochortus) and Golden Stars (Bloomeria). In all, 228 plants are recorded from the preserve. Join us for an easy, fun and rewarding warm up to a great year of OCCNPS field trips. Leaders: Ron Vanderhoff, assisted by Nancy Heuler, Mike and Cathie Field. Schedule permitting, Dr. Peter Bowler, Director of the Preserve, may be on hand to assist with the trip.
Meet 8 AM, corner of Los Trancos Dr. and Locke Court. Plenty of free street parking. This is just S. of E. Peltason Dr. on Los Trancos, at the southern edge of the campus. Free and open to all. No restrooms on site. Walking shoes, hat and water suggested.
Physical Difficulty: Easy: about 1-2 miles over rolling hills. Plant Intensity: Moderate. Time: Approx. 2 hours.
Elsinore Peak and Stops Nearby, Southern Santa Ana Mts. – Sun., March 18
3-17 FINAL UPDATE: FIELD TRIP CANCELLED: Unfortunately the heavy rains have forced a cancellation of this trip. This field trip will not be rescheduled, due to a very busy lineup already in place. Perhaps next year.
Elsinore Peak is the southern most of the Santa Ana Mountain peaks and offers an unusual habitat of grasslands with some coastal sage scrub and chaparral. The soil and geology near the peak is further unique due to its volcanic history and unusual basalt rock deposits. We will explore the area just below the peak for spring wildflowers like Fritillaria biflora, Ranunculus, Goldfields, Alliums, Calochortus, Clarkia, Collinsia, Popcorn Flowers, Monkeyflowers, Lupines, Peonies, Sanicula and more). Time permitting we may stop along the way back to Hwy 74 and enjoy plants like Chorizanthe, Delphinium, Penstemons, Caulanthus, Emmenanthe, Arctostaphylos and others. Leaders: Ron Vanderhoff and Laura Camp. Doug Peltz, geology enthusiast, will also be present to discuss some of the regions interesting geologic features.
Meet 8 AM in San Juan Capistrano. From I-5, take Hwy 74 east 1/8 mile, turn right on Rancho Viejo Rd, then left into park-&-ride lot next to Bravo Burger, 31722 Rancho Viejo Rd.
Free and open to all. Bring trail shoes, hat, sunscreen, water and lunch following, if desired. No restrooms on trip.
Physical Difficulty: Easy. Short to moderate walking distances. Plant Intensity: Moderate to high, especially wildflowers. Time: Approx. 2-3 hours.
3-17 FINAL UPDATE: FIELD TRIP CANCELLED: Unfortunately the heavy rains have forced a cancellation of this trip.
3-16 UPDATE: We are watching the weather carefully and a final update will be posted here after 7 pm Saturday evening, Mar. 17. If there is almost certain rain, we will probably cancel, but if not we will go, even if it rained on Saturday. The roads are paved all the way and the trails drain well enough that we shouldn’t be in too many puddles.
Assuming we go: If you have a Forest Service Adventure Pass, please bring it.
After the meetup at Bravo Burgers (see above) we will drive up Hwy 74 to the crest and turn onto South Main Divide Rd. We will then go about 6 miles down South Main Divide to Elsinore Peak.
The tentative plan is to walk along the dirt road that leads up to the radio towers and the peak (about 1/4 mile), then turn East off trail and head a couple hundred yards to a small rise dubbed "Onion Hill". There, we will find Allium lacunosum, a few Allium munzii, tons of Allium haematochiton (although none in bloom yet), Lomatium, Lasthenia and a rare little cress called Siberopsis hammittii. There are also a couple of Frittilaria here, but we'll see others elsewhere.
Then, depending upon the group, the rain and trail conditions, we will hike a little further East and loop back up toward the peak from the back side. If not, we'll backtrack the way we came. Along the way we'll see Lasthenia, Layia, Zigadenus, Paeonia and an odd group of Hesperocyparis forbesii. Back at the cars, we'll take a couple of short walks to see great Arctostaphylos glauca, Ranunculus, a few Nemophila., Calandrinia., Thalictrum and some more Fritillaria and Paeonia.
As we leave Elsinore Peak those that want to will drive back down Main Divide Rd. and stop at the Morgan Trailhead (about half way). We will walk a short distance in this area and see several other plants in an area that was recently burned: Phacelia, Linanthus, Bahiopsis and Pinus attenuata (both non-native here), Lupinus, Plagiobotrys and a rare (in this area) example of Artemisia tridentata - Great Basin sagebrush.
Remember, check back here Saturday evening for the final update. For questions my email is email@example.com.
Driving Tour to the Tecate Cypress in Fremont Canyon – Sat., April 7
Join Irvine Ranch Conservancy staff and docents on our fifth annual CNPS Irvine Ranch Auto Tour. This year we will be visiting a Tecate Cypress stand that is recovering from the 2006 Sierra Peak Fire with the help of restoration efforts. Tecate Cypress (Hesperocyparis forbesii) extends south from this very population to northern Baja California and is a Pleistocene relict that thrives only in cooler high-elevation coastal chaparral with low fire frequency. Over the course of our tour, we will be seeing several other rare endemic species, including heart-leafed pitcher sage (Lepechinia cardiophylla), chaparral beargrass (Nolina cismontana), many-stemmed Dudleya (Dudleya multicaulis), and the occasional early intermediate Mariposa lily (Calochortus weedii intermedius). We will be passing through high quality coastal sage scrub and chaparral habitats with their own botanical highlights and will again give special attention to our six- and eight-legged friends of the area. Members will enjoy several stops for botanizing and the sweeping views across the Santa Ana mountains and coastal lowlands that Fremont Canyon, Windy Ridge and Gypsum Canyon provide. We’ll be driving on bumpy roads and some of you will be in an open-air vehicle. Bring the usual amenities for a fun day out in the wild. Lunch will be provided. Physical Difficulty: Easy, but includes sometimes rough dirt roads. Short to moderate walking distances. Plant Intensity: Moderate to high, especially wildflowers. Time: Start time 8:30 AM and duration approx. 6-7 hours.
This trip is limited to CNPS members only. To register e-mail Laura Camp for a registration code. Then click here to get to the registration page. Once registered, you will receive directions to the Fremont Canyon staging area.
Native Plant Lessons on the San Juan Loop Trail, Hwy 74 – Sat., April 14
4-13, 7PM UPDATE: The field trip is on! The rain is predicted to pass tonight and early tomorrow morning. Should be a fabulous day, there is nothing better than visiting native plants shortly after rainfall. The freshness, moisture, great smells and cleanliness make all the plants seem extra wonderful. Be sure to read the notes below and bring an extra layer or two, just in case. See you in the morning.
4-11 UPDATE: We are watching the weather, but as of today it looks like we might be OK. Be sure to check here again on Friday evening for the final trip update.A visit to the site last week revealed far more flowers than might be expected and the variety should be good, considering the very dry winter. There is even some water in the creek and a couple of the waterfalls are lightly flowing. Some of the plants we should see include Barbarea orthoceras, Delphinium parryi, Eschscholzia caespitosa, Juniperus californica, Lasthenia sp., Leptosiphon floribundaus, Lithophragma affine, Micranthes (Saxifraga) californica, Mimulus brevipes, Paeonia californica, Phacelia minor, Rosa californica, Scrophularia californica, Thalictrum fendleri, Trifolium willdenovii, Uropappus (Microseris) lindleyi and at least 100 other species.
Bob Allen just informed me today of a rare plant that we should be on the lookout for, western spleenwort fern or Asplenium vespertinum. There are only six records for the Santa Ana Mts., with this location being the most accessable, but the last report from this location was about 20 years ago. Depending on the group we may search for it during the trip. Otherwise, after the field trip is finished, those interested could go back on a more focused search.
If you are driving to the trailhead, be sure to bring a USFS Adventure Pass for parking – or you WILL get a ticket. You can buy these at REI, Sport Chalet, Big 5, Sports Authority and other outdoor stores.
Be advised, this is a three mile hike on dirt trails with uneven surfaces, rocks and some mild up and down. We want you to enjoy the trip and the plants, so please be responsible for your abilities. This is not a difficult hike, but it is a hike.
Assuming the weather holds, we will see you at the San Juan Capistrano meetup location described above. Should be fun!
This is one of the best trips for beginning to intermediate native plant enthusiasts. Not too strenuous, yet lots of variety, including plants of oak woodland, chaparral, grassland and riparian plant communities. We will make an extra effort on this trip to identify and explain the characteristics of the wide variety of plants we will see. About half of the trail is tree-lined and shaded. Because of the variety of habitats, we are likely to see a broad range of plants, birds and other life along the way. We will park across from the famous “Candy Store” and after the main trip those that wish to can go for a further exploration for plants up Bear Canyon Trail. A USFS Adventure Pass is required for parking. Restrooms and water at the trailhead/parking area. Leader: Ron Vanderhoff, assisted by Mike and Cathie Field.
Meet 8 AM in San Juan Capistrano. From I-5, take Hwy 74 east 1/8 mile, turn right on Rancho Viejo Rd, then left into the lot next to Bravo Burger, 31722 Rancho Viejo Rd. We will coordinate the trip while in the Bravo Burger parking lot.
Free and open to all. Bring trail shoes, hat, sunscreen, water and lunch if desired.
Physical Difficulty: Moderate. Plan on about 2.5 trail miles and a little up and down. Lug shoes suggested. Plant Intensity: Moderate, with a lot of plant variety. Time: Approx. 3 hours.
A Trip through Beautiful Upper Hot Springs Canyon, Santa Ana Mts. – Sun., April 29
4-28 UPDATE: Should be a beautiful day . . . and warm. Be sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat. Probably two quarts, to be safe. See you in the morning.
4-24 UPDATE: A check of the field trip location on Sunday, April 22 revealed a large array of plants. Rain midweek should make the conditions nearly perfect for our trip. Please notice in the information below that this is a reasonably adventuresome trip, so please be responsible for your physical abilities. This is also perhaps the most scenic and varied trip of the year and promises to be enjoyable by anyone with even a mild interest in plants and the outdoors.
Of the 140 species of plants observed this week, some of the more interesting include Berberis aquifolium var, dictyota – barberry (OC’s only colony), Calochortus albus - Mariposa lily (not yet in bloom), Dudleya viscida – sticky live-forever (huge quantities), Lilium humboltii var. oscellatum – humbold lily, Linanthus aureus (full bloom), Meconella denticulata - small-flowered meconella, Micranthes californica - California saxifrage, Minuartia douglasii – Douglas sandwort, Piperia sp. – rein orchid, Plectritis ciliosa, Satereja chandleri – San Miguel Savory (a near Santa Ana Mts. Endemic) and Vicia ludoviciana.
This beautiful area is relatively high and remote in the Santa Ana Mts and about the furthest one can get into the mountains via a paved road. We will park at Blue Jay Campground then take the short hike across Falcon trail and then down Hot Springs Canyon trail a mile or two, then back, botanizing and recording the plants along the way. The scenic canyon usually has lots of water and several cool, refreshing falls. Some rare plants we will search for include Berberis dictyota (aquifolium), Saxifraga californica and Satureja chandleri. We’ll likely see Delphiniums, Cardamine, Viola, Thalictrum and lots of colourful annuals. With some luck Calochortus albus is possible.
Meet 8 AM in San Juan Capistrano. From I-5, take Hwy 74 east 1/8 mile, turn right on Rancho Viejo Rd, then left into the lot at Bravo Burger, 31722 Rancho Viejo Rd.
Free and open to all. Bring trail shoes, hat, sunscreen, water. Optional campground lunch following the trip. A USFS Adventure Pass is required for parking at the trailhead. Restrooms and water at the trailhead. Leader: Ron Vanderhoff.
Physical Difficulty: Moderately strenuous; not long, but several areas require scrambling over rocks and boulders, using hands for balance. The trail is uneven and requires some mildly athletic maneuvering. Lug shoes suggested and feet might get wet. Yes, there is some scrambling, and poison oak lurks along the trail. About 3 trail miles, possibly more, depending upon the group. Plant Intensity: High. Time: 3 hours or more, plus driving, as desired by the group.
SAMNHA Trip: Driving Tour of the Santa Ana Mountains - Sat., May 12
4-30 UPDATE: Registration is now open. To register, send an email to Lee Shoemaker (firstname.lastname@example.org) indicating number of people and whether you have a vehicle able to drive the rough mountain roads, since vehicle numbers are limited.
Sponsored by NABA (North American Butterfly Association) and SAMNHA (Santa Ana Mountains Natural History Association), Larry Shaw and Lee Shoemaker will once again lead this popular all day excursion into the Santa Ana Mountains on rugged dirt and gravel forest roads to explore the local flora, fauna, geology and more. Reservations required (see above). The trip is limited to about 8 to 12 vehicles. Drivers of sturdy vehicles should state how many passengers they can take. We will be meeting at the Lower Silverado Fire Station on Silverado Cyn. Rd. The final route will be determined the morning of the trip, but we are considering going up either Blackstar Canyon Road or Maple Springs Road to Main Divide Road, then going either North or South. We will exit down one of the eastern forest service truck trails and conclude in either Corona or Lake Elsinore where participants will drive either back home or to their cars. If so, this would be a very good route for wildflowers and a part of OC not seen or experience by many people. It is truly a memorable day. We will have a forest service escort, which provides us access to roads and routes not otherwise available to the public. Washouts and other road conditions will influence our final route. This is an all day trip, with an 8 am start and a finish about 3 or 4 pm. Water, lunch, snacks, etc. should be brought.
Rare Plants of Hobo Canyon, South of Laguna Beach – Sun., May 20
5-17, FINAL UPDATE: A check of the area today revealed most all the plants mentioned below and conditions look very good. This is not an especially strenuous trip, although we will hike a total of about three miles with some moderate up and down. There are loose rocks and gravel in many places along the trail, so appropriate trail shoes are strongly suggested. Tennis shoes are possible, but (unless you are young and agile) slipping and falling is very possible. Several people have asked for directions, but it is best to enter "Moulton Meadows Park, Laguna Beach" into a mapping web site and follow the advice. Nonetheless, from PCH, take Nyes Place east up the hill. Follow all the curves and bends and after about a mile it will turn into Balboa Ave. Keep going on Balboa for about half a mile and you will see the park on your right. Park along the street at the South end of the park. You will see some restrooms and a basketball court. Weather should be ideal.
Hobo Canyon is a short coastal canyon just over the north ridge from better known Aliso Canyon, but in many ways it is easier to explore. Like Aliso, it offers some of Orange County’s most remarkable habitats: Diegan Sage Scrub and Coastal Maritime Chaparral. In this small area and unique habitat grow some of Orange County’s rarest plants. Verbesina dissita (Bigleaf Crown Beard) is a beautiful medium sized shrubby yellow daisy that in the U.S. is only found in two or three coastal OC canyons. We’ll also look for Summer Holly (Comarostaphylis), Bush Rue (Cneoridum), Dichondra occidentale, Ceanothus megacarpus and Redberry (Rhamnus crocea). Dudleya stolonifera grows nearby. As we skirt the ridge above the canyon we should see other great flowers, such as Centaurium, Eriastrum and Chorizanthe (Turkish Rugging). Leader: Ron Vanderhoff, assisted by Mike and Cathie Field.
Meet 8 AM at the south end of Moulton Meadows Park, 1098 Balboa Blvd. at the top of Laguna Beach. Free and open to all. Bring trail shoes, hat, sunscreen, water. Restrooms and water at the park.
Physical Difficulty: Easy to moderate. Plant Intensity: Moderate, but with several rare local specialties. Time: Approx. 2-3 hours. Lunch on your own.
Caspers Wilderness Park - Sat., May 26
Casper’s Wilderness Park is the Jewel of the Orange County Park system, including 8,000 acres and a wide array of habitats. We will hike up either Quail Run to East Ridge, or Dick Loskorn Trail to West Ridge, depending on where the best flowers are. We will be seeking Calochortus weedii var. intermedius (Weed’s Mariposa Lily), various Dudleyas and many other plants, as Caspers has great diversity. Leader: Laura Camp. Meet 8:00 AM. Directions: From 5 freeway, exit Ortega Highway, and go east 8 miles. The entrance to Caspers is prominently marked on the left. There is a day use fee of $5 per car, so car pooling is advised. Enter the park and proceed back to the Bell Canyon parking area. Meet at the parking lot at 8 AM, so allow at least ten minutes to go through the entrance kiosk and drive to the back of the park. Some of the trails are fairly steep, especially going down, so wear sturdy shoes, a hat and sunscreen. Bring hiking poles if you use them and plenty of water for a 2 to 3 hour hike. Restrooms and water at the park. Physical Difficulty: Moderate
The Unique Plants of San Clemente State Park – Sun., June 17
6-14 UPDATE: This will be our last trip until November. A check of the park today revealed all the expected shrubs and perennials of coastal bluff scrub and some coastal strand habitats. We will decide as a group which direction to go. We can stay up along the blufftop, away from the immediate coast or we can spend some time down near the base of the bluffs or even on the sandy beach. Some of the plants in the general area include one of soCal's only populations of Lycium brevipes var. hassei – Santa Catalina island desert thorn, Lycium californicum – California boxthorn, Chaenactis glabriuscula var. glabriuscula, Dudleya edulis – ladies fingers, Eriogonum parvifolium – sea cliff buckwheat and Suaeda taxifolia – woolly seablite. Further down the beach is OC's onlt population of Calystegia soldanella - beach morning glory.
Remember to bring quarters to feed the meters in the parking area - 12 should do. To find us just follow Calafia to its western end, almost to the beach. Look for us about 100 yards from the end of the road, exactly midway between the end and the State Park entrance road. You can't miss us.
We will explore the unique coastal bluff scrub habitat here, among the few places where this is still found in Orange County. Not a lot a hiking involved, but including great views of the Pacific Ocean. Some of the plants we might see are the rare Lycium brevipes, Lycium californicum, Dudleya edulis, Dudleya lanceolata, Suaeda, Grindellia, several Atriplex, etc. We may also hunt for the elusive and rare Dudleya blochmanii. We’ll park outside of the state park to avoid the fees, but bring lots of quarters to feed the meters (one quarter = 15 minutes). Leader: Ron Vanderhoff, assisted by Mike and Cathie Field.
Meet 9 AM, 200 yards from the W end of Ave Calafia, halfway between the end of Calafia and the State Park entrance road. Free and open to all. Bring trail shoes, hat, sunscreen, water. Restrooms and water nearby.
Physical Difficulty: Easy. Plant Intensity: Moderate. Plants of ocean bluffs, coastal sage scrub. Time: Approx. 2 hours.
For additional Orange County natural history trips and events visit:
Casper’s Regional Park
Irvine Ranch Conservancy:
Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
Richard & Donna O’Neill Conservancy
Sea & Sage Audubon
Sierra Club, OC Group
Southern CA Botanists