Most field trips are free and open to all, but read the trip outlines for parking/entrance fees or pass requirements and be sure they fit your physical abilities. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, appropriate trail shoes, a camera, a notepad and lots of enthusiasm. These are CA native plant field trips focused on the interpretation, identification and appreciation of our diverse flora and the ecosystems they support. We use botanical terms, discuss plant communities, plant ecology, invasive plants and especially native plant identification. Past trips are at the end of the list. Questions, leadership opportunities and suggestions should be sent to .

Trips change. Always check this page for current information 
after 7 pm the evening before the tripRain cancels.

Past Trip Descriptions For summaries of completed trips, plus many species lists, please see the Past Trips  section in the Field Trip drop-down menu

Goldenwest College Native Plant Garden – October 14

Hosted by OC CNPS President, Dan Songster

Join OC CNPS and Dan Songster for a fall tour and discussion of the extensive native garden at Golden West College. Conceived in the mid 1970’s, the garden really became established in the early 1990’s. The collection is one of Orange County’s best examples of the use of native plants in both ornamental and habitat style landscapes. Dan Songster, OC CNPS Chapter President, and a founder of the Golden West College Native Garden, will be our host and guide showing both the Garden’s successes and failures. The garden features over an acre of native plants and is divided into plant communities based upon soil and water requirements, and despite the predominance of heavy clay soils, thrives.

Examples of juvenile and mature plants are seen side by side (most fairly common and some rare), arranged in eight different habitats from throughout the state. The space also includes a greenhouse, a 30-seat amphitheater, and a water settling area. For more information about the garden including directions, check out

Leader: Dan Songster. We will meet at the garden entrance at 9AM. Due to the weekend swap meet in the parking lot nearest the garden, we will be parking at the north end of the Gothard Street Parking lot. Volunteers will walk you across the campus to the Garden itself.

Free and open to all. Physical difficulty: Easy. Plant Intensity: Moderate. Time: Approx. 2-3 hours.

Arroyo Trabuco from O/Neill Park – Nov 19

O’Neill Regional Park in Trabuco Canyon has grown to nearly 4,000 acres in the last few years.  This is a fun, family-oriented, casual field trip;  the time of year to enjoy fall color, nature, plant seeds, and camaraderie of great people enjoying the outdoors.  We will be walking out and back about 1.2 miles each way along the relatively flat Arroyo Trabuco Trail.  Many birds and other creatures can be spotted in the Sycamores, Oaks and other plants along the way.  Possibility for the group to explore a little farther. Meet 8:00 AM at Oak Grove parking lot by the Interpretive Center.  There are restrooms at the west end of the parking lot.  OC Parks Annual Pass or $5 Entry Fee required. Field trip free and open to all. Bring trail shoes, hat, sunscreen, camera, binoculars, water and lunch if desired (many picnic tables available.) Water and restrooms at Oak Grove parking lot. Leader: Rachel Whitt.

Free and open to all. This trip does require payment of an entrance fee to O'Neill Park or an OC Parks Pass. (more info.) Physical Difficulty: Easy plus. Plant Intensity: Low to moderate. Time: Approx. 3 hours.

Past Trips

The “Other” Plants: Bryophytes of Harding Canyon – Jan 28

With bryophyte expert, Dr.
Paul Wilson

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This trip has changed location.

Hwy 74 is currently closed to all traffic in both directions. We will be visiting Harding Canyon instead. The start time remains at 9 AM

We will head UP the Harding Truck Trail/Road, then drop down into Harding Canyon. The climb up is about .5 miles and the trail down is about 300-400 meters. There ARE wet spots. Hiking boots are best, but tennis shoes are possible. The trail in the canyon is rocky and rutted, so be prepared. You WILL get your feet wet, esp. if you decide to cross the creek, which is flowing strong. The scenery is great!

Paul Wilson, professor of biology at California State University Northridge and a founding member of the CNPS Bryophyte Chapter will lead a fascinating exploration of the non-vascular plants of Orange County. The San Juan Loop Trail is a 2.3-mile path that loops around the back of a hill and past San Juan Falls, a 15-foot drop. It passes through a moist, cool and shaded canyon that will provide plenty of bryophytes for us to examine. We will search the fallen trees, the soil, the rock faces and other surfaces for these amazing native plants. Included will be a color printed guide to the bryophytes of this trail for each participant (preview here).

Meet at 9 AM at the trailhead, which is off the Ortega Highway (SR 74), 19.5 miles from the San Diego Freeway. Once in the parking lot we will meet on the east (right side), just across the road from the famous Candy Store. Parking here does require a USFS Adventure Pass! (more info.) We recommend that you purchase the pass in advance from Big 5, Sport Chalet, REI, or most large sports retailers, since the Candy Store will not be open when we arrive. Leader: Paul Wilson.

Free and open to all. Physical difficulty: Easy to Moderate. Limited water or restrooms. Bring hat, sunscreen, camera, notepad and water. A magnifying glass is highly recommended. Trip time: approximately three hours. Plant intensity: Medium to high.

Fossil Reef and Plants of Sheep Hills, Laguna Hills – Feb 12


Directions were a bit confusing. We will meet at the end of Park Avenue, which is the street directly in front of Aliso-Viejo Middle School, which abuts Aliso-Viejo Community Park. The address is 111 Park Avenue, Aliso Viejo.

From Aliso Viejo Parkway, take Cedarbrook Road to the South and follow it about .75 miles until it deads ends in front of the school.

See you tomorrow! The ground will be wet from the rain, but the plants and area will be spectacular, although still rather "green" this early in the season. Tennis shows OK, but expect wet feet.

Fossil Reef is a very unique 17 million year old preserved portion of a formerly submerged tropical reef. It is a tropical shell reef associated with fossil rich beach sand. 48 species of fossil marine vertebrates have been recorded from here. Extending for six miles across the Saddleback Valley, this unusual limestone deposit is also found on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, San Clemente Island, Santa Catalina Island, and in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. The exposures here represent the ocean floor, as it existed 17 million years ago. The reef is unique, as it is part of an ancient sea floor that has been exposed by tectonic uplift and weathering processes. This uplift also formed the Santa Ana Mountains and the San Joaquin Hills. The marine muds, that later covered the limestone, contain plankton fossils, shark teeth, fish bones, marine mammal bones, and seaweed imprints – and a large baleen whale was collected nearby in 1981. Botanically, the unique geology and limestone soil supports Orange County’s only small colony of Astragalus pomonensis. We will search for plants in the unique area and see what we can turn up. Meet 9 AM on the street in front of Aliso Viejo Middle School, which is adjacent to Aliso Viejo Community Park. Google Maps works best as 1111 Park Avenue, Aliso Viejo. From there we will walk a short distance to the field trip/reef area. Leaders: Jonathan Frank and Ron Vanderhoff.

Free and open to all. Physical difficulty: Easy, with relatively short walking distances and easy terrain. Plant Intensity: Light. Time: Approx. 2 hours.

Harding Truck Trail – Feb 19

2-16 UPDATE: Due to weather, this trip has been cancelled.

For this trip we will hike the Harding truck trail, passing multiple plant communities including coastal sage scrub, chaparral, and oak/ash dominated woodland. Early wildflowers should be plentiful along with extensive colonies of blooming Ceanothus spinosus (greenbark ceanothus) and Ceanothus crassifolius (hoaryleaf ceanothus) as well as the beautiful deep rose pink flower of Ribes malvaceum var. viridifolium.  Bonus, if we could find the elusive black sage x chia sage hybrid, three of which have been found in this area in the past year. Leader: Jonathan Frank.

Free and open to all. Physical Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous. Meet 8 AM at the parking lot area adjacent to The Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, 29322 Modjeska Canyon Road. Water and restrooms at beginning only. Plant Intensity: moderate to high. Time: 3-4 hours or more depending on the group. Bring hat, sunscreen, camera, wildflower book/notepad, water and lug-soled hiking shoes/boots.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park – February 26

2-25 UPDATE: The weather is expected to be a mix of sunshine and clouds with mild temperatures (highs in mid 60's) and light winds. A shower is possible, but no significant rain is likely. We are a bit early for heavy bloom, but we do have reports from several people of flowers at scatterred locations. We will follow those reports and decide on the specific stops in the morning. See you tomorrow! Bring snacks, water, a sack lunch and your enthusiasm.

Anza-Borrego is California’s largest State Park and is rich in botanical treasures, especially spring wildflowers. Desert bloom is always a very unpredictable thing, with blooms varying in timing, location and intensity every year and even from week to week. Please visit  this site regularly for any date changes on this trip. Meet promptly at 6:30 am at Bravo Burger parking lot or meet at the Anza-Borrego Visitors Center at 9 am. The Visitor’s Center is located at 200 Palm Canyon Drive, Borrego Springs. $10 donation to OC CNPS requested. This will be a caravan-type trip, as we follow the bloom around the park. We will drive from location-to-location, usually parking along the shoulders of the road, according to where we get reports of the best bloom and plants. Each stop will provide ample time to explore, identify and photograph the flora.

Leaders: Diane Etchison and Rachel Whitt.

Free and open to all. Physical difficulty: Easy to moderate. Plant Intensity: Uncertain, depending upon the year. Time: All day.

Wildflower Showcase, Irvine Ranch Conservancy Seed Farm Open House – Mar 4, RSVP through IRC website

The Orange County Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, and the Irvine Ranch Conservancy invite you to join them from 10am-2pm as they celebrate Orange County native wildflowers at the Conservancy’s native seed farm. This event is a great way to learn more about OC CNPS, IRC, and the work each organization is doing to conserve, protect, and restore native wildflowers in Orange County. The 8-acre native seed farm currently grows 45 local plant species, each providing seed used to support ecological restoration locally. Expect many of them to be in full bloom for this event, which will be opened by brief presentations from OC CNPS and Conservancy staff, followed by a picnic lunch. After lunch, guests are invited to stroll the grounds at their own pace, or join a guided walking tour, on which they’ll learn about some of the amazing local flora being grown on the farm. OC CNPS will also be presenting on various local engagement opportunities, including information about field trips and their upcoming native garden tour. If you enjoy native wildflowers, good people, and outdoor fun, this event is for you! Parking is limited and carpooling is recommended. Please RSVP at

Silverado Canyon & Maple Springs Truck Trail, after the Burn  – Mar 12

UPDATE: The forest service gate will likely be closed, due to road conditions further down the way. However, it is a short walk to the edge of the former burn area. The weather looks great. See you Sunday.

Most everyone who enjoys the outdoors in Orange County also knows Silverado Canyon, one of the deepest and longest canyons in the Santa Ana Mountains. On this trip we will explore much of the area that was burned in a 1,600 acre fire during Sept. of 2014. Annuals wildflowers have been abundant here over the past two springs, but are now giving way to successional herbs and shrubs. From the base in Silverado Canyon, we will hike up the switchbacks of the old fire road as far as the group decides, perhaps all the way to Bedford Peak (3,800 feet) at about 3.5 miles with a 1,900 foot elevation gain. Along the way, expect to see early spring wildflowers such as Phacelia, Eucrypta, Lupinus, etc.  Also expect an abundance of showy Penstemon and bush poppy (Dendromecon rigida) towards the end of our hike.  

Meet 8 am at the large Forest Service gate at the far end of Silverado Canyon Road. (5.75 miles off Santiago Cyn. Rd.). Leader: Jonathan Frank.

Free and open to all. This trip does require a USFS Adventure Pass! (more info.) Physical Difficulty: Strenuous. Plant Intensity: Medium. Time: 3-5 hours.

Baker Canyon, Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks – Fri, Mar 17, RSVP through IRC website

Fritillaria (Chocolate lily) in Baker Canyon

A Friday trip! Between Silverado Canyon and Black Star Canyon, Baker Canyon is a very special place, well insulated and protected from much of the outside world. A part of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmark, it is off limits to most public access, except for a few days each year, so this is a special opportunity to explore an excellent natural area with other like-minded people. Enjoy views of the Santa Ana Mountains, as well the wildflowers and plants of oak-shaded Baker Canyon and the ridges above as you learn why so many different plants and animals call this place home. Plants  that may be blooming at this time of year include 3 types of Ceanothus, Fritillaria biflora (Chocolate Lily) and Harpagonella palmeri (Palmer's Grapplinghook). This will be a 3-4 mile loop hike beginning with a gradual climb to a final elevation of 1370 ft. (elevation gain about 460 ft.), with beautiful views at the top. This event requires reservations made through the IRC website: Check the website 1-2 months prior to the event to book your reservation. There is a cap on the number of participants, first come-first serve. Leader: Diane Etchison.

Free and open to all, but RSVP is required (see above). Physical Difficulty: Moderate. Bring hat, sunscreen, camera, wildflower book/notepad, water and hiking shoes/boots.Trip time: approximately three hours. No water or restrooms. Plant intensity: Medium.

Elsinore Peak and S. Main Divide Road – Mar 19

3-18 UPDATE: With the good rainfall this winter, this trip should be a good one.

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 area near the peak is further unique due to its volcanic history and unusual foundation of basalt rock. The specific stops for our visit will depend upon current conditions and the season’s unpredictable bloom, but we may explore the area just below the peak for spring wildflowers (Fritillaria biflora, Ranunculus, Goldfields, Alliums, Calochortus, Clarkia, Collinsia, Popcorn Flowers, Monkeyflowers, Lupines, Peonies, Sanicula and more). For a list of species seen in the Elsinore Peak vicinity, click here.

Afterward, we will almost certainly visit a site or two along S. Main Divide Road of the 2013 “Falls” fire. A couple of years ago, this was a highlight of Spring, with large displays of fire-following plants, including thousands of Fire poppies - Papaver californicum, Chorizanthe, Delphinium, Penstemons, Caulanthus, Emmenanthe, Lupinus and many others. It is interesting to see the succession of plants following this fire. Meet 8 AM at the parking lot at Bravo Burgers, 31722 Rancho Viejo Rd., San Juan Capistrano (just off Hwy 74 near Int. 5). Free and open to all. Bring trail shoes, hat, sunscreen, water and lunch if desired. Leader: Ron Vanderhoff. This trip does require a USFS Adventure Pass!

Free and open to all. Physical Difficulty: Moderate. No water or restrooms. Plant Intensity: Moderate to high, especially wildflowers. Time: Approx. 3 hours or more depending on the group.

Coal Canyon, Northern Santa Ana Mts. – Mar 26, RSVP Required

With special access by CA State Parks

3-25 UPDATE: This trip is "go" for tomorrow.

The trip is now filled. Additional RSVP's will be placed on a waiting list and will be notified in the event of a cancellation. Please be reminded that this trip DOES include hiking on sometimes rough and rocky terrain. Expect about four trail miles. During a visit on 3-9 we found that the last mile of the trail is nearly washed away and includes navigating the rocky, gravelly creekbed. Please be sure this meets your abilities and expectations.

A very special trip into one of the most biologically rich areas of The Santa Ana Mountains and Chino Hills State Park. With assistance from Chino Hills State Park our group will be given special access to the Coal Canyon Trailhead. This will remove the two mile walk along the bike trail that is usually required for this visit. Once we enter the locked gate at the Coal Canyon trailhead we will provide the group some orientation and an overview of the area. Then we will hike up the canyon on Big Mo Trail, discussing the canyon and its special biology as we go, pointing out some of the interesting plants. Coal Canyon is a special place and is host to several rare plants, including Braunton’s milkvetch (Astragalus brauntonii), Tecate cypress (Hesperocyparis forbesii), Catalina mariposa lily (Calochortus catalinae) and chaparral beargrass (Nolina cismontana). We will be accompanied by a CA State Parks staff member and an interpretive docent.

Expect to see a large variety of plants. At least 147 species have been recorded in the canyon and adjoining ridges. For a PDF list of the species click here.

This trip is strictly limited to the first 20 people. RSVP to . Details to the 8 AM meeting location will be sent to the RSVP’s. Free and open to all. Bring trail shoes, hat, sunscreen, water and lunch if desired. Leader: Ron Vanderhoff.

Free and open to all, but RSVP required and space is limited. Physical Difficulty: Moderate, but with lots of rocky, sandy and boulder strewn areas. Expect about four to five miles on the trail. No water or restrooms. Plant Intensity: Moderate to high. Time: Approx. 3 hours or more depending on the group.

Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve & Vernal Pools, The Nature Conservancy – Apr 2.  $10 Donation. RSVP Required. CNPS Members Only

Two species of Downingia at the vernal pools

3-11 UPDATE: This trip is full. Additional RSVP's will be placed on a waiting list and will be notified in the order taken in the event of a cancellation.

Zach Principe, ecologist with The Nature Conservancy, will lead this amazing trip to this restricted-entry area of the Santa Rosa Plateau, an area managed as a reserve by The Nature Conservancy. Zach refers us to Tom Chester's website - Field Guide To the Santa Rosa Plateau, as a good information source for the field trip, including for a list of plant species. Zachary Principe is an ecologist with The Nature Conservancy. He earned an M.S. in Ecology at San Diego State University. For the past 18 years, he has worked for The Nature Conservancy.  For seven years he worked as an ecologist at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve. More recently, he assisted with the establishment and management of the Ramona Grasslands Preserve in San Diego County. Currently, his work is focused in Kern and Orange Counties.  In Kern County his work focuses on conservation and land management in the Tehachapi and southern Sierra Nevada Mountains. In Orange County his work is focused on ecological monitoring and management of open space lands at the urban interface to ensure they are able to function for the native plants and animals they are designed to protect.

With luck (and rain willing), this trip will include visits to two or three protected vernal pools, which hold an assembledge of rare, beautiful and specialized plants, including two species of Downingia, Blennosperma nanum, Brodiaeas, Eryngium aristulatum var. parishii, Euphorbia spathulata, Isoetes howellii, Muilla maritima, Myosurus minimus, Orcuttia californica and Pilularia Americana. We will walk a portion of the very healthy and diverse grasslands and discuss the ecology of the area and the plants present.

This trip is strictly limited to no more than the first 20 CNPS members. We are limited to a maximum of three 4-wheel drive vehicles. CNPS members RSVP to . Send names of attendees, contact information and whether you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle and are willing to shuttle other members when at the Reserve. Details to the 9 AM meeting location will be sent to the RSVP’s. Bring trail shoes, hat, sunscreen, water and lunch. Leader: Zach Principe, The Nature Conservancy.

Physical Difficulty: Moderate. No water or restrooms. Plant Intensity: High. Time: Approx. 4-5 hours, depending on the group.

Wildflowers and Vernal Pools of Fairview Park, with Barry Nerhus & Fred Roberts – April 8.

The Institute for Conservation Research and Education and OC CNPS present a vernal pool and grassland wildflower walk at Fairview Park in Costa Mesa, the site of Orange County's largest vernal pool complex. From the exceptionally wet winter, all 7 pools have been filled bringing to life a secret and ephemeral habitat. Come join us to learn about vernal pool wildflowers. Led by Fred Roberts, a co-author of the Wildflowers of Orange County & the Santa Mountains, and Barry Nerhus, an ecologist that has been managing Fairview Park's habitat restoration projects for the last 8 years. Bring your camera because there are several forbs and flowers that are quite rare but are known to grow at Fairview Park.
The Institute for Conservation Research and Education is dedicated to environmental research and conservation, both locally and globally. The organization aims to conserve and restore habitat to be used by native wildlife through community involvement, outreach, and education. Based in Orange County.  
Many of the species found here are already endangered or threatened. In order to ensure the survival of what remains, these species need to be understood by researching their needs and conserving their habitat. ICRE seeks to fulfill these goals not just by means of our research, but also through the use of community involvement, outreach, and education.
Meet at 9 AM at Fairview Park. The address for Fairview Park is 2525 Placentia Ave, Costa Mesa. We will meet near the kiosk at the South end of the parking area. Leaders: Fred Roberts and Barry Nerhus. 

Free and open to all. Physical Difficulty: Easy. Water and restroom available. Plant Intensity: Moderate to high. Time: Approx. 2 hours.

Driving Tour of The Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks – April 9. CNPS Members Only. RSVP required.

Orange County's "Grand Canyon"

4-8 UPDATE: We are all set for tomorrow. The weather should be excellent. Plan on a finish at about 2:30 PM. Remember, lunch is provided, but bring a snack if you wish.

We still have three or four spaces available. To RSVP, email .

Dr. Jutta Burger, Senior Field Ecologist from the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, will once again offer CNPS a special trip through the natural areas of The Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. CNPS members will receive a rare glimpse of the plants and spring bloom on these lands – including some of OC’s most important and best protected natural resources. This is a driving tour, on conservancy vehicles, along uneven dirt roads. This year’s visit will begin with a drive up Agua Chinon and a visit to Box Springs, where we will also allow those interested to do the one mile loop trail. Then, we will drive on to the beautiful “sinks”, and from there on to Hangman's Road and towards Santiago Creek, before returning to our starting point. Wildflowers should be well represented (rain permitting) and docents from the Conservancy will be on hand to discuss some of the interesting geology, fauna and other features.

This is an all-day trip. Portable restroom availability at beginning and end only. CNPS members RSVP to .; first 20 will be confirmed. This trip is available to CNPS members only, is a limited attendance and does require registration.

Physical Difficulty: Easy, but includes lots of bouncing around on rough dirt roads. Short to moderate walking distances. Includes lunch. Plant Intensity: Moderate to high, especially wildflowers. Time: Approx. 6-7 hours.

Tejon Ranch, Kern County – Sat & Sun, Apr 15-16 $40 Donation. RSVP Required. CNPS Members Only

With Rancho Santa Ana botanist Nick Jensen
& Tejon Ranch ecologist Ellory Mayence

4-12 UPDATE: There is still time to RSVP and join us for this private botanical tour of one of California's most incredible natural areas. Email .

Assisted by Nick Jensen, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, Claremont. Encompassing an area of 270,000 acres or 420 square miles, the Tejon Ranch occupies one of the most interesting and complex ecological areas in California. As a result of its unique position at the confluence of four floristic regions, Tejon Ranch is an area of ecological transitions, interesting assemblages of plants from seemingly disparate regions, and quite possibly a whole host of undescribed species, new to science.

As a private, working cattle ranch since the 1840s, Tejon Ranch was almost entirely closed to scientific research until 2008 when the Tejon Ranch Conservancy was created. Under this landmark deal, approximately 100,000 acres of the ranch were placed under conservation easements, and an additional 140,000 acres were reserved from the potential of future development. This amounts to approximately 90% of the ranch being conserved for future generations. As a result of the creation of the Tejon Ranch Conservancy, the ranch is now effectively “open” for scientific research.

Nick Jensen, of The Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, will be our guide for this amazing botanical trip. The goal of Nick’s research at the ranch is to perform a floristic survey leading to a better understanding of the plants on the property and the adjacent ecological regions.

We will meet on the mornings of April 15 at 9 AM at the Tejon Ranch Conservancy offices at 1037 Bear Trap Rd. in Lebec (map to follow for registered attendees). We will then head out to the field for the day, focusing on whichever areas of the ranch Nick thinks are of interest at that time. On Sunday, we will finish up at approximately 2:30 PM.

There are many hotels/motels and restaurants in the Lebec area for those staying overnight. There is also a grassy area to car camp on the San Joaquin side of the ranch, with water and porta-potties available. No campfires.  Please let us know if you intend to camp and we will provide additional details. Finally, there are no pets permitted on the ranch.

Physical Difficulty: moderate. Plant Intensity: High. Additional details will be sent to those that RSVP. 

Trip will be limited to the first 19 people to RSVP to field. Please let us know if your plans change so we can add other people from the wait list. $40 fee collected will be used to support the Tejon Ranch Conservancy.

Oak Flat, San Mateo Canyon Wilderness – Apr 23

4-22 UPDATE: This trip is final for tommorrow morning. The weather is expected to cool slightly, so it should be ideal conditions. This is a walking/hiking trip and the scenary and vistas are exceptional. We will be walking through a combination of open rolling grasslands and beautiful oak woodlands. Expect about 3-4 miles of trail.

Oak Flat (actually a series of several flats) is at the Western edge of The San Mateo Canyon Wilderness and accessed by a locked/private gate off Hwy 74. This seldom visited area is a spectacular oasis of grasslands surrounded by beautiful, mature live oak woodlands. A very picturesque area of beautiful, mostly rolling hills that few people ever have an opportunity to experience. Special access to the area will be granted for this group of CNPS members and their guests. We will walk the grasslands and a portion of the oak woodlands, probably in a loop, as we search for Spring wildflowers and other interesting plants. Meet 8 AM in the parking lot at Bravo Burgers, 31722 Rancho Viejo Rd., San Juan Capistrano (just off Hwy 74 near I-5). Free and open to all. Bring trail shoes, hat, sunscreen, water and lunch if desired. No water or restrooms. Leader: Ron Vanderhoff.

Free and open to all. Physical Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous, depending upon how far we go. Plant Intensity: Moderate. Approx. 3 hours.

O'Neill Park, Edna Spalding Trail & Coyote Canyon – Apr 30

O’Neill Park in Trabuco Canyon has grown to nearly 4,000 acres in the last few years.  We will begin with the Edna Spaulding Trail – an almost 1 mile single track loop with a couple of steeper, uneven areas.  Heading back we intersect the Live Oak Trail hiking up some strenuous sections with steps.  This meets up with Coyote Canyon Trail roughly .5 mile easy downhill then Coyote Trail another .5 mile of moderate, uneven trail and back to the parking lot for a total of about 4-5 miles. We will likely see Bloomerias, SIlenes, Prickly Phlox, possibly Calochortus, and many other Chaparral, Coastal Sage Scrub and Oak Woodland blooming plants. Meet 8 AM at the Oak Grove parking lot by the Interpretive Center. There are restrooms at the west end of the parking lot.  OC Parks Annual Pass (more info.) or $5 Entry Fee required. Field trip free and open to all. Bring hiking poles, camera, trail shoes, hat, sunscreen, water and lunch if desired (many picnic tables around parking lots). Water and restrooms at Oak Grove parking lot. Leader: Rachel Whitt.

Free and open to all. Physical Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous. Plant Intensity: Moderate to high. The trip does require payment of an entrance fee to O'Neill Park or an OC Park Pass. (more info.) Approx. 3 hours.

Black Star Canyon, maybe as far as Hidden Ranch – May 7

Final Update: This trip is a "Go"!  Rain or shine, we will give it a try tomorrow morning and will adjust as needed based upon the desires of the group and the weather. The moist weather can often make for an amazing and sensual trip, with damp leaves, moist soil and interesting fragrances. See you tomorrow, with a rain jacket, just in case.

Sage covered hills and bountiful wildflowers await the hiker on one of Orange County’s most interesting and fabled areas.  A dry coastal sage scrub dominated by black, white, and purple sage give way to dense chaparral on picturesque steep slopes. Late season wildflowers and showy subshrubs such as Penstemon, Phacelia, and Calochortus should give us ample opportunities for great photos. Each attendee will hike the picturesque canyon road as far as they desire, with a few hearty souls perhaps going as far as the old Hidden Ranch, site at 5.6 miles. Black Star canyon is also well known as the location of the largest native American population in the Santa Ana Mountains. It is also the unfortunate home of the largest native American battle in the region, in 1831. A second shooting in 1899 between two ranch hands in the vicinity of Hidden Ranch further added to the legend on the canyon.

Meet 8 AM at the end of Black Star Canyon Road. (From Santiago Canyon Road, turn onto Silverado Canyon Road, after 200 meters make a left onto Black Star Cyn. Rd. and proceed about one mile to the end). Free and open to all. Bring trail shoes, hat, sunscreen, water and lunch if desired. No water or restrooms. Leader: Jonathan Frank.

Free and open to all. This trip does require a USFS Pass. (more info.) Physical Difficulty: Moderate, depending upon how far we go. Plant Intensity: Moderate. Approx. 3-4 hours

Ramona Grasslands, San Diego Co. - May 14

5-13 UPDATE: We are all set for tomorrow. Meeting locations and times are below.

The Ramona Grasslands Preserve is a 3,490-acre area near the city of Ramona in San Diego County that was opened to the public in 2011. It is home to 409 plant species (16 special status), and 217 wildlife species (40 special status). The area includes a significant section of the remaining undeveloped portion of the Santa Maria Creek watershed, and contains unique vernal pools, vernal swales, and alkali playas. We will meet at 9 AM in the parking lot. We will do a 3.5-mile loop hike on easy terrain, with additional options toward the end. Physical difficulty: moderate. Plant intensity: moderate: Time : about 4 hours. Leaders: Diane Etchison and Rachel Whitt.

Directions - Take I-5 south to Hwy 78 (Exit 51B). Turn right towards Escondido. Travel about 16 miles, and merge onto I-15 (Exit 17A) going south toward San Diego. After traveling about 6 miles, take Exit 26 for W Bernardo Dr./Pomerado Rd. Turn right, cross back over I-15, and follow Pomerado Rd about 0.4 miles. Turn left onto Highland Valley Road. Continue on this winding road about 10 miles until you see the sign for the entrance to the Ramona Grasslands Preserve on the left (about 1 mile past Archie Moore Rd. on the right).

Alternatively, you may meet 7:30 AM at the parking lot at Bravo Burgers, 31722 Rancho Viejo Rd., San Juan Capistrano (just off Hwy 74 near Int. 5). Free and open to all. Bring trail shoes, hat, sunscreen, water and lunch if desired. 

For any that might be interested, we will do an optional post-field trip visit to a section of the San Dieguito River, just west of Lake Hodges. It is just below the dam and about 15 miles due west of the Ramona Grasslands, so sort of on the way home. This is an area of very rich and diverse plants; a blend of coastal sage scrub and chaparral with a riparian corridor. Several San Diego specialties grow here and the scenery is nice too.

Free and open to all. Plant intensity: High. Physical Difficulty: Moderate. Approx. 4 hours.

Oceanside Barrel Cactus Hunt and Other Specialties, with Fred Roberts – May 21

With one of CA's best botanists, Fred Roberts

5-20 IMPORTANT UPDATE: Recent access changes by the City of Oceanside have facilitated changes to this trip. We will NOT be visiting the Southern side of The San Luis Rey River area and will be starting the trip on the Northern side instead! If you are meeting us in Oceanside, meet at Capistrano Park, 1503 San Jose Street, Oceanside. From I-5 exit Oceanside Harbor Drive, turn left onto Harbor Drive toward Camp Pendleton. In .25 mi. turn right onto San Rafael Drive. and in another .25 mi. turn right again on Capistrano Drive. In about another .25 mi the park will be on your left.
Following this stop, which will include Ferocactus, Dudleyas, Cistanthe maritima and others we will offer an optional visit to Oak Crest Park in Encinitas. This area is home to several other interesting plant specialties. Fred Roberts, the trip leader, is one of the foremost authorities on SoCal plants and this is an excellent chance to spend time in the field with a true botanical expert!
Coastal Oceanside contains some of the northernmost stands of two native barrel-type cactus, Mammillaria dioica and Ferocactus viridescens. The colonies are separated on either side of The San Luis Rey River, a short drive from Orange County. Many other succulent plants and cacti are also represented here, including sticky live-forever (Dudleya viscida), ladyfingers live-forever (D. edulis), coastal cholla (Cylindropuntia prolifera) and up to three species of prickly pear (Opuntia). Other coastal species are also present, including San Diego Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus minutiflorus) and white coast ceanothus (Ceanothus verrucossus). Please be aware that portions of this trip will be bordering urban areas, with the usual issues of litter as well as a growing homeless population. Leader: Fred Roberts.
Meet 8 am at the Caltrans carpool lot at Interstate 5 and Junipero Serra Road, San Juan Capistrano (East side of Fwy.) or meet 9 am at Capistrano Park, 1503 San Jose Street, Oceanside (see directions above). Free and open to all. Bring trail shoes, hat, sunscreen, water and lunch if desired. Limited water and restrooms. Leader: Well-known Southern California botanist Fred Roberts. Fred is a co-author of Wildflowers of OC and the Santa Ana Mts. and other native plant books.
Free and open to all. Physical Difficulty: Easy to moderate. Plant Intensity: Moderate. Approx. 3-4 hours.

Borrego Canyon & Whiting Ranch – May 28

5-26 UPDATE: The weather should be great! See you Sunday morning.

Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park is a popular hiking and biking destination with its mix of riparian and oak woodland canyons, rolling grassland hills and steep slopes of coastal sage scrub and chaparral. The park is highlighted by scenic rock formations, intermittent streams and in spring, beautiful wildflowers.  We will begin on the Borrego trail, walking through a riparian and oak corridor to the red rock trail.  From there we will hike up the Billy Goat trail to witness the colorful display of Calochortus weedii var. intermedius before looping back towards the entrance.  Meet 8 AM at the parking lot next to Ralphs ($3.00 parking fee) off Portola Pkwy. Leaders: Jonathan Frank and Ron Vanderhoff.

Free and open to all. Physical Difficulty: moderate; we will decide upon the final distance and route as a group, but plan on up to four or five miles. Limited water or restrooms. Bring hat, sunscreen, camera, wildflower book/notepad, water and hiking shoes/boots. This trip does require payment of a day use fee to Or an OC Parks Pass. (more info.) Trip time: approximately four hours. Plant intensity: Medium.

Bluff Lake & Points Beyond, San Bernardino Mts. – June 11

6-10 FINAL UPDATE: We are all set for tomorrow. We will see you either at the Park-and-Ride in Orange at 6:30 AM or at the Bluff Lake parking lot at 9:00 AM. It is likely to be a bit cool tomorrow and maybe a little breezy too, so dress warmly.

The Big Bear area has a wealth of interesting plants that are unique to high elevations. This is a great area to visit in the summer after wildflowers in Orange County have faded from the heat. Bluff Lake, located at 7,600 ft, is a 20-acre lake and meadow, with majestic outcrops of quartz monzonite. The reserve includes an intact mountain marsh and meadow complex that contains federally threatened Bear Valley bluegrass (Poa atropurpurea), the federally endangered Big Bear Checkerbloom (Sidalcea pedata) and California dandelion (Taraxacum californicum). Botanically the meadow is remarkable, with 16 species of sedges (Carex), 8 species of wire grass (Juncus) and 14 species of native grass. Mature forests of lodgepole pine, Jeffrey pine, and white fir surround the meadow. This will be a full day and following Bluff Lake we plan to visit the remarkable Baldwin Lake pebble plains area, home of the Federaly listed Ashy grey paintbrush (Castilleja cinerea), Southern mountain buckwheat (Eriogonum kennedyi var. austromontanum) and many others. Time depending, we may make another stop in Cushenbury Canyon.

Please note that we will be joined on this trip by several other CNPS members from around the state who are attending a statewide Chapter Council meeting hosted by the Riverside/San Bernardino Chapter.

Leader: Diane Etchison. Meet at 6:30 at the Caltrans Park-and-Ride Lot at 2555 Tustin Avenue, Orange (SE corner of Lincoln Ave. and Tustin Ave.). Do not be late - we will be leaving promptly at 6:30 AM. Or meet at the Bluff Lake parking lot at 9 AM (directions below). Bring hat, sunscreen, camera, notepad, water and hiking shoes/boots.. The drive time is approximately 2 to 2.5 hours one-way. Plant intensity: High. Physical Difficulty: Moderate

Directions to Bluff Lake

Take Hwy 91 to I-215N/Riverside Fwy. After 6.7 miles, merge onto Hwy 210 toward Highland/Hwy-330. After 4.6 miles, take Hwy 330 toward Big Bear. Shortly after passing Running Springs, merge onto Hwy 18 toward Big Bear. At the west end of Big Bear Lake, Hwy 18 becomes Big Bear Blvd. After passing Boulder Bay begin to look for Mill Creek Rd on the right, and turn right. When you see Aspen Glen Picnic Area on the left, stop here briefly -- this will be your last chance for a restroom break. There are no porta-potties at Bluff Lake. Continue south on Mill Creek Rd. At Oak Knoll Lodge, turn south on Forest Service Road 2N10. After 1.2  miles the pavement ends and becomes an improved dirt road (passenger car-accessible, but very rutty). Follow the 2N10 another 2.6 miles to the junction with 2N86 and bear left, following the sign that says: "<---Bluff Lake Reserve." In approximately 1/2 mile, look for the sign on the right" "Bluff Lake Reserve 1/2" and turn right on the access road and proceed 1.2 miles to the main parking area. Be aware that although the road is suitable for passenger cars, it is quite rutted.

Free and open to all. Plant intensity: High. Physical Difficulty: Moderate. All day.

Bolsa Chica Marsh – Jun 18

With CA State Parks biologist, Dave Pryor

6-17 UPDATE: We are all set for tomorrow. Remember, we are meeting in the free parking lot on the INLAND side of PCH, about midway between Seapoint Street and Warner Avenue.

Bolsa Chica is one of Orange County’s most significant open spaces, with a unique collection of habitats including sand dunes, salt marsh, coastal sage scrub, freshwater wetlands, riparian woodlands and native grasslands. The reserve is a dynamic ecosystem supporting not only a variety of interesting and highly adapted plants, but a large assortment of invertebrates, fish, birds (321 species) and other wildlife. Of course, non-native plants have been introduced into the ecology here and they will also be pointed out and discussed during our visit.

David Pryor, Senior Scientist with The Bolsa Chica Conservancy and retired CA State Parks biologist will lead this trip, which will preceed the publication of a new booklet, The Plants of Bolsa Chica.

We will walk the Loop Trail, which crosses a wooden bridge, passes two overlooks, and returns to the parking lot via a sand-dune trail paralleling PCH. However, at the half-way point we will divert a little and visit the edge of a riparian community and maybe the upper mesa area. Meet 9 am at the South Lot. This parking area is our starting point and is located on Pacific Coast Highway on the inland side almost directly across PCH from the Bolsa Chica State Beach entrance. There is no charge for parking. Leaders: David Pryor and Ron Vanderhoff

Free and open to all. Physical Difficulty: Easy. We will be walking on level, mostly paved trails during the trip. Porta-potties are only at the beginning and end. Bring your own water, hat, comfortable shoes and possibly binoculars. Time: About 3 hours. Plant intensity: Moderate.

Mount Palomar, San Diego – July 2

The beautiful forest and mountain meadows of Palomar Mountain State Park are in northern San Diego County on the west side of Palomar Mountain; elevation within the park averages 5,000 feet above sea level.  Palomar Mountain is known for its historic telescope, but native plant lovers go for the many species of plants. The area has attracted the finest botanists in California since the early 1900’s. Some plants we will be hoping to see: tall green gentians, fragrant western azaleas, giant chain ferns, and Humboldt lilies thriving in the shade of western dogwood trees.  We will be exploring Doane Valley via portions of the Doane Valley Nature, French Valley and Weir Trails.

Meet 9:00 am at the Palomar Mountain State Park entry kiosk. The physical address is 19952 State Park Rd. Palomar CA but use the directions found here. The park is off Highway 76, up Highway S6, then left on Highway S7 at the junction near the mountaintop. Or meet 7:00 am at the Bravo Burger parking lot in San Juan Capistrano (31722 Rancho Viejo Rd., just off Hwy 74 near Int. 5). Trip leader: Rachel Whitt. State Park parking fee ($10 day use) or annual pass required per vehicle. 

Free and open to all. Bring trail shoes, hat, water and lunch. Limited water or restrooms. Physical Difficulty: Moderate. Plant intensity: Moderate to high.Time: All day.

Upper Newport Bay Ecological Preserve – Aug 5

This is one of Southern California’s largest remaining coastal estuaries and supports a diverse range of native plants and unique plant communities. We will walk along a portion of Back Bay Drive pointing out and discussing many of the unique salt marsh and coastal bluff plants. Even in summer there are always a diverse assemblage of flowering shrubs to see, many of which are only found in maritime salt marsh areas. Meet 9 am at the large parking lot at the intersection of Back Bay Drive and Big Canyon. Directions: From Jamboree Road, go .25 miles West on San Joaquin Hills Road and turn right on Back Bay Drive. Go exactly .45 miles to the first and only parking area on your left. No restrooms or water. Leader: Jonathan Frank.

Free and open to all. Physical Difficulty: Easy. Plant Intensity: Moderate, with many specialties. Time: Approx. 2-3 hours

2018 CNPS Conservation Conference Travel Grant

The Orange County CNPS chapter is offering up to four $250 travel grants to attend the 2018 State CNPS Conference, Feb. 1-3 2018 in Los Angeles.  Graduate and highly qualified undergraduate students training in the study of southern California native plants are eligible. For more information click here.

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