Tecate cypress | Coal Canyon Ecological Reserve

Original Pubication DATE: 5/30/2011

On the way to Huntington Beach to pick up a friend, I made a stop to see the northern most stand of Tecate cypress (Cupressus forbesii) in North America. It is an interesting place to visit because it was almost lost to development, but in the courts it was decided that the last wildlife corridor from the Santa Ana Mountains to the Chino Hills was more important than a new neighborhood. The cypresses are protected now in the Coal Canyon Ecological Preserve which is part of Chino Hills State Park. While the area is well studied the trees are difficult for the public to access–at least I could find little about getting to them. There were many bikers in the area, some of whom said the trees were more easily accessed from a different route than I took.

The highway and underpass between Coal Canyon (left) and the Chino Hills State Park (right).

The hike I did involved parking on the old, now defunct, exit from highway 91 and walking through the ‘underpass to nowhere’ which is the wildlife corridor and not the access to a subdivision. The police marked my car for towing, so there must be better access–maybe from the Gypsum Canyon exit just to the west. Regardless, I then climbed 3500′ over 5 miles to the summit of Sierra Peak and found the cypresses. It was a lot of work, but I got to see a new conifer and experience a rapidly disappearing California ecosystem.

Tecate cypress in the chaparral