California Naturalist
California Naturalist
California Naturalist
University of California
California Naturalist

Field Trips

We're excited to announce a full spread of field trips in the beautiful San Bernardino National Forest and surrounds! Forest elevations range from a few thousand feet to 11,501 feet at Mount San Gorgonio, the highest peak in Southern California. This large elevation range creates highly diverse habitats in which plants and animals thrive. Indeed the San Bernardino National Forest is one of the most diverse in the country when it comes to plant and animal diversity. This is truly a naturalist's wonderland and we can't wait to share it with you! 

All trips require a minimum of 10 participants. If that minimum is not met by Friday, August 12 we will do our best to accommodate you on a similar trip, or issue a refund. Most trips also have a maximum number of people that can participate and will be filled on a first come basis. Participants will be notified before August 5 if any changes must be made to the schedule listed below. 

  1. Exclusive Tour of the Tejon Ranch Conservancy (Overnight Trip) FULL!
  2. From Mountain to City: Tour of the Santa Ana Watershed - FULL
  3. UC Riverside Botanic Gardens
  4. Unique Plant Communities and Geology of Bear Valley - FULL
  5. CANCELED: Global Change in the San Bernardino National Forest (see #2, Mountains to City for similar content and field trip leaders)
  6. The National Children’s Forest
  7. CANCELED: Explore the Wild Side of Riverside at the Ameal Moore Nature Center
  8. Transitional Plant Communities at Oak Glen Preserve and the Montane Botanic Garden - FULL
  9. A River in the High Desert: Tour of Whitewater Preserve - FULL
  10. CANCELED: Palm Oases, Sand Dunes, and Desert Shrub lands of the Coachella Valley

1. FULL Title: Exclusive Tour of the Tejon Ranch Conservancy (Overnight Trip)

Location:  Tejon Ranch Conservancy, 1037 Bear Trap Road, Lebec, CA 93243

Date/Time: Noon, Thursday 9/8 – Noon, Friday 9/9 (Participants will not be back in time to take other afternoon advanced trainings but will have plenty of time to register and join the opening ceremony at Pali Mountain) ; Price: $50;

Transportation: On your own.

Photo courtesy of T. Maloney
Photo courtesy of T. Maloney
This is the first overnight field trip to Tejon Ranch ever! At 270,000 acres, Tejon Ranch is home to almost 25% of the critical feeding habitat for California condor in California, the southernmost population of pronghorn in California, and dozens of rare and endangered plants. In 2008, the landowner, Tejon Ranch Company, signed an agreement to place up to 90% (240,000 acres) of the property under conservation easement managed by the nonprofit and California Naturalist Program partners Tejon Ranch Conservancy. Since its inception, the Conservancy has worked to understand, manage, and provide public opportunities on this extraordinary property. In addition to Tejon Ranch’s size, its geographic location at the nexus of the San Joaquin Valley, Southern Sierra, Mojave Desert, and Southwestern California make it an extremely diverse and dynamic landscape for natural history study.

On this overnight tour, participants will have a chance to see a variety of habitats in the backcountry of the Tehachapi Mountains via Conservancy vehicles and on foot. We will stop to look at specific vegetation communities, conservation science projects, and of course, to find condors! Don’t miss this once in a life time opportunity to be on safari right here in California.


Unless otherwise noted, trips will leave Pali Mountain at 9:30 am and include a box lunch. Some trips will return to Pali, while others will require participants to drive to an appointed site in the San Bernardino area to park and board a van or bus, to save time at the end of the day. Details including agenda, directions, and what to bring will be emailed to all field trip participants. Carpooling accommodations for those without a personal vehicle will be arranged when possible.

2. FULL Title: From Mountain to City: Tour of the Santa Ana Watershed

Location:  Near Running Springs, Forest Service building on HWY 330 along City Creek 34°11'6.30"N, 117°10'52.08"W

End time: 3:00 pm

Min/Max enrollment: 10/30; Cost: $35

Transportation: Vans depart from East Valley Water District.

Mountains to city
The Santa Ana River Watershed is a habitat for a diversity of unique and rare species.  It is also an important source of local water supply for the region and provides recreational opportunities for activities such as hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing. In this field trip, participants will learn about how planning of water supply infrastructure projects has been a catalyst for habitat restoration efforts and large-scale conservation efforts for native and special-status species, though Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act. The focus will be on current plans to reintroduce the federally protected fish, Santa Ana sucker, into mountain streams in the upper watershed.  During the tour, participants will view a potential re-introduction site at City Creek before heading through the mountains to visit the Seven Oaks Dam and other potential re-introduction locations. THIS TRIP IS NOW FULL

3. Title: UC Riverside Botanic Gardens

Location:  UCR Botanic Gardens, Riverside

End time: 1:00 pm or stay later on your own; Field Trip Leader: Botanic Gardens docent

Min/Max enrollment: 10/50; Cost: $35

Transportation:  On your own

The UCR Botanic Gardens cover 40 acres nestled in the foothills of the Box Springs Mountains on the east side of the University of California, Riverside Campus. The Gardens are a living museum with more than 3500 plant species from California and around the world, especially representing deserts and Mediterranean climate regions. A docent will guide you through the Southwest desert garden, Australian and South African gardens, Sierra foothills garden, butterfly garden, herb garden, native California vegetation and others. The Garden also has over four miles of scenic trails. SPACE AVAILABLE 


4. FULL Title: Unique Plant Communities and Geology of Bear Valley

Location: Big Bear Lake, San Bernardino National Forest

End Time: 1:00 pm. Field Trip Leader: Scott Eliason, Botanist, US Forest Service

Min/Max enrollment: 10/30; Cost: $35

Transportation:  Vans depart from Pali Mountain Retreat and Conference Center.

Big Bear Lake
Bear Valley lies within the San Bernardino National Forest about 15 miles from Pali Mountain Conference Center and is a beautiful jewel with a lake surrounded by mixed coniferous forest. It also hosts mountain meadow, carbonate, and pebble plain plant communities each supporting many endemic plant species. Field trip leader Scott Eliason has been responsible for management of these natural areas and will lead a tour focused on the rare plants and the challenges of protecting them. He will also discuss the unique geology of the region that hosts these plants as well as the riparian vegetation around the lake and forests in the surrounding mountains. THIS TRIP IS NOW FULL

5. Title: Global Change in the San Bernardino National Forest

CANCELED -- Sorry! (see #2, Mountains to City for similar content and field trip leaders)

6. Title: The National Children’s Forest

Location:  32573 Highway 18, Running Springs, CA  92382. (10 minutes from Pali Conference Center)

End Time: 1:00 pm

Min/Max enrollment: 10/30; Cost: $35

Transportation:  Vans depart from Pali Mountain Retreat and Conference Center.

Children's forest
The Children’s Forest was created in the wake of the 1970 Bear Fire, with a mission or providing the opportunity for children to take a leadership role in forest management by giving them a legitimate voice in caring for our local mountains. Children’s Forest is a place where children learn how to become stewards of the land through education and opportunities. The area was replanted with trees bearing the names of children.  In 1993, the first trail was established by a work group of children from around the country, including having children develop the interpretive signage.  Field trip participants will walk this ¾ mile alpine trail with gorgeous views into the San Bernardino National Forest, and may walk up to the nearby fire lookout. They will hear from some of the folks involved in the creation of this unique site as well as educators and youth who work there now, and visit the nearby nature center. We will then travel to the nearby Heap’s Peak Arboretum to learn about alpine plants, and about their education programs, including walking the 1 mile all-access Sequoia Trail. The trip is perfect for those who want to learn more about youth education in the area, and take easy walks in the forest. SPACE AVAILABLE 

7. Title: Explore the Wild Side of Riverside at the Ameal Moore Nature Center

CANCELED -- Sorry!

8. FULL Title: Transitional Plant Communities at Oak Glen Preserve and the Montane Botanic Garden

Location: Southern California Montane Botanic Garden (39611 Oak Glen Road, Oak Glen, CA 92399)

Tour leader: Tim Krantz, University of Redlands and The Wildland Conservancy; End Time: 1:30 pm end at Oak Glen for return by 3:00 to East Valley Water District; Min/Max enrollment: 10/30; Cost: $35

Transportation:  Vans depart from East Valley Water District.

This trip will explore the Southern California Montane Botanical Garden and the Oak Glen Preserve.  Starting with the Botanical Garden, participants will have the chance to experience the largest native plant garden in Southern California comprising more than 200 acres of transition plant communities of chaparral, mixed conifer forest, oak and riparian woodlands, two perennial streams, ponds and wetlands. We will tour ‘Hummingbird Hill” featuring a collection of Penstemons, sages, currants, and other nectar-bearing native (to the So Cal mountains) wildflowers, attracting five different hummingbird species and butterflies. In addition, we will see "Falling Waters" which features several cascades and ponds, with collections of native buckwheats, manzanitas, grasses/sedges/rushes and aquatics. Participants will also view parts of the nearby Oak Glen Preserve, which covers more than 2,000 acres of terrain from about 4500-8,500 feet in elevation. The entire tour is a 2.5 mile easy to moderate walk with level ground and one short uphill section with steps. This tour ends with a great BBQ lunch (provided). THIS TRIP IS NOW FULL

9. FULL Title: A River in the High Desert – Tour of Whitewater Preserve

Location:  9160 Whitewater Canyon Road, Whitewater, CA 92282 – at the end of Whitewater Canyon Road northwest of Palm Springs

Tour leader: Caroline Conway, The Wildlands Conservancy; Date/Time: depart East Valley Water District in vans at 9:30 am, arrive Whitewater Preserve by 11:00 am. End at Whitewater by 2:00 pm, return to parking area by 3:30 pm; Min/Max enrollment: 10/30; Cost: $45

Transportation:  Vans depart from East Valley Water District.

whitewater preserve
Description: Whitewater Preserve is over 2800 rugged acres of high desert, surrounded by the Bureau of Land Management’s San Gorgonio Wilderness. It includes the year-round Whitewater River which supports rich riparian habitat, home to the endangered Southwest willow flycatcher and Bell’s vireo, and provides opportunity to see migrating summer tanagers and vermilion flycatchers. The canyon has a robust population of bighorn sheep, deer and bear, and is an important wildlife corridor between the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains. Recently, the Windy Point area at the confluence of the Whitewater and San Gorgonio Rivers was added to the reserve, including sand dunes that are home to the endangered fringe-toed lizard. Field trip participants will hike on an easy trail for about an hour, crossing the river and then heading to the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. They’ll hear from Wilderness Conservancy experts about watershed and wildlife management on the preserve, as well as how recreation and education support the conservation mission. Toward the end of the trip, participants will have the chance to view the visitor’s center in the historic building that used to house a trout farm. THIS TRIP IS NOW FULL. 

10. Title: Palm Oases, Sand Dunes, and Desert Shrub lands of the Coachella Valley

CANCELED -- Sorry! 

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