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Best Botanical Gardens in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties

From amazing college campus collections to botanical gardens with views of the San Gabriel Mountains, the Inland Empire has been blessed with beautiful attractions that also educate visitors. Explore ancient plants at the BioTrek Ethnobotany Garden or explore Heaps Park Arboretum in the San Bernardino National Forest.

Best Botanical Gardens in Riverside and San Bernardino

Besides the beautiful botanical gardens of Orange County, Los Angeles and San Diego, The Inland Empire’s botanic gardens are inviting and breathtaking too. So check out this list of the best botanical gardens in Riverside and San Bernardino to visit with your friends and family.

UCR Botanic Gardens

With 40 acres, the UCR Botanic Gardens are home to more than 3,500 species of plants, trees, and flowers. Whether you enjoy watching butterflies flitter away at pollination or prefer a walk in a shady canyon, the UCR Gardens offer a variety of exhibits based on dry and arid climates similar to the California climate. Among the plants you’ll see are eucalyptus, sagebrush, cactus, and flowers.

Botanical Gardens in Riverside

Heaps Peak Arboretum

Located in the San Bernardino National Forest, the story of Heaps Park Arboretum includes tales of it serving as a lumber cutting operation before being restored as a forest. Then, following a fire in the mid- 1950s, it became a dumping ground for locals. In the mid-1980s, a group of volunteers cleaned it up, planted trees, and turned it into what we know today – a beautiful natural attraction with walking trails and a plethora of beautiful trees.

With 30 species of plants native to California, you’ll view a variety of colorful flowers among the trees, shrubs, and other plants. The paths are easily accessible for walkers of all ages, as well as strollers. Fall is also a great time to visit Heaps Peak Arboretum and see the autumn leaves.

Botanical Garden San Bernardino

Moorten Botanical Garden

Walk through the desert without worrying about getting lost. Founded in 1938, the Moorten Botanical Garden is a collection of desert plants in Palm Springs, including several types of cacti, South African succulent karoo, agave, and aloe plants. While small at one acre, the Colorado Desert attraction packs in a lot to see. The botanic garden has limited summer hours due to the heat, so it’s recommended to check ahead when planning your visit.

Botanical Garden in Riverside

Oak Glen Preserve – The Wildlands Conservancy

With the Wilshire Peak casting a shadow, the Oak Glen Preserve covers more than 900 acres of the Wildlands Conservancy near Yucaipa. Located about 5,000 feet about sea level, the botanic garden offers magnificent views as you hike, picnic, and explore the trails featuring oak and pine forests, ponds, streams, and wetlands.

The preserve is also home to an apple farm. During your hike, not only enjoy the views of the plants and trees, but be on the lookout for possible wildlife sightings.

Oak Glen Preserve

Los Angeles County Arboretum

With 127 acres near the San Gabriel Mountains, the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia has 11 gardens and attractions that include perennials, herbs, and roses. As you stroll through the gardens, you may find landscaping ideas of your own among the aquatic garden with its lilly ponds, the Celebration Garden, which features unique designs that cry out to be copied at home, or the Mediterranean Garden with its plants and shrubs that offer manageable water resource options.

The botanic garden also includes impressive views of the San Gabriel Mountains with magnolia trees and other trees that pop with fall colors.

Botanical Garden San Bernardino

BioTrek Ethnobotany Garden

A visit to BioTrek Ethnobotany Garden at Cal Poly Pomona is a walk through rainforests, California’s past, and its present. All told through plants. Understanding the earth’s past is key to ensuring its successful future is the focus of the Mesozoic Garden, which includes plants found during the era.

With more than 100 species of plants, the rainforest center examines the role of tropical rainforests in earth’s growth. From canopies to the floor, the rainforest garden showcases the varying ecosystems located there. During your visit to the BioTrek Ethnobotany Center, learn how different cultures use plants in their daily lives, from clothing to medicine.

Biotrek in Riverside

Descanso Gardens

Located close to Riverside, Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge grew from a camellia collection to nine gardens and galleries. From fall to spring, you’ll find the camellias in bloom, while the rose garden is home to about 1,600 roses over five acres. With almost 20 species of oak trees common to Southern California, you’ll find ones that flower.

During your visit, learn about how the family acquired the camellia collection of Japanese businessmen before they were placed in internment camps during World War II. With 180 plants covering 60 species, you’re likely to find redwoods and ferns in the ancient garden. Other gardens include California native plants. While at the Descanso Gardens, visit the Sturt Haaga Gallery, which hosts special exhibits, and the Boddy House, home of the former landowners.

During the holiday season, make sure to check out Descanso’s holiday programing called Enchanted.

Botanical Gardens in San Bernardino
credit: John Stanley

As you explore the Inland Empire’s botanical gardens, enjoy the scenery that each offers, as well as the unique stories of their backgrounds. From 1,600 roses at Descanso Gardens to Cal State Northridge’s arid plants, you’ll find plenty to explore and appreciate at Riverside and San Bernardino’s botanical gardens.

Happy Field Tripping!