Lower Canyonback Trail

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Lower Canyonback Trail, Santa Monica Mountains, CA

Ocean view from the Lower Canyonback Trail

Temescal Ridge, Santa Monica Mountains, CA

Temescal Ridge, as seen from the Lower Canyonback Trail

Lower Canyonback Trail

  • Location: Eastern Santa Monica Mountains. Google Maps lists it as the “Whoops Trailhead.” From I-405, take Sunset Blvd. west for 1.3 miles. Turn right on Kenter Avenue and follow it for 2.2 miles to its end and park where available. (Kenter makes a lot of sharp curves so drive carefully; a few other roads branch off and the signs aren’t always visible but it’s usually pretty clear how to stay on Kenter.)
  • Agency: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area/Westridge Canyonback Wilderness Park
  • Distance: 4.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 600 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Best season: October – June
  • USGS topo map: “Topanga”
  • Recomended gear: sunblock; sun hat
  • More information: Trip description here; description of both Lower and Upper segments here; Westridge-Canyonback Park Yelp page here
  • Rating: 6
Lower Canyonback Trail, Santa Monica Mountains, CA

0:00 – Lower Canyonback Trail Head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

The Lower Canyonback Trail is more challenging and scenically interesting than its upper counterpart. Purists might be turned off by the fact that this route is almost entirely on fire roads and paved roads and that power lines follow it for much of the way, but the ocean and mountain views are excellent and the hike’s convenient location and dog-friendliness add to its popularity.

Lower Canyonback Trail, Santa Monica Mountains, CA

0:12 – Merging with the fire road (times are approximate)

A few informal trails branch off and run parallel to the main roads, making several different routes possible. Begin by following the trail uphill, almost immediately coming to a split where a use trail heads up a ridge to the right and the paved road continues to the left, slightly downhill. The two routes rejoin at about 0.4 miles, where you’ll bear left and follow the fire road uphill. (Another trail, popular with mountain bikers, also branches off to the left at this point; it rejoins the main route later on. There’s also a steep break that heads straight up at this point, soon rejoining the fire road). Farther uphill, 0.7 miles from the start, a steep path climbs to a vista point where a wooden bench hangs from a large oak. From this ridge, you enjoy some of the best views of the hike.

Lower Canyonback Trail, Santa Monica Mountains, CA

0:16 – Steep use trail to the oak with the swing

The ridge drops back down to rejoin the fire road (1.1 miles) as well as the single-track from earlier. You continue, enjoying good views on both sides, climbing to the highest point on the route (1.7 miles), marked by a large water tank. A short spur on the left leads to a knoll with some nice vistas; the road, now paved, continues, gradually descending through a plateau dotted with oaks, willows and spring flowers. A use trail leads to what someone has named Nipple Mountain, although the area is considered a sensitive habitat and is off limits.

Oak tree on the Lower Canyonback Trail, Santa Monica Mountains, CA

0:22 – Oak tree with swing

As you descend toward the end of the trail, you may get glimpses of the Santa Susana and San Gabriel Mountains. A metal gate marks the trail’s end at an upscale residential community. It’s possible to access the Upper Canyonback Trail by walking about half a mile on streets; that route continues a mile and a half farther to Mulholland Drive, making a round trip of 8+ miles or a possible 4-mile shuttle with the necessary arrangements.

Lower Canyonback Trail, Santa Monica Mountains, CA

0:28 – Rejoining the fire road

Text and photography copyright 2015 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

End of the Lower Canyonback Trail

1:00 – End of the trail

San Timoteo Nature Sanctuary (Redlands)

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San Timoteo Canyon, Redlands, CA

Looking south from the vista point

San Timoteo Nature Sanctuary (Redlands)

  • Location: Redlands. From the west, take I-10 to California Ave. Turn right and follow California Ave for 1.3 miles to Barton Road (note that at Redlands Blvd, the first main intersection south of the freeway, you’ll need to make a quick right and then a quick left to stay on California Avenue.) Turn left on Barton and follow it 0.4 miles to San Timoteo Canyon Road. Turn right and follow San Timoteo Canyon Road for a total of 3.5 miles, noting that the road makes a hard left at 0.4 miles from Barton. Turn left on Alessandro Road and follow it 0.4 miles to the trail head which is a dirt lot by a metal gate on the left side of the street, shortly before Sunset Hills Lane. From the east, take I-10 to Live Oak Canyon Road. Turn left and follow Live Oak Canyon Road 4.5 miles to San Timoteo Canyon Road. Turn right and go 1.2 miles to Alessandro. Turn right and follow Allesandro 0.4 miles to the trail head.
  • Agency: Redlands Conservancy
  • Distance:  3.8 miles
  • Elevation gain:  200 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Best season: October – June
  • Recommended gear: sun hat
  • USGS topo map: Redlands
  • More information: Trip description here
  • Rating: 4
San Timoteo Nature Sanctuary trail head, Redlands, CA

0:00 – Trail head on Alessandro Road (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This 200-acre preserve, made possible by the work of the Redlands Conservancy, is a hit with local hikers, bikers and equestrians. The main route is the Carriage Trail, whose construction in the 19th century speaks to the area’s historical significance as a transportation corridor linking Banning to the eastern end of the San Bernardino Valley. Another trail runs parallel to the Carriage Trail and several short connectors make for multiple possible routes. The 3.8-mile balloon-shaped loop here samples some of the park’s best scenery.

San Timoteo Creek

0:12 – San Timoteo Creek, just off the Carriage Trail half a mile from the start (times are approximate)

From Alessandro Road, step through the gate and begin heading northwest on a fire road. After a pleasant if somewhat forgettable 0.4 miles, the walls of the canyon pinch in and the vegetation (mainly willows with a few wild palms) becomes thicker. A few use trails lead down to seasonal San Timoteo Creek. Though you’re close to civilization, the trees form a nice buffer, creating a sense of isolation.

Trail intersection, San Timoteo Nature Sanctuary

0:20 – Start of the loop

At 0.8 miles, you reach a Y-junction; the start of the loop. To stay on the Carriage Trail, bear right and ascend gradually; for the next half mile the two trails run fairly close to each other. At 1.3 miles, stay right at another junction with a spur trail. Here the Carriage Trail begins the only significant ascent of the trip, winding through a grove of eucalyptus trees to another junction. Bear right again and follow a short spur higher up to an overlook where you can enjoy a panoramic view of San Timoteo Canyon which will likely include at least one freight train passing below. An unmaintained, unofficial trail leads higher but this is the recommended turnaround point.

San Timoteo Canyon, Redlands, CA

0:45 – Looking southeast from the vista point

From here you can retrace your steps on the Carriage Trail but if you want to make the hike into a loop, at the last junction, turn right and continue west. Soon you reach a connector (2 1/4 miles from the start). Take a hard left onto the spur and descend to the other main east-west trail. (West of this point, without trees to block the noise of traffic on San Timoteo Canyon Road, the hiking isn’t as pleasant.) Head left and hike back toward the start of the loop, passing through an attractive field of mustard flowers before rejoining the Carriage Trail at 3 miles. Retrace your steps back to Alessandro Road.

Trail in the San Timoteo Nature Preserve

0:55 – Connector trail leading downhill (turn left)

Text and photography copyright 2015 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

San Timoteo Nature Sanctuary, Redlands, CA

1:11 – Heading back toward the Carriage Trail

La Tour (Victoria Beach, Laguna)

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La Tour, Victoria Beach, Laguna, CA

La Tour

Tidepools at Victoria Beach, Orange County, CA

Tide pools adjacent to La Tour

La Tour (Victoria Beach, Laguna)

  • Location: Victoria Beach, Laguna. Access to Victoria Beach is via a staircase located between 2703 and 2713 Victoria Drive. From downtown Laguna Beach, take Pacific Coast Highway south for 1.8 miles and bear right on Victoria Drive. From the south, take P.C.H. north (3.1 miles past Crown Valley Parkway and 5.6 miles from downtown Dana Point) to Nyes Place. Bear right and take an immediate left on Victoria Drive, which crosses under P.C.H. Note that parking in this neighborhood is limited and restricted. Pay close attention to signs, to avoid being ticketed or towed. Allow extra time to look for parking and to walk to the staircase from your car.
  • Agency: City of Laguna Beach
  • Distance: 0.3 miles (allow extra time for the walk from your car)
  • Elevation gain: 50 feet
  • Suggested time: 15 minutes (allow extra time for the walk from your car)
  • Difficulty rating: G
  • Best season: All year, low tide recommended (see chart)
  • USGS topo map: Laguna Beach
  • Recommended gear: sun hat
  • More information: Map My Hike report here; Victoria Beach Yelp page here; article about the tower here
  • Rating: 3
Stairs leading to Victoria Beach, Orange County, CA

0:00 – Stairs leading to Victoria Beach (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

Following the longest hike ever posted on this site, we now present the shortest. Some might find calling this a hike to be a little generous but those interested in offbeat landmarks and Orange County history won’t want to miss La Tour (French for “the tower”), a 60-foot tower near Victoria Beach in Laguna. The Medieval-inspired tower was built in 1926, allowing homeowner William Brown, a state senator, access to the beach below. Sadly, the tower is closed, but it still provides a glimpse of local history and a nice, quiet place to watch the waves.

Victoria Beach, Laguna, CA

0:03 – North end of Victoria Beach; climb the rocks to get to La Tour

Take the staircase between 2703 and 2713 Victoria Drive down to the ocean, which deposits you on the north end of the beach. From here, turn right and cross over the rocks, passing by a concrete basin that has also served as a swimming pool on the past. La Tour comes into sight almost immediately. The rock scrambling is fairly easy compared to Dana Point and Corona Del Mar, but caution should still be exercised.

At the base of La Tour, the structure and the bluffs behind it form a sort of cave; a nice, shaded spot to enjoy watching the waves. You can extend the hike by exploring the tidepools beyond the tower to the north or south along Victoria Beach before returning up the stairs to your car.

View from La Tour, Victoria Beach, Laguna, CA

0:07 – View from beneath La Tour

Text and photography copyright 2015 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.


Mesa Loop Trail (Caspers Wilderness Park)

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Saddleback Mountain, Orange County, CA

Old Saddleback as seen from the Mesa Loop Trail

Mesa Loop Trail, Caspers Wilderness Park, Orange County, CA

Looking west toward the main area of Caspers from the Mesa Loop Trail

Mesa Loop Trail (Caspers Wilderness Park)

  • Location: Caspers Wilderness Park in San Juan Capistrano.  From I-5 in south Orange County, take the Ortega Highway (route 74) east for 7 1/2 miles.  The park is on your left.  Admission is $3 per car on weekdays, $5 on weekends and $7 on holidays. Once you are past the kiosk, take the first right into the Ortega Flats Campground and park in a small designated day use area on the left side of the gravel road.
  • Agency: Caspers Wilderness Park
  • Distance: 3.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 150 feet
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Best season:  All year (hot during the summer)
  • USGS topo map: “Canada Gobernadora”
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; insect repellent
  • More information: Map My Hike report here
  • Rating: 6
Trail head at Caspers Wilderness Park, Orange County, CA

0:00 – Start of the hike (click thumbnails to see full sized version)

The Mesa Loop Trail holds the distinction of being the lone publicly accessible trail on the east side of the Ortega Highway in Caspers Wilderness Park. Its only downfall is traffic noise due to its proximity to the highway, but it is still a worthwhile destination; one of the better hikes of its length in the Orange County regional park system. Despite its name, the trail is not actually a loop, but can be combined to make one with the San Juan Creek Trail, as described here.

San Juan Creek Trail Head

0:02 – Start of the San Juan Creek Trail (times are approximate)

From the day use area in the Ortega Flats Campground, head north along the gravel road. Near site 8, a road leaves the campground and joins the south end of the San Juan Creek Trail. Follow this fire road north for 0.3 miles along the highway to a junction where the Mesa Loop Trail begins, crossing under the road via a tunnel.

Tunnel under Highway 74, Orange County, CA

0:10 – Crossing under the road to the Mesa Loop Trail

On the opposite side of Highway 74, the trail crosses an abandoned service road and curves to the north, entering a pleasant, shallow canyon lined with sycamore trees. A quarter mile of level walking brings you to the only significant climb of the route. You ascend to an open mesa where you continue north, taking in excellent views of Old Saddleback straight ahead and of the park’s characteristic red and pink geological terraces on the left.

Mesa Loop Trail, Caspers Wilderness Park, Orange County, CA

0:18 – View from the Mesa Loop Trail after the ascent

At about 1.1 miles, you briefly enter shade, where a large oak tree with rocks underneath makes for a good rest spot. Continuing, the trail eventually descends into Lucas Canyon and then reaches another tunnel where it crosses back under the highway to reconnect with the San Juan Creek Trail (2 miles from the start).

Shade tree, Mesa Trail, Caspers Wilderness Park

0:37 – Shade tree

Turn left and follow the San Juan Creek Trail south. Since you’re right next to the highway, noise is unavoidable, but this 1.2 mile stretch has its enjoyable spots, notably a couple of stands of tall oaks and more up-close views of the geology across the San Juan Creek floodplain. At 3.2 miles, you complete the loop, returning to the first junction with the Mesa Loop Trail. Retrace your steps back to the campground.

Tunnel on the Mesa Trail

0:50 – Crossing back under the road

Text and photography copyright 2015 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

San Juan Creek Trail, Caspers Wilderness Park, Orange County, CA

1:00 – Woodlands on the San Juan Creek Trail

Winnetka Ridge Trail

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Winnetka Ridge Trail, Woodland Hills, CA

Looking east from the Winnetka Ridge Trail

Winnetka Ridge Trail, Woodland Hills, CA

Dusk on the Winnetka Ridge Trail

Winnetka Ridge Trail

  • Location: Woodland Hills. From Highway 101, take the Winnetka Ave. exit and head south (left if you’re coming from L.A., right if you’re coming from Ventura). Follow Winnetka Ave. 1.7 miles to its ending and park where available.
  • Agency: Topanga State Park
  • Distance: 1.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 150 feet
  • Suggested time: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Best season: Year round
  • USGS topo map: “Canoga Park”
  • Recommended guidebook: Day Hikes In the Santa Monica Mountains
  • More information: Map My Hike report here
  • Rating: 4

This short trail links the south end of Winnetka Avenue with “Dirt” Mulholland, providing either a quick and convenient workout or serving as a gateway to a longer hike in the upper reaches of Topanga State Park. Though much of the trail is exposed, it’s short enough that it can be done during the summer, especially with an early or late evening start. The latter is advantageous in that several parts of the trail follow an eastern facing slope and there’s a decent amount of vegetation on the west side of the trail, blocking out afternoon and evening sun. Sunsets here are attractive as well. The Winnetka Ridge Trail could be described as a shorter, easier version of the nearby Serrania Ridge Trail.

Winnetka Ridge Trail Head, Woodland Hills, CA

0:00 – Trail head at the end of Winnetka Ave. (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

From the end of Winnetka Avenue, climb over the fence and begin hiking uphill into Topanga State Park territory (dogs are allowed in this part of the park). Unfortunately, the litter is bad at the beginning of the trail but it soon thins out as you leave Winnetka Ave. behind.

Winnetka Ridge Trail, Woodland Hills, CA

0:05 – Steep descent on the Winnetka Ridge Trail (times are approximate)

After a few minutes, the trail makes a sudden, rather steep drop to a saddle; while most of the hike is very easy, parents with small kids might want to exercise some extra caution on this descent. The trail continues south, providing nice views of Natoma Canyon on the right and Corbin Canyon on the left. You’ll also see the outline of Mulholland in the distance and in 0.8 miles, you reach it.

From here, you can sit and enjoy panoramic views of the western San Fernando Valley with the Santa Susana Mountains beyond and the San Gabriels far to the northeast. If you have time, explore Mulholland in either direction. A popular option is to head west on Mulholland to the Natoma Ridge Trail and return via that route and several residential streets for a loop of 3 miles.

View from the end of the Winnetka Ridge Trail, Woodland Hills, CA

0:20 – View from the end of the trail at Mulholland Drive

Text and photography copyright 2015 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Oak Grove Loop (Chino Hills)

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Oak Grove Loop Trail, Chino Hills, CA

Shade on the Oak Grove Loop Trail

Oak Grove Trail, Chino Hills, CA

Rolling hills above the Oak Grove Trail

Oak Grove Loop (Chino Hills)

    • Location: Grand Avenue Park, Chino Hills. From the 57/60 Freeways, take the Grand Avenue exit and head southeast for 3.3 miles to the park.  Turn right and park in the lot. From the Riverside area, take the 71 Freeway to the Edison Avenue/Grand Avenue exit.  Turn left on Grand Avenue and head 3.4 miles to the park.  Turn left and park in the lot.  Parking is free and there are restrooms at the trail head.
    • Agency: City of Chino Hills
    • Distance: 1.3 miles
    • Elevation gain: 200 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: G
    • Suggested time: 45 minutes
    • Best season: All year
    • USGS topo map: Ontario
    • Recommended gear: Sun Hat
    • More information: Trail map here
    • Rating: 5
Grand Avenue Park trail head, Chino Hills, CA

0:00 – Trail head at Grand Avenue Park (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

The Oak Grove Loop is a pleasant surprise: a shaded oasis in the dry, exposed terrain of Chino Hills, virtually hidden from the sights and sounds of the nearby residential areas and traffic of Grand Avenue. It’s one of the few hiking routes in the area that can be done year-round, though of course adequate sun protection and drinking water is recommended despite the short distance.

Oak Grove Trail, Chino Hills, CA

0:07 – Right turn on the spur leading to the Oak Grove Trail (times are approximate)

From the eastern end of Grand Avenue Park, pick up the fence-lined bridle trail, making an immediate left at the T-junction (the right fork heads toward Sunset Park, a good cool-day hike for those who want more of a workout). The trail ducks into a tunnel that crosses underneath Grand Avenue and makes a short but steep climb to an unsigned junction, 0.2 miles from the start. The Grand Avenue Trail continues uphill and north, eventually joining the La Sierra Loop, but to reach the Oak Grove Trail, turn right and head downhill, past a barbed wire fence and into the shade. You soon reach the start of the loop, which can be hiked in either direction.
Oak Grove Trail, Chino Hills, CA

0:09 – Start of the loop

If you decide to hike counter-clockwise (as described below), bear right onto the loop trail. You follow it downhill to an outlet at Pleasant Hill Drive, a residential street in a gated community. Turn left and briefly follow the street to a small parking lot, where you’ll pick up the next leg of the trail. It descends across a footbridge into an attractive oak woodland, soon emerging into the open. The trail switchbacks up a hillside, in and out of shade, taking in some nice views to the east before completing the loop (1 mile from the start). From here, make a hairpin right turn and retrace your steps back to the previous junction, downhill, under Grand Avenue and back to the starting point at the park.

Oak Grove Trail, Chino Hills, CA

0:13 – Heading back into the woods from Pleasant Hill Drive

Text and photography copyright 2015 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Oak on the Oak Grove Trail, Chino Hills, CA

0:26 – Big oak near the top of the loop

Horseshoe Loop Trail (Irvine Regional Park)

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Spring wildflowers, Irvine Regional Park, Orange County, CA

Looking northwest from the Horseshoe Loop Trail, Irvine Regional Park

Greenery at Irvine Regional Park, Orange County, CA

Oaks and green grass on the Horseshoe Trail, Irvine Regional Park

Horseshoe Loop Trail (Irvine Regional Park)

  • Location: Santa Ana Foothills east of Orange.  From the 55 freeway, take the Chapman Avenue exit and head east for 4.2 miles until you get to Jamboree Road.  Take a left on Jamboree and a right into the park.  From the north, take the Katella Avenue exit from the 55 freeway, head east and drive 4.6 miles to Jamboree and take a left (Katella becomes Villa Park and then Santiago Canyon Road on the way).  Parking is $3 per car on weekdays, $5 on weekends and $7 on holidays.  For access to this hike, park in lot #7.
  • Agency: Irvine Regional Park
  • Distance: 3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 200 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Best season: All year (hot during the summer)
  • USGS topo map: Orange
  • Recommended gear: insect repellent
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Orange County
  • More information: Park homepage here; Yelp page here; Everytrail report here; trip descriptions (slightly different routes) here, here and here
  • Rating: 5
Irvine Regional Park, Orange County, CA

0:00 – Leaving parking lot #7; note the trail branching off on the right side of the road (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

In addition to being Orange County’s oldest public park (1887), Irvine Regional Park is home to the O.C. Zoo, a miniature railroad, several nice picnic areas and for the purposes of this website, a number of hiking trails. The trails loop around the park, heading northwest to Santiago Oaks Regional Park and south to Peters Canyon Regional Park, making for endless possible routes of all lengths. While Irvine isn’t as isolated as Caspers, Whiting Ranch and some of Orange County’s other regional parks, it still offers a nice variety of scenery, a convenient escape from city life. Though it may be hot during the summer, the hills and distances are moderate enough for it to be considered a year-round hiking destination.

Horseshoe Loop Trail, Irvine Regional Park, Orange County, CA

0:04 – Turn left on the Horseshoe Loop Trail (times are approximate)

This post follows the route as described in “Afoot and Afield”, mainly utilizing the park’s popular Horseshoe Loop Trail; also the Toyon Trail and some paved service and access roads. Hikers on a tight time frame should be able to easily knock it off in an hour; those hiking with small kids or dogs (this is one of the few dog-friendly regional parks in O.C.) should allow an hour an a half to follow this route.

Bench at an overlook, Irvine Regional Park, Orange County, CA

0:21 – Overlook on the Horseshoe Loop Trail

From lot #7, head left on the paved road and pick up the trail on the right, heading uphill between two wooden fences. You soon reach a junction with the Horseshoe Loop Trail where you’ll turn left and then almost immediately left again as the Puma Ridge Trail heads uphill. Follow the Horseshoe Trail along a north-facing ridge, enjoying views of the Santa Ana Mountains. In the spring, the grass and wildflowers can be quite attractive and considering that you are only about one hundred feet above the basin of the park, the views are quite wide-ranging.

Irvine Regional Park, Orange County, CA

0:32 – Rejoining the park road; trail follows parallel on the right

More climbing brings you to a vista point (0.8 miles) where you can sit on a bench beneath a pine or under a shade structure. From here, the trail descends to cross a private service road (1.1 miles) and soon after joins the main road, which it parallels for 0.2 miles to the last parking lot. The road, still paved but now closed to the public, heads north and then west, skirting the park’s boundary.

Rooster Rock, Irvine Regional Park, Orange County, CA

0:50 – Rooster Rock

At 1.8 miles, the northern branch of the Horseshoe Trail splits off to the right, heading uphill. Take a short detour to Rooster Rock, a sandstone formation likely named for its outcrops that resemble poultry beaks and combs. A pair of oaks provide nice shade beneath the rock while a few use trails allow the curious to explore the top of the formation, which offers a bird’s eye view of this area of the park.

After visiting Rooster Rock, head back and follow the Horseshoe Trail as it makes its way up a hillside to a junction. The two paths soon merge again, although the right fork climbs higher and offers better views. From here, the trail levels out, contouring along the north side of the park to a junction at 2.3 miles. This is the Toyon Trail, which descends to a shade structure and then follows a wooden staircase back down to the center of the park. Head right on the paved road and follow as it passes a picnic area, the railroad tracks and a small lake before ending at a T-junction. Turn right and follow the main road back to the parking area.

Shade structure at Irvine Regional Park, Orange County, CA

1:05 – Shade structure on the Toyon Trail

Text and photography copyright 2015 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.