As seen in the Nobody Hikes in L.A. Guidebook!
Text and photography copyright 2010 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. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.
Oak Trail Loop in 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. Drive on the park’s main road, past the windmill, to the last parking lot.
- Agency: Caspers Wilderness Park
- Distance: 2.8 miles
- Elevation gain: 200 feet
- Suggested time: 1.25 hours
- Difficulty Rating: G
- Best season: Year round
- USGS topo map: “Canada Gobernadora”
- Recommended gear: sun hat
- More information: here
- Rating: 7
Caspers is Orange County’s largest regional park. While its inland location may seem to rule it out for summer hiking, this easy loop can be enjoyable any time of year. Most of it is shaded, and while the trail is a little tricky to follow at first, it’s not physically demanding at all.
Pick up the Nature Trail from the parking lot and follow its winding course, in and out of groves of oaks, to a junction signed for Bell Canyon. Take a left and follow a trail signed “no bikes” across Bell Canyon (during the spring months, this can be a little tricky but by summer the crossing will be dry). Take a hard right on the Oak Trail (going straight gets you to the Loskhorn Trail) and enjoy the shade as you make your way another half mile or so north.
At the next junction, you meet with the Star Rise trail. Head right, getting views of the East Ridge and the Santa Ana Mountains beyond, and take a right on the Bell Canyon trail after 0.4 miles. The Bell Canyon trail goes up a bump, intersects with the Sun Rise trail (stay right) and makes its way back to the parking lot. Some stretches are exposed, but if you have a hat and sunblock, you should be fine.
Hopefully this short hike will whet your appetite to explore more of Caspers, which has a huge variety of trails that offer something to all levels of hikers.
this snake was actually pretty docile, but we cut it a wide berth! Keep your eyes peeled, people!
Are dogs allowed?
No, unfortunately dogs are not allowed at Caspers. Most O.C. regional parks don’t allow dogs (except Santiago Oaks and Irvine).
4-15-2015: A dog leaves behind smells which disrupt wildlife behavior and stress the inhabitants. As far as they are concerned, a unknown predator has invaded their habitat. Ground nesting birds will leave their eggs/chicks. Predators suddenly realize–and act–upon a new competitor.
Dogs themselves are at risk–from rattlesnakes, ticks, weed seeds which can embed themselves in the skin, to the point where they have to be surgically removed. Occasionally, when owners have been negligent enough to let them go off leash, the unknowing animal attacks others such as skunks, bobcats and mountain lions, with unfortunate results.