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As seen in the Nobody Hikes in L.A. Guidebook!

Oaks on the Spaulding Trail, O'Neill Regional Park

Oaks on the Spaulding Trail, O’Neill Regional Park

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.

Edna Spaulding Trail/O’Neill Regional Park

  • Location: Orange County foothills, near Lake Forest and Rancho Santa Margarita.  From I-5 in south Orange County, take El Toro Road northeast for about 6 miles to Cook’s Corner.  Take a right on Live Oak Canyon Road (signed for the park), and drive 3 1/2 miles to the park entrance.  The parking fee is $3 for a weekday, $5 for weekends and $7 for holidays.
  • Agency: O’Neill Regional Park
  • Distance: 0.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 225 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 30 minutes
  • Best season: All year (hot in  the summer)
  • USGS topo map:  Santiago Peak
  • More information: here.  Trip report, here.
  • Rating: 5

This popular trail in O’Neill Park provides a good workout in a short distance, with views of the Santa Ana Mountains, the ocean and the Orange County suburbs.

To get to the trail, follow the signs for the Live Oak trail from the Oak Grove day use area, and take a left.  Soon you will come to a split.  The loop can be hiked in either direction, but this description will assume you’re going right.

Immediately you enter a grove of some oak trees.  I’ve found that live oaks are kind of like snowflakes in that no two are exactly alike, and the trees here are some of the more twisted ones I’ve seen.  The trail begins a rigorous, but short climb up to the ridge (you may be catching your breath, but it’s doable for just about anyone), and then descends gradually to the south before switching back down the hill to rejoin the loop.

If you enjoyed this trail, make sure to check out the longer Live Oak/Ocean Vista loop in O’Neill Park, or perhaps pay a visit to nearby Caspers Wilderness Park or Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park.  By the way, just who was Edna Spaulding?  She was a local science teacher who helped create the trail as a way to get her students out into nature.  Who says you never use what you learn in school?

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