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.
Viejo Tie Loop
- Location: Santa Ana Mountains in eastern Orange County. From I-5 in San Jaun Capistrano, take highway 74 north for 22 miles and look for unisgned Long Canyon Road (the first significant street after the “S” curve north of the Candy Store). Go left and head 2.5 miles to the San Juan Trail (the road is single-lane in spots so be careful). From Lake Elsinore, take highway 74 for 6.5 miles and take a right on Long Canyon Road. A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 for a day or $30 for the year) are required. Click here to purchase.
- Agency: Cleveland National Forest/Trabuco Ranger District
- Distance: 5.5 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,000 feet
- Suggested time: 3 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG
- Best season: October – June
- USGS topo map: “Alberhill”
- Recommended gear: hiking poles; insect repellent
- More information: here
- Rating: 8
This is a very enjoyable hike that provides a good variety of scenery and a lot of solitude. With the possible exception of Sitton Peak, this is arguably the best hike on the Ortega Corridor (highway 74) section of the Trabuco District. It is popular with mountain bikers, so be aware of them. There are a few steep sections and the trail can be a little tricky from time to time, but for the most part the grade is easy, and even if you don’t do the whole loop you’ll still have a good time.
From the left side of the parking area, take the San Juan Trail (not to be confused with the San Juan Loop Trail). You get nice views of Lion Canyon and the nearby peaks as you descend. The trail dips and out of some groves of live oaks. There are several trails that branch off, but your route stays to the left.
After 1.3 miles, you cross the old San Juan Trail. Stay straight and head into a thick grove of oaks. The trail intersects with the old trail again at an open clearing, where a rock underneath a huge oak makes for a nice rest spot. Shortly afterward, take a right at a junction (the left fork is the Chiquito Trail, your return route). After three quarters of a mile, the trail enters an open area with nice views of the Los Pinos Ridge. Here, look for an unsigned trail heading to the left, the Viejo Tie Trail (the sign has fallen down).
The 1.4 mile Viejo Tie trail clings to the side of the hill, with nice views of Sitton Peak and San Juan Canyon. After entering another oak woodland and crossing Lion Canyon, the trail meets up with the Chiquito Trail. Here, take a left and climb 300 feet back to the San Juan Trail and retrace your steps to the trail head.