Text and photography copyright 2011 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.
Las Ramblas Loop
- Location: San Juan Capistrano. From I-5, take the Las Ramblas/Pacific Coast Highway exit and head northeast on Las Ramblas for 1.4 miles to the road’s end. Park on the street.
- Agency: City of San Juan Capistrano
- Distance: 3.4 miles
- Elevation gain: 900 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 2 hours
- Best season: October – June
- USGS topo map: San Juan Capistrano
- More information: here
- Rating: 6
This is one of the more enjoyable and challenging hikes in south Orange County. There are several possible hikes that can be pieced together on the city trails of San Juan Capistrano, and the route described here, which might look a little like a marlin or a narwhal when plotted on a map, takes in some nice ocean, mountain and valley scenery.
From the gate, head northeast on the Las Ramblas trail, a fire road. Ignore other trails branching off to the side. The trail dips briefly and then climbs, soon reaching a junction. The route ahead is your return trip; you will take a hard left onto the Harbor View trail. This trail climbs steeply and soon reaches a four-way split. Take the route on the right – the one that climbs up very steeply. The good news is that this climb is the last major ascent on the route, and the views are great.
You descend and climb to another knoll, and then head west toward the ocean. At this point, you may notice a flagpole in the distance; that marks the turnaround point. Fans of vintage wooden roller coasters will appreciate this next stretch of the trail which goes up and down several small hills, with ocean views on the left and the Santa Anas and Capistrano Valleys on the right.
Soon, a trail branches off to the left. This will be your return route. You stay straight, onto the Patriot Trail, which climbs another hill and ends at the flagpole. This area, known as Patriot Point, offers a nearly 360 degree view of the area.
You head back and take a left at the junction and a quick right onto the Foster Canyon trail. This trail winds around the north side of the ridge, connecting soon with the Cerro Rebel trail. Take a right and follow this trail back down to the Las Ramblas Trail. Take a right and follow the trail back to the junction with the Harbor View Trail, and continue to the parking lot.
Note that as of this writing (1/7/11), portions of the trail have been damaged by recent rains. The trails are still passable, but there are a few spots with eroded dirt that makes some of the navigation tricky. There are also a few sink holes that have been left as a result of the rain, so if you stop to take pictures, make sure you don’t step in one. I absolutely do not say this from personal experience whatsoever.