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.
Quail Hill Loop
- Location: 34 Shady Canyon Drive, Irvine. From the 405 freeway, take the Sand Canyon/Shady Canyon exit and drive south for 0.6 miles on Shady Canyon. Go through the rotary and look for the trail head parking lot on the right.
- Agency: Irvine Ranch Conservancy
- Distance: 1.8 miles
- Elevation gain: 200 feet
- Suggested time: 1 hour
- Difficulty rating: G
- Best season: Year-round
- USGS topo map: Tustin
- Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Orange County
- More information: here
- Rating: 2
Located right off the 405 freeway, the Quail Hill Loop is a convenient workout in the hills of Irvine. Spring rains make the hills bright green, but the hike is certainly short enough to be considered year-round. Keep in mind, however, that there is no shade on the trail.
From the parking lot, follow the signs for the loop trail. Head right, toward the freeway, which unfortunately will be seen and heard throughout the trip. You pass by some wetlands (this portion of the trail tends to be a little muddy following rainy periods, so be careful).
After about half a mile, the trail starts heading up hill, and the views of south Orange County, including the Santa Anas, open up. On the way back, you can take a short detour to a viewing area. Following this, a somewhat steep descent will take you back to the parking lot.
As suburban hiking trails go, the Quail Hill Loop is well worth a visit if you’re in the area. It’s a perfect route for people who want to get into hiking but aren’t sure where to start, and veteran hikers should be aware of the trailhead across the street, which leads to Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.