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.
West Ridge/Loskhorn/Bell Canyon 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 and park at the lot near the historic red windmill.
- Agency: Caspers Wilderness Park
- Distance: 3.3 miles
- Elevation gain: 400 feet
- Suggested time: 1.5 hours
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Best season: October – June
- USGS topo map: “Canada Gobernadora”
- Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
- Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Orange County
- More information: here; trip report here
- Rating: 7
This loop takes in some of the most interesting scenery in Caspers Wilderness Park. With close-up views of some geology, panoramic views, canyons and secluded oak woodlands, this trip offers a lot of variety, especially for such a short hike.
From the windmill, walk through the parking lot, through the equestrian area and pick up the Nature Trail. You cross Bell Canyon and soon come to a junction. Take a left on the Loskhorn Trail, which heads uphill. You pass by the sandstone geology and get wide-ranging views as you ascend.
The Loskhorn Trail ends at the West Ridge fire road. Turn right (north) and begin a pleasant (but unshaded) stretch, where you get more views, of the Santa Anas to the right and the coastal plain and Canada Gobernadora on the left. The trail makes a big dip and soon meets with the Star Rise Trail, another fire road. Head right and begin your descent, soon arriving at the Oak Trail. You head right and begin a pleasant walk through a grove of huge live oaks – one with branches so large that they descend to the ground, forming an arch to walk under.
The Oak Trail crosses the stream three times. Shortly after the third crossing, you reach the other end of the Nature Trail. Take a right and follow the Nature Trail back to the parking lot. You can also continue on the Oak Trail back to the junction with the Loskhorn Trail and follow the Nature Trail back across the canyon.