West Live Oak Trail/O’Neill Regional Park

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Descending on the Live Oak Trail
Deer on the Live Oak Trail

West Live Oak Trail/O’Neill Regional Park

    • Location: Trabuco Canyon in the Orange County foothills.  From the south, take I-5 to Oso Parkway.  Take a right and go 0.7 miles to Marguerite Parkway.  Turn left and go 5.6 miles to El Toro Road.  Turn right and go 1.5 miles to Valley Vista.  Turn right and take another quick right on Meadow Ridge.  Go 0.4 miles to the end of Meadow Ridge, turn left on Chisholm and park at the end of the street.  From the north, take either I-5 or I-405 south to Bake Parkway.  Turn left and go 5.4 miles to Portola Parkway.  Turn right and go 0.7 miles to Glenn Ranch.  Turn left and go 1.6 miles to El Toro Road.  Turn left and go 0.4 miles to Valley Vista.
    • Agency: O’Neill Regional Park
    • Distance: 2.8  miles
    • Elevation gain: 600 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG
    • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
    • Best season: October – June
    • USGS topo map:  “Santiago Peak”
    • Recommended gear: sun hat
    • More information: here; Everytrail report here
    • Rating: 6

This short but vigorous hike approaches O’Neill Regional Park’s famous ocean vista point from a residential area off of El Toro Road, via the western end of the Live Oak Trail. On this part of the trail, the name Live Oak is somewhat of a misnomer, as most of the trail is exposed. Nevertheless, there’s some nice scenery here, and this end of the Live Oak trail tends to get less foot traffic than the more common approach from the park’s main entrance.

From the end of Chisholm, follow a dirt path down to the Live Oak trail and head left. You pass by a picnic area and make a short but steep climb, and then a descent to a footbridge. Across the bridge, the climbing continues. You get a glimpse of the Saddleback summits over the ridge, as well as the grounds of the Ramakrishna Monastery.

At 0.9 miles, the trail takes a hard right and begins to ascend toward the vista point. Bear left at the next split, and a make a final push to the 1,492 foot summit. From here, clear-day views include the ocean, the San Joaquin Hills and more; even if it’s cloudy, it’s hard to miss the imposing Saddleback to the north.

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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.


  1. Just an FYI: this IS NOT a dog-friendly trail! Two big signs at the trail head indicate “No Dogs” and “No Pets.” Very disappointing after driving some way to get there…

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