- Location: The Tijeras Creek Trail has several access points. This write-up starts from Canada Vista Park, 24328 Antonio Parkway, Rancho Santa Margarita. From the 5 Freeway, take the Oso Parkway exit (88). Head east on Oso Parkway (turn left if you are coming from the north; right if from the south) for 2.7 miles to Antonio Parkway. Turn left and go 2 miles to the easy to miss entrance to Canada Vista Park, right before the bridge (if you reach Tijeras Creek, you’ve come too far). Turn right into the park. From the 241 toll road, take the Antonio Parkway exit. Bear right onto Antonio Parkway and go 1.8 miles to the park entrance (on the left, just past Tijeras Creek).
- Agency: Orange County Parks & Recreation
- Distance: 5.4 miles
- Elevation gain: 450 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 2.5 hours
- Best season: October – June
- Dogs: Not allowed
- Cell phone reception: Good
- Water: Fountains/sinks at Canada Vista Park
- Restrooms: Full restrooms at Canada Vista Park
- Camping/backpacking: None (nearest is at O’Neill Regional Park)
- Recommended gear: sun hat
- More information: Map My Hike report here
- Rating: 5
In addition to its popular and acclaimed county parks, Orange County also features several regional trails. Like the nearby Arroyo Trabuco and Bell View Trails, the Tijeras Creek Trail offers a taste of wilderness in the upscale housing developments of the Santa Ana foothills. The hike described below explores the middle section of the Tijeras Creek Trail, which runs from the north entrance of Coto de Caza to the Arroyo Trabuco Trail at a point between Oso Parkway and the Portola monument. Though this hike never really escapes the traffic noise from nearby Antonio Parkway and the 241 toll road, it still offers a good workout with nice scenic variety, including impressive views of Old Saddleback, some peaceful woodlands and a seasonal stream. This hike is suitable for a moderate morning or afternoon workout but it can easily be extended or shortened as you see fit.
The access point in Canada Vista Park is on the left side of the ball field, just past the restrooms. Walk through the metal fence and head north on the Tijeras Creek Trail. The trail weaves through a thin stretch of open land between Antonio Parkway and the toll road, following seasonal Tijeras Creek, a tributary of Arroyo Trabuco Canyon. The noise from the roads, while still noticeable, soon becomes more distant as you enter pockets of oaks and sycamores. Keep an eye out for mountain bikers.
At 1.5 miles, you cross under the toll road and climb to a junction with a use trail. Head left and downhill, passing another use trail and duck through some more oaks before emerging at a junction (1.7 miles from the start.) This is the loop portion of the hike. Turn right (by going counter clockwise you can avoid the steepest ascent) and leave the Tijeras Creek Trail and head uphill on a fire road. A short but steep (150 feet in about 0.2 mile) climb brings you to a junction near the top of a ridge. Turn left and follow the Chiquito Ridge Trail for a pleasant mile as it meanders along a western facing hillside, taking in some panoramic views of Foothill Ranch, Rancho Santa Margarita and Mission Viejo.
The route climbs to a high point where it rejoins the Tijeras Creek Trail. You can extend the hike by heading north (right) but to complete the loop, turn left and head downhill on a steep, rocky slope. At the bottom, stay left (the right fork heads toward an alternate trailhead on Antonio Parkway) and make a short climb to return to the junction, completing the loop (3.7 miles.) Retrace your steps 1.7 miles back to Canada Vista Park where, if time permits, you can explore the southern half of the Tijeras Creek Trail.
Text and photography copyright 2018 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.
That trail used to literally run right behind one of my old homes. Hiked it many times. Despite all the housing that’s gone up there the last few decades, O’Neil remains one of my favorite parks because my family used to camp there just about every nice weather weekend of my childhood.
This trail literally goes right behind one of my old homes. I’ve hiked there many times. Despite all of the development that’s taken place in that area over the last few decades, O’Neil remains one of my favorite OC outdoors places because my family spent just about every nice-weather-weekend of my childhood camping there — we could easily head out after Dad got off work on Fridays.