Dripping Springs, Limestone Canyon Park

Dripping Springs Loop (Limestone Canyon Regional Park)

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  • Location: Silverado, in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains.  From the 55 Freeway, take the Chapman Ave. exit and head east for a total of 7.7 miles (Chapman becomes Santiago Canyon Road en route).    Shortly past Irvine Lake, look for the Augustine Staging Area, turn right and park as directed in the lot.  From I-5, take El Toro Road and head northeast for a total of 14.2 miles (El Toro becomes Santiago Canyon Road).  The Augustine Staging Area is on the left, 1.8 miles past Silverado Canyon Road.
  • Agency: Irvine Ranch Company; Orange County Parks & Recreation
  • Distance: 6.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 900 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 3.5 hours
  • Best season: All year (hot during the summer); accessible only during specific times (check Irvine Ranch Company link above for schedule)
  • Dogs: Not allowed
  • Cell phone reception: Good at the trail head, on the Hicks Haul Road and on Loma Ridge; none to weak in the canyon
  • Water: None
  • Restrooms: Chemical toilets at the trail head
  • Camping/backpacking: None (nearest camping is at O’Neill Regional Park)
  • Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat; hiking poles
  • More information: Limestone Canyon info here; Map My Hike report here
  • Rating: 6

Updated August 2018

Thanks to the efforts of volunteers and the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, the Dripping Springs Trail in Limestone Canyon Regional Park was converted from an abandoned service road to a single-track and became open to the public in 2016. This hike, which is a shorter version of the Shoestring/Sandtrap loop, is usually offered at least once a month by the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. It can also be done on the conservancy’s open access days at Limestone Canyon, although the short spur to the spring itself can only be visited as part of a scheduled hike.

From the staging area, head uphill on the paved Hicks Haul Road, climbing a little over 300 feet in 1.1 miles. After passing a junction with the West Loma Ridge Road, you continue another 0.2 mile to the East Loma Ridge Road. Turn left and begin a somewhat steeper climb, gaining about 400 feet in the next 1.2 miles. On the way, if visibility is good, you can see the San Gabriel Mountains to the north; to the west is Irvine Lake and to the south are the suburbs.

At the next junction, turn left and follow the road uphill 0.2 mile to the start of the Dripping Springs Trail. The trail drops steeply, losing 500 feet in 0.8 miles as it enters an attractive live oak woodland. Watch out for poison oak; wild blackberries also grow here and have a similar appearance but their leaves, also grouped in three, are tear-drop shaped and the stems of the plant have thorns.

At 3.4 miles from the start, you reach a short spur leading uphill to Dripping Springs. This year-round water source is fed from an an underground aquifer and is an important watering hole for local wildlife. After enjoying the secluded spot, you will be led back to the Dripping Springs Trail and continue your descent. You reach Limestone Canyon Road in about half a mile. From there, it is an easy 1.8 mile back to the starting point.

Dripping Springs Trail, Limestone Canyon Wilderness Park
Start of the Dripping Springs Trail
Dripping Springs Trail, Limestone Canyon Wilderness Park
Woodlands on the Dripping Springs Trail
Dripping Springs Trail, Limestone Canyon Wilderness Park
Oaks above Dripping Springs
Dripping Springs Trail, Limestone Canyon Wilderness Park
Lower end of the Dripping Springs Trail

Text and photography copyright 2012 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.

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