Difficulty PG Distance 5.1 to 10 miles General information: Hikes with free parking Orange County - Santa Ana Mountains & Foothills Rating: 7-8 Season: All year

The Sinks (Limestone Canyon Regional Park)


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The Sinks, Limestone Canyon Regional Park
Oaks and geology on the Limestone Canyon Trail

The Sinks (Limestone Canyon Regional Park)

          • 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: 7.6 miles
          • Elevation gain: 500 feet
          • Difficulty Rating: PG
          • Suggested time: 4 hours
          • Best season:  All year (hot during the summer); accessible only during specific times (check Irvine Ranch Company link above for schedule)
          • USGS topo maps: “Santiago Peak”
          • Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat
          • More information: Limestone Canyon info here; Everytrail report here; trip report here
          • Rating: 7

Known as the “Grand Canyon of Orange County,” the Sinks is probably the most popular hiking destination in Limestone Canyon Regional Park. The shortest, and probably the most scenic, route to the Sinks from the Augustine Staging Area is a straight out-and-back hike along the Limestone Canyon Trail. There’s a decent amount of shade on the route, and the elevation gain is just over a hundred feet per mile – barely noticeable for the most part. Still, the trip is long, so plan accordingly, especially if the weather is hot.

From the parking area, head southeast on the Limestone Canyon Trail, running parallel to Santiago Canyon Road for the first mile. You head through a field, passing by several oaks and sycamores, with views of the rolling hills to the right.

You start heading away from the road and its noise, passing through a few small oak groves. Several other trails branch off to the right and left; they can be used to create a loop hike instead of the out-and-back (keep in mind, however, that you must be back at the parking lot at 1pm on access days).

The trail continues to climb gradually, and at 3.8 miles, you arrive at a viewing platform, accessible by a short spur. Here, you can enjoy a great view of the Sinks. The ground drops off sharply and you can see the bottom of the canyon, 150 feet below, as well as the huge sandstone walls across the gap.

Beyond the Sinks, the trail continues to Box Springs and other sites in the park. If you have time and energy, you can continue, but for many hikers, the round trip to and from the Sinks will probably feel like a full day’s work.

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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