Bommer Canyon/Laguna Coast Wilderness Loop
- Location: 6400 Shady Canyon Drive, Irvine. From I-405, take the Culver Drive exit, go south (right if you’re coming from the north, left if from the south) for 2.6 miles and turn left on Shady Canyon Drive. Go 1.6 miles and turn into the lot. As mentioned below, this hike is available only by (free) online registration on days specified by the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. When you arrive at the park, you will be met by volunteers who will check your name off the list and direct you to the parking area, about a mile down the main road of the park.
- Agency: Irvine Ranch Conservancy/Orange County Parks/Crystal Cove State Park
- Distance: 7 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,400 feet
- Suggested time: 3.5 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG-13 (distance, steepness, elevation gain)
- Best season: October – May; availability of days and times determined by Irvine Ranch Conservancy
- USGS topo map: Tustin; Laguna Beach
- Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat
- More information: Description of upcoming hike on 11/21/13 here; Bommer Canyon trail map here; Laguna Coast Wilderness trail map here; Bommer Canyon description here
- Rating: 7
This 7-mile loop is one of several guided hikes provided by the Irvine Ranch Conservancy (also known as www.letsgooutside.org.) When it is offered, it’s usually listed on the site as a “Morning Nature Hike”, often scheduled between 9am and noon. The loop described here can also be done during a scheduled Wilderness Access Day at Bommer Canyon (usually one Saturday per month.) Check the website for scheduling information. Only a third of the route is on private land managed by Irvine Ranch, but that stretch allows you to make a scenic loop, using the former cattle ranch area of Bommer Canyon for your beginning and ending.
If you hike as part of a scheduled event, the trip will be led by two trained volunteers, so navigation will not be an issue. Even if you hike on your own, the route is fairly easy to follow. You can vary it by exploring more of Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, Crystal Cove State Park or Bommer Canyon.
From the parking lot, head past a shaded picnic area, adorned with several historical artifacts and an interpretive plaque paying tribute to the land’s ranching days. You follow the trail into the canyon where you’ll turn left at the junction. The West Fork Trail is the biggest ascent of the hike, as you climb 550 feet during the first mile, but you are rewarded with nice views of central Orange County, extending to the Santa Anas and even the San Gabriels on clear days. After crossing under the toll road, you arrive at Coastal Peak Park in Newport Coast. You continue on the dirt Bommer Ridge Road, enjoying nice ocean views to the right, passing by several trails leading into Crystal Cove’s back country.
At about 3 miles, you reach a four-way junction in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, part of the popular Laurel Canyon Loop. Make a hard left and begin a steep descent into Laurel Canyon, enjoying some shade from oaks and sycamores. Make another left at the next junction and head into the pleasant upper reaches of Laurel Canyon, in and out of a meadow, and cross under the 73 Toll Road a second time.
Another ascent brings you to a junction (4.7 miles) where you will make a hairpin left turn and re-enter Bommer Canyon though Hogsback Gate. You are now back on private land. The climb continues, taking in some great views of south Orange County. Keep an eye out for a large sandstone boulder with a cave carved through it.
At 5.3 miles, you reach a T-junction. Turn right and begin your descent back into the park on the winding Ridge Route. With panoramic views of the Orange County coastal plain, this is one of the most scenic parts of the hike. The trail drops gradually at first, then more steeply, finally arriving back at the parking area. After passing through the gate, turn left and return to your car.
Text and photography copyright 2013 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.