- Location: Bommer Canyon Community Park, 11 Bommer Canyon, Irvine. From the north, take the 405 Freeway to Culver Drive (exit 5). Turn right and head south on Culver Drive for 2.6 miles. Turn left onto Shady Canyon Drive. The park entrance is in 1.2 miles. Turn right into the park and follow the directions to the staging area (the hike begins inside the park, not at the regular trail head). Alternately, from the south, take the 405 Freeway to University Drive/Jeffrey Road (exit 4). Turn left on University Drive and head west for 0.8 mile. Turn left onto Ridgeline Drive and go 1.4 miles to Turtle Rock Drive. Go 0.6 miles and turn left onto Sunnyhill. Go 0.2 mile and turn right onto Shady Canyon Drive. Go 0.4 mile and turn left into the park. Follow the directions to the staging area. Note: this hike is accessible only when offered by Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. Click the link below for more information.
- Agency: Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks
- Distance: 10.3 miles (exact distance may vary)
- Elevation gain: 1,800 feet (exact elevation gain may vary)
- Suggested time: 4-5 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG-13 (Distance, elevation gain, steepness, terrain)
- Best season: Year round as offered by Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks (hot during the summer)
- Recommended gear: Sun hat, hiking poles, sun block
- Dogs: Not allowed
- Cell phone reception: Good at the trail head and on the ridges; weak to none in the canyons
- Water: Available at the Bommer Canyon Trailhead
- Restrooms: Available at the Bommer Canyon Trailhead
- Camping/backpacking: None (nearest camping is available at Crystal Cove State Park)
- More information: Description of a past event here; area trail map here; Map My Hike report here
- Rating: 6
Updated September 2018
This long hike through Bommer Canyon and Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is usually offered once a month (typically on a Wednesday morning) by Irvine Ranch National Landmarks; it can also be done, with an early start, on Bommer Canyon’s open access days (usually the third Saturday of the month from 8am to 2pm). The distance and elevation gain may vary depending on the exact route. The double-loop described below is a typical route led by volunteers. Much of the route is shared with the Quail Hill Distance Hike and the Bommer/Laguna Coast loop, both of which can also be done as a specially scheduled event or on open access days, and Butterfly Valley, which can also be done on open access days. However, even if you have done one or more of those hikes, this route as described in this post still offers 2.4 unique miles, including the challenging Rabbit Run trail, so it is a good option when available. It offers some panoramic views of the area with several challenging ascents over its 10-plus mile course.
From the staging area, the hike heads uphill on the East Fork Trail, gradually at first and then steeply, at one point picking up over 300 feet of elevation gain in 0.4 mile. At 1.4 miles from the start, you reach a junction with the Ridge Route, your return, and the Hogsback Trail, a fire road. Bear right on the Hogsback Trail and head downhill for 0.9 mile. The annoyance of traffic noise from the 73 Toll Road is mitigated by impressive views, including Old Saddleback towering above the inland Orange County suburbs. This stretch gives you a breather, but you will have to climb back up it – likely in midday heat.
You reach a junction where the Serrano Ridge Trail (your return route for the second loop) continues north and the Camarillo Canyon Trail heads off to the east. Your route is the Shady Oaks Trail, which drops a mile into the valley. (The Quail Hill Distance Hike typically ascends this route; the hike to Butterfly Valley both ascends and descends it.) At the bottom of the hill, continue north on the Shady Oaks Trail, now a single track that climbs along a ridge before descending to a junction with the Fox Run Trail. Bear left and follow the Shady Oaks Trail to its northern end at the Rabbit Run Trail (4.5 miles from the start).
Now comes the most challenging section of the hike. The Rabbit Run Trail climbs steeply, almost immediately picking up 300 vertical feet as it ascends rocky terrain. No special equipment is required, although hiking poles do help. After leveling out briefly, the trail makes another push to reach Serrano Ridge (5.5 miles from the start).
Most of the work is done at this point, although you’ll still have a few bumps to climb as you make your way south along the Serrano Ridge Trail, now in the boundaries of Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. You pass the Little Sycamore Canyon turnoff and then return to the junction with the Shady Oaks Trail, completing the second loop at about 7.5 miles from the start.
After climbing back up the Hogsback Trail, you return to the junction where you now head back on the Ridge Route. As the name promises, the Ridge Route follows a ridge that separates Bommer and Shady Canyons before dropping about 500 feet in a mile to return to the parking area.
If you’re worried about keeping track of the various trail names and intersections involved in this route, keep in mind that if you hike on a scheduled event day the trip will be led by volunteers and if you hike on your own during an Open Access day, you will be offered a trail map and the junctions are all well signed and easy to follow.
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.