Difficulty PG Distance 5.1 to 10 miles General information: Hikes with free parking Orange County - Santa Ana Mountains & Foothills Rating: 4-6 Season: All year

Baker Canyon Loop (Irvine Ranch)


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        • Location: Black Star Canyon Road, Orange County.  From the 55 Freeway, take the Chapman Ave. exit. Head east for 10.7 miles (Chapman becomes East Santiago Canyon Road en route). Turn left onto Silverado Canyon Rd. and take a quick left onto Black Star Canyon Road. Follow it 0.7 miles to a small parking area on the right, just before the junction with Baker Canyon Road. From I-5 in Laguna Hills, take the El Toro Road exit and head northeast for a total of 13 miles (El Toro becomes East Santiago Canyon Road en route). Silverado Canyon Road is on the right, six miles past Cook’s Corner. Turn right and make a quick left onto Black Star Canyon Road. Follow it 0.7 miles to a small parking area on the right side of the road. You must be registered for all activities on Irvine Ranch lands. Registration is free and can be done online via the link below.
        • Agency: Irvine Ranch Conservancy (Black Star Canyon Wilderness Park)
        • Distance: 5.3 miles
        • Elevation gain: 750 feet
        • Difficulty Rating: PG
        • Suggested time: 2.5 hours
        • Best season: Year round during specific times (check Irvine Ranch Company link above for schedule); hot during the summer
        • Recommended gear: hiking poles sun hat insect repellent
        • Dogs: Not allowed
        • Cell phone reception: None in the lower areas, good to fair on the ridges
        • Water: None
        • Restrooms: Chemical toilets 0.1 mile from the trail head
        • Camping/backpacking: None
        • More information: Map My Hike report here; Article about the opening of the Baker/Black Star trails here; article about the history of the area here
        • Rating: 6

This hike explores some of the trails in the Baker Canyon area of Black Star Canyon. The hike and its variations can be done on Black Star Canyon wilderness access days (often the first Saturday of the month). Additionally, Irvine Ranch regularly offers nature walks on the easy, 1-mile Baker Canyon trail and more challenging hikes involving the Baker Canyon and Sil Mod loops. The route described here is a moderate hike that explores both the canyons and the ridges.

From the turnout on Black Star Canyon Road, follow an overgrown single-track trail to a more elaborate staging area (0.1 miles), where there are picnic tables, restrooms and a map of Baker Canyon. A few non-native Aleppo pines, notable for their upward-facing cones, provide some shade. If you are on a guided hike, this is where you will receive your orientation. The trail continues east into Baker Canyon, partially shaded by oaks and sycamores. At 0.3 miles, keep an eye out for an abandoned tractor, left over from the area’s agricultural days. Here, the Silmod fire road trail  branches off, leading across the service road while the Baker Canyon single-track bends to the right.

At half a mile, you’ll notice the unlikely sight of a metal fence and soccer goalpost at the edge of a field, remnants of a retreat for the blind that once operated here. As you progress up canyon, views of the taller Santa Ana peaks open up. One mile from the beginning, you reach a junction with the Helo fire road (so named because it climbs the ridge to an abandoned helicopter pad). Note a few small sandstone caves in the rocks across the service road. This is the turnaround point for the interpretive nature walks.

To reach the ridge, turn right and begin a steady ascent up the Hall Canyon Trail, gaining 300 feet in 0.4 mile. As you climb, your efforts are rewarded with impressive views of the Red Rocks formations across Black Star Canyon Road. At the top of the ridge, you reach a junction. This is the start of the loop. Make a hard right and descend along the Helo Trail, which follows a ridge for 0.9 mile, heading west with more views of Red Rocks. At 2.3 miles from the start, you reach another junction. If you are short on time and energy or temperatures are hot, you can finish the hike by staying straight and continuing another 0.4 mile to the Baker Canyon trail and the trail head. However, to further explore the area, head left on the Silverado Creek Trail.

The single-track Silverado Creek Trail stays fairly low, passing through fields of buckwheat and by a few easy to miss sandstone caves. After one mile, you reach a junction where you will turn left on the Hall Canyon Trail. You’ll enjoy some brief shade from some live oaks before beginning a steep (though not as intense as the first ascent) climb, picking up 250 feet in half a mile to return to the top of the ridge. From here, retrace your steps back down into Baker Canyon and to your starting point.

Baker Canyon, Orange County, CA
Sycamore in Baker Canyon
Baker Canyon, Orange County, CA
Descending on the Helo Pad fire road
Baker Canyon, Orange County, CA
Silverado Creek Trail
Baker Canyon, Orange County, CA
Oaks in lower Hall Canyon

Text and photography copyright 2017 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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