Difficulty G Distance 0 to 2 miles General information: Hikes with free parking Orange County - Santa Ana Mountains & Foothills Rating: 4-6 Season: All year

Baker Canyon Meadows (Irvine Ranch)

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Baker Canyon, Orange County, CA
The meadows, Baker Canyon
Baker Canyon, Orange County, CA
Oaks in Baker Canyon

Baker Canyon Meadows (Irvine Ranch)

        • 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: 2 miles
        • Elevation gain: 300 feet
        • Difficulty Rating: G
        • Suggested time: 1 hour when hiking individually; 2-2.5 hours when hiking with a guided group
        • Best season: Year round during specific times (check Irvine Ranch Company link above for schedule)
        • USGS topo map: Black Star Canyon
        • Recommended gear: insect repellent
        • More information: Article about the opening of the Baker/Black Star trails here; article about the history of the area here
        • Rating: 6
Red Rocks, Black Star Canyon, Orange County, CA
0:00 – View of Red Rocks from the trail head on Black Star Canyon Road (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This enjoyable hike is offered periodically by Irvine Ranch as a leisurely paced, interpretation-oriented hike and can also be done on the regularly scheduled Black Star Canyon wilderness access days, depending on how many rangers are available (click the link above for information on upcoming events.) Baker Canyon is pleasantly remote with scant signs of civilization, save for a few overhead power lines and an occasional car or dirt bike on the nearby service road. The easy mile-long stroll through the meadow described here surveys the human and natural history of the area.

Baker Canyon Staging Area, Orange County, CA
0:03/0:05 – Staging area (times are approximate for individual hikers/group hikes)

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 (usually open on wilderness access days) branches off, leading across the service road while the Baker Canyon single-track bends to the right.

Abandoned tractor, Baker Canyon, Orange County, CA
0:09/0:20 – Tractor at the junction with the Silmod Trail

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.

Athletic field remnants, Baker Canyon, Orange County, CA
0:15/0:30 – Athletic field remnants

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. If you are here during a wilderness access day, you can use this route to make a loop back to the trail head, but for most of Irvine Ranch’s interpretive activities, this is the turnaround point.

Text and photography copyright 2016 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.

Sandstone geology, Baker Canyon, Orange County, CA
0:30/1:00 – Sandstone caves as seen from across the road at the turnaround point

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