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

Irvine Mesa


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Irvine Mesa, Orange County, CA
View of the Santa Ana Mountains from Irvine Mesa
Oaks at Irvine Mesa, Orange County, CA
Oaks on the Silverado Truck Trail

Irvine Mesa

        • Location: Silverado Elementary School, 7531 East Santiago Canyon Road, Silverado. From the 55 Freeway, take the Chapman Ave. exit. Head east for 11.2 miles (Chapman becomes East Santiago Canyon Road en route). Half a mile past the intersection with Silverado Canyon Road, look for the school’s blue and white sign on the left and pull into the lot. From I-5 in Laguna Hills, take the El Toro Road exit and head northeast for a total of 12.7 miles (El Toro becomes East Santiago Canyon Road en route). The school is on the right, marked by a blue and white sign. If you reach Silverado Canyon Road, you’ve come half a mile too far. You must be registered for all activities on Irvine Ranch lands. Registration is free and can be done online via the link below. Note that access policies will change once the new library is completed on the school site.
        • Agency: Irvine Ranch Conservancy (Black Star Canyon Wilderness Park)
        • Distance: 2.5 miles
        • Elevation gain: 300 feet
        • Difficulty Rating: G
        • Suggested time: As scheduled by Irvine Ranch Conservancy, usually 1 hour for a “cardio hike” or up to 2.5 hours for family and interpretive hikes
        • Best season: Oct – June (as offered by Irvine Ranch Conservancy; see link above for scheduled events)
        • USGS topo map: Black Star Canyon
        • Recommended gear: sun hat; hiking poles
        • More information: Article about the Mesa here
        • Rating: 4

Irvine Mesa, known simply as “The Mesa”, is a ridge between Santiago Canyon and Silverado Canyon. Once the new Library of the Canyons is completed on the site of Silverado Elementary (closed in 2009), the trails will be open to the public on a daily basis. The property is currently a part of Black Star Canyon Wilderness Park, under the supervision of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, one of the organization’s most recently acquired parcels. The Conservancy offers several monthly hikes here, including cardio (focusing on exercise, usually taking an hour to complete the loop) and as slower-paced interpretive and family oriented hikes (2-2.5 hours for the same distance.) The Mesa loop never gets too far away from the nearby roads or power lines but still makes a nice introduction to the area, with views of the Santa Ana Mountains and the famous Red Rocks of Black Star Canyon. Spring wildflowers include natives such black and white sage and non-native black mustard and gazanias. A few impressive oaks line the mesa as well, survivors of the 2007 Santiago Canyon Fire. Birds that might be sighted here include orioles, towhees and hawks.

Irvine Mesa, Orange County, CA
0:00 – Start of the hike (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

From the former school campus, begin heading north, paralleling Santiago Canyon Road. You pass the driveway for the preschool, cross through a pair of gates and then begin an ascent to the mesa. The trail doubles back to the south and climbs steadily before leveling out at 0.6 mile. At 1.1 miles, you reach a 4-way junction. Turn right (the left fork leads to a power line and the straight route leads to private property). Here you get some good views of the lower Santa Ana summits and the village of Silverado to the east and the ridges above Limestone Canyon to the west.

Irvine Mesa, Orange County, CA
0:12 (cardio or fitness) / 0:30 (family or interpretive) – View of Santiago Canyon from the top of the Mesa (times are approximate)

At 1.3 miles, pass through a gate and begin your descent along the Silverado Truck Trail, an overgrown single-track. After dropping off the mesa, the trail briefly parallels the road before returning to the school.

Irvine Mesa, Orange County, CA
0:30 (cardio or fitness) / 1:15 (family or interpretive) – Descending from the Mesa via the Silverado Truck Trail

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.

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