In the spring, when wild mustard flowers are in bloom and Trabuco Creek is flowing, the Northwest Open Space in San Juan Capistrano is one of south Orange County’s most enjoyable hikes. Even in warmer months, it’s a nice little spot to keep in mind if you’re in the area and jonesing for some nature.
From the large staging area, take the bridle path heading south, passing along the edge of a meadow dotted with orange trees and oaks. You soon come to a Y-junction. The official trail is the one heading straight, continuing south and then bending southwest. At 0.4 mile, you cross under the railroad trestle and reach Trabuco Creek. If there have been rains, the water cascades down the rocks into a pool below. It is possible to cross Trabuco Creek, but if the water level is high, this can be tricky, especially if you are with young kids or dogs. Furthermore, there’s not much to see beyond this point as the trail skirts the back of the Saddleback Valley Christian School campus. (An older trail, following closer to the stream bed, can still be seen, but is now closed and not legally accessible.) Therefore, this is a good turnaround point.
After returning to the Y-junction, you can explore further by heading up the other fork. Though not an official trail, it receives regular use and is easy to follow. It passes through the meadow, reaching the railroad tracks in a quarter mile.
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.