Limestone Canyon Wilderness Park – The Sinks

Ξ February 1st, 2012 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Orange, Limestone Canyon & Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park, Silverado |


Vital Stats
Trailhead Augustine Staging Area
Silverado, CA 92676
Length 7.60 Miles
Elevation 400 Feet
Difficulty Easy

Once a month, OC Parks and the Irvine Ranch Land Conservancy open Limestone Canyon Wilderness Park up for a Wilderness Access Day. Most of the time, Limestone Canyon is only open for limited guided tours, which anyone can sign up for through the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks Activities page. However, during the Wilderness Access Day, you’ll have free reign around any of the trails in Limestone Canyon.

The main draw of Limestone Canyon is a geological feature called The Sinks. The Sinks is a large canyon carved into the soft limestone hills that has been called The Grand Canyon of Orange County. Unfortunately, people are not allowed to climb down into The Sinks, but are only allowed to look at it from above due to their delicate nature.

The hike out to the sinks starts from the Augustine Staging Area, located just off Santiago Canyon Road north of Silverado Canyon Road on the west side of the road. During Wilderness Access Days, there will be public parking and check-in located at the Augustine Staging Area. There are normally a few hundred people who visit Limestone Canyon on these days, so expect a much larger production that you would normally find at a regional park.

The trailhead is at the southeast corner of the parking area from which a fire road heads south. The entire length of the trail is actually this fire road that circumnavigates the park. On the one hand, this is nice because it means the trail is wide and easy to navigate but it also feels less intimate with the surrounding nature. Also, the first mile or so of this fire road is covered with gravel which is somewhat uncomfortable to walk on, especially on the way back to the trailhead.
The trail winds its way through hills that were surprisingly green even late into the Southern California winter. It starts out generally paralleling  Santiago Canyon Road but quickly turns further south and soon a row of hills separates the road from the trail. As it does so, the trail crosses large meadows situated in the shallow valleys between the hills.

In one such valley there is a farm where native plants are grow for transplant throughout the park. One of the main plants that is grown are the slow growing oaks that are found throughout the Santa Ana Mountains. Because these trees grow so slowly and the farm is fairly new, the farm doesn’t look much like a traditional tree farm. At this point, you’ll see a number of rows of PVC pipe sticking out of the ground that protect the young trees and help with the irrigation.

Upon reaching The Sinks, you’ll find an observation platform off to the left side of the trail. This observation platform provides the best view possible of The Sinks and can be fairly crowded. You can normally find a park ranger stationed here at the the platform if you need any help or just have questions about the park. The rangers are not naturalists and often can’t answer any detailed questions about the formation of The Sinks or the plants, animals or other geological features of the park. However, they are normally willing to take take pictures of people standing in front of The Sinks.

The Sinks themselves are quite a dramatic striated cliff face. You can clearly see the rivulets carved by the wind and rain running down the face of the cliff. While it’s understandable why people would call this the Grand Canyon of Orange County, if you’ve been to the Grand Canyon you’ll be underwhelmed by The Sinks if you expect to see the Grand Canyon. However, if you visit The Sinks without that expectation and see it for what it is, you’ll see that The Sinks are beautiful and magnificent in their own, unique way.

The Limestone Canyon Wilderness Park Wilderness Access Days are a great opportunity to visit one of the most pristine natural areas in Orange County. The hike itself is very easy and feels almost flat throughout its entire length. The only thing that makes the hike slightly difficult its length at nearly eight miles. If you want to do this hike, I highly recommend starting as soon as the park opens at 9AM so you can be off the trail no later than 3PM when the park closes. This is especially true if you’re a novice or slow hiker.

This coming weekend, February 4th, 2012 is the next Wilderness Access Day at Limestone Canyon Wilderness Park. If you would like to visit this magnificent park you can sign up through the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks.

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Original post by OCTrails

 

Whiting Ranch – Borrego Trail to Red Rock Canyon

Ξ October 13th, 2011 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Limestone Canyon & Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park, Lake Forest |


Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park

Vital Stats
Trailhead 26711 Portola Parkway
Lake Forest, CA
Length 4.6 Miles
Elevation 446 Feet
Difficulty Easy

Whiting Ranch is a part of the OC Parks Limestone Canyon & Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park. Whiting Ranch is open to the public like most other Orange County parks, while Limestone Canyon is only open two days a month for open access days and for guided tours. Whiting Ranch is very popular with mountain bikers but is open to hikers and even has a few trails that are only open to those on foot.

Borrego Trail out to Red Rock Canyon starts from the parking lot located on Portola Parkway right at Market Place in Lake Forest. Parking is $3, just as it is at most other OC Parks. The trailhead is marked by a sculpture garden with a large obelisk at its center that’s dedicated to the local wildlife. There is also an information kiosk that has all of the standard warnings and information for the park, and some maps of the park’s trails that you can take with you.

Once on the trail, the first thing you’ll notice is a large sign warning of mountain lions. This isn’t the only mountain lion warning on the trail, and for good reason. Over the years there have been a number of mountain lion attacks in Whiting Ranch, including one fatal one in 2004. However, Whiting Ranch is a very popular park and the odds of being attacked are very low.

The trail heads north through a valley that’s flanked by houses. Despite that, you get the feeling of being in the wilderness quite quickly. Almost immediately you cross a sandy, dry stream bed that’s a bit difficult to walk in and very difficult to ride a bike in. This stream hadn’t been quite so sandy prior to the winter storms of 2007, but that year the rains washed a lot of sand down out of the canyons and deposited it on the lower reaches of the stream.
The trail continues through some old oak groves and over another stream crossing. Most of the way up Borrego Trail is fairly well wooded and shady. While my wife and I were hiking along the trail, we saw a family of mule deer on the hillside not far from the trail. Wildlife abounded all along Borrego trail, with countless lizards, rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks skittering along through the plants as we made our way along.

As the trail continues into the park, you’ll come to a trail intersection with Mustard Road. This is a larger trail, big enough to drive a truck on, where you’ll see another informational sign, including a little map in case you didn’t pick one up for yourself at the trailhead. At this intersection, you’ll head right along Mustard Road for just a hundred feet or so up a small incline. As you round a bend in the road, you’ll see a picnic bench with two additional trails leading off. The smallest of these trails is the Red Rock Trail, which will take you out to Red Rock Canyon.

Red Rock Trail is only open to hikers. The trail mostly follows a dry creek and has been marked with large rocks. Red Rock Trail is much more exposed than Borrego Trail and has the potential to be very hot. The further out you go on this trail, the more scenic the scenery becomes. Unfortunately, the trail also gets more rocky and you’ll have to spend a good deal of time looking down where your feet are going.

Once you make it out to Red Rock Canyon the trail ends. There are signs posted to stay out of the canyon and away from the sandstone walls. This is more to protect the fragile stone and not really to protect hikers. It might seem strange to think of stone as fragile, but if you go out there not long after a rain you’ll be able to see where the falling water has made little craters in the stone face. It looks just like it would in a sandbox after a rain. However, Red Rock Canyon is one of the nicest rock formations in Orange County, rivaled only by the Sinks in Limestone Canyon.

The way out is right back the way you came, at least until you reach Mustard Road. There is a second trail, Cattle Pond Loop, that makes a small loop right where Mustard Road and Red Rock Trail meet. If you’re interested in an extra .2 miles, Cattle Pond Loop is a nice little jaunt up and then down in a big horseshoe. The rest of this hike is so flat, it’s nice to get just a little bit of elevation thrown in before heading back to the car.

Red Rock Canyon has earned itself a spot among the more popular hiking destinations in Orange County due to the unique sandstone canyons. Getting there is easy on this flat trail as long as you don’t mind the four and a half mile walk. As a hiker, you’ll have to watch out for the numerous mountain bikers that frequent Whiting Ranch, but on this flat section of trail you shouldn’t have any problems. Red Rock Canyon is a great family excursion for a half day hike.

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Original post by OCTrails

 

Rain forces trail closures in Orange County

Ξ October 6th, 2011 | → 0 Comments | ∇ news, Santiago Oaks Regional Park, Limestone Canyon & Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park, Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, O'Neill Regional Park, Peters Canyon Regional Park, Irvine Regional Park, Trail Closures, Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park |

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As anybody who has spent any time outdoors knows, water is the bane of a well maintained trail. Due to yesterday’s rain, there are a number of park and trail closures around Orange County. The parks numberswiki.com

and trails that are currently closed are:

  • Aliso And Wood Canyons Wilderness Park: Closed
  • Irvine Regional Park: Trails Closed
  • Laguna Coast Wilderness Park: Closed
  • O’Neill Regional Park: Trails Closed
  • Peters Canyon Regional Park: Closed
  • Santiago Oaks Regional Park: Closed
  • Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park: Closed

Original post by OCTrails

 

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