Santiago Oaks Regional Park – Peralta Hills, Bumble Bee, and Mountain Goat Trails

Ξ February 10th, 2012 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Orange, Santiago Oaks Regional Park |

Vital Stats
Trailhead 2145 N. Windes Drive
Orange, CA 92869
Length 3.58 Miles
Elevation 459 Feet
Difficulty Hard

The hike up Peralta Hills Trail is surprisingly difficult. Four-hundred fifty-nine feet of elevation gain over three and a half miles doesn’t seem like too much, but almost all of that climbing happens in less than a mile as Peralta Hills Trail heads towards Anaheim Hills Elementary School. The rest of the hike is comfortable and rolling, with one tricky descent down Mountain Goat Trail.

This full hike can only be done during the dry season, when there isn’t water flowing from the dam. The hike crosses Santiago Creek in two places that are impassible when water is flowing through the creek. However, even during the rainy season it’s still possible to do most of this hike, you’ll simply have to stay on the east side of the creek and head back up to the main creek crossing near the parking lot.

The trail starts out from the parking lot, crosses Santiago Creek and heads to the left along Santiago Creek Trail. The trail only goes for a short time until it curves to the right and meets up with Wilderness Trail. Take a right at Wilderness Trail and head back generally in the direction of the dam at the far end of the park.

Wilderness Trail is a nice, wide trail that’s generally flat and shaded. Enjoy this easy part of the hike, because it’s about to get a lot more difficult. Once you’ve gone about a third of a mile along Wilderness Trail you’ll come to a turnoff for Peralta Hills Trail to the left. From here, be prepared to start heading up.

Peralta Hills Trail runs from its junction with Wilderness Trail all the way up to Robbers Roost above Anaheim Hills elementary. In just about a mile, Peralta Hills Trail gains over 700 feet of elevation at an average grade over 10%. Just before my hike up the trail, it had been regraded and the trail surface was either slick rock or soft sand. This made hiking up the hill all the more difficult, because I slid backwards half a foot for each step forward I took. Of course, once some of the lighter dirt gets blown away and the trail gets re-compacted it will be much easier to hike up.
Thankfully, there is a nice reward for hiking up Peralta Hills Trails. The views from the top of the hill are gorgeous. You are able to see across all of Orange, Santa Ana, Newport Beach and all the way out to Catalina on a clear day. Once at the top of the hill, there is a nice area to sit on the ground and enjoy the view.

Once you’ve taken in the view, the trail continues towards Anaheim Hills Elementary School along a mostly flat route. As with many hillsides in Orange County, you’ll travel through mostly low open scrubland, so there is little shade along this part of the trail. As you approach Oak Trail, you’ll come to an old rusted out gate. I believe at one point this was the boundary of the park, but today the park extend to the junction of Peralta Hills Trail and Oak Trail.

At this gate is where I saw a coyote sniffing at some rabbit holes when I hiked through here. It was the closest I’ve ever been to a wild coyote. He was about 30 feet in front of me and at first didn’t notice my approach. I stopped to watch him for a bit, since he was standing on the shoulder of the trail and I wasn’t going to try to pass that close to him. I tried to get my camera out to take a picture, but by the time I had the camera up and zoomed in, he was darting across the trail and down the hillside.

Before you hit Oak Trail, you’re faced with one more short section of steep climbing. This climb is up mostly exposed rock and shoes will find easy purchase here. The only hard part is that it is quite steep.

Once the trail reaches Oak Trail you make another right and start to head away from Anaheim Hills Elementary School. Oak Trail follows the curve of the hillside and is relatively flat. Here you’ll find a large shade structure with picnic benches which make for a nice place to stop and enjoy the view.

Shortly past the picnic benches there is a locked vehicular access gate with a small foot path off to the left hand side. Continue past the gate until you reach a large intersection of trails. Stay to the left and you’ll find yourself on Bumble Bee Trail.

Bumble Bee Trail starts the decent back towards the main part of the Santiago Oaks with some switchbacks down the side of the hill. In the late afternoon, the hillside provides plenty of shade and it can start to feel a bit cool compared to the exposed trail up to this point. However, after the work of going up Peralta Hills Trail, Bumble Bee Trail can feel quite refreshing.

Bumble Bee Trail winds down the hillside into a little valley. At the bottom you’ll come to another trail branching off the your left, this is where both Yucca Ridge and Cactus Canyon Trails start, but you’ll pass these by and continue on Bumble Bee Trail. From here you’ll start a gentle climb up the hill on the other side of the valley you just descended into. Eventually, Bumble Bee Trail dead ends into Mountain Goat Trail, which you’ll take to the right.

There are two different paths you can take when you reach Mountain Goat Trail. The steeper and more rocky path has a sign that says it’s not for horses, while the other path has switchbacks and is a more gradual descent down the hillside. Of course, since I wasn’t riding horseback and I was going down, I chose the steeper path. About half way down I had the thought that I had picked the wrong way while carrying a baby, it’s that steep and difficult to maneuver down. However, I made it safely to the base of the hill. This was just as challenging as the hike up Peralta Hills Trail and way more fun.

Once at the bottom of the hill, you’ll find yourself at Santiago Creek Trail, which runs the length of the park back to the parking lot. If you wish to head back, you can go right and find yourself at your car in about five minutes. However, since there was no water flowing through the creek, I decided to go left, across the creek bed and explore the other bank, which I had never been to before.

Once across the creek, you’ll find yourself in a dirt parking lot in front of an older building. I have no idea what this parking lot or building are used for, I don’t even know if they are part of the park, private property or used by some other agency. Nor was it readily apparent how you would drive to this lot, but there it was.

On the far side of the dirt lot there is a trailhead to Pony Trail. Pony Trail was surprisingly nice, but relatively short. It cuts back across Santiago Creek so most of it is fairly rocky. It is covered in shade and quite lovely. Pony Trail dumps you back onto Santiago Creek Trail. Despite walking along Santiago Creek numerous times, I had never noticed the turnoff to Pony Trail, it’s quite well hidden.

Once back to Santiago Creek Trail, make a left and start heading back to the car. You can make a detour down Historic Dam Trail and cross the creek at this point if there isn’t too much water flowing. Historic Dam Trail is the most tranquil part of Santiago Oaks Regional Park and a wonderful place to end a hike.

If you’re looking to work on your climbing legs, this is a great short hike through Santiago Oaks Regional Park. The terrain and vegetation is quite varied and there is always something to look at. These steeper grades are also some of the only ways to get away from the busier parts of the park, which is a nice treat in itself. This hike is highly recommended for anybody looking for a challenge.

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Original post by OCTrails


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


Cleveland National Forest – Holy Jim Falls

Ξ January 27th, 2012 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Orange, Cleveland National Forest, Lake Forest, Trabuco |

Vital Stats
Trailhead Trabuco Creek Rd & Holy Jim Canyon Rd
Trabuco, CA 92883
Length 3.42 Miles
Elevation 705 Feet
Difficulty Modrerate

This past Tuesday, after the rains on Saturday and Monday, I headed out to Holy Jim Falls in the Cleveland National Forest. I’ve been wanting to do this hike for a while now, but I’ve been waiting until after some rain to ensure the falls are at their fullest. This hike did not disappoint, it is by far one of the nicest hikes in Orange County.

Driving to the trailhead takes a little bit of work, but it’s a beautiful drive in itself. Live Oak Canyon Road, which is the turnoff from Santiago Canyon Road where Cook’s Corner is located, is a densely shaded road that winds it way through a forest of live oaks.

From Live Oak Canyon Road you turn off onto a dirt road, Trabuco Creek Road. The first couple of miles of Trabuco Creek Road is well maintained until you hit the gate to Cleveland National Forest. The road through Cleveland National Forest is some of the most challenging off road driving I’ve ever done, I would highly suggest a car with sufficient ground clearance, such as a pickup truck or SUV. I made it out there in my Subaru WRX but I did hurt my front bumper coming over a large mogul. Plan to take a half hour or more to drive the 4.7 miles from Live Oak Canyon Road to the trailhead.

There is a small parking lot on the left hand side of the road as you approach the trailhead. To park here, you’ll need an Adventure Pass, which I picked up at the Silverado Canyon Market next to the Silverado Branch Library, or a National Park Service Golden Access Passport. The road continues for another half mile or so towards the actual trailhead, however this portion of the road is for access to a number of cabins that are located on leased forest land and there is no public parking beyond this point.

From the parking lot, continue to follow the road, being careful not to wander up someone’s driveway. After about a half mile, there will be a slight “Y” in the road, to the right is a newer looking cabin and to the left is the actual trailhead. The trailhead is marked by an open gate and a placard provided as an Eagle Scout project.

From the trailhead, it’s 1.4 miles to the falls along the bottom of a gorgeous canyon. The trail meanders back and forth across the stream a dozen times. Throughout the canyon are native live oaks that are hundreds of years old as well as naturalized fig trees that have spread from early orchards in the canyon 140 years ago. In fact, there were a number of homesteads in the canyon around the 1870s. Originally the canyon was home to tin prospectors but never became a commercially viable mine. Afterwards, a number of people make their living as bee keepers in the canyon, including Jim Smith. The story goes that Mr. Smith had a foul mouth and was often referred to as Cussing Jim. When cartographers came through to make a map of the area, they didn’t find the name Cussing Jim to be appropriate for the name of the canyon or the falls, so they made up the name Holy Jim.

Along the trail there are a number of signs that offer interesting tidbits about the history of the area. The first sign is located at the site of Cussing Jim’s cabin and original orchard, although only a small section of wall remains at the location. Once past the fourth marker and sign, you’ll come to a split in the trail with the falls to the right and Main Divide Road to the left.

From this split the falls are another 0.25 miles further up the trail. Here the trail narrows and is flanked by poison oak, so watch your step. This is actually the hardest part of the trail. It requires scrambling over rocks that have been worn smooth over the years by hikers.

Holy Jim Trail is the nicest trail in Orange County. Even though you’re only a few miles from civilization, Holy Jim Canyon feels as far removed as anything you can find, surrounded by mountains and forests. If you can manage to go out on a week day after a rain, as I did, the falls provide a tranquil spot to enjoy nature. This hike is highly recommended for its remoteness, beauty, and serenity.

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Original post by OCTrails


Peters Canyon Regional Park – Peters Canyon and Lake View Trails

Ξ October 3rd, 2011 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Orange, Hiking, Peters Canyon Regional Park, Easy, Peters Canyon |


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Vital Stats
Trailhead 8548 E. Canyon View Ave.
Orange, CA 92869
Length 4.06 Miles
Elevation 203 Feet
Difficulty Easy


Peters Canyon is a very popular nature park for both hikers and mountain bikers. The park boasts a surprisingly diverse group of habitats and terrains for visitors to enjoy.

[flickr id=”6190508684″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”medium” group=”” align=”left”] This route starts from the parking lot at the north end of Peters Canyon, near the Peters Canyon Reservoir. Parking costs $3, or you can get an annual pass for all Orange County parks for $80 that’s good January through December (although the price is normally cut in half after July.)

From the parking lot, the trail heads east towards Jamboree Road, paralleling Canyon View Ave. After a short distance, there is a gate on the right that leads to Willow Trail. Willow Trail is seasonal, and often times the gate will be locked. However, when it’s open, Willow Trail is a splendid little get-away of dense trees and poison oak. If the Willow Trail is closed when you hike through Peters Canyon, a little further on is the turnoff for the Lake View Trail, which will connect with Peters Canyon Trail just like Willow Trail will.

[flickr id=”6189990345″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”medium” group=”” align=”right”] Once on Peters Canyon Trail, you’ll head south along the Upper Peters Canyon Reservoir. Peters Canyon Trail is the main trail that runs north-south through Peters Canyon, as the name would imply. There are numerous offshoots from Peters Canyon Trail that will allow to you experience all that Peters Canyon has to offer. As you head down Peters Canyon Trail, you’ll see East Ridge View Trail raising directly in front of you. Thankfully, this route goes around that large hill.

Instead of heading up East Ridge View Trail, this route continues to follow Peters Canyon Trail south until reaching a grove of eucalyptus trees on the left side of the trail. Directly across from those trees is a little trail called Peters Canyon Creek Trail. If you missed Willow Trail earlier because it was closed, Peters Canyon Creek Trail will make up for that.

[flickr id=”6190513096″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”medium” group=”” align=”left”] Peters Canyon Creek Trail is narrow and winding, closed to mountain bikes. Small wooden bridges cross over the creek a number of times, and in the low lying marshy parts of the trail there are stepping stones to keep your feet dry. Again, there is a fair amount of poison oak along this trail, so be careful not to brush up against the bushes. Peters Canyon Creek Trail is by far the most serene and tranquil area of Peters Canyon.

Peters Canyon Creek Trail returns you to Peters Canyon Trail. If you’re like me and picked up one of the park maps when you were at the parking lot, you’ll likely think that going back up to Scout Hill Trail to connect to East Ridge View Trail would make a nice loop back to the car. Unfortunately, Scout Hill Trail doesn’t exist. If you want to take East Ridge View Trail back, you’ll have to continue heading south on Peters Canyon Trail and use Eucalyptus Trail to connect to East Ridge View Trail.

[flickr id=”6190515454″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”medium” group=”” align=”right”] Instead of continuing south, this route retraces its steps north along Peters Canyon Trail until it reaches the fork for Lake View Trail right at the dam. Lake View Trail has the hardest climb of this route, largely because the hill has become so sandy and loose due to all the traffic. A lot of the traffic down this hill is from mountain bikes, which come barreling down the hill. If you’re hiking on this trail, make sure you keep your eye out for cyclists coming down.

Once at the top of the hill, you’re rewarded with a spectacular view of Upper Peters Canyon Reservoir. If you need a rest after climbing the hill, there is a little spur of trail off to the right where there is a bench overlooking the reservoir. It’s a great place to rest and catch your breath before you head back downhill and then up a second hill.

[flickr id=”6189998601″ thumbnail=”small” overlay=”false” size=”medium” group=”” align=”left”] As you continue along Lake View Trail, you’ll come to an offshoot for Cactus Point. Cactus Point doesn’t really go anywhere, simply connecting back to Lake View Trail a few hundred feet down the trail. However, Cactus Point provides the best views of Upper Peters Canyon Reservoir available. From here, you’ll be able to see the entire reservoir and across to the parking lot and your car.

Once back on Lake View Trail, continue heading down hill and make a sharp ninety degree turn at the base of the hill. After the bend, you’ll quickly come to a fork in the road with Lake View Trail continuing to the right. Wind your way through some larger bushes and onto Meadow Lark Trail. Meadow Lark Trail will take you along Skylark Place and back to the parking lot.

There are other parts of Peters Canyon that can be explored, most notably East Ridge View Trail, but this is the easiest route that will allow you to see the nicest parts of the park. As with many open areas in Orange County that are available for hiking, there are many different landscapes available within Peters Canyon Regional Park. It’s a convenient place to visit for a quick and easy hike before or after work during the week.

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Original post by OCTrails


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