In the spring, Irvine’s unspoilt open space presents a dazzling display of pure beauty you won’t want to miss. To guide your adventures, this special insert offers tips on 20 trails to explore as well as lessons on how to become a wildflower expert on your next hike.

1. Quail Hill Loop Trail

• 1.8 miles round trip

• 141 feet elevation gain
• Dogs on leash allowed

Quail Hill’s gentle slope makes it a favorite with families, joggers and dog owners. No trail map is needed. Just follow the loop. In the spring, look for purple lupines and orange poppies in the meadows. Watch for birds of prey, including hen harriers and white-tailed kites.

Quail Hill Reserve

2. Prairie Bommer

• 2 miles round trip
• Family friendly
• Wildflowers in spring

Consider Bommer Meadow your warm-up for longer hikes in Bommer Canyon’s 4,000 acres (some hikes take you all the way to the ocean). This relaxing loop trail winds through native grasslands. In the spring, California poppy, wild hyacinth, Indian paintbrush and tidy spikes bloom.

Irvine resident and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer Charlene Pfeifer enjoys jogging in Bommer Meadow.

3. Laguna Coast Wilderness Park Loop

• 10.2 km round trip
• Elevation gain of 1,033 feet
• Pristine coastal canyon

Explore some of Southern California’s rare and pristine coastal canyons in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. Here you will find 7,000 acres of coastal hills covered in sage scrub, meadows and woodland. The staff and volunteers of the Nix Nature Center (Little Sycamore Canyon) can help you plan your hike.

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park

4. El Moro Canyon Trail

• 2.9 miles round trip
• 800ft elevation gain
• A hike from the beach

This takes you from the famous Crystal Cove State Beach to El Moro Canyon, where you will encounter coastal chaparral, grasslands, and coastal sage scrub. Also take the Poles Trail to finish your hike with a panoramic view of the ocean. Don’t forget to enjoy the beach: look at the tide pools and stroll past the historic cottages.

5. Quail Trail

• 8.1 miles round trip
• Elevation gain of 1,700 feet
• “OC trail n°1”

Rated “OC’s No. 1 Trail” by Vacation Idea, an online magazine, this trail connects Irvine to Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. It passes through the San Joaquin Hills, a low-lying Coast Range featuring coastal sage scrub, meadows, woods, and seasonal streams. After heavy winter rains, the wildflowers along the trail can be spectacular.

6. Route des Crêtes Loop

• 3 miles round trip
• 700 foot elevation gain
• A relic of Irvine’s breeding past

This hike begins at Cattle Camp, a Wild West setting where ranch hands once herded cattle on The Irvine Ranch. It is now part of the largest urban network of open spaces in America. You’ll be treated to towering century-old sycamores, inspiring meadows and ridgelines, and relics of the site’s ranching past. *

7. Buck Gully Trail

• 8 km round trip
• Elevation gain of 446 feet
• Four wildlife viewing platforms

Descend a 1,200-acre coastal canyon in the San Joaquin foothills. Look for vines, shrubs, and trees that benefit from a year-round stream. Hikers are treated to wildflowers such as monkey flower, wild rose and wild pea. Four bridges serve as viewing platforms for viewing wildlife around the creek.

8. Bommer Canyon at Crystal Cove

• 22km round trip
• 2,400 ft elevation gain
• See a national treasure

This adventure illustrates the amazing diversity of the Irvine Ranch, designated a Natural Landmark by the State of California and the US Department of the Interior. The moderately strenuous hike stretches from the inland coastal hills to the coast, while offering stunning views of open spaces and open waters.

9. Lake Barbara Trail

• 3 miles round trip
• 480 feet elevation gain
• The only natural lake in OC

Located on the south side of Laguna Canyon Road, Lake Barbara is accessible via a loop trail that begins at the Nix Nature Center (Laguna Canyon Wilderness Park) and goes through Little Sycamore Canyon and under the road. With the winter rains, the lake fills to a level that attracts shovelers, ruddy ducks and other waterfowl. Later in the spring, Pacific tree frogs announce their presence.

10. San Joaquin Swamp

• 12 miles of trails
• Family friendly
• Paradise for ornithologists

Located near the UC Irvine campus, the San Joaquin Marsh is a “bed and breakfast” for 320 species of birds that stop there on annual migrations or live there year-round. Enjoy 12 miles of trails, close-up views of six ponds, and birdwatching in the 150 acres lined with willows and cottonwoods. Bring binoculars and a cell phone (for navigating).

11. Shady Canyon Trail

• 8 miles round trip
• Family friendly
• Dogs on leash allowed

The Trust for Public Land has named Irvine’s parks and open spaces among the top 10 in America, and you’ll see why as you stroll along this trail. It features two parallel trails (one paved, one decomposed granite), multiple pedestrian bridges, and views of the San Gabriel and Santa Ana mountains.

12. Loma Ridge Loop

• 11 miles round trip
• 1,200 ft elevation gain
• It’s worth it

Take in magnificent views of Lake Irvine and the Santa Ana Mountains as you walk, run, ATV, or horseback ride along Loma Ridge in Limestone Canyon. The road winds through hills and wide canyons. *

13. Dripping Springs

• 7 miles round trip
• 800ft elevation gain
• Visit a source all year round

Tall trees cast shade on this trail, which leads to a beautiful cave with one of Limestone Canyon’s two permanent springs. Hike the loop trail with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy to see this sensitive oasis. The small pool is surrounded by ferns, live oak trees and even a native orchid. *

14. Weir Canyon Trail

• 3.8 miles round trip
• Elevation gain of 640 feet
• The wild nature of the steep mountains

Hikers on this loop trail are often treated to beautiful vistas, spring wildflowers, and wildlife sightings. The main trailhead is at the corner of Hidden Canyon Road and Overlook Terrace, in a residential area at the northeast end of Santiago Oaks Regional Park. Take in views of the Weir Canyon woods backed by the Santa Ana Mountains while engaging in several hill workouts along the trail.

Weir Canyon Trail

15. Red Rock Trail

• 3.5 miles round trip
• 250ft elevation gain
• Stunning photos

Come face to face with one of OC’s most striking geological sites: the Red Rocks in Black Star Canyon. Formed of sandstone and mudstone, these towering pinnacles date back 40 to 20 million years. Irvine Ranch Conservancy offers many interpretive hikes along this trail, including family hikes and full moon walks. *

Black Star Canyon

16. Orchard Hills Loop Trail

• 3 miles round trip
• Vertical drop of 800 feet
• breathtaking view of the city

This trail winds past a working avocado orchard at the base of Loma Ridge and, like other trails, offers rich wildlife viewing opportunities along the way. Irvine Ranch Conservancy offers several guide-led hikes, including night hikes, on this trail, some of which will get your heart pumping. “It’s a wild area in our backyards,” says IRC guide Joan Steiner. *

17. East Ridge Loop

• 4 miles round trip
• 480′ elevation gain
• Walk along a 22 hectare lake

Hikers on this loop trail in Peters Canyon Regional Park will pass through coastal sage brush, grasslands, and a large reservoir that holds water in wet years. The edges of Peters Canyon Reservoir and Creek are lined with black willows, sycamores, and poplars. From the highest point of the East Ridge View trail, enjoy panoramic views of the mountains, city skyline, and ocean.

18. Fremont Canyon

• 10km round trip
• 1,200 ft elevation gain
• “Orange County Yosemite”

Admire scenic rock formations, caves, and ridges that offer sweeping views of Orange County, downtown Los Angeles, and the Palos Verdes Peninsula. This takes you from the mouth of Fremont Canyon, past a historic coal mine to the Fremont Weather Station. *

19. Baker Canyon Loop

• 3 miles round trip
• Gradual but significant rise
• See two distinct habitats

Take in views of Red Rock Canyon, Lake Irvine, and the ridges of Fremont Canyon. But don’t forget to look down. You’ll see two distinct habitats – coastal sage scrub and chaparral – blending together, a rare sight. “This diversity is unlike anywhere else,” says Brian Hughes, interpretive operations manager for the Irvine Ranch Conservancy (IRC). *

20. Sinks

• 10 miles round trip
• Elevation gain of 1,300 feet
• Irvine’s “mini-Grand Canyon”

A journey through meadows, oak forests and year-round springs brings you to the rim of Irvine’s ‘Miniature Grand Canyon’, known as The Sinks. This steep gorge was created by an ancient landslide. The east observation deck offers stunning views of the sandstone cliffs, while the west observation deck offers better views of the canyon below. *


*Registration is required at letgooutside.org/activities.


Comments are closed.