If you think Orange County consists entirely of concrete with a coastline, you are only partly correct. Within the orange curtain there are thousands of acres of parks and forests with trails well-suited to hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking. Trails suitable for all levels of mountain biking exist in the county. In addition, plans are well under way to build connecting trails to each of the parks so one needn’t drive to a favorite riding spot, making this area ideal for the off-road enthusiast. Here’s a look at some of the areas available to cyclists.
Before you start: Mountain bikini involves risk through heavy exertion, unpredictable wilderness conditions, speed and any number of variables. Know your limits. The best thing you can bring along is common sense. Cyclists, hikers and horseback riders share the parks with rattlesnakes, mountain lions and other wildlife. Be prepared. Ride within your limits. Knowing the trails and one’s abilities can ensure a fun, safe ride. Ride only on trails designated for mountain biking. Hikers -and horseback riders have the right of way. The ball bearings in a hub can sound like a rattlesnake to a horse, so be prepared to stop when equestrians are encountered.
Also, uphill bikers have the right of way. Read the trail maps put out by the Department of Harbors, Beaches and Parks, available at the parks, and take along a mountain biking trail book such as ‘Mountain Biking Orange County’ by Randi Vogel and Larry Kuechlin. Then go out and ride.
CHINO HILLS STATE PARK
A good place for beginners to bounce around on wide dirt roads, with steep fire roads and single track (narrow trails) for the more advanced rider.
Parking: Orange County entrances at Carbon Canyon Regional Park ($2 weekdays, $4 weekends) and Rim Crest Drive. Rim Crest Drive is a residential area, and riders are expected to respect the neighborhood. No loud car stereos, changing clothes in public, etc. Parking is legal on only one side of the street.
Phone: (909) 780-6222, emergencies and general information.
This rugged area is home to a variety of terrain. Many trails rank in the moderate to more advanced levels. Some steep and technical(rocky, loose, etc.) sections.
Parking: Entrance to the park is through Windes Dr. ($4)
Phone: (714) 538-4400
IRVINE REGIONAL PARK
A 477-acre park with several miles of trails and a lagoon. Connects to Santiago Canyon Regional Park. See ‘Mountain Biking Orange County’ for detailed information.
Parking: Entrance to the park is at the southwest end just north of the intersection of Jamboree Road and Santiago Canyon Road. ($5)
Phone: (714) 633-8072
PETERS CANYON REGIONAL PARK
This park has 354 acres with several miles of fire service roads and a bit of single track for the beginner and intermediate rider. So-me hill climbs are guaranteed to get your heart rate up. As in all parks in Orange County, there are steep sections with loose soil and sand, so tires with aggressive tread are recommended. Local bike shops can assist in the selection of appropriate knobbies.
Parking: Entrance is at Canyon View Avenue at the north end of the park. ($2)
Phone: (714) 633-8072
CLEVELAND NATIONAL FOREST
These 135,000 acres and mile-high peaks put the mountain in mountain biking for Orange County residents. It’s a place to get in some long rides at an altitude higher than what one might find at the local parks. Car shuttles can be useful when traversing the length of the forest. Access to Cleveland National Forest can be gained via Black Star Canyon Road, Silverado Canyon Road, Mod.jeska Canyon Road, Trabuco Canyon Road and Ortega Highway.
Parking: To operate a motor vehicle in the national forest costs $5 a day. An annual pass can be purchased for $30.
Phone: (909) 736-1811
WHITING RANCH WILDERNESS PARK
Whiting Ranch is a 1,500-acre park popular with novice to more advanced mountain bikers. Hence it can get crowded on weekends. As it is also popular with hikers and riders on horseback, remember to yield right of way.
Parking: Entrance to the park is on Portola Parkway at the north end of the Foothill Ranch Marketplace shopping center. ($5)
Phone: (714) 589-4729
O’NEILL REGIONAL PARK/ARROYO TRASUCO WILDERNESS
Here’s 2,000 acres with 26 miles of trails. The northwest end of O’Neill Regional Park provides some good short climbs and descents along single track and fire roads. The Arroyo Trabuco Trail is a scenic ride along a stream bed. Tijeras Creek on the east side of this park group is closed because of construction of the Foothill Transportation Corridor and is expected to reopen in summer 1999.
Parking: Main entrance at the ‘north end where Live Oak Canyon Road becomes Trabuco Canyon Road. ($5 weekdays, $8 weekends)
Phone: (714) 858-9365
GENERAL THOMAS F. RILEY WILDERNESS PARK
A small 475-acre wilderness park with rolling terrain and fast fire road.
Parking: Entrance to the park is on the east side on Oso Parkway ($5)
Phone: (714) 728-0235 (Caspers Wilderness Park)
CASPERS WILDERNESS PARK
At 7,600 acres, this park is one of the largest of Orange County’s regional and wilderness parks. It offers fire roads and some single track . A wilderness permit is required for admission to the park, and minors (under 1 8) are limited to the camping and picnicking areas.
Parking: Entrance to the park is off of Ortega Highway [Rt.74] ($5)
Phone: (714) 728-0235
CRYSTAL COVE STATE PARK
Mountain biking at the park is done on the east side of Pacific Coast Highway, the Moro Canyon side. These 2,700 acres of coastal-hills offer pleasant riding in Moro Canyon along with steep and often loose ascents and descents along the ridgeline for the more advanced riders. Adjoining Crystal Cove State Park and Aliso & Woods Canyon are Laguna Coast Wilderness Open Space Reserve and Irvine Company Open Space Reserve. These areas are currently restricted to docent-led tours.
Parking: Entrance is 1.8 miles south of Newport Coast Drive or 2.9 miles north of Laguna Canyon Road on Pacific Coast Highway. ($6)
Phone: (714) 494-3539 Laguna Coast Wildness Park can be contacted at (714) 854-7108. Irvine Company Open Space Reserve can be contacted at (714) 832-7478.
ALISO & WOODS CANYONS REGIONAL PARK
This park along with the Laguna Beach Greenbelt comprise 5,000 acres of arguably the best mountain biking that Orange County’s park system has to offer. The variety of trails offers everything from flat trail riding along the canyon bottom to long steep climbs and descents along rocky singletrack. The abundance of trails allows for a mix of loops, a popular one being a climb up to the ridge along Cholla Trail and down Rock-it Trail. Most trails-are suitable for intermediate to expert riders.
Parking: The east entrance is off Alicia Parkway just south of Aliso Creek Road on Awma Road. ($5). Free parking is available at Alta Laguna Park at the north end of Alta Laguna Blvd.
Here are two organizations to call if you are interested in helping build and maintain Orange County’s parks and trails;
TRAILS4ALL – (714) 834-3136 | Orange County Adopt-A-Park (714) 771-6731, Ext. 15
For more information, contact:
Chief of Trail Planning and Implementation
County of Orange Public Facilities & Resources Department
Harbors , Beaches and Parks (714) 834-5372