The best hiking trails in Irvine provide an opportunity for visitors to explore the area and there is always something for everyone.
Orange County in Southern California is one of the top destinations famed for attractions such as huge complex of rides, Anaheim’s Disneyland Resort, surf beaches, Knott’s Berry Farm, shops, restaurants among others.
If you happen to visit, hiking trails in Irvine are among the most checked out.
Right from the easiest to the most strenuous, one can choose a trail that best fits their demand.
This post will detail at least 11 best hiking trails you can choose from in case you decide to visit Irvine.
Ranked as one of the fastest growing cities in the USA, Irvine town is a glamorous town characterized by beautiful architecture, wide roads and a green atmosphere.
The growth of the city dates back to the 1960s when a master plan was hatched to improve the town.
Due to its exquisite living standards, security agents in the United States have ranked the city as the safest in the country.
Although it is not among the top travel destinations in the USA, the city has a lot to offer.
The area has hiking trails perfect for exercise and nature walks. Some of these hiking trails are among the best globally.
The hiking trails in Irvine offer a perfect environment for individuals to exercise after long working hours.
The exercises may range from simple walks, jogging, to more demanding work outs.
The city also has a conducive climate therefore making it perfect for hiking when an opportunity arises. Here are the 11 best hiking trails in Irvine.
Best Hiking Trails in Irvine – Everything You Need to Know
Turtle Rock Trail
Located in the wealthy neighborhood of Turtle Rock Summit, the trail offers a perfect combination of urban and wilderness feeling with spectacular views of the ocean and the adjacent land.
Nicknamed the French Hill Loop, this trail is among the most popular hiking trails in Irvine.
The trail’s difficulty level is moderate and due to its popularity, many hikers visit to experience some amazing scenes on top of exercising.
Due to its wild nature, hikers have an opportunity to enjoy a scenery of native trees and other varieties of plants as well as animals in that habitat.
Some parts of the trail are covered with overgrown vegetation and this adds to the thrill of wilderness making the hike more enjoyable.
The trail originates from the Concordia Way and the Turtle Rock Drive and is approximately 4.2 miles with an elevation of approximately 247M.
The trail has both dirt and paved paths some of which have a steep elevation coupled with large rocks.
Some hikers prefer hiking alone while others tag along their pets like dogs to make the experience worthwhile.
Other Activities to do Near Turtle Rock Drive
Apart from hiking, hikers can visit the Turtle Rock Nature Center located at the foot of San Joaquin Hills.
Located on a 5-acre piece of land, the center plays host to a number of wild animals and has outdoor programs for visitors to learn.
Some of the activities one can partake in include taking leisure walks, engaging in a self-guided walk along the trails during operating hours and interacting with nature.
The programs and services available in this center include hiking in the nature trails, visiting the native plant garden, visiting the Labyrinth and participating in group activities and tours.
Additionally, they have a fire pit and a patio area that are accessible on reservation.
San Joaquin Center Trail
Located on a 300-acre piece of land and sitting next to the John Wayne Airport and UC Irvine, the center is home to a variety of wildlife including over 200 species of birds.
This paradise is among the best hiking trails in Irvine and is popular among locals as it has several spots for jogging and hiking.
The hiking trails are approximately 19.3kms and they cut through ponds and trees giving hikers that wilderness feeling.
The difficulty level for these trails is easy and hikers of all ages and different fitness levels can traverse it with ease.
The management has placed different signs along the trails with information of various animals within this sanctuary.
Some of these animals and birds include raccoons, pelicans, ducks, cottontails, herons among others.
The management strictly prohibits visitors from tagging their dogs along in order to protect the wild animals and birds living within the sanctuary.
The center is open on a daily basis throughout the year from morning hours til dusk.
Visitors can access the trail from Campus Drive or Riparian View.
Vehicles are not allowed inside and visitors and hikers are encouraged to park on the street.
Bommer Canyon Trail
The Bommer Canyon Trail is approximately 3.17 miles and has an elevation of 174M.
Rich in nature’s wonders the trail is among the best hiking trails in Irvine favored by many outdoor lovers who love to stroll, hike and jog through the rough rock outcrops, ancient sycamore groves and oaks.
The area is rich and vibrant with animals and birds and visitors have an opportunity to spot these animals and birds in their natural habitat.
The place is open daily from morning till dusk and majority of the trails are accessible for self-guided hikes apart from a few that need pre-arrangement and guides in addition to pre-registration.
The Bommer Canyon Trail is accessible for free and is popular among the locals but it rarely gets crowded.
The center hosts monthly Wilderness Access Days where both bikers and hikers are allowed to explore the amazing trail network within the area.
Majority of the elevation gain is on the tail end of the trail.
This has extra advantage as hikers are able to catch breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, Saddleback Mountain inland and Catalina Island.
6400 Shady Canyon Dr. trailhead has some amazing accommodation facilities but limited parking slots that are 14 in number.
However, you can opt to commence your hiking activities at the Sunnyhill trailhead that has a slightly longer trail (2.25 miles more) and has many parking slots compared to the other one.
Horse riding is allowed within the trails but strictly from 1st May to 30th November.
Mountain to Sea Trail
Declared a National Recreational Trail, the 35.4 kms long trail cuts through the San Joaquin Marsh Reserve and is among the best hiking trails in Irvine.
The trailhead begins with rugged terrain that has a badlands feel as bikers and hikers can advance through the wilderness.
The trail then leads you through 6 different administrative areas that guarantee you a feel of pure greatness due to the ever-changing topography and scenery.
Due to its length, it is advisable to tackle this trail in bits.
You can arrange the visit either in bits of day excursions or weekend trips with numerous stop-overs along the trail.
The trail leads all the way to the coast and runs through the 50,000 acres of the historic Irvine Ranch.
Bird watchers love hiking in this trail as the ranch is home to a variety of birds and animals.
However, dogs are not allowed as they can endanger the lives of the animals within this habitat.
Additionally, the trail traverses through the Peters Canyon and the Weir Canyon regional parks, Katie Wheeler Library and agricultural headquarters of the Irvine Ranch.
The network of the trail then cuts through San Diego Creek Channel before coming to an end at the ocean.
The management allows visitors to access the trail by either foot, bike or through horse riding.
Majority of the trail is asphalt surfaced with a few sections containing crushed rock or concrete.
The trail has an average width of 10 feet and runs through the cities of Tustin, Anaheim, Newport Beach, Orange, Irvine and County of Orange.
The trail is under the management of Irvine Ranch Conservancy.
Ranch Conservancy contact: 714-508-4755
Address: 4727 Portola Parkway, Irvine, CA, 92620-1914
Official web address: www.irconservancy.org/
Shady Canyon Trail
The 7.83 miles long Shady Canyon Trail is located at the heart of the affluent neighborhood of Shady Canyon.
It has an elevation gain of 175 meters and is among the most popular hiking trails in Irvine that experiences a high influx of hikers and bikers ready to flex their muscles.
The trail is among the few that allow visitors to tag along their pets like dogs.
It is well maintained and completely paved with a mixture of dirt and paved trails.
It is accessible throughout the year with the springtime being the most popular due to the full bloom of the wild flower.
The Quail Hill Trailhead is the most common and is located at 34 Shady Canyon Dr. which also serves as the trailhead for many other hikes.
Starting from this point, there is a short climb involved before the trail heads down into the canyon.
There are two wooden bridges on the way and a small climb before one encounters the Bommer Canyon Trailhead.
The trail is paved and runs along the edge of Quail Hill Preserve before connecting with a number of trails in the expanse Irvine network.
You can also access the dirt path at the beginning point of the trailhead.
The trail provides spectacular views especially when it cuts through the Bommer Canyon whereby hikers.
This trail connects with other trails and those who would love to extend their hikes can connect with the Turtle Rock Trail before accessing the famous University Trail.
The trail leads to Newport Beach and along the trail, Irvine’s University High School is accessible by taking the right turn on the Bonita Canyon Trail.
Quail Loop Trail
The 2-mile-long trail with an elevation of 50m is among the most popular hiking trails in Irvine.
Relatively new after being opened in 2010, the trail’s difficulty level is easy making it accessible to all groups of individuals.
The highest elevation is 85 meters and entry into this trail is free.
A walk along the trail offers magnificent views of the Irvine Open Space Preserve that is jointly managed by the Interior department of the U.S and the State of California.
The trailhead is located at Quail Hill base and the trail is beginner and family friendly.
There are facilities along the trail that include bathrooms, parking spaces, wildlife viewing opportunities and interpretive signs to guide the visitors.
There are water fountains in the parking area and when full, visitors are encouraged to park across the street.
The management allows leashed dogs into the trail and visitors are encouraged to hike in the early hours to escape the crowds later.
The hiking does not require any special equipment but visitors are encouraged to carry drinking water due to the high temperatures that can be experienced in some seasons.
Additionally, heavy downpours may leave the trail muddy necessitating the management to temporarily suspend all activities along the trail until the conditions improve.
The springtime visits bring a lot of memories as the fields are filled with blooming wildflowers.
The hike gives a great view of the city lights and the Saddleback Mountain.
Bird watchers flock this trail to catch a glimpse of various species of birds and animals in this habitat.
Some of these include hummingbirds, quail, western meadowlark, coyote, rattlesnakes among others.
Address: Quail Hill Trailhead, 34 Shady Canyon, Irvine, CA 92603
Jeffrey Open Space Trail
The Jeffrey Open Space Trail is a unique trail that runs through the heart of Irvine city and is among the most loved hiking trails in Irvine.
It offers the residents a chance to calm their minds.
The trail is unique to the inhabitants of the city and was born out of consensus and community input of the residents of the city.
The 5.4-mile-long trail has an elevation gain of 58m.
The difficulty level is easy making it suitable for all categories of individuals.
Due to its popularity, the trail is moderately busy and residents use it for jogging, biking, running and hiking.
The trail is accessible throughout the year.
Major part of the trail traverses through the city and is popular among families due to its well-maintained tracks.
Runners and joggers prefer the morning hours while dog walkers traverse the trail in the evening hours.
It consists of three distinct disconnected parts with painted panels lodged in the concrete marking the long history of the area.
The trail runs alongside the Jeffrey Road through the shopping malls, open space and the suburban neighborhoods.
It also connects with other trails at various points. The Venta Spur Trail connects with the Jeffrey Open Space trail at Bryan Avenue.
Additionally, the San Diego Creek Trail and the Freeway Trail connect along the way.
Parking spaces are plentiful at many points including the shopping place located at the intersection of Jeffrey and Trabuco Roads.
Hikers can also access parking at the Woodbury Community Park located on the Venta Spur Trail.
There are plans by the city to expand the trail by 1.5 miles from Barranca to Interstate 5.
The extension will act as a link to connect the coastline to Cleveland National Forest and Santa Ana Mountains.
Hicks Canyon Trail
Popularly referred to as two trails in one, the Hicks Canyon Trail is a 3.98-mile-long trail with an elevation gain of 53 meters.
The trail’s difficulty level is easy making it conducive for running, hiking, horseback riding, dog walking and biking.
The trail has two trails running side by side.
The dirt path is wide and mainly accessed by walkers, joggers and horse riders.
The other trail comprises two paved trails, one for bicycles and the other one for strollers.
This feature makes it among the most popular hiking trails in Irvine.
The trail is shaded by huge eucalyptus trees that were planted many years ago to offer protection to the crops on the Irvine Ranch.
They act as powerful windbreakers protecting the crops from Santa Ana winds.
The trailhead of Hicks Canyon Trail is located at the Hicks Canyon Community Park and heads northwest of the Jeffreys Road.
This trail provides an amazing experience with its quiet atmosphere and plenty of birds chirping.
Are there enough parking spaces for those accessing the Hicks Canyon Trail?
Yes, there is a large parking area that extends into the sports fields.
The trail is perfect for meet ups and strolling and is the best for young kids as its difficulty level is easy.
There is also a large picnic area filled with large charcoal grills and numerous benches making it easy to spot kids while they are playing.
However, it is good to note that the playground is located adjacent to the parking area and some drops are steep, hence the need to keep a close eye on the kids to avoid injuries.
Additional amenities include a play surface, drinking fountains, restrooms located in the park, sports fields, a library (Irvine-Katie Wheeler Branch) and 2 baseball diamonds.
Peter Canyon Regional Park Trail
The 5.9-mile-long Peters Canyon Loop Trail has the highest elevation of 208 m and is moderately difficult.
The trail is located near Villa Park, California.
The trail is accessible throughout the year morning to evening and is utilized by equestrians, bikers, runners, dog walkers and bikers.
The park is strict with opening and closing hours with the management issuing citations and locking in vehicles in some instances.
The trail is among the most loved hiking trails in Irvine due to its panoramic views, well maintained trails, wildlife spotting opportunities and climbs and flats.
On average, the hiking time is 2.5 hours but side trails may make it shorter.
The less elevation on the 4 km Peters Canyon Lake View Trail makes it famous among families.
The trail traverses through the 340-acre park located a few minutes’ drive from Irvine.
The park comprises riparian, coastal sage scrub, grassland and freshwater marsh habitats.
The park is home to different species of animals that include birds such as hawks, snakes, amphibians, mule deer and bobcats among others.
The Upper Peters Canyon Reservoir is home to both migrating and resident waterfowl.
The lake is lined with sycamores, black willows and cottonwoods.
The hiking mainly commences on the northside of the main parking lot, which has many restrooms that are accessible at a small fee.
Visitors can also park across the street for free.
Along the trail, there is an adventurous trail known as the Peter’s Canyon Nature Trail that comprises a bridge, stairs and facilities that are fun for toddlers.
It is important to note that the management may close the trails for up to three days following heavy rains.
Physical Address: 8548 E. Canyon View Ave., Orange, CA 92869.
Hangman’s Monument Trail
The Hangman’s Monument Trail is a 4.78-mile-long trail with the highest elevation being 401 meters.
The trail is fairly challenging and leads to the spot where the darkest events in Irvine’s history happened.
The management of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy is tasked with issuing permission to the visitors.
It also has volunteers on standby to offer guidance when needed.
Entry into the park is free.
The spot is famous as it is the point where General Andres Pico hanged the two notorious bandits.
The bandits were responsible for a number of robberies in the state and the killing of the Los Angeles County Sheriff James Barton.
This spot offers a spectacular view in all directions.
The trailhead is located near the 241 Foothill Toll Road situated at the end of the Presida Canyon.
The trail then cuts through Loma Ridge and the Orchard Hills passing near the open space preserve before continuing up to the Loma Ridge.
The ridge has a high elevation enabling visitors to have views as far as Orange County.
The trail has some steep points including the 2600 ft climbing elevation that makes the hike memorable.
Hikers are encouraged to bring the right gear and at least 2 liters of drinking water for the hike.
I promise you that you will enjoy the exercise.
Top of the World Hiking Trail
The Top of the World Hiking Trail is one of the most adrenaline-filled hiking trails.
It is one of the most loved hiking trails in Irvine by those who consider the other trails less challenging.
The trail is 3.9 km long and it takes approximately two hours to complete the hike depending on one’s fitness levels.
It has an elevation gain of 271 meters and the highest point of 311 meters making the difficulty level hard.
The trail traverses through the Top of the World Park.
The hike is short but steep and once you get to the top, you will be rewarded with spectacular views.
Experienced hikers often frequent this trail.
Those who would like to take up this challenge are encouraged to have proper hiking gear, carry trekking poles and pack adequate drinking water.
Entry into the park is free and dogs are allowed on condition that they are leashed.
The trailhead is based at 580 Canyon Acres Drive near Laguna Beach.
Parking spaces are available but limited and the trail is not very popular.
Final Thoughts Best Hiking Trails in Irvine
Best hiking trails in Irvine differ depending on the various factors such as difficulty level, length, amenities and location.
While other trails partly go through the city, others head towards the ocean, across the hill while others traverse the parks and ranches in Irvine.
The different difficulty levels make the trails easily accessible by all categories of individuals. There is always something for everyone.
Additionally, hiking trails in Irvine offer a perfect environment for you to interact with nature.
Therefore, put on your hiking gear and let’s go hiking!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the number one rule in hiking?
Treat others the way you would want to be treated. This is the number one rule in hiking. Hikers coming uphill have the right of way. If you're descending the trail, step aside and give space to the people climbing up.
What is the hardest trail to hike on?
Everest Base Camp (EBC). The Everest Base Camp Trek in the Himalayas in Nepal is one of the most popular and also, the hardest hikes in the world.
How long is the Turtle Rock trail in Irvine?
Turtle Rock is a 1.8-mile out-and-back trail located near Irvine, California. It takes an average of 54 minutes to finish this moderately difficult route. This is a busy hiking and running trail, but you can still find solitude during quieter times of day.
How hard is Mystic Beach hike?
Mystic Beach trail is generally considered a moderately challenging trail, it takes an average of 45 min to complete. This trail is great for hiking. This is the most direct way to get to Mystic Beach.