Summary: Ascending the sagey, rocky spirals of the Bear Canyon Trail, one is quickly elevated from the depths of nearby suburban mundanity and raucous street noise to the heights of blissful backcountry nirvana-yes, this really does exist in the proximity of O.C.!! This trail, located just off Hwy 74 and near the famous and friendly Ortega Oaks Candy Store, has something for every serious dayhiker. Quiet awaits at the border of the San Mateo Cyn Wilderness about .75 miles into the hike. A mile beyond, after turning right at the junction with the Morgan Tr., the magnificence of over-the-shoulder views escalates with the elevation-it's workout time!! Two miles later, a sign marks the beginning of the loop "balloon:" turn right for more shade while hiking uphill 1-1/4 miles to Four Corners (just beyond the gate)-turn left here and proceed another 1-1/4 mi. (Bear Cyn Ridge Tr. on the topo, now signed Bear Cyn Loop) to complete the loop, then continue back 2 mi. to the trailhead.
Trailhead: From San Juan Capistrano, along Interstate 5, exit at Ortega Highway/Highway 74, and travel northeast. After 21 miles, turn left across from the Ortega Oaks Country Cottage (Candy Store), which is located .5 miles north of the Upper San Juan Campground, and park in the large lot for the Bear Canyon and San Juan Loop Trailheads. A Forest Service Adventure Pass is required to park here, and can be purchased in the Candy Store. The Bear Canyon Loop Trailhead is located west of the Candy Store (to the right as you are facing the store from the parking lot across the street). (Lat:33.61228 Lon:-117.42643)
Trail Guides for Santa Ana Mountains-Bear Canyon Loop Trail:
Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Winter,
User Groups: Hikers, Dogs, Horses,
Ranger Contact: Trabuco Ranger District-U.S.Forest Service-(909) 736-1811
Localhikes Reporter: This hike was submitted by Patricia Barnes, who has posted 23 other hikes on this site
Trail Reviews Page 1 of 3 Submit your own review
Reviewed by Kat F. on 11/4/2011
This was a great hike! What a workout! It has a variety of easy, moderate, and strenuous parts! Be sure to bring plenty of water. My boyfriend & I hiked this trail on 10/29/11. The weather was perfect! Amazing views! We saw a small green & yellow snake that slithered off the trail. I highly recommend this hike! :) p.s. BUY YOUR ADVENTURE PASS A FEW DAYS AHEAD OF TIME. The candy store that was listed, did not open until about 10am that day!
Reviewed by Gordon on 6/1/2010
Loved this hike! We pushed onto Sitton Peak, and that really made the hike. The wildflowers were so amazing that I had to stop every 200 feet for another pic. Flys were building up, however. So probably no more of this trail until fall.
Reviewed by Scott on 4/26/2010
Good variety of terrain and environment. One minute you will be in a tree grove with lots of greenery and the next you will be completely exposed on top of a ridge with small desert shrubs. Sitton Peak section was completely over grown but was we were still able to make out the trail. Without making it to Sitton Peak the hike would have been unfulfilling.
Reviewed by HIKESOCAL on 11/28/2009
This was one of my favorite hikes. The loop itself was pretty fun for how hot and dry it was, but the scramble to the top of Sitton Peak was an excellent addition to this hike. The last 1/4mi to the peak is moderate to strenuous depending on skill level.
Reviewed by Joel on 5/18/2009
I made incomplete notes to the location of the trailead and ended up taking the San Juan trail that leaves from the parking lot. That traihead is west of the candy store (per the noted location of the trailhead) however the error was my fault. The San Juan trail was only a couple miles but very nice. My dog had a blast jumping into what was left of the water in the creek and the trail ends in a beautiful stand of oak trees. We'll get to the Bear Canyon loop yet!
Reviewed by Tim on 4/18/2009
It's already a bit too dry out there (lots of the early wildflowers have died off), but there's still plenty to see. Great trail at least until the 4 corners area. Take tons of water because it's hot and dry.
Reviewed by AES on 4/16/2009
Reviewed by AJS on 8/12/2008
Completed this trail during the second week in July. If you need to buy a day use pass that morning, the store does not open until 9am. To buy this ahead of time and start on the trail before 9am will save you from some of the heat. This is definately doable and not too hot for this time of year. Bring bug repellant. All and all a good hike with some shade and nice views.
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