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Trabuco Canyon Trail, Cleveland NF

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Deep wooded canyon, lovely 80 foot sycamores and oaks, mountain views, gold mine
Near:Trabuco Canyon, CA
Distance:5.12 miles round trip
Elevation Gain:1100 ft
Hike Time:3 hours
Trail Condition:Well maintained trail
HikeType:Out and Back

Summary: If you leave out the beautiful falls at the end of Holy Jim Canyon, I'd favor this trail. Canopies of the tallest oaks, sycamores and pines that I have seen in OC vault from the forest floor. If you seek solitude, a respite from civilization, and cool green woods filled with songbirds, reptiles, and wildflowers, Trabuco Canyon offers you everything you could desire.

You will pass through dense woods and open chaparral. As you make the gentle ascent, you will see relics of human occupation including an abandoned car and a gold mine, flooded and crawling with salamanders. On hot days, you can rest in the cool tunnel. A landslide precedes the cave entrance.

You weave in and out of the bottomland forest until you reach the last stretch before the junction with the West Horsethief Trail. Enjoy Los Pinos Peak and the huge trees in the canyon below before turning back.

Trailhead: You begin at the Holy Jim parking area and that's the biggest challenge. The road to the falls parking lot has potholes that eat trail bikes and washboarding that will make you sing like a jaw harp. Please go no faster than 20 mph: flying rocks from your tires can seriously harm others.

From Interstate 5, get off at El Toro Road. Head north on El Toro to the point where the road forks at Cook's Corner. Take the right fork (Live Oak Canyon Road) past O'Neill Park. A quarter mile past Trabuco School, you will pass over Trabuco Creek. Turn left onto the dirt road. Some people park here and hike in: this adds 4.45 miles and 840 feet to your hike. Most continue on the road for another 4.45 miles and park in the Holy Jim lot. Though washboarded in parts, the road is usually passable for most passenger cars. The trail continues directly after the parking lot. (Lat:33.677 Lon:-117.5162)

Trail Guides for Trabuco Canyon Trail, Cleveland NF:
Best Easy Day Hikes Orange County
by Randy Vogel (Falcon Publishing Company)

Afoot & Afield in Orange County
by Jerry Schad (Wilderness Press)

Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Winter,
User Groups: Hikers, Dogs, Bikes, Horses,
Ranger Contact: Trabuco Ranger District, Cleveland NF 909-736-1811
Localhikes Reporter: This hike was submitted by Joel Sax, who has posted  51 other hikes on this site. To visit this reporters web site, click here.
Trail Reviews  Page 1 of 4   Submit your own review
Reviewed by Ron on 2/7/2015
I've wanted to do this hike for sometime, and was glad I finally did it. I went on a Friday in February and was the only one on the trail. I noticed some motorcycle tracks which shows that motorcyclists are not obeying the law. This trail is restricted to hiker, riders, and mountain bikers only. Mountain bikers and hikers need to quit complaining about each other. If you want to hike where there's no mountain bikes, then go to a designated wilderness where they're not allowed. Mountain biking however, is a relatively new sport and bikers should consider that hikers were on these trails decades before the mountain bike was invented. To the bikers I say this: be aware of who was using these trails first, and be grateful.

Reviewed by LaurenontheRun on 8/24/2014
Trabuco Trail is a wonderful trail to run and hike. There's lots of shade, especially nice for summertime outings. On the negative side, it's one of those trails with LOTS of gnats in the summertime. As far as the drive in goes, I hate that road. But, I do drive it frequently in my 2x4 truck. No 4x4 needed. But it is a slow ride in.

Reviewed by Leanne on 5/2/2013
Dont hike with your head up, you may step on a rattler. Bad advise from someone who is obviously not a hiker. Anyways, ok hike, falls were not very impressive. I took my passenger car and got about 4 miles in on the dirt road. I would take my jeep if I had to do it again. Everyone we encountered, including mountian bikers were pleasant.

Reviewed by Brendan on 2/20/2012
Yes, this is a hiking trail, not a biking trail in my opinion. It's fine if you want you want to bike, but the onus is on the bikers to yield to the hikers and announce themselves, especially when coming from behind. I always move to the right, but it gets annoying doing that every 2 minutes. Bike somewhere where there's a wider trail, please. Nice trail otherwise. As a local, I go to these areas all the time so they aren't that special to me per say. Great hike, though, and it's pretty damn easy for beginners.

Reviewed by Doug on 8/6/2010
As a mountain biker, I am appalled at some of the insensitive comments here by other bikers. From the Visitor Guide: "Bicycle riding in the Forest is a privilege. Be sure to ride safely and responsibly. Always *announce your presence to others when passing, and yield to hikers and horseback riders.*" To do otherwise could severely hurt people and cause all bicycles to be banned.

Reviewed by C.Beans on 6/26/2010
This trail is great, but the mountain bikers are A-holes. Watch where you're riding! Every time I go here I have to dive out of the way of some self-righteous Mtn Biker who doesn't watch where he's riding!

Reviewed by LK on 4/19/2010
I wouldn't take a sedan on this dirt road. We had a very hard time with our 07 Galant. We never got stuck, but it was nerve wracking. There were a couple brave souls who did make it to the Holy Jim parking area in sedans, but I don't know how! We parked on the side of the road about half way there. It wasn't a very fun hike the rest of the road because of all the cars and a few were very rude and kicked up a lot of dust and dirt as they drove quickly past us without slowing down. The trail itself was very nice and I look forward to getting a friend with an SUV to go back and do the Holy Jim trail.

Reviewed by Ron on 4/10/2010
Regarding hiking with your head up, why don't you try being courteous as a mountain biker and respect that the trail has multiple users?

Notice: Traveling in the backcountry can be hazardous. You are responsible for informing yourself about these hazards and taking necessary precautions. Information on this web site comes from volunteer reporters and may contain errors or omissions. A current guidebook and proper equipment are essential for safe enjoyment of the hikes posted on this site.
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