Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bell Canyon Trail (Caspers Wilderness Park)

Caspers Wilderness Park is an 8,000-acre protected preserve nestled among the river terraces and sandstone canyons of the western coastal Santa Ana Mountains. Caspers Wilderness Park's fertile valleys are complemented by groves of native Coastal Live Oak and large stands of California Sycamore. Ashley and I got an opportunity to get out to Caspers Wilderness Park this past Wednesday and hike the length of the Bell Canyon Trail. This hike at Caspers Wilderness Park was exceptionally cool because it began to rain while we were out hiking. In our opinion, Caspers Wilderness Park is the best Wilderness Park in Orange County that we have been too. It is truly a gem in Orange County and is a great location to go hiking in Orange County.

Directions to Trailhead: Going to Caspers Wilderness Park from Orange County take the Ortega Highway heading toward Riverside. A couple of miles past Antonio Parkway is Caspers Wilderness Park. There are signs alerting drivers as to where to turn to enter the park. The turn to enter into Caspers Wilderness Park is on your left side. The address for Caspers Wilderness Park is 33401 Ortega Hwy.( P. O. Box 395) San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675. The parks phone number is (949) 923-2210. The trailhead for the Bell Canyon Trail is located at the farthest parking area by the historic windmill. 

Description of Hike: There are many hiking trails from easy to strenuous to hike in Caspers Wilderness Park. A map of Caspers Wilderness Park's hiking trail system can be found Here. Ashley and I took the Bell Canyon Trail all the way to the end at the Starr Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary. At that point we returned following the Bell Canyon Trail to the Star Rise Trail and turned off on the Oak Trail which took us back to the parking lot via the Nature Loop Trail. The hike was approximately 4 miles with approximately 200 feet of elevation gain. This hike is an out and back hike in the heart of Bell Canyon along a well maintained dirt hiking trail. Caspers Wilderness Park has many hiking options and you can make your hike as easy or as strenuous as you would like to. Make sure you print out a map or pick one up at the gate entrance.

Camping is also available year round at Caspers Wilderness Park and you can make online reservations for spaces or reservations at the entrance gate. The park is open from 7am to sunset all year. Parking costs 3 dollars Monday through Friday and 5 dollars Saturday and Sunday. Caspers Wilderness Park is an 8,000 acre wilderness preserved that is located next to the Trabuco District of the Cleveland National Forest. The park also has a Nature Center, which is fun for the entire family, that is open on the weekends. Caspers Wilderness Park contains 35 miles of trails and offers plenty of opportunities for great Orange County Hiking. The Caspers Wilderness Park brochure can be found Here.

Further Thoughts: Ashley and I really enjoyed be able to visit Caspers Wilderness Park as it  was beginning to rain. It brought a whole new perspective to us regarding the beauty and rugged nature of Caspers Wilderness Park. Fortunately, the rain did not begin to get heavy until we were almost back to the car. It just goes to show you that when hiking in the wilderness you need to always be prepared for a change in weather conditions.


Once it began to rain at Caspers Wilderness Park is was really cool to see the park's wildlife come alive with noise. It was neat to hear the endangered arroyo toads and other frogs loudly come out and enjoy the wet weather. While out on the trail we also saw several hawks and we able to identify a set of mountain lion tracks in one of the sand beds of the dry rivers. The most recent mountain lion sighting at the park was a couple of days before we hiked at Caspers Wilderness park.

This park has a lot wildlife in it. The ground is virtually covered with all types of tracks from deer to mountain lions. Caspers also has a nature center that is open on the weekends. It is also a location that is known for having good wildflowers after a wet rainy season in Southern California. This park is truly a gem in Orange County. Bell Canyon is a beautiful area that is lined with lush Coast Live Oak Trees and Sycamore trees. This hike gives you a feeling of being miles away from civilization.

Rating: This Wilderness Park has multiple trails and different hiking options. You can make your hike as easy or as difficult as you like. Our Hike: Elevation Gain: 200 ft (Easy), Distance: 4 Miles Roundtrip (Easy).

Time to Complete Hike: 1.5 - 2.5 hours.

MORE TRAIL WRITE-UPS ON CASPERS WILDERNESS PARK

Bell Canyon Trail (This Post)



View Caspers Wilderness Park 2nd visit in a larger map

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Ashley and I encourage and welcome our readers to submit comments about their experiences on the trails we have posted on our blog or about their own hiking experiences in general.