Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ladera Ranch Ridge (Orange County Regional Trail)

One of the local places that Ashley and I have had the chance to visit is the Ladera Ranch Ridge Trail overlooking the Arroyo Trabuco Wilderness in Arroyo Trabuco Canyon. This hike in Ladera Ranch is more of an urban hike in Orange County, but yet still has plenty of wilderness to it. For those hikers in South Orange County looking for a fun convenient hike, this Ladera Ranch Ridge hike is the one for you. For more pictures make sure to check out our Facebook Page.

Directions to Trailhead: To get to the trailhead for the Ladera Ranch Ridge Hike, from the 5 freeway, exit at Crown Valley Parkway and head towards the Santa Ana Mountains. Proceed through Mission Viejo and cross the bridge to Ladera Ranch. Make the first right at Cecil Pasture Road and park at the shopping center on your left. The trailhead is across the street where the Botanical Bluff Top Sign is located. There is no cost to park at this location. Free is always a good price.

Description of Hike: This is an out and back hike to several view points along the western ridge line of Ladera Ranch that over looks the Arroyo Trabuco Canyon. This hiking trail in Ladera Ranch is well maintained and you are likely to see other locals out enjoying the trail. If you are looking to get into true wilderness this is not the hike for you as you have views of the surrounding communities of Ladera Ranch, Mission Viejo, and San Juan Capistrano. However, there is plenty of open space that surrounds the trail as well as great views of the Santa Ana Mountains and South Orange County.  The total hike is 4.9 miles roundtrip with roughly 200 feet of elevation gain. You begin the hike at the shopping center in Ladera Ranch and take the Bluff Top Botanical Trail which overlooks the Arroyo Trabuco. This trail winds around an overlook of the canyon to a short segment along the side walk of Cecil Road before you take a dirt access trail to the right and up a hill (If you hit O'Neil drive you have gone too far). The trail intersects with the Orange County Regional Trail up top (Note there was no trail marker indicating trail names and directions for this hike). If you are confused on which way to go, head uphill and follow the ridge line trail away from the canyon. Eventually you will see the first overlook which is 0.8 miles from your start at the shopping center. At roughly 1.5 miles from the start of this hike in Ladera Ranch you will cross over a hidden cell tower and the second overlook is almost 2.5 miles from the start of the hike. One of the negative to this hike is the view of the power lines along sections of the trail. Despite the power lines, this is a a fun enjoyable urban hike. For a printable trail map of the Ladera Ranch trail system click Here.

Further Thoughts: This was an enjoyable trail even despite its proximity to homes in Ladera Ranch at times. Along much of the trail you will notice that there are great vistas of the Arroyo Trabuco Wilderness area in the Arroyo Trabuco Canyon Below. This hike in Ladera Ranch takes you to two little known overlooks that provide great views of south Orange County. You also have the chance to see deer and other wildlife while on this hike. One of the interesting sites is the cell tower that you pass while on this trail. It is disguised like no other that we know of.

The only negative about the trails in this area is the lack of a trail map and trail markers to guide hikers on which trails to take. We would both highly recommend printing out a trail map from the link above to bring with you while you are hiking on this hike in Ladera Ranch. The trails are maintained but have the potential to be tough to navigate. This is a popular hiking area for those in Ladera Ranch and you are likely to see others on the trail while hiking here. We saw several others while on this hike. If you do this hike on a warm sunny day make sure to bring plenty of water and wear sunscreen as there is little shade.

Rating: Elevation Gain: 200 ft. (Easy), Distance: 4.9 Miles Roundtrip (Moderate).

Time to Complete Hike: 2 - 3 hours.


View Ladera Ranch Ridge Overlook 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.