Ashley and I recently had a fun day hike in Orange County by hiking the Las Ramblas Trail and the Patriot Trail, to Flag Hill in the City of San Juan Capistrano's open space preserve. Flag Hill in San Juan Capistrano is the spot where an American Flag flies on the set of rolling hills overlooking the City of San Juan Capistrano. This is a fun short-day hike in Orange County that offers amazing views of Orange County to those hiking here. This hike in Southern California is well worth the trip and you have a great chance to see wildlife as well!
Directions to Trailhead: To get to the trailhead to Hike to Flag Hill, take the 5 freeway heading south towards San Juan Capistrano. You are going to exit the freeway at the exit for Pacific Coast Highway/Camino Las Ramblas. Make a left turn onto Camino Las Ramblas and follow this street until it dead ends. The trailhead begins when Camino Las Ramblas dead ends. There is plenty of parking at the trailhead and there is no cost for parking at this access to this Orange County nature preserve.
Description of Hike: The hike to Flag Hill is an out-and-back hike on a dirt trail. The trails in the nature preserve are generally in good condition and are easy to follow. After heavy rains the trails can suffer damage, as when we hiked here, there were sections of the hike that had damage from the heavy rains in December of 2010. The hike to Flag Hill in Orange County does have some elevation changes to it. The approach described for this hike is a ridge line approach, meaning there is a lot of up and down while you are hiking on the trail. But this approach offers amazing scenery because of the elevation of the hike. The trail offers sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, South Orange County, the last remaining undeveloped areas of Orange County, and the San Gabriel's. Expect to see other people while out on this trail as it is a very popular trail for hikers, mountain bikers, and people walking their dogs.
To hike to Flag Hill, from the trailhead take the main Las Rambles Trail. Make sure to avoid all the informal trails you see at the beginning by the parking area and stick to the wide fire road. After a little bit, you will come to the crossroads with the Harbor View Trail which goes up to your left. Take this trail. Once at the crest of the incline you will want to make a right onto Patriot Trail, which immediately goes up a big hill. This trail takes you all the way to Flag Hill. Click Here for a trail map of the San Juan Capistrano Trail System. Most of the trails in the park are marked with signs, however, some are not, so make sure to print out one of the maps provided by the city on the link above. This is a fun 3.5-mile roundtrip hike in San Juan Capistrano with approximately 400 feet of elevation gain.
Further Thoughts: Ashley and I really enjoyed this hike. It is the perfect hike to pack a lunch and enjoy along the trail or at Flag Hill. The whole wilderness area in this nature preserve was green because of all the rain that we had during the 2010/2011 rainy season. The hike to Flag Hill in San Juan Capistrano is a great hike to do after it rains in Southern California when everything is green. Make sure to bring your camera as the views are great and you have the possibility of seeing wildlife while on this hike. We did see deer tracks while on this hike, multiple hawks, turkey vultures, and a gopher snake on this fun Orange County Hike.
There is extensive history regarding the hike to Flag Hill. In 2006, Ryan Pickell erected a flag pole on top of what has become known as Flag Hill. The flag was erected on the hill in memory of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But in January 2010, the flag was toppled because of the strong thunderstorms that hit the Southern California area. Ryan's younger brother, Kyle, decided to fix the flag as an Eagle Scout project. After working on it for a month, Kyle and a group of community members dedicated the new 35-foot pole which was bigger than the previous one on Memorial Day of 2010. Sadly, this was not the only replacement that has happened to the flag, Ryan's flag pole had been replaced once before, after it was vandalized in 2007. Click Here for a link to the Capistrano Insider on the story. It is pretty neat having the flag on the hill which offers a 360-degree view of the surrounding area and is a great memorial to the strength of our country. Bottom-line is the hike to Flag Hill is a great hike that is perfect for the whole family to enjoy together!
Further Education & Hiking Tools: For those looking for more reading on hikes or landmarks in the area, Amazon has several books that you can purchase (and yes, we do earn a small commission from any sale, but that is what funds this website so we appreciate any purchase using our links) Check out the following books A Kids Guide to Mission San Juan Capistrano,
Dana Point (CA) (Images of America), San Juan Capistrano (CA) (Images of America), or if you need a new insect repellant to use on your hikes that works well check out Sawyer Products SP564 Premium Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin, Lotion or if you need a great compact towel while hiking on the trail you might want to check out 4Monster Camping Towels.