Santiago Oaks Regional Park
It’s been a while since I’ve hiked sans children. My sister and I left on a mission: to hike while seeking wildflowers. The first time I visited Santiago Oaks was last fall with my kids when we hiked the Windes Nature Trail and a few others, but stayed down in the canyon. This time I was looking forward to hiking further into the park and hitting a ridge or two.
Our plan was to hike as long as we felt good. We had no agenda and just winged it along the way. This is a popular place and Saturdays can be busy so when we saw groups of people hiking a trail we would pick another. This is a large park and it is possible to ditch the horses, mountain bikers, and other hikers if you so choose. With connections to Irvine Regional and Weir Canyon Regional parks you can hike all day if you wish.
The wildflowers were few and far between this day of spring, but if you slow down and look real hard they are there. California poppies were scattered around. The largest patch I found was on the Santiago Creek trail below the Mountain Goat trail.
I only saw a few Mariposa lilies on the Cactus Canyon trail.
I saw cacti on the same trail nearing Barham Ridge.
Hawks and other birds flew by, a few butterflies fluttered around, bees buzzed, people on horses passed us, dogs sniffed us, and firefighters did push ups while we watched. How’s that for diversity?
Somehow I only managed photos of the firefighters. Go figure.
We hiked for three hours (we stopped often and observed nature) on many of the trails. I didn’t bother to track the data this day. So not quite sure of our mileage. The Santiago Oaks trail map on the OC Parks website lists the mileage of each trail, which is helpful, but on some of the trails we only partially hiked them. Oh well. Here is a the list of trails we took:
- Santiago Creek trail to Pony
- Pony to Santiago Creek
- Santiago Creek to Hawk
- Hawk to Grasshopper
- Grasshopper to Bumblebee
- Bumblebee to Cactus Canyon
- Cactus Canyon to Barham Ridge
- Barham to Mountain Goat
- Mountain Goat to Santiago Creek
- Santiago Creek to Bobcat Meadow
- Bobcat Meadow to Oak
- Oak to Rinker Grove to Tohee
- Tohee to Arizona Crossing
- Arizona Crossing to Ladybug
- Ladybug to Santiago Creek
- Santiago Creek to Historic Dam
I really enjoyed Hawk Trail. It goes straight up, it’s for hikers only, and no one else was on it. Woot. Santiago Creek trail is probably the most crowded, but I’m a sucker for shade and trees so I like this one too. It’s flat.
Hiking weather was in full force. Clouds kept the sun at bay and we felt comfortable on the ridges. Like magic the clouds parted just as we headed back into the canyon.
One thing that I don’t like about this park is the planes flying overhead as it sits directly under the flight path into John Wayne airport. I never noticed the planes the first visit, but this day I did.
Post Hike Meal
After hiking for hours my sister and I were ready for lunch. We decided to take the scenic drive home, through Santiago Canyon past Irvine Lake, and detour off into Silverado Canyon for a nice post hike drive. We stopped to eat at the Silverado Cafe. I get sappy for rustic, off-the-beaten-path cafes with rustic decor and down-home cookin’. I had breakfast for lunch (breakfast is served until 2pm) and my sis had a burger. Good food. Good price. Good vibes.
What’s your favorite trail at Santiago Oaks Regional Park and why?
- Santiago Oaks Regional Park (links to OC Parks website)
- Santiago Oaks Trail Map (links to OC Parks website and is a good one. Very detailed.)