Santiago Oaks Regional Park: Spring Hike

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my sis hiking Santiago Creek Trail

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.

Spring Wildflowers

santiago oaks regional park
poppies seen in a patch at the bottom of Mountain Goat trail

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.

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Mariposa lily

I only saw a few Mariposa lilies on the Cactus Canyon trail. 

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Mariposa lily
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cacti with soon to bloom flowers

I saw cacti on the same trail nearing Barham Ridge.

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black sage


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Anaheim Fire working hard

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?

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Anaheim fire hiking and training with their axes

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.

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Rinker Grove trail is for hikers only
Santiago Oaks Regional park
Looking towards Barham Ridge from the top of Hawk trail

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

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post hike meal at the Silverado Cafe in Silverado Canyon

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?


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  1. says

    I haven’t been through this park (that I can recall). Looks like it’s got nice diversity. I love these areas of Orange County that most people aren’t even aware exist.

    • says

      Hi Jeff! Yes, its a nice park, large, and there’s something good for everyone. It was definitely crowded, but easy to lose the crowds. I imagine week days are less so. And I agree with you that exploring less known areas of Orange County is fun!

  2. says

    Ah, an occasional hike (or any outing) sans children is just… healthy, isn’t it? This looks like a lovely hike. Is Santiago Oaks in California?

  3. says

    Looks and sounds like a great park, with some good trails and a chance to get close to nature. Some great flower pics and love the one of the firefighters doing pushups lol

  4. joelsax47 says

    I hiked this today. It was desolate! Discovered that there is a link between Santiago Oaks and Irvine Regional Parks, though. Tempting to make a day of it, no?

  5. joelsax47 says

    We arrived at about 3:15 pm. Went up the Mountain Goat and crossed to the Oak Trail by way of Cactus Canyon and the Bumblebee. Seems to have been a hard year as far as vegetation goes which is what I meant by desolate. I am going to have to visit it in a better season.

    • says

      Got it. Yes, summer is not my favorite season in the OC unless I’m near water or there is a wonderful view. February and March are a pretty time of year.


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