For a more curated experience check out trail guides from our partner publishers.
Best Dog Hikes Southern California
by Linda and David Mullally (Falcon Guides)
The Cleveland National Forest is largely chaparral country. This short trail offers a contrast, with interesting sandstone topography, unobstructed views of the surrounding hills, and a seasonal creek with a waterfall.
Afoot & Afield: Orange County
by Jerry Schad and David Money Harris (Wilderness Press)
If you’ve no more time to spare than an hour while cruising the Ortega Highway, at least stop and try the San Juan Loop Trail (not to be confused with the much longer San Juan Trail). Sights include a small waterfall along San Juan Creek, excellent wildflower displays in the spring, and some of the finest oak woodland in the Santa Anas.
101 Hikes in Southern California: Exploring Mountains, Seashore and Desert
From San Juan Capistrano to Lake Elsinore, two-lane Ortega Highway stretches like a snake over the midriff of the Santa Ana Mountains, giving road warriors a taste of Orange County’s wild, unfamiliar side.
Best Hikes with Dogs: Southern California
by Allen Riedel (The Mountaineers Books)
The San Juan Loop Trail is a popular destination for many people in both Orange and Riverside Counties. The trailhead is easily the most visible in the Santa Ana Mountains. It is also one of the most frequently used. Expect at least ten other cars in the parking lot on any given weekend day. Its proximity to shops and campgrounds makes it a viable outing for all types of people. The short length and picturesque setting draw both young and old.
Best Easy Day Hikes: Orange County
by Randy Vogel (Falcon Guides)
This trail takes you to a variety of coastal mountain habitats,
including seasonal waterfalls, dense mature-oak woodlands,
and open chaparral-covered hillsides. Although best tackled
in the cooler months, an early-morning start in summer is
bound to be pleasant and will allow you to see birds and
animals when they are most active.
Day Hikes Around Orange County
by Robert Stone (Day Hike Books)
The San Juan Loop is an easy, well-signed trail that strolls through a scenic stream-fed canyon south of Santiago Peak in the Santa Ana Mountains. The trail, just off the Ortega Highway, has a variety of habitats, including oak woodlands and chaparral-covered slopes. The loop leads to San Juan Falls, a seasonal waterfall in a gorge with granite-lined pools. En route, six streams merge from the surrounding canyons to form San Juan Creek, a major tributary of Arroyo Trabuco.
With gentle grades most of the way, the San Juan Trail is tailor-made for a leisurely saunter from the Main Divide of the Santa Anas to the lower foothills. In recent years, the trail has received a lot more use among mountain bikers. Because the trail runs largely along dry ridgelines exposed to the sun, avoid hot days unless you’re willing to carry a lot of water and sweat copiously. Clear winter days bring out the best in the scenery.
Nice little loop. Picnic table along the way do a little lunch. Pretty rocks but half way though you can hear the road traffic.
Nice hike. The trail is well maintained and there is currently good water flow... you can scurry down to the river via several steep, little trails. After the Hike you should drive east about 1 mile and check out the Ortega Falls. Walk down to the falls on the far right trail... it is the easiest. End the day with lunch at Hell's Kitchen, it's just down the road a bit further east and the food is quite good.
The Basic 3 mile is a good workout, but you can extend that with many different trail combos :)
MY HUSBAND AND I ARE GOING TO DO A GRAND CANYON HIKE OF A TOTAL OF 16 MILES IN MAY, 2004. WE HAVE BEEN EXERCISING AND WALKING HILL AROUND OUR HOME, AND THEN WE FOUND OUT ABOUT COWLES MOUNTAIN. IT WAS AMAGING, I HAD SOME TROUBLE MY FIRST HIKE UP (MARCH 25, 2004) BUT HIKED IT AGAIN, SUNDAY, MARCH 28TH IN THE EARLY MORNING, AND ONLY HAD TO REST TWICE. I AM A HEART PATIENT AND ALMOST 1 YEAR AGO HAD OPEN HEART SURGERY TO REPLACE MY AORTIC VALVE, CALLED THE ROSS PROCEDURE. THIS IS AND WAS A BIG ACCOMPLISHMENT FOR ME. WISH ME LUCK IN THE GRAND CAYNON............
This is about the 20th time I have done this trail. I took a friend for her first time and she loved it. The first time I did this trail I barely huffed my way to the top I can now reach the top with little or no challenge and the views are spectacular. Still a little warm at this time of year if you don''t go early or in the late afternoon.
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