Arroyo Trabuco Trail

Rancho Santa Margarita, California 92688

Elevation Gain1,059ft
Trailhead Elevation893ft
Elevation Min/Max294/893ft
Elevation Start/End893/893ft

Arroyo Trabuco Trail

Arroyo Trabuco Trail is a hiking, biking, and horse trail in Rancho Santa Margarita, California. It is 7.7 miles long and begins at 893 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 15.3 miles with a total elevation gain of 1,059 feet. This trail connects with the following: Trabuco Creek Bike Path and Tijeras Creek Trail.

Arroyo Trabuco Trail Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Mountain Bike! Orange County (Menasha Ridge Press)
David Womack
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"Begin on the footpath near the sports park, then drop down to Trabuco Canyon Road and head toward the Santa Ana Mountains. Past the Oso Parkway underpass, Trabuco Canyon Road becomes the Arroyo Trabuco Trail. This is where the stream crossings begin. Crank up the dirt trail, following the narrow, yet enticing, wilderness corridor all the way to the turnaround point at O’Neill Regional Park. The ride back is slightly downhill—fast and easy." Read more
"The Arroyo Trabuco Trail parallels the creek through a six-mile-long finger of designated wilderness in O’Neill Park. The near-level trail meanders through the protected riparian habitat to Oso Parkway at its south end. The narrow stretch of undeveloped land is an important wildlife corridor that links the Santa Ana Mountains with coastal Orange County." Read more
Afoot & Afield: Orange County (Wilderness Press)
Jerry Schad and David Money Harris
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"The somewhat long but easy-going trek down the Arroyo Trabuco is most adventurous after winter rainy periods, when turbid water dances over a wide, gravelly bed, and there’s no way to avoid a good foot-soaking at each of four fords you encounter along the trail. Be aware, however, that for most county-park trails such as this, there’s usually a “drying-out” period (usually 3 days) during which all visitation is prohibited. You will pass many unmarked and unmapped paths on both sides; stay on the wide main trail, which is marked every mile." Read more
Orange County: A Day Hiker's Guide (The Trailmaster)
John McKinney
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"One way or another the hike through Arroyo Trabuco Wilderness is an engaging experience. In fact, one-way may be the best way to walk this wildland corridor from O’Neill Park to Oso Parkway across southern Orange County. With the help of a car shuttle, the hiker can enjoy a mostly downhill ramble from a nature center to a mini-mall, a journey from the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains to trail’s end near a Taco Bell. On a recent down-canyon jaunt, I experienced a collage, indeed collision, of images that included a murmuring creek, grand old oaks and sycamores, a doe and fawn browsing a flower-sprinkled meadow, as well as traffic rushing over my head on the Foothill Transportation Corridor (toll road). In places, all traces of the suburbia that sandwiches Arroyo Trabuco recedes to a respectful distance, and the hiker is left only in the company of chirping crickets, croaking frogs and twittering birds." Read more

Arroyo Trabuco Trail Reviews

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I did this hike on a very hot day (102 degrees). My the map I had from the website, it was hard to tell the loop portions of the trail from offshoots that went to the electric pole lines. The main trail was marked in various spots, but I got lost on an offshoot trail thinking it was a loop and ended up as a dead end twice. The trail didn't have much to offer for scenery (I'm from Washington State), but it was nice to get out and have a place to hike not far from where Saddleback Church is. I appreciated being able to get off the trail at the half way point and get into some air conditioning and rest a while. It would have been very hard to make the entire distance in the heat without the break. As it was, it was difficult. It wasn't a physically challenging trail other than for the outside temperature.
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The danger of mountain lions is grossly exaggerated. I run and ride in this area often, and have seen many deer, but never a mountain lion. In fact, in over 10 years of riding all over Orange County, I've never seen a mountain lion. Besides, the last thing a mountain lion wants to do is chase down a biker, unless maybe you are injured and separated from the herd. This reviewer falls prey to media hype.

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Trail Information

Rancho Santa Margarita
Nearby City
Moderate to Difficult
Skill Level
USGS Santiago Peak; Thomas Brothers, Orange County.
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Dec 2018