Orange County in Southern California has a nice variety of parks and courses. Unfortunately, continued development and over population has made the few courses overused, but still lots of fun. Climate makes this a year-round area. October thru January and June are great; very hot August and September, February thru May can be perfect, cold, rainy, or anywhere in between.
Aliso & Wood Canyons Regional Park
This park offers a nice variety of beginner through advanced rides, and is perfect for introducing the first time off-roader to the joys of the sport. Try Sycamore Run for the virgin rider. For the advanced rider, try Cholla/Rock-It or Cholla/Mathis. Wildlife abounds here. Bobcats, snakes, hawks and many more visitors frequently share the trail.
Directions: To reach the park from Interstate 5, take the Alicia Parkway exit, proceed west (approximately 4 miles). 1/4 mile past Aliso Creek Road is AWMA Road, turn right crossing over a bridge; parking is on your left.
Crystal Cove State Park: Moro Canyon
Also known as El Moro Canyon, this park contains lush, sycamore-shaded canyons and high ridges offering views of the Pacific Ocean which create a spectacular environment for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. Designed to preserve the delicate balance of the natural habitat, a major portion of the park's 3,200 acres is open for use on a limited basis.
Approximately 2 miles north of Laguna Beach off of Pacific Coast Highway
General Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park
Riley Wilderness Park (also known as Wagon Wheel Park) is a fairly small park with gently rolling hills, sycamore and oak groves, and views of the surrounding area.
Riding every inch of trails will net you less than 5 miles in the saddle, but the two single track sections can make this park a challage. I can’t recommend this park for the hard core mountain biker out to ride for hours, but for the casual rider this is a fun park.
The elevation gain and technical difficulty also make this a great park for introducing the beginning mountain biker to the sport.
From the 5 freeway take Oso Parkway east toward Mission Viejo. Stay on Oso for six miles before turning right into the park (50 feet before Oso dead ends into Coda De Casa Drive).
Huntington, Newport, Sunset Beach
Approximately 15 miles of beach front riding can be had from Sunset through Huntington and Newport and Balboa Beach. This easy paved set of rides are great for a Sunday afternoon cruise.
The prevailing winds usually pick up in the afternoon and blow to the east. Be careful when riding toward Newport at first since it is much easier going this way and difficult getting back. If it's windy, try starting out by riding north toward Sunset Beach. The ride back will be a breeze. (Oh man, I'm sorry about that)
To get to Newport or Balboa Piers take the 55 South. This turns into Newport Blvd and crosses over Pacific Coast Hwy. About one mile past PCH is Newport Pier on your right. Keep on going down Balboa Blvd approximately two miles to get to Balboa Pier.
To get to Huntington Beach take Beach Blvd (south) off of the 405. About 5.5 miles later make a right on Pacific Coast Hwy. Beach parking is available on the left before you pass the pier. North of the pier, street parking is available on the right.
For parking at Bolsa Chica Beach (near Warner) take Warner Blvd off the 405 (if coming from the south). About 6 miles later you will hit PCH. From the north exit Bolsa Chica from the 405 and head south about 4 miles. Turn right on Warner for one mile before hitting PCH. Turn left on PCH about 1.5 miles on the right is a stop light with the entrance to Bolsa Chica State Beach and parking.
Peter's Canyon Regional Park
Peters Canyon is a fun, smaller park. The trails trace the perimeter of a reservoir and also travel down the canyon below the reservoir. All the trails are fairly easy with an occasional steep hill. One of the highlights of the park is a large eucalyptus grove at the end of the canyon. A single track trail twists through the grove. It's not long, but fun nonetheless.
Although the entire elevation gain is low you still need to keep in mind that the parking is at the top most section of the park. If you ride down the canyon, you will have to come back up.
The park is located near the intersection of Chapman, Jamboree and Santiago Canyon Roads in the city of Orange.
From the 5 freeway, take Jamboree north to Canyon View Ave. Make a left and the park entrance will be a few hundred feet on your left.
From the 55 freeway take Chapman east. You will travel up and over Orange hills. Eventually you will make a right onto Jamboree. A short distance later make a right onto Canyon View Ave. and then a left into the park.
Santiago Truck Trail
The Santiago Truck Trail heads on up towards Saddleback. You could actually get to the top this way--with lots of pain. Two great features of Santiago Truck Trail are the Luge and Old Camp. The Luge is a 1.5 mile gnarly single track dropping 700 feet toward Live Oak Canyon Road. It's great fun if you like narrow, steep and scary single track.
Old Camp is an area purported to be site of an indian hunting ground. It is filled with Oak trees, ferns, vines and a creek. During the first few months of the year this creek contains a lot of water.
The trails are off of Santiago Canyon Road, about 1.25 miles north of Cooks Corner. To get there check out one of these three routes.
From the 55 freeway take Chapman east and go up and over the foothills. After about 5 miles Chapman will turn into Santiago Canyon Road (at Jamboree). Stay on Santiago Canyon Road for 11.5 miles. On your left you will see Modjeska Grade Road (about 2 miles past Modjeska Canyon Road).
From the 5 freeway take Jamboree north for 6 miles. At Chapman/Santiago Canyon Road turn right. Stay on Santiago Canyon Road for 11.5 miles. On your left you will see Modjeska Grade Road (about 2 miles past Modjeska Canyon Road).
From south Orange County at the 5 freeway take El Toro north for about 5.5 miles towards Cooks Corner (a small, dive bar/resturant with tons of motorcycles out front). This is the intersection of Santiago Canyon and Live Oak Canyon Road. Stay to the left (on Santiago Canyon) and turn right onto Modjeska Grade Road 1.25 miles later.
Park anywhere along the side of the road on the half mike up to the trail head. You cannot park at the top so park somewhere below.
Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park
Whiting Ranch is a 1500-acre park with miles of oak covered creek trails, ridge lines and fast descents. This park is one of the most fun, and most attractive areas in the Orange County area. It is not one of the biggest, but does offer a wonderful variety of terrains.
Because of the easy and close entry to the trails, this park is also popular for hikers—so watch out. The hikers are typically limited to the front side of the park leaving the back two-thirds open to mostly mountain bikes. A horse stable on Santiago road also has access to the park so care must be taken when horses are around.
The typical course direction is clockwise around the park. To help preserve safety here, I strongly suggest that you follow this direction.
Take the new Bake exit off of I-5, just at the El Toro "Y". Go east (inland) about 5 miles to Portola Parkway, turn left and go about a half mile. On your right you will see a Ralphs Shopping Center. Immediately past the center is a traffic light; turn right at the light and make an immediate left into the Whiting Ranch parking lot. Parking in the Ralphs lot is not technically legal, but we do it all the time. Park in the back of the lot if you do.
The parks entrance is past the parking lot and down the hill.