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Irvine’s Paths to Glory and Healthier Living

Residents of Irvine have a couple of distinct advantages over many other American citizens during the holiday season. The first of which is shared by anybody who lives in a warmer climate – you don’t get snowed in. For the people who do live in a colder area, getting out the old shovel to clear the driveway can be a good way to shed some of those extra holiday calories, but, generally, cold weather inspires most people to huddle in their homes around their fires or TVs with a nice hot cup of cocoa, tea or toddy. When that extra holiday meal weight starts to tip your scale, however, Irvine offers plenty of its own healthy alternatives to hibernating like a bear with Netflix. Of course, I’m talking about getting off your butt and hitting one of Irvine’s many hiking and biking trails.

Photo by Scott Feinblatt

When it comes to the trails, Irvine’s topography and contributes to a number of colorful options. There are rugged paths, which showcase the natural landscape and appeal to the avid outdoorsman, outdoorswoman and outdoorsperson. Then, for a lower-impact workout, Irvine also offers paved pathways with their own pedestrian traffic signs. To get an idea of people’s favorite paths, we consulted a number of lifestylers and websites to bring you this concise list of Irvine’s hiking and biking trails.

We’ll start our journey on the north side with Hicks Canyon Trail. Stretching from right around Hicks Canyon Community Park to right around Portola Parkway and Jeffrey Road, Hicks provides an easy four mile round trip for your basic hiking and road biking needs. The path contains multiple lanes – including some of that lovely signage we were talking about – and is great for walking the dog or just stroll-in-the-park level hikes.

Adjacent to Hicks, on the western end, is Peter’s Canyon Trail, which is good for hiking, road biking and mountain biking. Not to be confused with the popular and moderately difficult Peter’s Canyon Loop, in Tustin, this is a very large system that, if taken southbound, will hug Peter’s Canyon Creek all the way down to Barranca Parkway, where it briefly shares a stretch of the Mountains to the Sea Trail & Bikeway before becoming the moderately difficult San Diego Creek Trail, which is also good for hiking, road biking, dog walking – as well as for bird watching. Different hiking trail guides list different parameters for Peter’s Canyon Trail; one version suggests that the path is good for a nice 14 mile round trip – that goes from about University Drive and Jamboree Road along the creek to end up at Windrow Community Park – but the more adventurous will see that the eastern end of the trail continues along until it concludes just south of Irvine Spectrum, making the total round trip about 20 miles.

Photo by Scott Feinblatt

If we go back to the Hicks Canyon Trail and pick up where the eastern part of the trail ended, we’re gonna hit the Portola Side Path Trail, another easy to moderate trail that hugs Portola Parkway from just east of Culver Drive to just west of the 241 – making for a nice nine mile round trip suitable for rugged hikers and mountain bikers. Now, as you may be aware, or as you may be starting to realize, there are so many paths in Irvine that lead into others, which lead into others, that a comprehensive list would be overwhelming, so from this point in our journey, we shall merely cite some of the more popular trails without listing every neighboring trail.

Next up is Bommer Canyon Trail. This is a fairly popular, looped trail, which will make the unconditioned hikers and mountain bikers sore the next day. The course runs across some hilly areas and stretches from just south of Turtle Rock Community Park to Coastal Peak Park. The four-and-a-half-ish mile loop includes an elevation gain of just over 800 feet, so smokers beware: you’ll probably have to pause to catch your breath a few times. Still too easy for you? All right, some hikers / bikers choose to augment this trail with the Deer Canyon Loop. This path, which begins at the southernmost point of the Bommer Canyon Trail, adds on an additional four miles and brings the total elevation gain of the course to just under 1,350 feet. Those who brave it ought to bring plenty of water as there is no shade along this course. Also, probably best to leave the doggies at home for this trek.

For this next one, we’ll dial it back a bit to an easy path for casual hikers and road bikers; in fact, this one would probably qualify more as a stroll than it would as a hike. Regardless, the Jeffrey Open Space Trail provides a scenic walk / ride through the park and across a couple of bridges. With entry points near Portola Parkway and Cypress Community Park, this trail is just under five-and-a-half miles round trip.

Photo by Scott Feinblatt

Another popular loop trail is the Quail Loop Trail, located off the Quail Hill Trailhead at Quail Hill Community Park – by Shady Canyon Drive and the 405. Known for its wildflower scenery, this one also ranks as being easy for hikers and mountain bikers; plus, it’s just under two miles, so you can probably even drag the kids along for some exercise! Also, if you happen to complete the trail with those kiddies, and you feel like they could still use some more exercise, perhaps they’ll be up to the slightly more challenging Quail Hill to Sandy Wash Trail. This one measures in at just under nine and a half miles, stretching north from the Quail Hill Trailhead and finishing at around University Drive and Harvard Avenue. This one is also good for mountain biking and bird watching.

To wrap things up, we’ll throw in one more Quail Trail for you; this one extends from the Quail Hill Trailhead southward to include Serano Ridge Viewpoint. This 12 mile loop trail will make your calves earn their daily bread with a 1,666 foot elevation gain along the way. Good for both types of biking, with nice forest and wildflower scenery, it is trails like this that turn children into adults.

As we’ve stated, this is merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the trails that wend all throughout Irvine. And given the varying lengths and levels of difficulty, there is surely a path out there that is waiting for you to get some of that crisp winter air into your lungs and soak up the sunshine until you wind up back at home or at a relative’s home for another grand holiday gorge fest. Happy trails!