PETERS CANYON HIKE
Nestled between Orange and Tustin, California lies Peters Canyon, Regional Park. Roughly 20 minutes from Disney Land, this 340-acre park offers opportunities for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrian riders to enjoy panoramic views, rare black willow trees, and a lakefront view right on the edge of the city.
Previously utilized as farmland to support Irvine’s water supply before WWII, the U.S. Army converted this area to a training area known as Camp Commander to conduct field training exercises. Shortly after WWII the land was returned to private ownership and then later donated by the Irvine Company to Orange County and dedicated as a regional park.
Peters Canyon Regional Park offers a blend of graded trails among its natural habitat which is a mix of grassland and freshwater marsh. Although Peters Canyon is close to the city, wildlife viewing of mule deer, bobcats, coyotes, critters, and mountain lion (very rarely) tucked away among the sage shrubs and cottonwoods next to the 50-acre lake is all possible.
Within the Park, there are two distinct multi-loop trails and several alternative trail cuts to choose from. Whichever you choose, Peters Canyon Regional Park is sure to provide a nice view and breath of fresh air away from the city.
In October of 2017, Peters Canyon Regional Park was engulfed by a fast-moving wildfire (Canyon 2) that started in Anaheim and moved to the surrounding cities after strong winds accelerated the blaze. After all, was said and done, the Canyon 2 Fire was the largest wildfire Orange County had seen in nearly a decade, consuming 9,217 acres.
The fast reaction by over 1,600 firefighters resulted in no lives being lost during this fire; however, 14 homes were destroyed and another 44 were badly damaged. Among the damage was Peters Canyon. Despite much of the park being set ablaze, the park and reservoirs within were invaluable to firefighters and helped save many of the surrounding houses and structures in the area. For more information about the 2017 fire, the after action report can be found here: https://www.ocfa.org/Uploads/Transparency/OCFA-AAR_2017_Canyon_2_Fire.pdf
PETERS CANYON TRAILS
Terrain: Dirt / Sand
Style: Loop Trails
Routes: The Trails are Well Marked and Heavily Trafficked Graded Roads
Features: Panoramic Lake Views, Wildflowers throughout Spring
Total Ascent: 650 feet (198m)
Highest Elevation: 683 feet (208m)
Tips: Start the Descent Early (Avoid the Heat), and Bring Lots of Water
EAST RIDGE VIEW LOOP
Distance: 5.9 miles (9.5 km)
Hike Time: ~ 3 Hours (Total)
Difficulty: Moderate, Difficult (Only One Steep Hill)
LAKE VIEW LOOP
Distance: 2.5 miles (4 km)
Hike Time: ~ 1 Hour
TRAIL DESCRIPTIONS (as described by OC Parks):
The East Ridge View Trail offers a panoramic view of Peters Canyon and the surrounding area.
The Lake View Trail showcases the lake with the possibility of wildlife viewing as they travel to water.
The Peters Canyon Creek Nature Trail leads hikers through lush groves of willows and rare black cottonwoods with a creek running through.
The Lower Peters Canyon Trail offers grassland, coastal sage scrub and riparian areas to meander through.
WHO IS THIS HIKE FOR?
Peters Canyon is a park that offers a variety of trails for hikers of any skill and experience. Realistically this a very do-able hike and so long as you are comfortable walking the trail distances listed above. The “difficult” rating is only because of one steep hill; if you are in decent shape you should problem completing these loops. There’s no shame in catching your breath and giving these sections a try!
This is a dog-friendly trail and there are usually quite a few of our four-legged friends making the journey throughout the day; just be aware, some of these owners are bad at cleaning up doggie-doo-doo along their walk (you know who you are) so beware of landmines on your journey. It’s also important to know that there isn’t any shade for your pets; be smart and don’t run them to exhaustion!
The trails are generally smooth (except for cracks made from water run-off) and can support running strollers, just make sure that they are the type with good tires, so you don’t get stuck in rocks or cracks. If your kids are old enough to tackle the hills, this is a great place to begin exposing them to the joys of hiking.
Mountain bikes should have no problem anywhere along the trails they can ride.
Peters Canyon Regional Park is an excellent place for a workout. It’s close to the city and affords patrons who prefer the outdoors an opportunity to run, jog, hike, or bike in an environment that seems outside of the busy city buzz. For the best experience, leave before the sun rises, be the first into the park, and enjoy breakfast at the top of the East Ridge View Trail with a panoramic view.
Ultimately Peters Canyon Regional Park is a great spot to work your legs on the edge of the city and one of the most popular hikes in Orange County for good reason!
PETERS CANYON HIKE LOOP PARKING
Peters Canyon Loop Parking and Trailheads:
Southern Trailhead: Tustin, CA 92782
Northern Trailhead: 8548 Canyon View Ave, Orange, CA 92869
SPECIAL EVENTS AND PROGRAMS
THINGS TO BRING
Be sure to bring a buddy, you’ll want to share the views and take lots of pictures, plus if you get in a tight spot or roll an ankle, a shoulder to lean on can make all the difference in the world. There isn’t much shade along the trails so be sure to bring a hat, sunscreen, and lots of water! It gets extremely hot because much of the trail is completely exposed, so be sure to take an extra liter or bottle of water in addition to what you’d expect to drink (2 liters are recommended).
Hiking shoes are not required, because the trails are only moderately steep and similar to that of a graded dirt road; regular athletic shoes are perfectly fine. Hiking Poles are not necessary but can be used if you feel comfortable incorporating them into your hike (just remember they require more energy to use them). As always, bringing a medical pouch, and something to snack on is always a good idea! Just remember, Orange County is known to reach over 100 degrees in the summer and stays hot and humid from April to October, so be smart about venturing out into the heat regardless of the time of year.
Every time someone experiences heat exhaustion, they put first responders’ lives in danger because the first responders must then go out in the same conditions with a lot more gear (stretchers and medical gear) to carry that person down or out. Don’t be a statistic, plan accordingly and don’t endanger others!
ABOUT THE PARK AND TRAILS
Hours of Operation:
7 A.M to Sunset
Fees & Permits :
Parking Fee is $3-meter parking. The machines are solar powered and accept $1 bills, quarters, or Visa/Master Card.
Dogs are on allowed the hiking trails so long as they are restrained with a 6ft maximum length leash.
There are restrooms located near the northern parking lot along with two family picnic areas, one next to the main office trailer under large California pepper trees, and the other located south of the dam on the Lake View Loop Trail in the “Lone Pine” picnic area.
Peters Canyon Regional Park
8548 E. Canyon View Ave.
Orange, CA 92869
Trail Map (pdf):
Park Phone and Email:
(714) 973-6611 or (714) 973-6612
ADDITIONAL TIPS, REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS, AND INFORMATION WHEN HIKING THROUGHOUT PETERS CANYON REGIONAL PARK
- This is a very popular hike so expect heavy traffic and be courteous (hikers going uphill have the right of way). There are a lot of people on these trails so keep your head up. Horses are also present on the trail; give them lots of room and do not spook these animals!
- Peters Canyon is home to venomous snakes, poison oak, and a variety of critters so be cautious on trails and don’t forget that even though there might be lots of people near you, you still need to be alert at all times. If hiking with a dog, keep aware of both you and your dog’s surroundings to avoid an encounter.
- The best time to hike is early in the morning, so sure to leave early and beat the crowds and the heat. Trails can get really crowded and extremely hot so the earlier you arrive the better your experience will be.
- Check the weather before any hike! Things change fast, don’t get caught on top of a mountain while it’s lightning or storming! After heavy rains, the park has been known to close the trails for up to 3 days so be sure to check the parks website or Facebook page for current conditions and info.