Orange Country Trail Runs

Though it's great to get up to the mountains for trail runs, reality dictates that the majority of my runs are closer to home. Here are some of my regular spots in and around the OC, good for up to about 20 miles and 3000' feet of elevation gain.

Aliso Creek

My favorite, and most frequented, spot for routine trail runs. It's a great location for anything up to 14 miles and 2000' of gain. There are a couple short sections of great single track and steep, technical up/downhill.

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Arroyo Pescadero

Not far from Powder Canyon, Arroyo Pescadero is small and relatively flat, but has some decent trails and is good for about 6-8 miles.

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Bluewater Canyon

Bluewater Canyon is a 20 mile loop with 4000' of gain into San Mateo and Bluewater Canyons with one heck of a drop and climb in the middle. It's normally only accessible by backpacking or a really long day hike.

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Bolsa Chica Wetlands

Formally known as the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, it's the largest salt water marsh in Southern CA. It's a beautiful area but is unfortunatley flat as a board with virtually no single track. So it's hard to count as trail running, but at least it's not road!

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Carbon Canyon

A small regional park near the entrance to Chino Hills State Park, Carbon Canyon has fairly limited trail running options but does have a small grove of (planted) Coastal Redwoods, not something you'd expect to see in Orange County.

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Caspers Wilderness

Another large wilderness area in Orange County. Great when it's green in the Spring, but you won't find too many exciting trails here. Good for up to 10 miles with around 2000' of gain.

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Central Park

The equestrian center at Central Park in Huntington Beach. My de-facto trail running location when I need a quick 5-6 miles and a few hundred feet of elevation gain. It's what keeps me from ever having to run roads.

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Chino Hills State Park

One of the largest trail running locations in Orange County. Chino Hills State Park is good for up to 25 miles and upwards of 3000' of gain. There is almost zero tree cover though, very little single track, and it gets blazing hot here in the summer.

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Chiquito Canyon

A great 20 mile out-and-back starting at the popular San Juan Loop trail then up to Chiquito Falls then out to the Viejo Tie trail junction and ultimately to Bluejay Campground and back. 20 miles and around 3300' gain. It's a tough climb up to the ridge, but then you're rewarded with some of the best single track in Orange/Riverside County.

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El Dorado Nature Center

It's flat as a board and only a 2 mile loop, but the El Dorado Nature Center is a beautiful little oasis if you need a quick urban run just outside the OC.

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El Modena Open Space

A small area in East Orange, the El Modena Open Space offers some fairly steep, technical single track, but is only good for about 5 or 6 miles. The hills here are formed from volcanic outcroppings. Who knew there were volcanos in the OC!?

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El Morro - Crystal Cove

Crystal Cove is one of the most popular trail running spots in Orange County, but I think it's a bit overrated. There are definitely some great ocean views, but the trails are not so great. Very little single track. But it's big enough to get in upwards of 20 miles and 3000' of gain without repeating trail.

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Fairview Park

Fairview Park is a bit of a last resort in the area. It's mostly flat and only good for 5 or 6 miles, but at least it's not road!

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Laguna Coast

Laguna Coast is directly adjacent to El Morro - Crystal Cove and has a couple short sections of good trail. It's definitely the best way to enter El Morro. Less crowded and open even when El Morro is closed.

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Morgan Trail

Pushing the definition of a "local" trail run, the Morgan Trail is near Lake Elsinore in the Cleavland National Forest. It's just over 4 miles one way and can be joined together with the Bear Ridge loop and the leg out to the Candy Store to make a 15 mile round-trip run with about 2000' gain. The first couple of miles have some nice single track.

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Peters Canyon

A great beginner's spot for trail running. Lots of short but steep hills with plenty of people around and never far from civilization. And there's even (sort of) a lake!

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Powder Canyon

About halfway between Turnbull Canyon and Chino Hills State Park is Powder Canyon. Good for around 12 miles and 2000' of gain with a few miles of great single track.

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Santiago Oaks

Not far from Peter's Canyon, Santiago Oaks is a great place for some steep, technical single-track. It's good for up to about 15 miles and 2500' of elevation gain. Unfortunately, most of the vegetation was destroyed in a huge fire a few years ago, but it's slowly but surely returning.

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Sitton Peak

Somewhere between a local trail run and a low altitude mountain run, Sitton Peak is a great local destination. 10 miles round trip and about 2500' gain with nice single track and a great view at the top.

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Turnbull

My second most commonly run local spot, introduced to me by Dr. Rock. Some decent stretches of single track, and the ability to accumulate a couple thousand feet of elevation gain, make for some great trail running.

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Whiting Ranch

Red Rocks, Nevada? No. Red Rocks, Colorado? Nope. Red Rocks Canyon at Whiting Ranch in Orange County, CA. Who knew such a place existed? And the trailhead is in the middle of a shopping mall!

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