Tag Archives: Coastal Canyons

MOUNTAIN BIKING CRYSTAL COVE

CRYSTAL COVE STATE PARK

NEWPORT COAST

Activity: Mountain Biking

This blog is mostly about hiking, there is not a lot of backpacking in Orange County, but there is a lot of mountain biking, so this post is about that. There is some great mountain biking in the OC and Crystal Cove is a super spot with about 24 miles or so of trails that range from beginner to expert.

Crystal Cove State Park is the county’s largest open space with 2,400 acres of wilderness and beach. It is available from 6 AM to Dusk.

Crystal Cove is basically a coastal canyon with splendid views from up top, as well as from the ridges. Phenomenal visions of the magical blue Pacific and sweet views of Catalina Island reward those ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure.’ On a clear day San Clemente Island juts out of the ocean as a pleasant surprise since you don’t always see it.

The Park’s vegetation is mostly coastal chaparral some of which is pretty dense other spots are dry and rugged. In the bottom of the deep canyon is a wonderful grove of oak to provide some nice shade to an otherwise pretty sunny place.

There are big broad double track fire road paths that gain and loose elevation almost like you were on a programmed piece of gym equipment, but you are out enjoying the environment for a natural workout. Mountain bikers will get a good thigh burn climbing, and on the long descending stretches will really blast off, but be cognizant of the many hikers.

There are not as many single track trails, but they are fun and will leave you with a grin from ear to ear, as you weave like a snake, (by the way, keep an eye peeled for rattlesnakes), through the chaparral. When you’re doing all of this weaving just make sure you lean to the inside especially when there is a patch of cactus to the outside.

Crystal Cove State Park has a good community of nature lovers. Other mountain bikers are happy to provide trail information. Hikers are generous to step off the trail and let a biker by. Hikers and bikers alike greet each other with a friendly smile and a wave.

The other day I was winding along single track and a more advanced rider caught me from behind. I felt the need to push it since he was right on my 6, but he made sure to let me know to take my time, be safe, and that it’s all good.

Crystal Cove is a fabulous place to feel like you are out in nature and provides a little taste of wilderness, especially when you are down in the canyon portion with hills all around. If you think about it- that is pretty special when you are pretty much smack dab in the thriving metropolis of Newport and Laguna Beach.

That being said, the weekends can get pretty busy as this is a popular spot and with the pandemic it seems that hiking and biking are now one of the favorite activities instead of crowded gyms.

A cool thing about this area is that you can easily connect it to other nearby wilderness parks such as Laguna Coast Wilderness, Boomer Canyon, and Irvine Open Space which would then give you a net work of more than 50 miles of trail.

Thanks for joining my sailing and mountain biking buddy Steve and I on our mountain biking adventures at Crystal Cove, fun times to be sure! What a place to spend a couple hours, and as often as possible. I did not talk about individual trails, but if you go back and look at ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure- Orange County Hiking“ and review posts that concern Crystal Cove you will find pictures and stories regarding individual routes: No Name Ridge/Mach One/Boomer Ridge is one such trek, No Name Ridge/No Dogs/Moro Canyon/W. Cut Across/Rattlesnake/Red Tail/Boomer Ridge is another, No Name Ridge/Ticketron/Deer Canyon/Red Tail Ridge/Boomer Ridge Loop is a variation with some other trails mixed in. You can see the whole idea is there are a lot of different trails at Crystal Cove so you can mix and match trails depending on the difficulty you are seeking as well as how long you would like to ride. Keep in mind they are from a hiking prospective, but most of the hiking trails are also mountain biking trails. Conversely some of the popular single track mountain biking sections you will find hikers on them.

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‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure’ seeks shelter from this crazy world of ours and some peace by experiencing soulful spots all over the West. Checkout the menu above for a compass pointing to Adventure. If you enjoyed this post then please LIKE, COMMENT, FOLLOW, and SHARE.

Happy Trails-

Roger Jenkins

Pursuing Balance Through Adventure

Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park

Near Foothill Ranch, California

This park, not unlike others of this sort in Southern California, has oak tree wooded canyons, rolling hills of grassland, and steep slopes covered with coastal chaparral, and it is a great place to hike. What is different is Red Rock Canyon, as you meander through that portion of the park you will be transported to Arizona, Nevada, or Utah- a little bit of canyon lands.

There are quite a few trails and the park is a multi use area for hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders, so you will be sharing the trail.

The park has quite a few mountain lion warnings signs posted as well as on their website and for good reason. In January 2020 a small boy was out in front of a group of adults and a mountain lion grabbed him by the neck. The lion released him when the father threw his backpack at him. The top carnivore exchanged the toddler for the pack and took the backpack up into a tree.

Over a decade and a half ago a mountain biker was killed while stooped over working on his bike. Later that day two women were attacked by the same animal. The cougar had one of them by the head as her friend fought the lion in a deadly game of keep away, foiling the attempt by the predator to drag the woman into the brush. While Orange County Sheriff Deputies were hunting the killer, it turns out that surveillance from an overhead support helicopter, using infrared, spotted the mountain lion on an embankment above the officers hunting them.

Mountain lions are beautiful animals and in most cases you will never know that they are there, but should you encounter one make yourself as large as possible, wave your arms, and shout, throw things at it, let it know you are not prey, and fight back with all you got. Always report any sighting to a Ranger as soon as possible. Mountain lions are ambush killers, will take you from behind and if they get the back of your neck… So use caution, travel in groups, and I carry a big knife. Probably won’t do me any good, but I imagine one having me by the back of the neck and me trying to stab it in the face while trying not to stab myself. Any attack on humans is extremely rare. In most cases they want nothing to do with you. You are not it’s food, and besides they have to pick their battles, an injury to such an animal will keep it from doing it’s job, eating.

We parked at the top of the park off of Santiago Canyon Road and entered at Gate #10. That put us on Whiting Spur Road and which took us to Four Corners, aptly named because from there you have four paths from which to choose. We explored Water Tank Road and then took Mustard Road, which is rated Difficult, to Red Rock Canyon Trail. As I mentioned, this sandstone rock canyon is unusual for this area and was fun to explore. Afterwards we split up as my friend Adam, who is not much of a hiker, took his time continuing downhill taking Borrego Trail not wanting to tackle the climb back out. The plan was I would meet him later in the day at the bottom of the park.

I went on to explore Cattle Pond Loop, just a short side excursion, and then up to Vista Lookout the highest point in the park at 1,500’ for a view of the entire area. Then retraced my steeps, but instead of staying on Mustard Road the entire journey I took Billy Goat Trail, another Difficult route. Billy Goat was a great hike, you know it is a hard trail when you heels aren’t touching as you head up. The trail was up and down and all around with a some switchbacks thrown in for good measure. There was one steep section of trail I was climbing and thankfully I was climbing into the sun or I might not have seen the silhouette of a large spider web with a half dollar sized spider in the middle about face height. After playing darts tossing rocks at it so that I could clear the web, I forged ahead and completed my exploration of this wonderful Park, Whiting Ranch Wilderness.

Thanks for joining Adam and I on this hiking adventure. We enjoyed Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park and need to go back and do some more ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure’. For more adventures please COMMENT, FOLLOW, LIKE, and SHARE. For your adventure pleasure please checkout the menu as ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure’ travels to many different areas and be aware that each site in independent and thus needs to be FOLLOWED individually. I would appreciate it if you checkout SHOP APPAREL, a great place for adventure wardrobe and a place where you can help support PBTA.

Happy Trails,

Roger Jenkins, ’Pursing Balance Through Adventure’

Crystal Cove State Park

No Name Ridge/Ticketron/Deer Canyon/Red Tail Ridge/Bommer Ridge Loop

South Coast Wilderness

Near Newport Beach

Activity: Day Hike

Date: October 2019

Distance: 3.7 miles, 583’ elevation change, 90 minute duration, rated Easy

Crystal Cove is my Goto hike. It is in close proximity to my home, it boasts stupendous blue Pacific and Catalina Island views, pleasant coastal canyons, rambling hills, oak tree groves infused with fairy-tale light, and a good amount of elevation change.

I have hiked all of the trails in Crystal Cove State Park and mountain biked on a bunch of them as well. The cool thing is with all the trails in this park you can really mix and match what you are up for that day. You can decide on how steep, how long, how much time, if you want to see the top, if you want to see the bottom, which has a great beach, the middle portion has a coastal canyon, wide trails or hardly a trail, and parts of the park are more remote than others. There are some very fun mountain bike runs, and there are some pretty hard ones as well.

Then if that is not exciting enough at the top of the park, which is where I usually launch from, is right where three different portions of the South Coast Wilderness come together: Crystal Cove State Park, City of Irvine Open Space Preserve, and Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. So lots of choices.

The hike that I did was just what I was feeling for that Fall day. Not too long, not too short, not difficult, but there is one steep section that will get your heart pumping, scenic, and part of it is more remote. It goes from wide open broad fire road to single track with brush that is sometimes over groan, but most of the time the park keeps everything pretty ship shape. There is a smooth rock area that has a little opening which is fun to poke your head in. Something a little unusual. There are two spots in the park that can be camped at and Deer Canyon, which my hike took me past, is one of them. This could be a good place for a first time backpacking overnighted.

Crystal Cove State Park is a good playground for those who want to stretch their legs, get some fresh air in their lungs, and shake off the world for a little bit, and of course train for other outings. In other words it is a good spot to be ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure’.

Hiking is the answer. Who cares what the question is.

When you cannot get into the backcountry, to the fir trees, to the mountains, to the lonely desert, you still need to get somewhere, and local hikes that are still fun, enjoyable, with open space, and nature fit the bill. Besides if you aren’t doing smaller training hikes then those epic adventures are going to be rough. Thanks for joining me on such as hike at Crystal Cove State Park while ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure. Now you should COMMENT, LIKE, SHARE, and FOLLOW. If you need hiking-adventure-workout-casual ware then I got just the place for you: SHOP APPAREL which is also how you can support this blog.

Happy Trails,

Roger Jenkins, Pursuing Balance Through Adventure