Irvine to the beach and back

I was focusing on each step, not the hill before me. How much farther, I wondered, feeling the strain on my hamstrings.

I was focusing on each step, not the hill before me. How much farther, I wondered, feeling the strain on my hamstrings.

Then we crested the peak and a magnificent vista of glistening blue sea opened up, framed by rolling hills.

Wilderness just minutes away

I recently joined a 14-mile guided hike from Bommer Canyon in south Irvine to Crystal Cove State Park and back. With more than 2,100 feet of total climb, it was the most challenging I’ve been on in Irvine, and the most scenic.

The route is part of the 57,000 acres of The Irvine Ranch permanently preserved as open space.

“We are just so privileged to have that opportunity,” said Joan Steiner, our docent. “You can literally hike from the mountains to the sea on our various trail systems.”

The sky was just beginning to glow when I arrived at the historic cattle staging area nestled in the heart of Bommer Canyon.

Although less than a mile from the Turtle Rock community, the only sounds I could hear were birds chirping in the surrounding wilderness.

Our group of 10 hikers set out at 7:30 a.m. and was immediately greeted by a steep, 600-foot climb.

The trail took us through the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, which is home to deer, bobcat and long-tailed weasel.

Ocean views

The last 2 miles to the beach were all downhill with ocean views the entire way. We could see not only Catalina Island but also San Clemente Island, thanks to the perfectly clear sky.

Arriving at the beach after about three hours, I couldn’t help but think about why we choose to live here. Fellow hiker Tina Sullivan shared the sentiment.

“The wonderful thing is I took the day off of work and I’m able to do this 14-mile hike and still be done with it at 1 p.m. and have the rest of the day to myself before the weekend starts,” she said. “You forget all the beauty here when you live in it. So it takes a hike like this to make me realize that we are very blessed.”


A full one-third of Irvine is permanently designated as protected open space.

In 1988, as part of Irvine’s master planning efforts, the city and Irvine Company developed the landmark Open Space Agreement. This first-of-its-kind pact ultimately led to the permanent preservation of over 57,000 acres of wilderness areas and natural ecosystems. Irvine Company also has contributed $50 million to ensure the long-term stewardship of these lands.

We gathered for our 14-mile hike at the historic cattle camp in Bommer Canyon, only minutes from the heart of Irvine. The group quietly took in the sunrise as native finches offered their captivating song.

Quiet contemplation joined physical exertion as we climbed a challenging 600-foot grade with views looking back over the city.

As we crested the final hill in Laguna Wilderness Park, the awe-inspiring expanse of the Pacific Ocean opened. The final two miles sloped downhill, allowing us a respite to appreciate the natural beauty in every direction.

Hooray! In three hours, we’d hiked from Irvine to the ocean. As we stepped onto the beach at Crystal Cove State Park, I turned to my new friends and said, “This is why we live here.”

Find a hike that’s right for you

Quail Hill Loop
2 miles
This beginner’s trail, in the heart of the city, is a perfect way to “get away without leaving.”

Shady Canyon Trail
5 miles
This intermediate trail climbs 500 feet with views over Shady Canyon and Strawberry Farms.

Limestone Canyon Trail
9 miles
This intermediate hike brings you to The Sinks, known as Orange County’s mini Grand Canyon.

Learn more about these and other hikes at