San Diego Creek near UC Irvine.

Walk or cycle along Irvine’s longest creek

by TOM BERG

San Diego Creek holds stories of adventure and natural wonder as it journeys through the heart of the city.

On its banks, a path takes hikers and bikers past city landmarks like Irvine Spectrum, Woodbridge Village Center and the UC Irvine campus.

And down in the creek, thickets of wild grape, elderberry and mule fat provide a home to secretive wildlife while cleansing the creek’s water.

The “naturally filtered” water maintains the beauty and health of the creek that empties into Upper Newport Bay.

All according to plan

This idyllic setting was not always the case.

Decades ago, sand and silt from local mountains and water channels washed down San Diego Creek, harming its habitat and threatening to fill up the Upper Newport Bay.

Irvine Company partnered with several jurisdictions to create an intricate network of tributaries, wetlands and ponds to reduce sediment, restore habitats and clean the water.

The $150 million invest- ment has become a major environmental achievement. San Diego Creek is an example of successful creek restoration — and on any given day up to 35,000 migrating birds can be found in Upper Newport Bay — the largest natural estuary in Southern California.


The San Diego Creek traverses the breadth of Irvine before arriving at Upper Newport Bay. It’s an ever-changing scene that will keep you engaged across the 9-mile journey.


1. LOS OLIVOS

Here the creek ducks beneath oaks, sycamores and willows. Keep an eye out for the once endangered least Bell’s vireo, which flies 2,000 miles from Mexico each year to mate and raise its young in Irvine.


2. WOODBRIDGE

The trail’s midpoint is marked by gentle Bermuda grass banks along the creek. Stop at Woodbridge Village Center for lunch or cross the footbridge to Mike Ward Community Park for a quick break.


3. SAN JOAQUIN

The trail converges with the Mountains to Sea Trail before reaching San Joaquin Marsh across from UC Irvine. This stretch marks the transition from creek to bay — an ecosystem full of migratory birds, turtles and unique plant species.


4. UPPER NEWPORT BAY

Arriving at Upper Newport Bay is an instant reminder of the importance of Irvine’s San Diego Creek. The changing scenes are far more than beautiful landscapes – they protect one of the most important estuaries in the world.