This Orchard Hills hike is close to everything, yet a world away. Views include glimpses of the Irvine Spectrum Center’s Giant Wheel and Disneyland’s Matterhorn.

Escape on a twilight hike in Orchard Hills

by TOMOYA SHIMURA

The hike starts in Orchard Hills and continues into surrounding open space.

“It’s a good evening for a hike.” That’s what our docent says as we begin a 3-mile twilight trek into Irvine’s foothills. The temperature is still 60 degrees as the sun begins to drop toward the horizon.

Soon we’re looking clear to the ocean, standing in the tranquility of nature. “I’ve lived in Irvine for many years, and I didn’t know about Orchard Hills until a few years ago,” says Ahmad Khalife, who is among the 13 hikers in our group. “Since then, I’ve been coming regularly.”

After just 10 minutes of walking, we are in the wilderness at the foot of Loma Ridge, where hawks, owls and deer are regularly seen.

“It’s nature’s gift to Irvine residents, a way to work out after work and connect with nature,” Khalife says. “You get the valleys, you get the hills, you get the mountains. You get different terrains than any other areas surrounding us.”

Next we climb a ridge that skirts an orchard of avocado trees.

“A special part about Orchard Hills is that it’s a wilderness area in our backyards,” Joan Steiner, our Irvine Ranch Conservancy docent, says. “And we get to walk through a working orchard to a wildland area, just miles away from our home.”

In less than an hour, we are up high enough to see Irvine Spectrum Center’s Giant Wheel, Fashion Island and the Tustin hangars.

On clear days, you can see the Matterhorn at Disneyland, the coast, downtown Los Angeles, and even the Hollywood sign.

To find a hike in Irvine’s preserved open spaces, visit letsgooutside.org.


FIND A TRAIL THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU

Bommer Canyon

Stroll past ancient oak and sycamore groves and rough rock outcrops in Bommer Canyon. You may see some of the original structures of the old Irvine Ranch Cattle Camp.

TRAILHEAD: 1 Bommer Canyon Road DISTANCE: 1.2 miles
LEVEL: Easy
HOURS: Daily, dawn to dusk


Limestone Canyon

Explore oak woodlands, streamside habitats, year-round springs and an iconic geological formation called “the Sinks,” known as Orange County’s “mini-Grand Canyon.”

DISTANCE: Up to 9.5 miles

LEVEL: Easy to strenuous

DETAILS: Registration is required. Visit letsgooutside.org.


Quail Hill

The Loop Trail is the only wilderness trail on The Irvine Ranch that allows dogs on leashes. Bring your cellphone and check signs for a self-guided audio tour.

TRAILHEAD: 34 Shady Canyon

DISTANCE: 2 miles

LEVEL: Easy

HOURS: Daily, dawn to dusk