Growing up on the Mountains to Sea Trail

Columnist Peggy Cheng offers her guide to family fun on the trail.

The Mountains to Sea Trail runs 22 miles from Weir Canyon to Upper Newport Bay. In 2006, it was designated a National Recreation Trail by the National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program.

The first time I pedaled onto the Mountains to Sea Trail, I was a jobless college student. Life has since changed in so many ways, but the trail has always been a faithful companion in waiting. Its smooth, off-road paths, dynamic landscapes and connectors to other parts of the city make it yet another special part of Irvine that I love and admire.

Immaculately groomed off-road paths

My then-boyfriend and I stumbled upon the Mountains to Sea Trail 20 years ago when we hopped onto a paved path near UC Irvine and explored it down to Upper Newport Bay. The marshes and wetlands painted a beautiful backdrop, but I was more impressed by the immaculate mini roads built only for people, bikes, and horses, complete with painted yellow and white road markings. A few years later, I found myself 8 miles north on the same trail, where my coworker and I would often bike to our office. The scenic landscapes were just a blur; I was too busy chatting or racing mini sprints with him on our rides home to notice.

One of my favorite things about the Mountains to Sea Trail is the spectacular view offered along the path.

A whole new trail

It wasn’t until my son was born that I really began to see the trail in a whole new light. My husband towed our baby in a trailer, and we’d stop every couple of minutes to narrate all the sights and sounds of our trip. Suddenly the trail came alive with baby ducklings quacking for their mama, and cranes swooping down into towering grasses. Long bike rides shrunk into 1-mile strolls, but slowing down also had its advantages.

I love that our whole family can enjoy this trail together.

Coming full circle

Now that my two boys are older, more experienced riders, we can all explore the trail together in all its splendor. The boys love to howl through the underpasses and race up the ramps. We stop at parks and shops. We look for wildlife. We wave to Metrolink train riders passing by.

A trail for any age, every ability

What I love most about the Mountains to Sea Trail is how versatile and inclusive it is for everyone who wants to enjoy it, regardless of age and ability. The competitive cyclist, the commuter, the parent with their family, the nature lover and the recreational rider all have something to appreciate. In the 20 years I’ve been riding the Mountains to Sea Trail, I’ve been all of these people, and have enjoyed every minute of it.