A new 5.2-mile trail that opens in Ladera Ranch on Saturday will allow hikers to trek from the mountains to the sea in south Orange County, providing a "missing link" from O'Neill Regional Park all the way to Doheny State Beach.
"The trail covers a wide variety of terrain and offers sweeping views of the Arroyo Trabuco, the foothills, and the views stretch all the way to the Pacific Ocean," said Diane Gaynor, a spokeswoman for the Ladera Ranch housing development, which built the trail. "You get some of the best overlooks of the arroyo that I've ever seen."
Combined with existing trails at O'Neill Park and in San Juan Capistrano, the new link creates a continuous 17-mile path from the foot of the Santa Ana Mountains to the beach, and includes steep climbs up ridgelines.
The path will be open to hikers and mountain bikers, and horseback riders in some areas.
The trail starts at the Oso Parkway Bridge, at the end of O'Neill Park's Arroyo Trabuco Regional Riding and Hiking Trail, and snakes along Trabuco Creek. After heading inland through the hills of Ladera Ranch, it finally connects to San Juan Capistrano's network of trails, which wind down to Doheny State Beach.
San Juan Capistrano officials said they're happy to finally be connected to the popular wilderness area that towers to the northeast.
"Up until now, we've been completely cut off from O'Neill Park," said Tony Foster, San Juan Capistrano's trails coordinator. "It's a difficult trail, but it does create that link."
However, the route of the new trail in Ladera Ranch will change significantly in about two years. The path will eventually follow Trabuco Creek toward San Juan Capistrano instead of heading into the hills.
The land belongs to Rancho Mission Viejo Co., the developer of Ladera Ranch, which plans to build a golf course in the Arroyo Trabuco.
Once the golf course is built, the developer will create a path that will follow the creek and wind around the golf course before connecting to San Juan Capistrano's Rancho Line Trail, Miller said.