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The Robert McCollum Memorial Bicycle Trail, also known as the Trabuco Creek Trail (East Bank), is a short paved path along Trabuco Creek in San Juan Capistrano. The trail begins at a junction with the San Juan Creek Trail in Descanso Park—located directly behind City Hall—and runs north to its end at Avenida de la Vista.
Along the way, the trail passes under Del Obispo Street and adjacent to scenic Los Rios Park, one of the newest parks in San Juan Capistrano. Equestrian users, hikers and mountain bikers should consider extending their journey on the Trabuco Creek Trail (West Bank), which is rustic and unpaved but extends farther north along the creek.
Parking for the Robert McCollum Memorial Bicycle Trail is available at Los Rios Park on Paseo Adelanto. To reach the park from Interstate 5, take Exit 82 onto Ortega Highway (State Route 74) into San Juan Capistrano. Shortly thereafter, turn left onto Del Obispo Street and follow it westward to Paseo Adelanto. Turn right on Paseo Adelanto just before the bridge over Trabuco Creek. The entrance of the park will be on the right in less than 0.25 mile.
Note that a fence separates the trail, which is directly across Paseo Adelanto from Los Rios Park, from the road and parking lot. To reach the trail, ride or walk north on Paseo Adelanto a short distance to the closest access point where the road meets Ramos Street.
TRAILBEAR FINDS THE REST OF THE TRAIL – The Trabuco Creek Trail Revealed
It was as suspected.
This Saturday – which was not warm and sunny (marine layer), Der Bear was back on Trabuco Creek. Parking at Los Rios Park, he headed up to Oso Rd. at the top of the stable district and turned left. There, at the bottom of the road were three trail entrances.
The fancy left entrance, with peeler pole fencing, the information display and the sign: Trabuco Creek Trail – East Bank, is not the one you want – unless you have a horse. It is the stable on-ramp and just goes a short way into the stables.
The middle entrance, with a locked drive gate, a log step-over barrier to keep out the ATVs and such and no sign, leads down to a ford on the creek. You can take this one across the creek to link up with the West Bank Trail over yonder. The ford has a sandy bottom and they have thrown some pavement bits in for stepping stones for the horseless ones. Could use more stones, for sure.
The right entrance, with a locked black drive gate, a step around and no sign, is the one you want. Guide your bike past the gate and head for that ruin on the far bank. This will take you across a cleared lot. At the far side, tucked out of sight below the lot, you will find a nice packed dirt trail with peeler pole fencing and a sign: Trabuco Creek Trail.
THE REAL TRABUCO CREEK TRAIL, N33.51573 W117.67248
No more distinctions between East Bank and West Bank. Now it is The Trabuco Creek Trail. Probably better named The Bunny Trail. There were scores of rabbits lounging on the trail. Seems to be a popular hang out. The trail runs for 0.33 along the bluff and below the crest until it reaches the railroad bridge and a ford. Therein a problem.
TRAILBEAR AT THE FORD, 156’, N33.52015 W117.67148
Below the RR bridge they have constructed a weir dam and spillway with a ford across the top. The flow of Trabuco Creek is channeled to the south side of the dam. While the lower ford was a sandy bit of bottom, this one is totally covered in long strands of algae - long strands of slippery algae.
There are no handy rocks for a hop, skip, jump and splash. The depth looks to be 6-12”. There is no straight approach for a power-through-it mountain bike crossing. You enter from the side and turn to be square to the ford or take a long diagonal across.
The options appeared to be: Wait for the dry season and diminished stream flow. Wade across, bike held on high. Power across and pray. None of the above. TrailBear considered his options. Waiting would take until August. Wading would wet his paws (TB hates wet paws). Powering across might work. If the bottom were not covered in algae, obscuring anything beneath it. However, TB has previous experience with streams and algae coatings (not good experiences, but educational).
“Slicker than snail snot” was one apt description. He could look down the probability line and see him approach, enter the ford, the front wheel hits a rock or something hidden beneath the algae, the wheel skids west, TB and bike go east, then come to rest in the waters of the creek, which pours into the bags, the camera, the electronics, etc., etc. while Der Bear says something sharpish. He could see the sodden ride back to Los Rios to dry out things. He could see that crossing the ford was not worth the downside risk. He selected None of the Above.
There were alternatives. That bike lane diversion across town from the end of the East Trabuco Trail now made sense. Unless you have a horse or bridging equipment, take the route up Camino Capistrano to rejoin the trail at the I-5 crossing.
There was a handy detour path leading around the bridge abutment and up onto waste land by the retirement home on Camino Capistrano. Soon TrailBear was across Capistrano, on a blacktop bike trail (not lane) leading past J. Serra Catholic High School (which has a large and modern campus). At the bend it morphs into a wide bike lane which takes you back to the trail crossing.
TRAIL UNDERCROSSINGS, N33.52665 W117.67001
There TB turned down stream and rode the trail down to the ford on the far side. It’s a decent hard packed trail which runs along through a former orchard. They are doing a lot of peeler pole replacement work on the fences here.
Head back up the trail again and dive into the undercrossing. Under Capistrano. Under the freeway and up the other side. Here the Trabuco Trail ends at a ped bridge by the freeway where it “T”s into two trails: The Class 1 Rancho Viejo Rd. Trail and the horse/hiker/mountain biker Spotted Bull Trail. There are a number of HH/MB trails on this side of town which climb around the hills. Cross Trabuco Creek on the ped bridge to find the Trabuco Ridge Trail on the far side.
At the top this should connect to the trail up to Ladera Ranch and beyond. However that is for TB’s fall exploring season. He is already packing for the Summer Migration and has a list of trails to explore on the way northward. Should you make the traverse up the creek beyond, write it up for us on TrailLink.
SUMMARY - THE TRABUCO TRAILS
Down below there are two Trabuco Trails – East Bank and West Bank. The East Bank is a short Class 1 blacktop trail from Descanso Park to the end of de la Vista. The West Bank is a longer horse/hiker/mt. biker trail which takes you into the open space country and joins three other H/H/MB trails: Peppertree Bend, Shea, and Oso Rancho Capistrano. It has a side trail which fords the creek to join the Trabuco Creek Trail at Oso Rd.
For a bikie who wants to get over into the trails east of the freeway, there are two options. Follow the signed route to Capistrano or ride along De La Vista to Oso Rd., then uphill to C. Capistrano. There do not appear to be bike lanes on the busy CC until beyond J. Serra High School, but there is the Robert McCullom Memorial Bike Trail in El Camino Real Park, running along the RR track up CC. Use that, then cross over to pick up the bike/walk along JSHS. That will keep you from playing with cars.
For a bikie bent on exploring – ride the East Bank trail to the end, take to De La Vista to Oso Rd., head down to pick up the Trabuco Creek Trail, ride up to the ford and ford or take the short detour over to the undercrossing, go down and come up beyond the freeway at the end of the trail and select a new trail to ride.
The trails are interesting to explore and work out the routes, but they are a bit short for riding. TB wants to get some miles in. That eight mile Class I in Oceanside – the San Luis Rey Trail – is looking better, but TB better get packing for the migration. Another trail for the fall season.
Keeping his paws dry (and phone, camera, GPS, DVR, wallet, etc.)
TRAILBEAR LOOKS FOR THE REST OF THE TRAIL – The Trabuco Creek Trail (East Bank)
Yet another sunny Saturday and another set of trails to explore – a pair of trails ascending Trabuco Creek in San Juan Capistrano – one on each bank. Ever since surveying the San Juan Creek Trail – and finding the upper end Boring, TrailBear has wondered what a SJCT/ Trabuco Creek ride would be like. Answer: Scenic, but short on the east bank, scenic and longer on the west bank.
SJC has a Lot of Trails. Most are horse & hiker & mountain biker trails as befits the “Equestrian Capital of the West”, but they go places and see things. The Trabuco trails are short, but they look like they lead into something better.
In fact, it looks like there might be a whole system of trails ascending Trabuco Creek from the confluence in San Juan Capistrano to the mountains to the northeast. The county trails map shows a horse & hiker & mountain biker trail, the Arroyo Trabuco Trail (normally graded “native surface” o.k.a. “dirt”) ascending the creek (O’Neill Regional Park) with some bits of Class 1 running parallel in places. San Juan Capistrano has similar trails ascending Trabuco Creek to their city limits. Something may be worked out – the Trabuco Traverse.
The first trail of the day is the blacktop bike trail going up the eastern bank of Trabuco Creek – the Trabuco Creek Trail – East Bank. Fitting name, isn’t it? We park down by City Hall and Descanso Park where San Juan and Trabuco Creeks meet.
San Juan Capistrano is unique in having a page of Virtual Trails. This is a Very Good Idea. They have run a crew with a video camera down all their trails and posted the videos on YouTube. You can select a trail and view what it looks like. You can ride the whole thing.
This is very helpful, but you also have to be on the ground to decode the video. After a day of exploring, TB can now decode the Trabuco Creek videos – which way they were traveling, what they left in and what they left out (about a mile of trail), etc. Now he knows which way he should have gone: Another half mile in this direction would have put you on that feature and you could have walked the cat backwards to figure out the route.
Let’s start the trail ride at the bottom end, at the end not shown in the videos, at…
DESCANSO PARK, 84’, GE: N33.49093 W117.66571
Here is Trail End South at Descanso Park, located behind City Hall on the confluence of the San Juan and Trabuco Creeks. When these are filled with water, it’s quite a sight. The San Juan Creek Trail runs over the bike bridge and past the end of the park. A portion is still closed while they work to install sheet pilings for flood protection. Here is why…
< < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ci-eO-oD6jY&feature=related>>
There probably is a reason the LARIO, the SGRT and the SART all have full concrete liners (and no blown levees). A cutting curve, a soft bottom and a flood = scouring = Run for the Hills! Instead, the TrailBear heads up the river. Ahead is the …
TRABUCO CREEK BRIDGE, 85’, GE: N33.49833 W117.66571
The trail crosses under the bridge to rise up and run along Paseo Adelanto as we enter the Historic Los Rios District. The Mission is over yonder, about two points on the starboard bow. You can see the dome. Ahead, at the junction of Adelanto and Ramos is something new…
LOS RIOS PARK, 103’, N33.50165 W117.66508
Los Rios is virtually brand new. They opened it in August of 2009. It’s a very well done project. There are picnic areas with armadas and vine, a nice tot lot, no grass, attractive benches – and lots of them, and a nice new restroom (4.5/5* on the Irvine Flushie Scale) with vines climbing up the pillars. Now, a vine covered restroom is something new.
The park is a delight and would have been the trail head du jour had only TB known it was there. Google Earth coverage from 2007 shows it as some sort of bare lot (RV storage). Things change. TB saddles up, heads up trail, around the curve and, in a moment, finds himself at…
TRAIL END NORTH, 114’, GE: N33.50397 W117.66721
Say what? The nice paved trail ends in a tiny two picnic table pocket park. Where is the rest of the trail? Onto the street. TB finds himself on a well signed Class 3 bike route (no bike lanes here) going somewhere. This is going to be a rather short review. Short trails do that. Well, OK. Pedal onward, following the signs.
We are at the bottom of one of the stable districts in SJC. This complex of three stables runs for 0.67 miles along the creek. TB pedals along on the street above. The route turns onto La Zanja and runs up to Camino Capistrano. No more signs visible.
WILL THE TRABUCO CREEK TRAIL RAISE ITS HAND?
There, at the intersection, TB pulls out his maps. He wants to follow Trabuco Creek. His map shows a trail behind the stables, but it’s not there. This route is headed inland. He wants Class 1. This is Class 3. Time to go poking around.
Head back down La Zanja and then along the road running by the stables. Up at the end at Oso Rd., he turns uphill to Camino Capistrano and takes the bike lane to where he can see the RR bridge. Not a good view, but there should be a trail there. Something there, behind fences.
What to do? Save it for a later day after more research. Lunch awaits at the Dana Pt. Yacht Club and there is the other side of the creek to do. Go back and survey the West Trabuco Creek Trail. It runs further and joins a number of trails out in the Wild Country on the west side of the creek. It ends in a three trail junction and one of the spurs appears to run to a ford across the creek down in the bottoms.
Back in the office, TrailBear starts digging through the SJC website. He finds a more accurate map hidden down some layers and over in the Public Works Department pages…
YOU WANT TO DOWNLOAD AND USE THIS MAP…
Go to this page and download the Multi Use Trails – Existing pdf. This IS NOT the map which comes up when you download their recreational trails map. That appears to be an earlier version and not as accurate as this. That was in TB’s saddle bag today. Now this one is.
This version does show the TCT-EB bike route and bike lane diversion to Camino Capistrano. It does show that there is not a creek trail alongside the stable district. It does show that a bit of trail along the creek does undercross the I-5 freeway to join a trail net on the far side.
TB knows this. After doing the West Trabuco, he drove up the road, parked and took the camera down to the crossing. One video starts down in this undercrossing. They pop out the far side and continue on down the creek. They ford the creek under the RR bridge. No idea how deep the ford. In one shot they are on the near side. Next shot, they are on the far side.
There appears to be trail running along the bank from the RR bridge at GE: 33.520271° -117.671358° down to Oso Rd. at GE: 33.515587° -117.671856°. You can see the crew riding along it. They come to a closed gate on Oso and in the next frame they are through it. Is it locked? Is there a bike opening? TB wants to know, but it’s time for the Annual Migration northward, so it may have to wait until fall.
WORKING OUT THE ROUTE…
If TrailBear’s review inspires you to get out there to solve the Riddle of the Trabuco Trail, try this…
Ride up the Class 1 portion from Descanso or stage out of Los Rios. Ride the street along the stable district to Oso Rd. Turn left and go to the bottom of Oso. If you can get onto the trail under the bank there, take it up to the RR bridge. If the ford is passable, you can ride up to the undercrossing at Camino Capistrano and the I-5 freeway.
If that does not work, go uphill on Oso to Capistrano and get on the bike lane. It will take you to the undercrossing. You can use it to come up on the other side and get on the Trabuco Ridge Trail. At the top of that, the county trail up Arroyo Trabuco should be just a few hundred feet over yonder. Now, to ride up there and “ground truth” what Google Earth shows. What the map giveth, the ground truthing taketh away.
WANT A LOOP RIDE?
There is a long bike trail on Rancho Viejo Rd. that heads down to San Juan Creek. (Many street and drive ways crossings.) A bit of road riding will put you on the SJCT and you can ride back to Descanso or Los Rios. Then post a review to TrailLink and tell us what you found and where.
In search of the rest of the trail.
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