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The San Diego Creek Trail is the spine of the City of Irvine's extensive system of trails and bike lanes. It begins in Newport Beach, joining the Upper Bay Trail near where San Diego Creek empties into Upper Newport Bay at the Jamboree Road bridge, then follows the creek upstream, crossing much of Irvine before it ends near the junction of Interstate 405 and State Route 133.
Along the way, the trail provides access to a number of parks, retail centers and residential subdivisions. Many of Irvine's shorter trails also touch or cross the San Diego Creek Trail at some point, allowing you to put together all sorts of loop trips. These include the University Trail, Freeway Trail, Peters Canyon Trail, Harvard Trail, Woodbridge Trail and Jeffrey Open Space Trail.
Access to the San Diego Creek Trail is best done by using the most convenient of the numerous community or regional parks as a trailhead. Many will start their journey at the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve Interpretive Center on University Drive, southeast of Irvine Avenue in Newport Beach. A small parking fee may be charged. From the parking lot, head east on the Upper Bay Trail and south over the Jamboree Road bridge to reach the San Diego Creek Trail.
At about the halfway point, you will find Bill Barber Community Park at the corner of Barranca Parkway and Harvard Avenue. The park is a full-service pit stop with parking, drinking fountains, restrooms and picnic shelters.
Farther east along the creek is Windrow Community Park at the corner of E. Yale Loop and Barranca Parkway, but the park closest to the eastern end of the trail is Valley Oak Park, situated right where Valley Oak Drive crosses the creek.
I have ridden this train from the Balboa Peninsula, crossing to the mainland by the Balboa Island Ferry. You can do a loop riding out on the Back Bay Trail and returning on the Upper Bay Trail (or the reverse), going further inland on the San Diego Creek Trail that joins the Back Bay Loop at Jamboree. There are excellent connections from trail to trail and beautiful scenery. I have ridden variations of this ride from 22-28 miles but have not yet gone further than Barranca on the San Diego Creek Trail--more to explore!
An excellent route from residence in the Irvine community of Orange Tree to the Civic Center. Had a month of early morning classes at the Civic Center. Used Valley Oak class II bike route to connect with trail since Valley Oak carries a lot less auto traffic than Jeffry. Great seeing kids and adults using bike trail for school/work commutes. Currently (May, 2016) a portion of the trail east of the civic center is getting street lights installed.
Due to the lack of a track team at Irvine Valley College I use this trail to train twice a week, it's a good trail which I start from IVC and can get to Irvine Spectrum from there which is about 8 miles round trip which feels great when you're done.
It's very sad to find out someone was murdered on this trail a few weeks ago, the I-405 underpass seems like a shady area to pass by so I'd avoid this trail for a while.
I ride my road bike on trails in the Philadelphia, PA area. Visiting on business, I took a hotel (Hyatt Regency) beach bike and rode from Newport Beach to the end of the trail and back (22+ miles). I loved the trail. I wish I had the time to ride others in the area.
I ride this daily from Irvine Civic Center to Irvine Spectrum.
The good-It lets me blow past some of the most annoyingly long traffic signals, those on Alton or Barranca between Harvard and I-5.
The Bad-Concrete surfaced underpasses could be smoother. This is a problem I have had on all river trails. It's the nature of having to use concrete-expansion joints and all-in flood prone sections.
The Dangerous-Cross paths at the bridge by the Civic Center ballparks, and another cross path at the Lakes, where kids on WalMart specials are prone to blast across without looking. There is a wooded curve with low visibility just south of Sand Canyon where some company in the area has its people hold "walking meeting" that clog the entire path.
Location was the first attraction. The second is my wife and I both love the beach and coupled with a ride what could be better. Early December can be sketchy weather wise but we were lucky to have a warm Saturday (low 70’s) afternoon once the fog burned off. We began our ride at Bonita Creek which intersected with the San Diego Creek Trail. The entire trail is clearly marked, wide and well maintained. We did not ride the entire trail and instead choose to ride on the south side of the bay. We were not disappointed and although there were other riders (we were passed multiple times by road racers) it was never crowded. The ride is in a naturally open space that shouts out to stop and enjoy the beautiful views. There are several spots to stop, and also explore including viewing areas and a nature walk. Other activities take place on the bay and we were able to see stand-up boarders, crew boats and well as bird watchers. One couple even shared their binoculars and explained the differences between several very large birds we had seen. We stopped our ride at Newport Dunes and took some time to ride around the small bay, see the campers, and look at a few very large boats. We returned on the same route but are looking forward to returning and riding other sections of the trail. It was a very mellow ride for us with a few shared hours on a perfect day.
Rode this trail in early June 2011. It is an easy 10 mile trail that is used by both casual and avid cyclists, as well as pedestrians. Rode during lunch on a week day, so there were a few pedestrians walking on their lunch break (I am assuming) on upper part of the trail.
If you start the trail at the very top (Pacifica and Spectrum), you will have to cross several intersection at the regular pedestrian crossings, meaning you would have to stop, wait for the light, etc. So, it is better to start west of Alton Parkway (you can park in any number of parking lots). West of Alton, the trail passes under the bridge (except Jeffrey road crossing), so there is no need to stop at all.
The elevation change from trail head in Irvine to the intersection of University Dr. and Jamboree Road is just 187 ft. It gets hilly past there, before you get to the beach.
Overall, excellent trail, and definitely worth spending a day riding it on the way to the beach, spending a day there, and then riding back.
The Seven Days of Rain, recently departed, did more damage to the San Diego Creek Trail at the Upper Newport Bay. In the Rain Week of January 2010 the floods tore out the side of the weir dam at the Jamboree Rd. bridge and cut away part of the bank holding the trail.
The solution: Put up three barricades. All the better to keep you on the trail and out of the bay. One thinks: Dude, your dam has been breached. Is that an issue with you?
The Personal Best for the creek has about 49,000 CFPS and that dam doesn't look engineered to deal with anything near that. It's just a rip rap berm concreted over with a center channel. Ends anchored in dirt do not inspire - or hold.
Now the bank has been undercut to the point that the barricades have tumbled down below and the edge is within a yard of the trail. The next good deluge of water down the creek should undercut the trail. When that happens, expect the city to hear from a lot of unhappy users.
Taking that curve at a slow bell.
Had to wait four months to see what the creek trails looked like with some water in the creeks.
Today we had another in a series of fronts - with another one due tomorrow night. A whole line of red cells trooped over the OC. If it was raining in Irvine, it was really raining in the mountains above.
Check out the pix on the Peters Canyon Wash Trail and San Diego Creek Trail for a glimpse of moving water. Gone are the ducks and herons poking about in the weeds. Gone are the weeds. Some are draped over the trail guard rails. More have gone to the Back Bay.
The undercrossings are mostly flooded out. Not "Dabble in the water and get your tires wet" flooded. More like "get swept sideways thru the railings and down the creek" flooded. I did not get up to the I-5 undercrossing. That should have been outstanding. It's almost at water level in the dry season and there is mud caked on the lights way up in the tunnel. Next storm, perhaps.
The two best places to watch San Diego Creek in spate are at Bill Barber Park and West Yale Loop. Check out the bend in the trail there at Bill Barber. Peters Canyon Wash and SDC meet there. SDC was running really fast today.
Below the bridge at West Yale Loop is the Dragons Teeth Dam. You can see the dry season photo of what concrete obstacles are creating that cauldron of boiling water. If you go over the dam, you are so dead. Driven under and smashed against the teeth. Watched logs and bits of tree try it. They would submerge for a while, then surface, then down again. It will change back. Last week the ducks were wandering around down there.
Checking the stream gauges, I noted with interest that there must be Walls of Water coming down the creeks. The gauges would suddenly rise almost straight up. Don't get caught in one of those.
THE SAN DIEGO CREEK BIKEWAY, IRVINE, CA. – FREEWAYS RUNS OVER IT
The City of Irvine, being a planned city, has planned for bike paths and bike lanes. There are over 44 miles of off-road bike paths and 282 miles of bike lanes. None of the adjacent communities have anything like this system. It’s nice to have this. I winter next door in Newport Beach, which being much older and not purpose-built, lacks this infrastructure.
The San Diego Creek Bikeway is the spine of their system of Class I bikeways. A number of Class I bikeways cross it or start from it, as do even more Class II bike lanes. This means all sorts of loop trips are possible. You can trace the bikeways on Google Earth. You can download the bike map from the city (links at the end of review). You can have a lot of fun riding around Irvine.
Trail Ratings - * to *****
It’s one lane of blacktop with a center stripe. Not really primo blacktop. Used. Lots of cracks, cracks paid with tar, patches, etc. Given the use, two lanes would be nice. Many roadies. Colorful flocks of them on Saturday AM. When two flocks going in opposite directions intersect with two ladies walking abreast, it’s interesting. From the Upper Newport Bay Nature Reserve to the end at the Rt. 133, it’s about 11.7 miles. A pleasant morning ride.
Facilities **** and *****.
There are a lot of off-trail facilities but not many on-trail facilities. What they have is nice, but sparse. There are water fountains here and there and Creekside Park is quite nice. The signage is confused and seldom seen. Go to the city site and download their trail maps for a fighting chance. Take a city map. Do a low altitude Google Earth fly over and follow the whole thing. While there, check out the other options for rides.
For restrooms and trailheads, you use the parks or the shopping centers. Both work. There is a LOT of trail access, so getting on is not an issue. There are no pit stops on the trail. Water, benches, tables, bike racks, these they do have.
One nice spot to start from is the midpoint – the COL Bill Barber Marine Corps Memorial Park at Harvard and Barranca – on the big bend in the creek where the Peters Canyon Wash joins the creek. (GE: 33.689575° -117.822673°) It’s a sports park with tennis courts, baseball/soccer fields, covered picnic shelters and lots of restrooms.
Being generous, let’s say: Average/urban or “C”. This is not a destination trail like the Route of the Hiawatha. This is not a scenery ride like the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes. No moose, no whispering pines, no purple mountains’ majesty, no peaceful lakes, no rushing streams – although San Diego Creek actually has water in it. (At times it has a very great amount of water in it.) This is a very urban ride – freeways, arterials, industrial buildings, office towers, apartments, condos and shopping centers with San Diego Creek in the middle of it all.
As SoCal creeks go, SDC is not bad. It may have a natural bottom. At least there is silt and such down there and green things here and there. You can watch the herons and egrets looking for lunch. It is alive.
The sides are revetted, rip-raped or swaled for flood control. There are check dams and dragon’s teeth on the upper reaches, but the lower end is a tidal wetland. If you want to see a genuine man-made SoCal river, move over a few miles and ride the Santa Ana River Trail. All concrete for many miles.
@@@ WHERE TO START…
Where to start? There are no formal trailheads with a parking lot, toilet, information kiosk and such. Almost anywhere along the trail you can find local on-street parking and trail access. There is a lot of access. The community parks and shopping centers (two adjacent to the trail) are logical places to start from. Imagine a “trail head” with water, flush toilets, benches, bike racks, picnic tables, picnic shelters, BBQs, tennis courts, a basket ball court and a tot lot. With all that, why bother with the trail?
I officially started the ride at the parking lot of the Upper Newport Bay Nature Reserve where I picked up the Back Bay Loop Trail and headed toward San Diego Creek. (Google Earth: cut and paste this… 33.654525° -117.886152°) Unofficially, I took the bike out of the garage at my condo, pedaled 200 yards over to the UNBNR and began. This entry point gets a lot of use. There is both parking lot and on-street parking and a constant flow of bikies, walkers, joggers, strollers and the occasional horse.
Head around the top of the bay, past the estates on the bluff and then along the sidewalk on Jamboree Rd., over the bridge crossing the creek, then down, around and under it. You are now on San Diego Creek Bikeway. Ahead – the first of the freeways that runs over it – the 73, then the Corona Del Mar Freeway right behind.
Watch for a water fountain ahead. There are trailside fountains in four locations. You now have University Drive and UC-Irvine on one side and tidal wetlands on the other. Ahead is the second of many underpasses. Every time a street crosses, the trail takes a dive into an underpass. It also offers on-street crossing and merges with bike lanes. The nice thing about the SDCB is that it is mostly a seamless ride. There are only two on-street crossings. The various other bikeway trails have a lot more street crossings.
Watch where University Drive pulls away. That trail entering at GE: 33.658151° -117.841532° is the junction of two loop-back options starting up at the Yale Loop at GE: 33.677242° -117.800972° or at Jeffrey Rd. Download the City of Irvine maps and plot your course.
For now, head upstream, cross under the San Diego Freeway and soon the trail and creek make a right angle bend beyond the junction with Peters Canyon Wash. Here is COL Bill Barber Marine Corps Memorial Park (CPT Barber and his company held the pass at Chosin Reservoir.) and a bridge over the creek at GE: 33.689575° -117.822673°.
The bridge is a nice place to stop. There is a revolving trail map, a circle of benches, water fountain and bike rack and shade. Further in the park are numerous restrooms. If you want to start from here, the parking lot is off Harvard Ave.
From the park, the SDC trail now heads SE, following the creek. Ahead are two shopping malls which can serve as trailheads – parking, restrooms, water, food, shopping. Look for the bike/ped bridge in the middle of the Yale Loop. This is the start of one loop back option. That noted, carry on to Creekview Park by E. Yale Loop at GE: 33.673665° -117.790083°. Here are picnic tables, water, covered benches, but no restrooms. Once thru the tunnel under Yale, there is another fountain.
Just ahead is the Windrow Community Park, with parking, restrooms, water and sports fields at GE: 33.672715° -117.787461°. The parking lot is across the creek. Look for the ped bridge. This is another informal trail head.
Jeffrey Rd. and confusion are ahead. A lighted tunnel takes you under the six lanes and dumps you out on the sidewalk. What now? Where to go? A sign would be nice. None seen. Head left, toward the creek, cross over it and find the trail on the far (south) bank.
There is also a second road on the near (north) bank – with a locked gate further on. I have ridden both sides. Stick to the south/oceanward side. The other side has lots of street crossings, locked gates and other bother.
Where Valley Oak Dr. crosses the creek, you will find a delightful park/trailhead – West Oak Park at GE 33.666460° -117.775208°. Tennis, basketball, BBQ or bike? They have it all and more.
Now the trail and creek begin to twist and turn a bit. There are two loops away from the creek and the first trail-side benches are seen. Under Sand Canyon Ave., under Laguna Canyon Rd., under Alton Pkwy., the last loop inland and suddenly you are there. The end.
The trail ends at the bridge abutment of an off ramp for the 133 Freeway. But, but… On the other side there is an underpass. The trail must go on! Sure, for one more street – to Pacifica and a bit futher to another end at Bee Canyon Wash.
I rode this the following week to see where it went. I got a block past Pacifica (road under construction) to The End where the creek dives into a big culvert – the Bee Canyon Wash. It joins SDC a bit further down. Bee Canyon Wash is a buried stream from Lambert Resevoir in the hills to here. Now you know, so you don’t bother unless you want to explore. Now you can retrace your route, try the city bike lanes or try one of the bikeway loops. I did the …
@@@ THE JEFFREY RD. & UNIVERSITY DRIVE LOOP BACK…
I’d suggest going back to where Jeffery Rd. crosses the creek and doing the Jeffrey Rd. loop-back. It’s all Class I bike trail. Take the bike trail south along the eastern side of Jeffrey all the way down to the San Diego Freeway, where you cross on an overpass, then along University Drive.
At Ridgeline Dr. you have to hunt for the trail. Do the street crossing and then wonder where they stuck it. Some signs would be nice. Some stencils on the pavement would be nice. (Hint: Uphill.) That is why a Google Earth flyover before the ride works so well. You can even download some strip photos
The trail will wander through the Mason Regional Park (note the mountain lion and rattlesnake warnings) and rejoin the San Diego Creek Bikeway where University Drive does.
Remember that junction? Here it is again. The sign says YIELD. Come to a complete stop and stick your head out. This is a blind junction and the ToolBear was nearly tramped by a herd of roadies roaring around the bend. With the thick brush they were upon him when he saw them. Mutual evasion did work.
Nice ride for a Saturday morning. There is a lot of riding out in Irvine.
@@@ HELPFUL LINKS…
For the “current” OC bike map…
For the City of Irvine bike map…
For the Back Bay Loop Trail map…
Trailhead – Upper Newport Bay Nature Reserve & Peter and Mary Murth Interpretive Center
Trailhead – COL Bill Barber Marine Corps Memorial Park, Irvine
CPT Bill Barber wins the CMH at Chosin Reservoir
Trailhead – Windrow Community Park, Irvine
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