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