I liked the San Juan Trail from the ocean to the confluence of San Juan Creek and Trabuco Creek at Descanso Park in San Juan Capistrano. It runs along the west bank levee of the creek – which is engineered for flood control in this section. I found it boring above the I-5 where it runs along a street, then thru a greenbelt and along the stable district.
The creek was not engineered enough for flood control. I seem to recall that they had done the banks on the cheap – concrete bank liners, but not a full liner across the entire stream bed as you see in the Santa Ana River. Scouring at the base undermined the liner and the levee failed in sections.
They are doing some years of upgrades in one section – installing sheet pilings and then building a trail atop them. They had issues in 1997 – which was a wet year. Factiod: 12/6/1997 – San Diego Creek in Irvine was logged at 43,500 cubic feet per second of flow. Normal is 15 cfps. They had blowouts in 2005. You will recall 2004/05 was One Wet Winter. Here are some YouTube videos of the 2005 flood:
KCAL 9 report…
Video of the banks falling in…
There is a trail closure in this section with gates and detours and such. However, when I surveyed the trail (not on a working day) one gate was ajar enough for a bike or ped and the other had a pass around. The locals were in there, riding or walking, so in went the TrailBear.
This .pdf explains and shows the detour. The city has additional information.
Once it passed under the I-5 freeway, the SJCT got boring. It pulls away from the creek, which is rather native here – a real wild barranca full of bushes and trees. You will not see the trail again. It turns into bike/walks for a while, then dives into a green belt and runs thru it to end at the Missions Stables.
A boring trail survey was a new experience for me. I kept thinking … Can I do this on Google Earth? No, you will miss a water fountain or such. Yes, there was a water fountain waiting ahead. Yes, I have the GPS coordinates of it and the adjacent restroom. No, I would not purchase a home across the street from a quarter miles of stables along the creek.
A better ride would be to take the SJCT to the confluence and then go up the Trabuco Creek Trail.
TRAIL RIDE VIDEOS
There are some trail ride videos on YouTube worth looking at if you are considering doing the trail.
Riding from the confluence upstream to the first stable…
Trailhead at the confluence…
The West Trabuco looks like a nice ride. Here is the upper section…
TRAILBEAR GOES UP THE CREEK, MILE BY MILE…
MILES ELEV. NOTES – milages are a bit long as the side rides to check trailheads are added in.
0.00 19’ At the two story life guard station in the SE corner of Doheny State Beach. The trail starts here and there is a restroom and water. Nice ocean views.
0.44 40’ Del Obisbo Park side trail. You can use DOP as a trailhead. Usual parking (free), restrooms and water. Full service trailhead.
1.43 56 Creekside Park off Stonehill Dr. Another nice, full service trailhead. The parks runs for some distance along the trail. Includes a dog park.
1.90 63’ Closed for Construction barricade – which was open at this time.
2.77 78’ The other construction barricade – passable.
3.05 89’ The ped only bridge over Trabuco Creek. You are supposed to walk your bikes over.
3.13 91’ Descanco Park, just above the confluence. Nice little park that can be a trail head.
3.55 95’ The back of the Von’s parking lot just beyond the RR underpass. There is a ramp to the trail. Another handy trailhead. Next you pass under the I-5 freeway and away from the creek on the other side. Bit farewell to the creek. You will not see it again. Now there are distance views of stables. Boring begins.
4.87 119’ C. Russell Cook Park in San Juan Capistrano. Full service trailhead. You have been riding a bike/walk along Calle Arroyo to get here. At the top of the park the trail dives into a greenbelt with numerous side trails into the ‘hood.
5.70 141’ Here is that water fountain that would have been missed on Google Earth. Restrooms a bit further along.
6.00 144’ Exit the park and ride alongside a quarter mile long stable complex. Breath deep.
6.15 154’ Trail ends at Missions Trails Stables, 28432 Calle Arroyo, SJC.
There is an equestrian trail that runs along the creek behind the stables. You can see it on Google Earth. It is a possible loop-back ride.