Santiago Creek Bike Trail, Orange, CA.
Trails are where you find them. This adds interest to the sport of Trail Hunting.
The TrailBear fell over this trail by accident. He was driving west on the Garden Grove Freeway, looked right at the just right time and caught a glimpse of a bike bridge. Bike bridge; bike trail? Bears some looking into.
Back in the office he brought up Google Earth and started looking for bike bridges along the 22. Yes, there is one next to Glissell at Hart Park in Orange. There is a blacktop trail along the creek. The plot thickens!
Start looking up and down the creek. It looks like a trail runs from the I-5 up to Tustin St. and E. La Veta. Start a Google search on strings like “city of orange bike trails, Santiago creek bike trail, etc.” A lot of good information comes up.
Orange has well organized information and maps on their bike trails. This one is the Santiago Creek Bike Trail. Even better, they are working on extending it and plan to be building in 2010 and 2011. In a few years the trail should extend up past the reservoir at Collins and E. Bond Ave. The bit of trail along the base of the reservoir is now finished and open. What remains to be done includes the section between the current trail end and the reservoir. Stay tuned. It should be a great urban stream ride when done.
The current length is about 2.8 miles. It starts beneath the I-5 freeway at 153’ and ends just past the Tustin St. bridge on the upper end at 226’. There are a lot of shade trees, a semi-wild creek bottom, interesting facilities along the way, the smell of pine on the warm afternoon air.
You get the idea – nice urban creek ride and good for the family. Not a high speed or long distance trail, but not boring, either. There are new things around each bend. Take your time and enjoy.
There are two parks along the trail, assorted restrooms and a number of access parking/trail head options. You have choices. Check them out on the map.
UNDER THE BRIDGE, 154’, GE: N33.77174 W117.87107
Think: Three Billy Goats Gruff.
The official start of the trail is beneath the I-5 freeway bridge over Santiago Creek. There the blacktop trail ends at a chain. Overhead, the roar of freeway traffic. Ahead is a wild looking stream bank and a narrow foot trail along the rip rap bank. Is there hope that the City of Santa Ana will continue this trail down to the Santa Ana River Trail and make it a great ride? Nope. TB looked on their bike map. Not even a “proposed” line.
Are there trolls under this bridge? Not when Der Bear was there, but it’s a dead end ambush alley and the roar of the traffic ensures that “no one will hear your screams.” You can give it a pass or enter with caution and at a slow bell.
There is really no need to enter at all. Topside there is a short side path to the Main Place Shopping Center on Main Place Dr. You can use the mall as your commercial trail head. Parking, shopping and probably better restrooms than you find in these parks; what is not to like? Start riding upstream. There will be something new around each turn.
DISCOVERY SCIENCE CENTER, 160‘, GE: 33.770876° -117.868288°
The first thing you encounter is the Discovery Science Center. The trail runs alongside the parking lot. This is oriented towards the grade school kids, so the TrailBear kept on pedaling down under Main St. and back up the other side to …
TRAILHEAD PARKING AT SANTIAGO PARK, 168’ GE: N33.77137 W117.86572
Opposite the entrance to the Science Center, there is a lane leading into Santiago Park, which runs along the creek. At the far end is a small parking area for the tot lot and other facilities at this end of the park. Restrooms and water are further down the trail at the far end of the tot lot. Here the trail drops down to cross the creek on a bike bridge. Some 600’ further on is another parking lot you can use – accessed off E. Memory Lane.
This is actually built in the stream bed – which probably made it both interesting and closed for Rain Week in January 2010 (four back to back fronts that week). It serves a picnic area on the south bank and the lawn bowling center. This section of trail is quite charming. Mature trees offer shade and the smell of pines pervaded the warm afternoon air. Pedal on upstream for another thousand feet to take a break at …
THE SANTIAGO ST. BRIDGE, 165‘, GE: N33.77408 W117.86025
The Santiago Street Bridge is closed to cars. They have installed benches and trees in planters, creating an observation deck with views up and down the creek bed. Probably a great place to watch when the creek is in spate and roaring along beneath you. Notice that there are two decomposed granite walking trails – one on each bank. The north side one is for the Nature Center. The south side trail goes all the way up to Hart Park.
If you want quiet access parking, come in on the south side of Santiago and you will find parking at the baseball diamond just beyond the bridge. We are going onward to the…
SANTIGO PARK NATURE RESERVE – NATURE CENTER, 168’, GE: N33.77518 W117.85926
Here is a nice new Nature Center with walks, interpretative signs here and there and some rather good looking restrooms behind an artistic – and locked – gate. The center was closed. If you can stop while they are open, TB suspects you will find the best restrooms on the trail. Certainly the newest. It was under construction in the fall of 2007.
Their parking lot is another access option. The access road continues on upstream past a tot lot with long, long slides for the kids and a K-9 training facility, passes under a railroad bridge to end in a small parking area for an archery range tucked up against the 22 Freeway. The trail goes onward under the 22 Freeway (Garden Grove) to…
HART PARK, 198‘, GE: N33.77695 W117.85201
Hart is a charming older park – circa 1934. We used it as the Trailhead du Jour and parked in the shade under the Glissell Bridge. The parking lot is rather unusual. They have widened the creek bed, sloped it, paved it and put a swale down the middle. There is a creek bed parking lot over 1600’ long. It would have been a sight in Rain Week, January ’10 with flooding all around, but probably no customers. On a busy Sunday, it’s rather full and there is overflow parking on the creek gravels at the upper end.
There is a swimming pool complex and picnic grounds on the north bank and the baseball diamonds and two sets of restrooms on the south bank. One is on an angle in the trail and the other – far less used (better) is just up the hill. The trail runs between ball fields, then jogs back out to the creek bed parking lot. Round the housing complex, make a jog and you will find a …
STREAMSIDE OVERLOOK, 211’, GE: N33.77828 W117.84560
Here is a nice spot to take a break and admire the views. They have planted a comfy concrete bench out on a point overlooking the creek. You can see it from space with Google Earth. It’s that white rectangle by the tree.
This is the beginning of the Stimulus Section of the trail. The City was able to get some stimulus money and use it to landscape the trail. They have done a rather nice job. Those are not spindly little trees coming up when you cross under the Cambridge St. bridge and enter the…
DOG WALK SECTION, 212’, GE: N33.77758 W117.84311
Here the creek curves gracefully between the levees. There are check dams here and there. There are rows of trees planted along both banks. While you are riding that very nice 5* blacktop trail, there is also a pair of DG walking trails (decomposed granite) along the levee tops. Notice the trash and puppy poop bag stations at intervals. It’s a good place to walk the dog, or just walk, jog, run, push a pram, whatever. In 15-20 years, when the trees get their growth, it will be nicely shaded. Up the trail ahead you can see the interesting…
DOUBLE BRIDGE, 225’, GE: 33.779212 -117.837033
That subdivision on the far bank has only one means of egress – and you are looking at it. It’s a double bridge over E. Rock Creek Drive. There is a ped bridge, and right behind it a vehicle bridge. Done in rusted steel, it’s an attractive focal point. It also signals that the trail is about to end. You underpass the double bridge and all too soon underpass the Tustin St. bridge. Pop up the other side and you are at…
TRAIL END EAST, 227’, GE: N33.77997 W117.83539
The creek bed heads upstream into the distance. You would too, but for that locked gate. However, there is hope for more trail in the next two years (2011).
The city has the money and is gearing up to build. It will be great. You can park down at the Main Place Mall – which makes a nice commercial trailhead at the west end of the trail – and ride up into Villa Park.
Ahead are two parks along the creek – Yorba and Grijalva. Then comes the reservoir. Above that you will have to use the bike lanes on E. Santiago Canyon Rd. These will take you up and over and down to Irvine Park where you find the Class 1 bike trail along Jamboree Rd.
That takes you down to the collage of trails called the Mountains to the Sea trail – the West Irvine/Peters Canyon Bikeway, which joins the Peters Canyon Wash Trail, which runs into the San Diego Creek Trail, which runs into the Back Bay in Newport Beach, and so on (“hip bone connected to the leg bone, leg bone connected to the thigh bone…”).
If you work west along PCH (CA 1) you reach the SART (Santa Ana River Trail) and can ride it up stream – and here a problem. If Santa Ana would finish the trail down the creek to the river – but, no. Getting from the river back to the Santiago Creek Trail is a challenge. TrailBear is still puzzling over a route. But wait! TrailLink and Google have combined forces. Let’s ask them.
Meanwhile, enjoy the Santiago Creek Trail. While short, it’s quite pleasant and very interesting. New things around every corner.
Putting the icons on the map.
TRAIL CONSTRUCTION INFO FROM THE CITY OF ORANGE…
Tustin to Collins Segment
Formally known as the Tustin Branch Trail, this project consists of a paved trail alongside the Santiago Creek from Tustin Street to Walnut Avenue, continuing north in a City owned right-of-way from Walnut Avenue to Collins Avenue. This project completes the 4.6 mile grade separated trail from Katella Avenue to past Main Street in the City of Santa Ana. The trail includes one pedestrian bridge south of Chapman Ave. near Yorba Park, and one pedestrian bridge south of Walnut Ave. near the Grijalva Gym. Once this project is complete users will be able to ride or walk from central Orange all the way to Main Place Mall and the Discovery Science Center on a completely grade separated and safe Class I bikeway.
Early in 2008 the City finalized the project’s Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) No. 1772-06 and received NEPA certification for the project. In 2009, the Right-of-Way (ROW) phase of the project was completed and ROW Certification was obtained. Other pre-construction activities that have been completed include the filing of permits, the acquisition of easements, and the biological monitoring of sensitive species known to inhabit the Santiago Creek.
In 2009, the SCBT project qualified for approx. $1.9M in new Federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act/Transportation Enhancement funding (economic stimulus package). The trail’s construction will be going out to bid shortly. Though all project ROW and permits have been obtained, construction will be delayed a couple months until additional structural engineering considerations are implemented for the trail under the Chapman Ave. overpass.
Construction has begun on the north end of the SCBT (past Collins/Prospect Ave, Bond/Hewes area) and is being administered by the Public Works Department and will be completed in four phases. These phases are as follows:
Phase I – Bond Avenue from Prospect St. to Hewes St. is already completed and in use.
Phase II – Hewes St. from Bond Ave. to Villa Park Rd. Construction will start by summer 2010 and is expected to be completed by fall 2010.
Phase III – Villa Park Rd./Santiago Canyon Rd. from Hewes St. to Cannon St. and along westerly side of Cannon to the Bridge at Santiago Creek. Construction will start late summer 2011 and expect to be completed by Dec. 31, 2011.
Phase IV – Collins Avenue Undercrossing at Santiago Creek. Construction will start in fall 2010 and is expected to be completed by winter 2010.
All construction on the SCBT North segment is scheduled for completion by the end of 2011.
For more information about the Santiago Creek Bike Trail, please contact Community Services Department's Administration at (714) 744-7264.