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The Turtle Rock Trail meanders its way through the neighborhood of the same name in southern Irvine. The path is a short—but serious—aerobic workout, as it features climbs to the trail's high point at Ridgeline Drive from both endpoints.
Common to Irvine's well-regarded trails, the Turtle Rock Trail features attractive landscaping, and several parks dot the route. Reach the scenic Quail Hill Preserve via either the Shady Canyon Trail at the Turtle Rock Trail's southern end or the University Trail at its northern end. Both of these paths connect to other trails in Irvine's extensive network, offering additional opportunities for recreation and transport.
Parking for the Turtle Rock Trail is available at Turtle Rock Community Park, located at the intersection of Morningside and Sunnyhill in Irvine's Turtle Rock neighborhood.
TRAILBEAR WENT OVER THE MOUNTAIN… THE TURTLE ROCK TRAIL, IRVINE, CA.
Length: 2.63 miles, concrete bike/walk thru greenbelts over a ridge at Turtle Rock.
Short, sweet and steep, that’s the Turtle Rock Trail. Certainly the most aerobic workout of the 44.5 miles of Irvine Class I bikeways. How aerobic depends on which side you select as the UP side. The trail ascents a ridge coming off Turtle Rock, the Hill.
TrailBear selected the south side ascent from Turtle Rock Community Park trailhead. That sent him pedaling up thru greenbelts, then limping and huffing up the Hairpin Switchback for a climb of 140’ from the trail head. His knee, souvenir of Tet, does not admit uphill jammin’. If he jams, he spends the next two months limping about, cursing. He has become adept at Hike A Bike. Out of the saddle and walk it up in a flash.
He checked the GPS in wonder. Where did the other zero go? Surely it was at least 1400’, straight up. (All the hardbody Roadies who do a century before breakfast with 1500’ ascent thrown in ROLF at this.) If this were a rail-trail, TB would have two helper engines attached for that grade on the upper leg of Hairpin Switchback. Happily, the trail tops out up there where the grade merges onto Ridgeline Dr.
You can feel it in the feet. Here we are climbing, now we are descending. Saddle up! Such a delightful descent. Scoot down the block, cross at the Ridgeline x Turtle Rock Dr. Junction, check for dog walkers on the trail below and now you can let her go down the Big Descent – 0.35 miles of fun.
TB sure did. (For a bit.) Screaming descents blind into terrain are not Good Career Moves. Sure are fun, though. At 22.5 mph he started pulsing the hydraulic brakes on the Bunny and came to a graceful stop, all parts attached, to cross Starcrest and enter the next drop. This was a nice curvy section. Not as much grade but still downhill and moving nicely. Oh, yes!
The TRT makes an on-grade STOP sign crossing of Sycamore Creek Rd., then down again, swings left, crosses under Sycamore Creek again, swings right, crosses under Turtle Rock Dr. at the junction of TR and Campus (love those underpasses; speed stays up) and heads down towards William Mason Regional Park. Next, an on-grade crossing at Rockview Dr., and then down the greenbelt to the trail end at Bobcat Junction in the park.
Now, if TB had a shuttle back to the trail junction at Ridgeline Dr., he would be headed down again, probably cranking in a bit more speed, now that he had done the route. Taxi!!
TRAIL RATINGS * TO *****
Trail Surface = ***** Nice, smooth ride. Good concrete surface. About 11’ wide.
Scenery = **** As you would expect in Irvine, it’s a pleasantly landscaped series of greenbelts. There are some nice wide views from the upper leg of Hairpin Switchback. The binoculars came in handy.
Facilities = ***** Very nice. Parking lot, restrooms and water at Turtle Rock Community Park, 1 Sunnyside, Irvine. Restrooms and water over at Canyon Neighborhood Park, across Turtle Rk. Dr. from the Big Descent. Two water fountains on the trail. Numerous benches set in alcoves along the trail. Wish they would set on in the middle of the view on upper Hairpin. You can see miles from there.
LOOP BACK NOTES…
This ride was done as a loop. We staged out of the delightful Quail Hill Trailhead on Shady Canyon Dr., over by the 405. TB limped the bike up to Gatehouse Pass, being passed by roadies and a guy reading a newspaper as he walked along. Such a retro change from the "cell phone in ear while doing everything" motif so common hereabouts.
Total ascent there was 147’. It is a 33+ mph descent going the other way. From Quail Hill it is a scenic 2.44 miles to the TRT trailhead park with some ups and down – 177’ down, 223’ up. Once over the pass it’s mostly downhill to the Turtle Rock Trail.
The bottom end of the TRT puts you at Bobcat Junction in the William Mason Regional Park. Hop on the University Trail there and head east, back to Quail Hill. This is a 3.22 mile ride, 71’ down, 132’ up. Total loop mileage is 8.3.
Your other loop option on the TRT is to turn left at Bobcat, head over to Campus Dr. and up Campus to the Bonita Trail (nicely aerobic – which means TrailBear can pedal rather than limp this one uphill), thence to the Shady Canyon Trail at the Campus/Bonita Canyon/Anteater/Shady Canyon junction up there. Shady Canyon Trail will take you back to the Turtle Rock Trail and you can do it again.
The trailhead for Turtle Rock Trail is the community park of the same name at 1 Sunnyside Dr. at the start of the trail.
The only parking at the bottom end in William Mason Park is pay parking - $3, $5 or $10 – depending on weekday, weekend or holiday. That is why TB did a loop out of Quail Hill Trailhead.
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