The University Trail is a short one with a lot of connections. IT's a like a fourth for bridge. It serves as the bottom of a number of loop rides. Someone has to do. The University and the Freeway Trails do it.
Let’s start over at the Quail Hill Trailhead. This is one of the few actual trailheads in the City of Irvine system. On most trails, we make do with nearby parks. It is a well done project with facilities for bikers, hikers and horses. It's free. TrailBear likes free trailhead parking.
QUAIL HILL TRAILHEAD, 190’, GE: N33.65369 W117.78357
From Quail Hill you can go in two directions. Uphill takes you to Gatehouse Pass and the gated community of Shady Canyon. That puts you on the Shady Canyon Trail and a 9 mile loop ride back to Quail Hill. Go the other way. Take the Quail Hill bike trail back towards the freeway. It wraps around the bottom of the trail and heads for JOST Junction.
JOST JUNCTION, 114’, GE: N33.66242 W117.79264
JOST – Jeffrey Open Space Trail – Junction is at the end of the bike/ped bridge over the freeway. Here the JOST, Quail Hill and University Trails meet. If you take the bridge, you can ride up the JOST to the San Diego Creek Trail or take bike lanes. There are a lot of options. Check out the Irvine bikeways map.
Since you are riding the University Trail, just continue on straight ahead, climbing alongside University Drive. You will crest out at Strawberry Farm Rd. There is a water fountain between Strawberry Farm and Ridgeline Dr. You traverse the Sand Canyon Wash between the two roads. If you travel up the wash you will reach the Sand Canyon Reservoir at the far end of the golf course.
RIDGELINE & UNIVERSITY, 101’, GE: N33.65821 W117.80748
Cross Ridgeline at the light. Now, where did the trail go? No signs. Take a left up the bike/walk and you will find the entrance 0.07 miles uphill, below a ridge.
The trail dives into the barranca portion of William Mason Regional Park. This is wild and brushy and thick. You can almost imagine the cougars watching the dogs go by, thinking of lunch. On the hill above is Concordia University. The University of California @ Irvine is 1.9 miles SE of Concordia and higher on the hill. The trail follows the stream to…
WATER DISTRICT JUNCTION, 74’, GE: N33.65780 W117.81491
This is your first UT junction. There are several of them ahead. Water District Junction is named for the underground facility at the junction. Probably a pumping plant. This is where the Woodbridge Trail (see TrailLink) comes in from the north, crossing University Drive above. You can take that up to the San Diego Creek Trail and loop back to Quail Hill on the JOST. Or, you can ride onward to …
BOBCAT JUNCTION, 67’, GE: N33.65570 W117.81886
The trail coming downhill into Bobcat Junction is the Turtle Rock Trail (see TrailLink). It’s a nice aerobic ride – from the high side. It’s even more aerobic from this, the low side. If you do it from the Shady Canyon Trail, you get a great downhill ride. This way you get a great uphill burn, then some downhill on the far side of the ridge. Decisions. Ride on to the next junction, bear left and continue on to yet another junction. Bear left and uphill to …
RATTLESNAKE JUNCTION, 79’, GE: 33.654607 -117.826483°
You hope the name is not trying to tell you something, but watch where you walk. Rattlesnake offers two choices. There is a bike/walk to the left that leads up to the University High School and a bike/walk to the right that lead to Culver Dr. If you are doing the Shady Canyon Loop, take the sidewalk up Culver to Campus Dr. The Bonita Trail is on the left side of Campus up there and will take you up to the Shady Canyon Trail, which will return you to Quail Hill.
Since you are riding the UT, backtrack to the junction below Rattlesnake and bear left. This takes you to the ped crossing at Culver & University. You might hope for some informative signs at these junctions about which leg goes where. It has yet to happen, but you can hope.
Cross and bear left onto the trail entering the civilized portion of William Mason Park. Certainly a change from the barranca: mowed lawns, a lake, restrooms, a fee station, parking, pleasant walks, picnic shelters, tot lot, etc.
RESTROOMS & WATER, 43’, GE: 33.655491 -117.832653
There are a number of restrooms in the park, but this is the first one you encounter since Quail Hill. The next one is miles away, up in Bill Barber Park. The trail runs along the stream, parallel and close to University Dr. At the entrance road it climbs to the street. Head for the intersection and cross University and cross Harvard. You want to be on the diagonally opposite corner. Once there, follow the sidewalk 263’ to the trail by the side of the church parking lot. It heads downhill, alongside the church for 550’ to a junction with …
THE SAN DIEGO CREEK TRAIL, 24’, GE: 33.658151 -117.841532
You’ve done it! Traversed the entire University Trail from JOST Junction to the San Diego Creek Trail Junction. (Three miles and change, but you don’t have to stress that point.) A word of caution: The junction is something of a blind corner. Stop, look and proceed with care - or risk getting trampled by a pace line of roadies coming around the corner.
You are now on the San Diego Creek Trail, about 12 miles long and the backbone of the Irvine Class I trail system. So many choices!
Turn left and ride over to the Back Bay Loop in Newport Beach. Turn right and you are about 2.4 miles out of Bill Barber Park and a junction with the Peters Canyon Wash Trail to the north. You can ride the SDCT past the park and intersect the Woodbridge and the JOST, both of which will take you back to the University Trail. If you want a short loop, take the SDCT up to the Freeway Trail and the FT back to the Woodbridge or the JOST and those down to the University Trail and thence to your car at Quail Hill.
TRAIL RATINGS * TO *****
Trail Surface = ***** Nice, smooth ride. Good concete surface. About 11’ wide.
Scenery = *** It's O.K., but does not stir the heart. You are not riding it for the views.
Facilities = *** to ***** at Quail Hill
Putting the icons on the map.