THE VENTA SPUR TRAIL, IRVINE, CA.
There was a time and now it’s all gone by . . . when getting an orange in your Christmas stocking was a treat.
There was a time and now it’s all gone by . . . when Orange County had mile upon mile of orange groves instead of mile upon mile of homes, apartments, malls and condos. (And where did those 240 square kilometers of lima beans vanish to?) You can think of those times as you ride the Venta Spur Trail.
In 1916, some 93 years ago, James Irvine, Jr. built a 48,000 square foot citrus packing house, which he named the Frances Packing House after his late wife. The Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad extended a spur line to serve the packing house – the Venta Spur. The packing house packed it up in 1971, the right-of-way was donated to the city in 1988 and in 1997 came the Venta Spur Trail.
THE RIDE… 3.31 miles from Peters Canyon Wash Trail to the 133 Toll road
This is a pleasant, well-shaded, lushly landscaped low speed neighborhood trail. Check out the pix. Great for families and kids. Good place for a walk, with or without the dog. It is not heavily trafficked by high speed bikies. Those on-grade crossings just kill speed; it is too short to provide any distance; it only connects with one express trails. Relax and enjoy. If you get “whushed” it will probably be a kid on a Razor.
One doubts that this is a destination trail for you. You are doing it because you are riding the Peters Canyon Wash Trail – or live locally. If the latter, you know where to go. If the former, stage out of Hicks Canyon Community Park at 3864 Viewpark Ave. or the Woodbury Community Park at 130 Sanctuary. Both have restrooms, water, picnic tables, parking and lots more.
From the Hicks CCP, get on the Hicks Canyon Trail and head west to the junction with Peters Canyon, then left (south) down the PCWT to the Venta Spur Junction. This is a half mile and one under crossing away. There is a water point just inside the junction and another further on at Silkwood Park. Other than that and those nice benches and tables at the junction and more benches along the trail, that’s mostly it on facilities. No pit stops until Woodbury CCP over to the east.
The first park you reach, a quarter mile in, is a very nice private one for the residents of Northpark Square. The next park, Silkwood Neighborhood Park at 1 Mayflower has a water fountain, no restrooms and on-street parking only.
When not diverting down the block to a ped crossing and back, you pass down a green corridor between the neighborhoods with a stone brook to keep you company. It must be a shady delight in summer when it’s Brain Fry Time in Irvine. As you near Jeffrey Rd., note the row of old growth eucalyptus trees. Probably planted along the edge of an orange grove in Days Gone By. Also notice all the back yard gates opening on the trail – a community trail.
There are several miles of bollard lighting, which should encourage pleasant evening walks. It was certainly a pleasant Saturday ride. Sort of a short feature that goes with the main event – Peters Canyon.
When you hit Jeffrey Rd., you might think that it’s over. But wait, there’s more. Across the street is the JOST – Jeffrey Open Space Trail – and an interesting ride in its own right. Some day it will run about 5 miles from Quail Hill Trailhead to Portola and the Great Park. Today it runs a mile. It’s a mile worth riding.
Notice the barrier along the median strip to discourage you from dashing across, which is both naughty and foolish. Turn right and take the bike/walk for 0.25 miles down Jeffrey to Bryan Ave. The bike/walk continues along Bryan on the south side to Woodbury Community Park (0.33 miles) and beyond.
Start at the north end of the JOST and follow the history of the Irvine ranch from the Rancho Days to World War II. There are intaglio panels set in the bike/walk thru the park and each one deals with a bit of Irvine Ranch history. You can actually see them from space – just can’t read them. GE: 33.703309° -117.754537°
The Venta Spur finally ends at in a new subdivision, Woodbury East, at the junction of Towngate and Crosspointe. This is close aboard the 133 Tollroad. As you look over the new construction and the model homes and the traffic rushing by and the private community recreation facility, remember that there was a time, and now it’s all gone by, when there were 971,820 orange trees on the Irvine Ranch.
CONNECTIONS AND RIDES…
If you would like something of a loop ride in this part of town and don’t mind a bit of bike lane, try this. Park at Woodbury CCP and ride the Venta Spur to Peters Canyon Wash Trail. Take the PCWT upstream to the Hicks Canyon Trail and up the Hicks to Portola Parkway. A quarter mile along Portola puts you at the top of Jeffrey Rd. Take the bike lane downhill to the JOST (0.89). Ride the JOST. You can get back on the Venta Spur at the Bryan underpass or take the JOST to the bottom at Trabuco and double back to the VST and head back to your car at Woodbury. This works out to around 6.9 miles.
Credits where due: (“There was a time, and now it’s all gone by. . . “ is from the Zuhalterballade from Die Dreigroschenoper)
TRAIL RATINGS… * to *****
Trail surface = **** to *****. It’s a nice concrete bike/walk and you don’t notice it under tire.
Facilities = ***** There are full service park/trail heads close to both ends. There is water on the trail in various places. There are benches and tables. There is shade and a lot of nice landscaping. What is not to like. (Well, those diversions down the block at the on-grade crossings.)
Scenery = ***** It’s a delight to slowly pedal along, enjoying the views. (TrailBear has been up surveying the San Gabriel River Trail. Power plants, oil fields, concrete river beds. Enjoy Irvine. They landscape it.
Do it again? Sure. Probably as a loop trip which includes the JOST.