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The Walnut Trail shares a wide corridor with an active railroad line, a BNSF route, through a section of Orange County known for producing oranges and strawberries. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad line originally provided a vital link for transporting iron from the Midwest into the Los Angeles area. In 1971, Amtrak assumed operation of the line, using it to transport passengers between Chicago and Los Angeles. BNSF officially maintains the track and uses it for freight rail, in conjunction with Amtrak and Metrolink passenger service.
The trail itself begins off Sand Canyon Avenue just south of the railroad tracks. This well-maintained, smooth-paved trail follows the tracks heading northwest. You will cut through a section of the lush Oak Creek Golf Club before reaching Jeffrey Road, where you can hop on a portion of the Jeffrey Open Space Trail. For those continuing on the Walnut Trail, an overpass here provides safe, uninterrupted travel.
Beyond Jeffrey Road, the trail comes to grassy Hoeptner Park, which is a nice spot to rest or have a picnic. From here the trail crosses some pleasant neighborhoods. There are access points all along the trail, making it a popular commuting route.
The trail passes underneath Yale Avenue and continues to busy Culver Drive, where another trail overpass carries you across the road. In addition, there are access points to the street and sidewalks if you need to connect to sections of town. The trail continues through Flagstone Park toward the end of the trail, providing a nice rest spot before you make the final push.
At Harvard Avenue the trail ends, but there are multiple connections here to bike lanes and other trails in Irvine's extensive network. Pick up the Harvard Trail to head south to the San Diego Creek Trail, or cross the road and train tracks to join the Peters Canyon Trail.
To reach the Sand Canyon Avenue trailhead, take the Sand Canyon Avenue exit from Interstate 5. Go south on Sand Canyon Avenue for 0.5 mile and across the train tracks. The trail is on the right (west). There is no parking at this endpoint, but you might find on-street parking along Oak Canyon Road, which is about 100 yards south of the trail.
To reach the Harvard Avenue endpoint, take the Culver Drive exit from Interstate 5. Take Culver Drive south for 0.5 mile to Walnut Avenue. Turn right (west) on Walnut and go 0.5 mile to Harvard Avenue. Go left (south) on Harvard for 0.5 mile, crossing the train tracks to reach the trail. There is limited on-street parking here and on nearby neighborhood streets.
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