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Irvine’s Walnut Trail shares a wide corridor with an active BNSF Railway line through a section of Orange County that was known for producing oranges and strawberries until the 1970s. While the trail has a distinctly urban feel (the majority is located under power lines), you can still see hints of the area’s agricultural past, including several remnant orchards.
The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway 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 Walnut Trail is a popular commuter trail into central Irvine, one of Southern California’s most bike-friendly cities, with many access points along the way. It is also one of the oldest of the city’s many trails. Just a 0.3-mile walk from the trail’s southeast endpoint is Old Town Irvine—a registered California Historic Landmark—where you can learn about the town’s agricultural roots. The public Great Park, east of Old Town Irvine, was built on the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro and now encompasses sports fields, an Olympic regulation ice rink, and the iconic Great Park Balloon, the first tethered helium balloon in the country.
The trail's southeast endpoint begins off Sand Canyon Avenue just south of the railroad underpass. This well-maintained, smoothly paved trail follows the tracks 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.
An overpass provides safe, uninterrupted travel on the Walnut Trail. Continuing north, the route comes to grassy Hoeptner Park, which is a nice spot to rest, stop by the water fountain, or have a picnic (street parking is also available here). From here, the trail crosses some pleasant neighborhoods.
The trail passes underneath Yale Avenue and continues to busy Culver Drive, where another trail overpass carries you across the road. There are access points to the street and sidewalks if you need to connect to sections of town. The route continues through Flagstone Park toward the northwest end of the trail, providing a nice rest spot.
A street crossing at Harvard Avenue offers a connection to the Harvard Trail (head south to the San Diego Creek Trail); another 0.3 mile takes you to the northwest end of the trail, where it intersects with the Peters Canyon Trail.
Parking is available at Great Park (8000 Great Park Blvd, Irvine) and Hoeptner Park (15 Black Oak, Irvine).
Visit the TrailLink map for all options, available transit lines, and detailed directions
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