Riley Perimeter loop (dayhike)

Trip Date: 12/28/2013

Location: Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park

Permit/Pass: $3 daily, machine accepts $1 Bills and Quarters or Visa/Master Card. Annual Parking Passes are available.

Trails: OC Parks Map

Directions: From Interstate 5 in Mission Viejo take the Oso Parkway exit east 5.7 miles to just before S. Bend Rd., where you'll see the dirt entrance road to Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park. Follow the road a couple hundred yards to a right turn into a large parking area. The Oak Canyon trailhead is at the southern end of the lot.

Trail sequence: Oak Canyon trail / Sycamore Loop / Oak Canyon / Horned Toad Trail / Oak Canyon / Mule Deer trail / Pheasant Run trail / Wagon Wheel Canyon trail

Type: Loop

Distance: 2.8 miles

Elevation: Min. - 505', Max. - 767'


Rating: Easy-Moderate (factors: heat, some short, steep sections)

Synopsis: Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park is small enough that one needs to chain most of its trail together to get a hike of any real mileage. This short but enjoyable spin takes you around the perimeter of the park, into oak woodlands, over ridges and through coastal sage scrub. The trails are well-marked and there are interesting interpretive signs along the way.


Perimeter loop - Thomas F. Riley WP


Turn by Turn:

  -- As you pick up the trail at the south end of the dirt parking area, you head south on Oak Canyon for a couple of football fields before coming to a junction with Vista Ridge trail on your right. Continue straight on Oak Canyon for a few more yards where you encounter another trail on your left. This leads out of the park. Again, stay straight on Oak Canyon.

  -- After the trail turns to the west you walk a bit farther another fork. Here Oak Canyon continues to the right and Sycamore Loop goes off to the left. Take the Sycamore Loop trail.

  -- Follow this path as it turns to the north again. After almost a quarter-mile, you meet up with Oak Canyon again. Turn left (northwest) on Oak Canyon.

  -- The trail climbs a bit as it approaches Horned Toad trail. Turn left (west) on Horned Toad.

  -- There is some steep climbing on Horned Toad as it rises to a vista point, then circles back to the east as it drops to meet Oak Canyon trail yet again. Turn left (north) on Oak Canyon.

  -- The trail trends north through open areas and past a dry pond, before turning to the east again, dropping quickly into a gully then rising to meet Vista Ridge trail once more. Cross Vista Ridge to pick up Mule Deer trail.

  -- Mule Deer works its way southeast for about 0.4 miles, at which point it intersects on the left with Pheasant Run trail. Turn left onto Pheasant Run.

  -- Pheasant Run turns north and circles to the east. After almost a half-mile it dead-ends at Wagon Wheel Canyon trail. Turn right (south) on Wagon Wheel Canyon.

  -- Follow this path south to return to the north end of the parking area.