Cattle Crest / Shady Oaks (dayhike)

Trip Date: 7/19/2014

Location: Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and Irvine Open Space Preserve. The Preserve's trails are usually opened to the public on the third Saturday of each month (in this guide description of these trails will be shaded green).

Permit/Pass: Day use (weekday) - $3, (weekend) - $5, Annual Pass ($55 or $80)

Trails: New LCWP map, Old LCWP mapIOSP trail map

Directions: From Interstate 405 take CA Hwy 133 (aka Laguna Canyon Road) south 3.2 miles to the turnoff on the right for the park's Nix Nature Center. Parking sometimes fills up on the weekends so get there early. If you do not have an Orange County parks pass, be sure to pay at the machine.

Synopsis: This is a hike that begins in Laguna Coast WP on Little Sycamore trail, a nice, easy climb through some riparian areas. Then, after working along a ridge, the trip heads into Irvine's Open Space Preserve, traversing coast sage habitat that is open to the public only one day a month.

Trail sequence: Mary's Trail / Little Sycamore / Serrano Ridge / Cattle Crest / Shady Oaks / Serrano Ridge / Little Sycamore

Type: Lasso Loop

Distance: 8 miles

Elevation: Min. - 298', Max. - 875'


Rating: Moderate-Difficult (factors: length, steep sections, heat)

Trail notes: Much of this hike takes place on trails that are very popular with mountain bikers. Most are polite, but it pays to remain on guard. A few of the steep sections have been rutted out and can be rocky and tough on ankles.


Cattle Crest / Shady Oaks - Laguna Coast WP-Irvine Open Space Preserve

Turn by Turn:

  -- After parking (and paying if required) walk to the visitor's center (nice restrooms here) and pick up Mary's Trail for a brief stroll over to Little Sycamore trail. Turn left onto Little Sycamore.

  -- Follow Little Sycamore as it heads north about a mile, at the end of which you'll rise to meet Serrano Ridge trail. Turn right (east) on Serrano Ridge.

  -- The trail circles back to the north and works the hillsides for a little over a mile before coming upon Cattle Crest trail on the left. Turn left (west) on Cattle Crest.

  -- After a bit of up and down the ridgeline that Cattle Crest follows drop down near some houses and a golf course into a canyon that draws the trail to the south. Skip the left turn onto Rabbit Run, as well as the left onto Fox Run, and continue on the zig-zagging path as it finally brings you to Shady Oaks trail.

  -- Follow Shady Oaks trail for a bit over three quarters of a mile as it winds up and over a low rise and drops into Shady Canyon. 

  -- Just after crossing over a bridge Shady Oaks shifts from single-track to service road and begins a mile long climb to meet Serrano Ridge trail once again. Turn left (north) onto Serrano Ridge.

  -- Hike another mile and a half or so along the ridge before returning to the junction with Little Sycamore Canyon on the right. Turn right (south) on Little Sycamore.

  -- Follow Little Sycamore Canyon trail for just under a mile before reaching the parking lot next to the Nix Nature Center.