The Sinks / Box Springs loop (dayhike)

Trip Date: 4/4/2015

Location: Limestone Canyon (Irvine Ranch Open Space Preserve) - Augustine Staging Area (reservations)

Permit/Pass: No fees, but access is limited to scheduled programs and days. Plan ahead by determining which days the park is open, then make your reservations here.

Trails: OC Parks Map 

Directions: From the 241 Tollroad in Orange County take the E. Santiago Canyon Rd. exit heading east toward the town of Silverado. After driving a little over three miles you'll see a turn lane on the right leading to the Augustine Staging Area of Limestone Canyon. Turn right into the parking area.

Synopsis: This is a relatively flat eleven mile hike. It travels through some classic Orange County open space habitat, with beautiful oaks along Limestone Canyon and good views from the ridge trail. The Sinks are an interesting and somewhat unexpected feature. Plan ahead for this one - the park is only open the first Saturday of every other month.

Trail sequence: Limestone Canyon trail / East Loma trail / Box Springs trail / East Loma / Limestone Canyon / Cactus Canyon trail / Limestone Ridge trail / Limestone Spur trail / Limestone Canyon

Type: Double loop

Distance: 11.2 miles

Elevation: Min. - 813', Max. - 1666'


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

Trail notes: Because this place is only open six days a year, and those days are always Saturdays, expect plenty of company - especially at the viewing platform for the Sinks.


The Sinks / Box Springs loop - Limestone Canyon


Turn by Turn:

  -- After registering at the booths and picking up your tag, head back through the parking lot, across the entrance road and pick up Limestone Canyon trail just past the gate.

  -- Follow the easy trail as it works first southeast, then directly east, then back toward the south again, passing several spur trails leading off to the left (east).

  -- After nearly four miles of travel through meadows and shady canyon you come to the viewing platform for the Sinks on your left. Once you're ready to leave, return to the trail and continue south for a few hundred feet to a junction with East Loma trail. Turn right (west) on East Loma.

  -- The path climbs to meet another junction with Box Springs trail on the left. [During the time we took this hike East Loma trail, which normally can be taken back to the trailhead, was closed for repairs. This left a small portion of East Loma open for those who wished to take a short loop in combination with Box Springs trail.] Turn left here to take the loop clockwise. We continued right on East Loma and did the loop counterclockwise.

  -- As you near closing the loop, there is a sharp left turn to continue on Box Springs. Staying straight will take you down a short jog to a dead-end - and a nice, shady spot for lunch or a rest.

  -- After closing the Box Springs loop, head back (east) on East Loma, then turn left (north) to begin the return journey past the Sinks.

  -- Shortly after passing the Sinks you come to a junction with Cactus Canyon trail on the right. Turn right (east) onto Cactus Canyon.

  -- The trail climbs, sometimes a bit steeply, up to a ridge, where you'll pick up Limestone Ridge trail. Turn left (north) on Limestone Ridge.

  -- Follow Limestone Ridge as it meanders up and down but generally gradually descends as it follows the ridgeline just above Limestone Canyon. Pass Raptor trail and continue straight until the trail drops down to Limestone Spur trail. Turn left (west) onto Limestone Spur.

  -- The spur trail brings you back to Limestone Canyon trial (your outbound path), where you'll turn right (west) and retrace your steps to the parking lot. Remember to hand in your tags.


Photos: Flickr

Video: Youtube