This ride route is aptly named “Grand View” because you’ll get a bird’s eye view of Crystal Cove State Park, the Irvine Open Space, and all surrounding areas from the highest ridge lines and peaks around this area.
You’ll see the ocean and even Catalina on a good day. You’ll see the giant valley between Irvine leading up to the Santa Ana Mountains. If it’s clear enough, you’ll see Mt. Baldy and possibly even Mt. Wilson. And along the way, you’ll see some of the most beautiful parts of Irvine.
Although you’ll ride about 16.5 miles (approximately 75% on the dirt) and do about 2200′ of climbing in about 2.5 hours, you’ll hardly notice that you actually had to work for these views! Here’s a map of the entire ride and below are turn-by-turn directions.
You can start this loop at any point, but this ride describes our exploration starting at the top.
When you begin the ride, you’ll be in in Crystal Cove State Park (aka El Moro) which is at the intersection of Ridge Park Rd and East Coastal Peak Rd. Refer to the Crystal Cove map below these instructions.
Starting at the end of Ridge Park Road take Bommer Ridge east up and over the first hill.
At the first fire road on your right, go through the gate and turn left at the single track, which is called Fence Line.
Continue on this single track past the 2nd fire road. The single track continues and changes names to Missing Link. You’ll climb up to the high point of the park (1013′) before taking a short single track down to the Moro Ridge fire road.
Turn left at Moro Ridge and rejoin Bommer Ridge.
Turn right on Bommer Ridge and follow it to a slightly confusing four way junction. The trail you want is called Serrano, which is basically a U-Turn left heading north west.
At this junction, you enter Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. Refer to the map below the route description.
The Serrano Trail runs somewhat parallel, and is the closest trail to the 73 toll road. On the map it is not marked by name, but it’s the trail between the numbers 9 and 26 on the map. You’ll lose about 400′ of elevation on this trail very quickly.
Approximately 3 miles into your ride where the Serrano and Upper Laurel Trails meet, (Gate #21) stay on the fire road. You’ll have a short climb up to the 73 toll road and then continue under it.
After the toll road, the Serrano trail veers right (east). At the first four way junction, notice that on your right is a sign posted by the Irvine Ranch that says basically “NO TRESPASSING”. Continue straight through the intersection, staying on the ridge.
Note that everything to the west at this point is off limits. There are cameras at each trail and there is usually an Irvine Police or Irvine Ranch vehicle nearby. So don’t even think of going in there!
Stay on this ridge line and enjoy the views on both sides. You’ll do a little bit of climbing before reaching the next high point of your ride at 858′ (approx. 5.5 miles into the ride). And at this point, the trail veers left (north). Stay on the fire road as it dips into a small valley.
On the north end of this valley, you’ll be leaving Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and entering the City of Irvine Open Space at the top of the Quail Trail.
Refer to the City of Irvine Open Space Map below these directions.
The Quail Hill Trail descends rather quickly. There’s a small climb that begins about 6.5 miles into your ride and is over at about 6.75 miles. At that point, it’s all down hill for the next 2 miles to Quail Hill Community Park.
Quail Hill Community Park is an optional and logical place to begin this entire loop. The address is 35 Shady Canyon Drive.
Cross the street (Shady Canyon Drive) and pick up the dirt trail on the right hand side of the street heading south and uphill. Called the Shady Canyon Bikeway on the map, it progresses through some rolling hills, passing the Shady Canyon reservoir on your right.
Once through the reservoir area, you’ll reach another guard shack. The trail crosses over Shady Canyon Drive and continues on the opposite side of the street; or you can stay on the street itself.
You’ll notice within about a quarter mile of the guard shack, on your left, Bommer Canyon Road. The map of the the Irvine Open Space below stops close to this intersection, but the restricted area continues all the way to Newport Coast Drive.
At Culver Drive, turn left (west) and then left again at Newport Coast Drive. At this intersection, you are at the lowest elevation for the entire ride (approx 200′ elevation). There’s a huge parking lot for Mariner’s Church there. This would also be a good place to start the ride, but you should check with the church owners about their parking policy since it is technically private property. Their phone number is (949) 854-7600.
If you started at the top entrance of El Moro like we did when we explored this route the first time at this point you’re close to 13 miles into your ride. The next 3.25 miles all up hill and will be about 900′ of climbing. The speed limit along Newport Coast highway is 55 MPH, so basically it’s like being on a freeway. Stay as far right as you can and ride single file!
Turn left at Ridge Park Rd (approx 14.25 miles) and prepare yourself. This is the biggest climb of the entire ride. But don’t worry: it’s over in a couple miles! The average uphill grade here is 11%.
At approximately the 16.25 mile mark, you’ll see the radio towers at Signal Peak on your right. It’s all downhill from there back to your car, albeit a short reward at the end.