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Oso Creek Trail: Turn at the Tunnel Slides to Explore Nature

Oso Creek Trail: Turn at the Tunnel Slides to Explore Nature

Oso Creek Trail runs along Oso Creek below Oso Viejo Park playground in Mission Viejo.

Our first visit to the trail was magical. We arrived late on a cool Sunday evening. No one was at the playground – so we all had a good play and then let the kids lead us down the hill.

oso creek trail sign with bear print on concrete column

How to Get to Oso Creek Trail: From the 5 Freeway, take the La Paz exit and head east past Marguerite Parkway. Make a left on Veterans Way. (Address: 24932 Veterans Way, Mission Viejo) MAP to Oso Creek Trail in Mission Viejo

Where to Park for Oso Creek Trail?

Park at the Norman P. Murray Senior Center off Veteran’s Way. That road dead-ends into the senior center.

  • You can park to the left by the playground (and take the shorter loop described below).
  • Or you can park to the right which has spaces along the Village Green (and take the longer loop described below).

If you look on the map, there is also a dedicated parking lot below the Potocki Center for the Arts which you can reach right from the light at La Paz.

All the parking lots are free.

oso creek trail grass area with mosaic art installations

Highlights:

Norman P. Murray Community Center is lovely. An absolutely unique “active intergenerational center.” The playground resides in its backyard.

I love the many relaxing and renewing places to sit on the grounds.

You can make this nature walk as short or long as you want. We’ve never used the trail the same way twice.

In the past, this has been home to a fairy trail which started in Aliso Niguel and then moved to this Oso Viejo Trail in the summers of 2018 and 2019. With the crazy, mixed-up “no-touch-anything” summer of 2020 — the fairies had to get put on hold. I’m hoping they come back!

paved asphalt path near a green area with trees and lawn

How long is Oso Creek Trail?

According to the City of Mission Viejo, Oso Creek Trail is 5.5 miles of total trails. You can start the trail from the Butterfly Garden and take it all the way up to Pavion Park.

I break it into other natural lengths based on what there is to see for families (and how hilly it’s going to be with street crossings).

The City of Mission Viejo has a trails page and a Oso Creek Trail brochure if you really want to get deep into it!

Shorter Walk for Younger Kids:

  • As you are facing the playground, the trail is to your left past the baseball diamonds. It winds its way down the hill to the pathway above the creek. We walked to our left. There’s a nice grassy area and mosaic columns by local artists and community members.
  • Cross the bridge to see the butterfly garden. Turn right to the other side of the bridge (heading up the hill) and watch the creek for signs of wildlife. It was alive with birds and bunnies when we were there. In fact, we even spotted a mommy duck and about 7 ducklings.
  • You’ll come to a point where the trail turns into dirt and then bark. That’s where you’ll discover the plant maze. Plan to stay a while. It never gets boring for the kids.
plant maze in the shape of a circle visible from the playground equipment

Longer Loop for Older Kids:

There’s another version of this hike from Josh at CaliforniaThroughMyLens.com who took the longer version of this hike that goes up from the park and then around the other side of the creek. Not necessarily for little ones, but my older school-age kids love this walk.  Walking the paved part of the Oso Creek Trail and Jeronimo Open Space trail is perfect for jogger strollers — but half of this loop is on a dirt path which can be narrow and a little steep for strollers. So, I would recommend sticking to the paved paths with your strollers.  

This is the “longer” route we do with kids . . .

Walk on the sidewalk, past the Senior Center towards the “Village Green” which has wide open fields and outdoor fitness equipment (not for kids under 14).

workout equipment at oso viejo park in mission viejo under a sun shade

You’ll walk along a big lawn area and open space. We often get glimpses of birds in this space. It’s a great place to get the wiggles out.

sidewalk winding through trees with grass and manicured landscaping

You’ll also pass by mosaic artwork and fountains.

mosaic art of the area next to a fountain to form an outdoor sitting area at oso viejo park

When you come to the end of the sidewalk, there is a short flight of stairs. Take it down to the paved trail and go across the bridge.

Keep bearing to your left.

You’ll come upon a tunnel and this is where you’ll make your U-turn back towards the park for your loop. In the woodland area, the trail switches over to dirt.

tree stump in a shaded oak grove

There are oaks, sycamores, and it’s super peaceful back here.

My kids like to call it a “rollercoaster” trail because of the ups and downs.

My sister and I had a little trouble navigating it one day when we were walking without the kids — because it was a little muddy and we kept sliding back down the uphill!

trees in a clearing on a fall day with blue sky

There are a few other surprises on the trail, but I’ll leave them to you to find (don’t want to give it ALL away!).

You’ll eventually get back to the maze and just past that the trail is paved once again.

You’ll hang a left and go back over the bridge to the mosaic columns and up the hill to your left back to the playground.

Be Aware:

  • There are coyote warning signs and we saw evidence of a small animal that became a coyote meal. However, unless you have a small dog there is no reason to be concerned. Coyotes are small and skittish – usually out in the early morning and late evening hours.
  • Make sure you bring water and snacks.
  • No restrooms on the trail
  • It can be very isolated if you are hiking alone and there have been incidents in the past, so I would definitely recommend using the buddy system when visiting this trail.
sign posts along the oso creek trail with an obvious paved path leading uphill


Checklist:

Oso Creek Trail sign with an arrow pointing left for Trail Access and right for Trail Lookout

Originally posted in April 2009.

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