Oso Creek Trail in Mission Viejo is a great walking trail that 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 to a great trail with lots of surprises.
How to Get to Oso Creek Trail
From the 5 Freeway, take the La Paz exit and head east on La Paz Road 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 and they all hook up to this trail system which gives you access to public art, a hedge maze, and even Oso Creek Golf Course if you travel far enough along this nature oasis.
Oso Creek Trail Overview
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. There are mosaic tiles and a peace obelisk right off the path below the playground. This part is called the Celebration Garden.
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 with little fairy houses which started in Aliso Niguel and then moved to this Oso Viejo Trail in the summers of 2018 and 2019. Those were placed with permission from the City of Mission Viejo and discontinued in 2020 during what I call the “no touch summer.”
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 Character Garden and take it all the way up to Pavion Park.
However, I recommend starting on the other side of La Paz based on recommendations from readers who don’t like to be on the trail near the retail areas.
I never walk the whole trail. Instead, 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).
What are the best routes to take when exploring Oso Creek Trail?
Shorter Walk for Younger Kids / Small Children (Out-and-Back)
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 hedge maze. Plan to stay a while. It never gets boring for the kids!
Turn around and make your way back to the playground whenever you are ready.
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 on a dirt trail. 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).
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.
You’ll also pass by mosaic artwork and water fountains.
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. It used to be a very plain metal tunnel and the trail would kind of end at this point. Hey, that’s Jeronimo Road above you!
As of 2023, there is a new mural inside the tunnel called: Tunnel Vibration Mural. The description on the sign says: “The Tunnel Vibration mural uses the art and science of color to create a whimsical effect. Do the tunnel walls seem to vibrate when you look at them?” Do they?
This is where you’ll make your turn to the left back towards the park for your loop. In the woodland area, the trail switches over to dirt or bark chips depending on the time of year.
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!
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.
Breakfast Walk on Oso Creek Trail (Out-and-Back or Choose-Your-Loop)
I call this one the breakfast walk because the trail is now PAVED beyond the tunnel with the mural at Jeronimo and it will lead you all the way to the Oso Creek Golf Club and their Terrace on the Green restaurant.
We decided to walk up on a lovely winter weekend filled with green hills and moody clouds. This was a little over a mile hike for us one way. And then another mile back down the hill.
We started our walk way back on the trail off of La Paz at the World Cup soccer field parking area. I realized afterwards that we could have almost cut the distance in half by parking above at the Village Green and starting from there. It’s up to you how much walking you want to do!
This part of the trail continues up to Casta del Sol. You can get peek-a-boo views of Mission Viejo Nadadores swim complex on your left. It’s almost unrecognizable from this rare viewpoint until you spot the dive tower and white tent tops. A-ha! Now you remember what it looks like driving on Marguerite from the front side.
Anyways, back to breakfast!
Just keep walking straight up the trail and following the very clear signs. The paving is not completely done yet, so there is still a small portion that is dirt and rock.
Knowing there was a cup of coffee ahead was bliss. What I didn’t expect was the cozy seating areas with fire pits and fountains. It was just a nice laid back spot and it was relatively quiet at 8am on a Saturday.
We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with great service. You can also avail yourself of the really nice restrooms before hitting the trail again.
It is downhill the rest of the way from here! The green was really beautiful, but this could get hot later in the day or during the summer as there is no shade on this section of the trail. It was perfect for a chilly morning, though.
We had some choices on our route back.
Once you get back through the tunnel, you can go right along the dirt and bark chip trail past the hedge maze.
OR you can stay on the paved trail to the left and go back the way you came OR go up the steps after the bridge and walk along the Village Green where we saw a rousing lawn bowling game and you can stop at the playground. This way you get to play and see the bear statues everyone loves.
Then you can finish up your trip back to your car from there.
Extend Your Walk
Definitely take a peek at the Trail Map in the checklist at the end of this post. You can walk to the Mission Viejo Library from here. Or even to Pavion Park if you take the side of the trail that leads up to Jeronimo Open Space.
You can use it as a fitness walk with friends. Or you can take a sweet little nature walk near the playground. There is so much exploring to do! It’s one of my favorite spots in south Orange County!
There are coyote warning signs and we saw evidence of a small animal that became a coyote meal. Be especially aware with small dogs and small children. Coyotes are often skittish and camouflage well in this area. They are usually most active in the early morning and late evening hours.
They have also added mountain lion warning signs to the trail. If you think about it, this is basically a wildlife corridor set away from urban areas so you can see why it would be so attractive to native plants and animals.
Make sure you bring water and snacks.
No restrooms on the trail, however there are restrooms up at the park near the playground.
It can be very isolated if you are hiking alone and there have been incidents reported in the past, so I would definitely recommend using the buddy system when visiting this trail. Be aware of your surroundings.
- Some moms have warned that portions of the Oso Creek Trail, especially the half mile at the southern end of the trail, from the Character Garden / Mosaic History Wall to La Paz Road traveling behind the retail area should be avoided.
- This may improve with time because there are plans for reimagining this area as “North Paseo” with links to the Civic Center and to make it much more of a central space for the community to gather.
- Parking at the Norman P. Murray Community Center
- Mostly paved path with a big section of dirt path on the longer loop
- Restrooms up near the community center and playground
- There are picnic tables near the playground, but none in other places along the trail
- Shade trees along the lower path – but it gets hot up here in the summer
- Read my post about the Oso Viejo Community Park playground
- Coyote info for kids on National Geographic
- California Department of Fish and Game Coyote Brochure
- Official City of Mission Viejo information on Oso Viejo park and walking trails map
- Nearest public library: Mission Viejo Public Library
Originally posted in April 2009.