I found out about the Quail Hill Loop Trail in Irvine from my visit to the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. I’ve often seen people walking the trail, but wasn’t successful finding the trailhead. Turns out, it’s one of the prettiest places around — especially when the hills are green.
Location: Exit Interstate 405 at Sand Canyon/Shady Canyon. Head toward the Albertson’s and homes on the hillside right near the freeway. You’ll go through a roundabout, but continue straight up the hill towards Shady Canyon. The first right is for the Fire Station. Take the 2nd right past the Quail Hill Loop Trailhead sign and turn into the dedicated parking lot. (Address: 34 Shady Canyon Drive, Irvine) MAP TO THE QUAIL HILL LOOP TRAILHEAD
Our Hike: When we entered the trail, we made it a full loop by heading to the right. We walked the lower trail and passed by a wetland on our way to the upper part of the loop. The trail climbs a bit and then levels out when you get to the Vista Point. If you want to make it a really short hike, just go left when you get to the trail and head directly to the Vista Point and back to the parking lot. There is a nice picnic area right off the bathroom building.
- We took a family hike on the 2.8 mile loop and it was perfect for a slow stroll. We spotted birds and caterpillars, as well as, scat and tracks.
- The trail is well-marked and about as wide as a sidewalk.
- It’s a dirt path, but the earth is packed pretty hard.
- Incredible views of Saddleback and Irvine.
- Centrally-located and easy to access.
- You can plan for an afternoon or take a quick hike and look around.
- We saw quail, hummingbirds, western meadowlark and lots of other birds (especially near the wetland area). Watch the skies for raptors.
- There’s an audio tour available via cell phone with markers along the trail.
- I loved this hike because it was a loop. The kids could see our destination and I didn’t have to worry about getting lost or trying to gauge how much further we had to travel.
- This connects to the extensive Irvine trail system.
- It can close due to rain. Even after it opens, there might be muddy patches on the trail.
- As with all wild areas in Orange County, watch for rattlesnakes on hot days and during the summer.
- Stay on the trail and follow posted signs. They are for your safety.
- My husband usually hikes in front, then the kids are somewhere in the middle, and I bring up the rear. We trained the kids early for this and it works quite well.
- I never leave valuables in my car at a trailhead. Think about it. Someone could watch you take off on a hike and know you’ll be gone a while.
- It was a peaceful walk and it would have been silent save for the roar of traffic from the 405. It was still pleasant, though. However, if you are looking for a completely remote hiking experience, this isn’t the place.
- Free parking and no entrance fee
- Dedicated parking lot
- Open from 7am until Sunset
- You could take a jogger stroller, but it would be much easier with toddlers in a hiking backpack or on foot. Not good for regular strollers.
- Dogs are allowed ON LEASH (Resist the urge to let your dog off leash. It’s a protected wilderness area. There are dangers for your dog and impacts on the wildlife if you let them roam free here).
- There are even horse tie-ups and water fountains here.
- Very nice bathroom building at the parking lot with 2 drinking fountains
- Maps and notices posted at the bathroom building
- Picnic area at the trailhead
- Get more information on Quail Hill Preserve from the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks website