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Quail Hill Loop Trail in Irvine

Quail Hill Loop Trail in Irvine

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.

How to Get to Quail Hill Loop Trail in Irvine

Exit Interstate 405 at Sand Canyon/Shady Canyon. Head toward the Albertson’s and homes on the hillside right near the freeway.

You’ll come upon 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 across from the sports field. (Address: 34 Shady Canyon Drive, Irvine) MAP TO THE QUAIL HILL LOOP TRAILHEAD

quail hill loop trail restroom builiding with white sage in foreground

Quail Hill Loop Trail Hike

This is a loop so your options after walk the short bit of entrance to the hike are “Go right?” or “Go left?” For now – in January 2021 – the trail is one way to allow you to distance from other hikers.

So your only option is to go left up the hill and to hike the ENTIRE trail which is a 2 mile loop. That should take about 40 minutes walking at a steady pace.

It’s not ideal for a family with very young kids who might want to turn around rather than complete the loop.

For future hikes when there are no directional restrictions:

When we’ve hiked the trail in the past, 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 before a downhill back to the entrance. 

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.

Fun fact: When you are at the far end of the loop you are outside the back of Tanaka Farms where you might be able to sneak a peek at the crops.

quail hill loop trail view through sycamore branches

Highlights:

  • We took a family hike on the 1.8 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.
bird on post in foreground with field and blue sky in background
  • 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.
  • If you are looking to extend the play time with a park nearby, I highly recommend the Quail Hill Community Center Playground just up the road in the next parking lot to the left. You’ll see the big Quail Hill Community Center when you drive in. Drive past the building and the playground is tucked around the side and back of the building.
Quail Hill Loop Trail with girl wearing jeans and hat surrounded by green grass and blue sky

Be Aware:

  • 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.
  • Bring water and snacks or whatever you think you might need on the hike. Even though it seems short, you still might need that first aid kit and diaper bag.
  • 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.
grasses in the foreground with mountains and blue sky in the distance

Checklist:

  • 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 restroom 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

Originally posted in February 2011.

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