Roller Coaster Ridge Trail. From its highest point you can see Saddleback mountains, Dana Point Harbor, San Clemente pier, and Catalina Island, on top of views of the Pacific Ocean as far as the eye can see. If you’re looking for a quick, yet challenging outdoor workout with a 360-degree outlook of Orange Count’s stunning landscape, then Roller Coaster Ridge Trail is the hike for you!
Getting to Roller Coaster Ridge Trail is straightforward and, as soon as you reach the end of Camino De Los Mares and park, the entrance is in directly in front of you. I will admit that the first half mile or so of the trail is not incredibly scenic. This initial stretch of the hike consists of North Los Mares Trail followed by Prima Desecha Trail and is a steady uphill. Once you get to the “roller coaster” portion of the subsequent trails, you will be grateful for this leg warm-up.
After hiking along Prima Desecha Trail, it turns into Camino Las Ramblas Trail, before forking off into Cerro Rebal Trail to your right and Las Ramblas Trail to your left. We went left and then made a sharp right onto Patriot Trail.
Roller Coaster Ridge has great visibility and there are plenty of trails signs, so this out and back loop is fairly instinctual. If you go right, you will get to the same destination, then can come back down Patriot on your way back.
Although the entrance to Roller Coaster Ridge starts in San Clemente and the city’s neighborhoods and beaches lie behind you, this hike is technically in San Juan Capistrano. That is why my husband and I love this network of trails so much; we get beautiful views of our favorite Orange County communities the whole way. The above picture we took while turned around on Patriot Trail. This trail makes up the longest portion of the hike and it’s twisting path is what gives this hike its name.
As you make your way along Patriot Trail, there are a few points of interest that make for great pictures. One of them, which I didn’t see the last time I did this hike, is a weathered chair perched on one of the trail’s peaks next to a newly planted tree. The unexpected pair appear almost alien sitting on top of one of the steepest peaks of Patriot Trail.
I never tire of looking at the ocean. As much as I would love for more lush, green trails in Orange County, the fact that we are so close to the water and can enjoy stunning, blue horizons like this one more than make up for the dry landscape.
In addition to the chair, an American flag positioned on top of the final peak of Patriot Trail is an amazing point of interest on Roller Coaster Ridge. With a clear view of Catalina Island in the distance coupled with our nation’s colors flapping in the wind, it is an incredible way to mark the turnaround point of this hike.
Roller Coaster Ridge is a hike we come back to time and time again. At 4.5 miles, it is one that can easily be fit into a busy, weekend schedule. That wasn’t the case for us last weekend; however, we did have a late start to the morning and started this hike around noon. The weather was cool and with the sun hovering directly above us in the sky, we were able to get some clear and vibrant pictures of our journey. While I prefer hiking in the morning or just before sunset, I wasn’t going to let a late start prevent me from connecting with my husband in the great outdoors. It is something I look forward to every, single weekend and is the perfect bookend to the end of a week and the start of a new one.
Did you hike Roller Coaster Ridge? What time did you go out and what was your favorite part? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!
In Love, Peace, and Hiking ~ xo