On our New Years Day hike along Sendero Loop West and Ladera Ranch Trails, we couldn’t have asked for clearer skies or greener hills. The recent rain also meant that we were trudging along with thick mud caked on our boots, but with views like this one, we paid no mind. I am happy to admit that 2017 is looking pretty fine from this vantage point 😉
We had initially planned on hiking Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, but most of the OC parks were closed due to wet and muddy conditions. We didn’t lose hope, however, and decided instead to hike closer to home. Sendero Field lies at the corner of Antonio Parkway and Ortega Highway, right at the edge of the first RMV community with that same name. Hikers who don’t live in the area can park at that field, then walk up Ortega Hwy to the first light, Reata Road. Reata will take you into the neighborhood of Sendero in Rancho Mission Viejo and the Sendero Loop trailhead lies to your left right before the private community gate straight ahead.
The first 1/4 mile of the trail after the Sendero Loop sign is paved. The trail is a steep incline the whole way and that incline continues once you reach the dirt part of the path. The west side of Sendero Loop is less treacherous than the east side entrance because the asecnt includes plenty of switchbacks. As you make your way up there is a bench at the half way point and then another one once you reach the top. We have hiked this trail several times already, but that first hill never gets easy. Our legs were plenty warm after our trek up so we didn’t want to take a seat; however, we made plenty of time to pause and enjoy the stunning views. We love where we live and on days like this one, the beauty of our surrounding community was quite a sight to behold.
After ascending Sendero Loop West, we continued along the trail that curves slightly left and takes you through an open field. If you take the trail to the right, the loop continues alongside Covenant Hills and takes you back down on Sender Loop East. The loop totals about 3 miles, but since we were up for a longer hike, we went through the field to where Sendero Loop West connects to Ladera Ranch Trails. The day was so clear that we were able to see the sparkling blue water of the Pacific Ocean in the distance. Although I have lived here for close to 20 years, the wild, pristine beauty of Southern California continues to amaze me.
We live minutes from the ocean and when we’ve had enough rain, are surrounded by these green, rolling hills. The rich and rugged landscape of Rancho Mission Viejo reminds me so much of Ireland and anytime I am hiking its trails or simply looking at its abundant views, I am immediately transported back to the semester I spent studying abroad there.
As you continue along Ladera Ranch Trails, keep left as you pass the electrical towers. The trail will curve down to where it runs alongside San Juan Capistrano. We have also hiked the trail to the right that curves up. That will take you through the outskirts of Ladera Ranch and also connects to some of the neighborhoods in there. However, that trail also runs alongside some maintenance facilities. I wanted to maximize my opportunities to witness the bright, green nature that abounds in Orange County this time of year and continue reminiscing about the magical country of Ireland. Needless to say, this route did not disappoint.
After descending Ladera Ranch Trails for about 1/4 of a mile, there is another, fairly flat mile stretch before the path connects to another steep hill. As you climb the last 3/4 of a mile of this hike, stay left to keep hiking up the peak you see in the picture above. If not for burning off calories from too much champagne on NYE (guilt), the sweeping, “Emerald Isle” like views continue from this part of the trail.
This hike is out and back and totals 6 miles. At the top of this final peak, you can continue along a series of other trails in Ladera Ranch, such as Sienna Botanical Trail and County Regional Trail for a longer hike. Since we started our hike in the afternoon and took our time taking pictures and enjoying the scenery, we turned around after 3 miles to avoid hiking down slippery, muddy hills in the dark. The late afternoon is one of my favorite times to hike in Orange County during the winter because the sky is free of any morning marine layer, the sun’s position in the sky still lights up the ground below, and the air is starting to cool. The perfect combination, in my opinion, for some very, happy hiking.
I mentioned in a previous post that my husband’s favorite hike is Roller Coaster Ridge Trail in San Clemente. This hike, along Sendero Loop West to Ladera Ranch Trails, has always been my favorite because it is so close to home and reminds me of my Irish roots and experience. However, after this New Year’s Day hike amidst vibrant, post-rain surroundings, my husband agreed that this too is his favorite hike. The place we call home truly is where our heart lies.
I hope you try this hike out and enjoy it as much as we do! If you do, I would love to hear how you liked it.
In Love, Peace, and a Hiking New Year ~ xo