Whiting Ranch

Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park consists of 2,500 acres of arid rocky hills in Orange County, occupying what once was part of a cattle operation started by Jose Serrano in 1842 and later purchased by Dwight Whiting. Convenient access from Portola Parkway makes the 17-mile trail system exceedingly popular with mountain bikers. This guide explores the eastern section along Serrano Creek, but you could extend the trail for another hour or two by exploring the western Red Rock Canyon sections as well. 

Location Elsewhere
Rating 2.7 out of 5
Difficulty Moderate (some uphill hiking)
Distance 4.8 miles
Duration 1:13 hours moving time (hiking)
Elevation Gain 432 feet
High Point 1,243 feet (Santiago Ranch Road)
Low Point 781 feet (trailhead)
Trail Type Out-and-back
Trailbed Packed dirt and gravel
Water None
Status County Park
Administration Orange County Parks Commission
Conditions Excellent
Permits None required
Camping Not allowed
Maps USGS Lake Forest
Trailhead The trailhead is located in Foothill Ranch at the intersection of Portola Parkway and Glenn Ranch Road.  Outside office hours, parking is available south of that intersection. Take the Serrano Road trail north, underneath Portola Parkway, then enter the wilderness park.

Google Directions (33.670984, -117.655605)

Season Year-around. Open 7 am to sunset
Squirrel Density Dogs are not allowed
Features Grove
Distance From
  • Coeur d’Alene 1373.9 miles
  • Lewiston 1108.6 miles
  • Sandpoint 1395.3 miles
  • Seattle 1183.4 miles
  • Spokane 1232.3 miles
Resources
Date April 25, 2018

Sorry…not familiar with most of the plants in this part of the country…Parking on the south side of Portola, you will find convenient access to the Serrano Road trail at the northwest end of the food court including a Starbucks. Continue on the wide path underneath Portola and enter the wilderness proper. For a bit over a mile, the trail stays wide and follows Serrano Creek, a dry creek bed, uphill for a bit over a mile. At the fork with Dreaded Hill Road bear right onto the Serrano Cow Trail single-track. This trail moves steadily uphill among live oaks, cacti, and all kinds of exotic flora and eventually becomes part of Whiting Road. At the fork to Sleepy Hollow Trail bear right and drop down a bit towards the creek bed, only to climb once again, and a bit steeper this time. Near the 2.5-mile mark you emerge onto the Santiago Ranch Road and with the trees receding you have good all-around views, particularly to the south across Orange County.

Sage Scrub TrailTake in the views as you head southeast on Santiago Road until you meet up with the Sage Scrub Trail, then take that back to Whiting Road. For variety, we took the Live Oak Trail and the bottom end of Raptor Road on the way back; these parallel Serrano Creek on the other side.

Enjoy this hike? Let us know in the comments below!

Portola Parkway bridge
Portola Parkway bridge
Youll frequently come across cacti along the trail
You’ll frequently come across cacti along the trail
Serrano Road
Serrano Road
View from Serrano Road
View from Serrano Road
Live oak trees
Live oak trees
Serrano Cow Trail
Serrano Cow Trail
A hollow tree along Serrano Cow Trail
A hollow tree along Serrano Cow Trail
Sorry…not familiar with most of the plants in this part of the country…
Sorry…not familiar with most of the plants in this part of the country…
Sleepy Hollow Trail
Sleepy Hollow Trail
The views open up as you get onto the Sleepy Hollow Trail
The views open up as you get onto the Sleepy Hollow Trail
Exotic flora
Exotic flora
Santiago Ranch Road
Santiago Ranch Road
View from Santiago Ranch Road
View from Santiago Ranch Road
Sage Scrub Trail
Sage Scrub Trail
Darkness falling over Serrano Road. Its a great after-work hike
Darkness falling over Serrano Road. It’s a great after-work hike
Trailmap
Alternate Routes

  • Turn this into a longer loop by extending into the Red Rock Canyon portion. Refer to the trailmap


Things to Consider

  • Watch out for mountain bikes. They go fast and there’s lot of them. Also, years and years ago a mountain biker was attacked by a cougar in this wilderness, hence the closing after sunset
  • An alternative access point is Borrego Canyon on Portola and Market Place Street
  • Even though the wilderness is framed on both sides by residential sections, the noise of civilization is largely left behind once you get north of Portola


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