This hike through Peters Canyon Regional Park is one of the most popular hikes in Orange County for good reason. The hike has everything: well-mantained trails, climbs and flats, panoramic views, and wildlife spotting opportunities. This Peters Canyon hike takes you on a very-doable 2:30 hour loop of the park. Lots of side trails offer opportunities to make it shorter if you’d like.
The 340-acre Peters Canyon Regional Park has an interesting history. The lake in the park was once a reservoir that was used to irrigate James Irvine’s orange groves, and now drains out to Upper Newport Bay. In 1899 one of the first golf clubs in Orange County was built here. During World War II there was an Army base here, and after he war the Boy Scouts took it over. In 1992 the area became an Orange County park when the Irvine Company donated the land for public use.
Today Peters Canyon Regional Park is popular with hikers, exercisers, horses, and mountain bikers. Be considerate, keep your eyes open, and share the trail.
If California is in a draught, the Upper Peters Canyon reservoir will likely be dry. Don’t let that stop you, this is still a great hike. If there’s water in the reservoir, expect even more wildlife around. I’ve seen mule deer, coyotes, rattlesnakes, and tons of birds here.
This hike guide starts in the main parking lot (on the north side), which has plenty of room and bathrooms, but also a small fee. There are other areas where you can park on the street and access the park if you want to save the fee.
There’s a small fee to park. Print a ticket out at the kiosks in the parking lot, and leave it on your dashboard.
Gear for the Hike
This is a hike you can do in workout gear or hiking gear. It can get very hot in the summer, so bring plenty of water.
Here’s the gear that I personally use, have tested, and recommend for this hike*.
* No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an REI link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.
There are usually official Peters Canyon hiking trail maps at the trailhead, and you can also print one out here. If you want to do a shorter hike, the map will give you plenty of hiking options, otherwise my guide and maps will do the trick.
Gaia GPS is a planning and navigation tool that you can use on your phone, tablet, and the web. I use it on my phone when I need to interact with the map and know where my position is on it. I use it at home on the computer to plan routes. You can overlay maps such as public lands to find out free places to camp. It’s a powerful tool.
This thing does everything: maps, GPX tracks, compass, barometer, altitude, heart rate, blood oxygen, fitness tracking, sleep tracking, and the list goes on. I keep a GPX route on the watch so I can quickly glance down and make sure I’m in the right place.