Whiting Ranch Hiking: Red Rock Canyon

Whiting Ranch Hiking: Red Rock Canyon

In This Guide
  • How to Get to Whiting Ranch Red Rock Canyon
  • Whiting Ranch Red Rock Canyon Trail Maps
  • Turn by Turn Hike Directions
  • What You Need To Do the Hike
Distance4.2 miles (6.8 km)
Time1:45 Hours (Total Time)
DifficultyEasy
Total Climbing420 feet (128m)
Dog FriendlyNo
Park NameWhiting Ranch Wilderness Park
Park Phone949-923-2245

There’s a few Whiting Ranch hiking options, but Red Rock Canyon is the most popular for a good reason. The gently climbing trail makes it way up a oak woodland canyon, eventually ending in a smooth red rock canyon like you’d see in Arizona (but unique to Orange County). Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park is rich with wildlife. I often see squirrels and lizards, and less often deer. The hike is mellow, easy, and is great for families.

Mule Deer Red Rock Canyon
Keep your eyes open for mule deer around the trail. I see them at the Red Rock Canyon hike almost every time I do it. Early mornings are a good time to spot them. Photo Dcrjsr

Unfortunately, Whiting Ranch has been the location of mountain lion attacks in recent California history, mainly because of the abundance of mule deer, and you’ll see lots of warning signs at the trailhead. I realize it’s scary but your chances of being attacked are incredibly miniscule. For peace of mind, I bring bear spray, which also works on mountain lions (and humans). Please don’t let a fear of mountain lions stop you from doing the Red Rocks Canyon hike.

Sunset is a great time to do this hike. When the sun is low, it hits the exposed sandstone red rocks and fills them with even more color.If you don’t hike it at sunset, come here as early as you can. This hike is popular and gets crowded.

Where is Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park?

Use this address for the Red Rock Canyon hike trailhead: 26701 Portola Pkwy, Foothill Ranch, CA 92610.

To park, pay at the kiosk in the lot and leave the receipt on your dashboard. If the parking lot is full, you can try the shopping center across the street. But I didn’t say to do that.

Gear For the Hike

You don’t really need any special hiking gear to do this hike. Workout gear is fine for this one. Here’s what I would bring:

My Top Gear Picks

Garmin inreach review

Do you have the right hiking gear? Will it stand up to the test? I waste lots of money testing hiking gear every year so that you don’t have to. My gear picks are solid choices that will serve you well on the trail. I don’t do sponsored or paid reviews, I just the share actual gear that I use all the time that’s made the cut. Here are my top picks:

  1. Garmin InReach Mini Emergency Beacon – Hiking out of cell phone range? Make sure you have one of these two-way satellite texting devices in case your hike doesn’t go as planned. You can read my full review here.
  2. Injinji Sock Liners With Darn Tough Hiking Socks – This combo is a great way to avoid blisters out on the trail. I have some insider-hiking tips for avoiding blisters here. Pair them with modern, high-tech hiking boots (for women and men) and your feet with thank you.
  3. Garmin Fenix 5x Plus – It’s a little pricey, but man do I love this thing. Not only does it have all the topo maps and navigation tools on my wrist, but it also acts as a long battery life, rugged, outdoors version of an Apple Watch. Track your workouts, sleep, heart rate, all that stuff.

I have lots of other great, sponsor-free, trail tested gear picks on my “best gear” page.

See My Full Gear List

Whiting Ranch Red Rock Canyon Trail Maps

Fenix 5x Hiking Review

I highly recommend bringing a good paper map with you, and then using it in conjunction with a GPS device. You can see the navigation gear that I use here (I’m currently using the Fenix 5x Plus and love it). Just download the GPX file below and load it onto your GPS.

Many people also print out this web page for the turn-by-turn images. And if you really want to get tricky, YouTube Premium lets you download videos for offline use, so you can download the hike video and save it.

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

Whiting Ranch Hiking: Red Rock Canyon 3d map
The hike winds it’s way up through residential neighborhoods on the Borrego Canyon Trail. After that, you’re in Whiting Ranch park proper.

Whiting Ranch Red Rock Canyon Hike Directions

Whiting Ranch Hiking: Red Rock Canyon parking
The parking lot has solar powered pay machines. Pay, get the ticket, and leave it inside your car on the top of your dashboard. Walk to the end of the lot, where you will find water fountains, maps, and porta-potties.
Borrego Canyon Trail trailhead
The Borrego Canyon Trail trailhead is obvious, it’s the only option. Start your hike here.
Borrego Canyon Trail
The Borrego Canyon Trail winds up through this narrow stretch of Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park. Just keep hiking straight and enjoy the shade of the oak trees.
Whiting Ranch Hiking trail
This section of Whiting Ranch is flanked by residential neighborhoods.
Whiting Ranch Hiking trail
At about 0.5 miles, avoid the intersecting trail and continue hiking straight.
Whiting Ranch Hiking trail
As you continue hiking up the Borrego Canyon Trail, there will be other small side trails, just continue hiking straight on the big trail.
mountain bikers on trail
Watch out for mountain bikers coming from behind as you hike up Borrego Canyon Trail. It’s a one way trail for the mountain bikes.
Whiting Ranch Hiking trail junction
At about 1.5 miles you’ll arrive at a big trail junction. A board has the trail map of the entire Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park in case you want to refer to it. Hike to the right.
Red Rock Canyon trail
The trail winds around for a minute and you’ll see a sign for the Red Rock Canyon trail. Hike to the left onto the trail.
Red Rock Canyon trail
The trails at Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park are nicely marked with these posts. There are no bikes allowed on the Red Rock Canyon trail.
Whiting Ranch Hiking trail gate
Hike to the right when you get to the gate.
Whiting Ranch Hiking trail on stream bed
The trail goes on and off the stream bed as you hike towards Red Rock Canyon.
Whiting Ranch Hiking trail on stream bed
Keep an eye out for when the trail goes off of the stream bed. It’s easy to keep hiking on the stream bed since it looks like a trail.
Red Rock Canyon
At around 2 miles, you’ll start to see Red Rock Canyon.
Red Rock Canyon trail end
Here you are at Red Rock Canyon! The trail dead ends here. Please respect the park and don’t hike past this point.
Red Rock Canyon
Take some time to soak in Red Rock Canyon. When you’re ready, turn around and hike back the way you came.

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