Whiting Ranch Hiking: Red Rock Canyon

Whiting Ranch Hiking: Red Rock Canyon

In This Guide
  • Turn by Turn Hike Directions
  • Whiting Ranch Red Rock Canyon Trail Maps
  • How to Get to Whiting Ranch Red Rock Canyon
Distance4.2 miles (6.8 km)
Hike Time1:45 Hours (Total)
DifficultyEasy
Total Ascent (?)470 feet (143m)
Highest Elevation1,262 feet (385m)
Fees & PermitsParking Fee
Dog FriendlyNo
Park ContactWhiting 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. Just make sure you have some water, it can get hot during the day.

Here’s the gear that I personally use, have tested, and recommend for this hike*.

La Sportiva Spire

La Sportiva Spire GTX

Good for light and more hardcore hikes. Feels like a sneaker but protects like a hiking boot.

Women’s Reviews

Men’s Reviews

Rei Flash 22

REI Flash 22 Pack

This is a super-light and comfortable backpack that can hold everything you need on a hike, including a hydration bladder. It also works great as a general backpack or carry-on.

See Colors & Prices

Joby On Triee

Joby Smartphone Tripod

Make your photos stand out by using this lightweight, do-anything tripod. The Joby attaches your smartphone to trees, rocks, whatever you can find on the trail. Folds down compactly too.

See the Joby Options

Don’t waster your money on hiking gear that’s no good, I’ve done that for you already! Full HikingGuy Gear List

* 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.

Also → Big Sale at REI On Now:

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Whiting Ranch Red Rock Canyon Trail Maps

Click To View Map

Whiting Ranch Hiking: Red Rock Canyon Map Downloads

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

Here’s what I use to navigate my hikes. I recommend a combination of paper and electronic options with backups.

Gaiagps

Gaia GPS

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.

HikingGuy Discount on Gaia GPS

Fenix Nav

Garmin Fenix Watch

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.

Fenix Prices & Reviews

My In-Depth Review

Topo Map

Topo Maps & Guide Books

Don’t be caught out if your batteries die. Take a topo map with you on the trail. Some people also print my guides out for use on the hike.

I also highly recommend taking a map and compass navigation course. It’s a few hours, it’s fun, and it could save your life.

Map and Compass Navigation Basics Classes

Don’t just rely on a cell phone, especially if you are hiking in the backcountry.

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.

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.