Sweet Spot

Wildflowers, a waterfall, mountain views, and a candy store just across from the trailhead...the San Juan Loop Trail…

My Weekend Sherpa:

Want to do it Did it


Wildflowers, a waterfall, mountain views, and a candy store just across from the trailhead…the San Juan Loop Trail is one sweet hike. Set in Orange County’s Santa Ana Mountains, this 2.5-mile trail treats people to something new at every turn. The start of the trail offers little fanfare, but just around the first bend you’ll come to a rocky ledge overlooking San Juan Falls, a seasonal cascade dropping 15 feet into a granite gorge. From this overlook, the trail gradually descends into the canyon, which parallels San Juan Creek and pops with lupines. Pass through a forest of ancient oaks and continue alongside the water. You’ll know when you’ve reached the home stretch: just look for the flower power! Vibrant blue larkspur and purple nightshade light up the rest of the path. Good spring bling.

BONUS: A candy store in the middle of the mountains? You bet. Find it directly across from the trailhead. Stop in for an old-school giant lollipop or grab lunch in the form of hot dogs, soda, ice cream, or cookies. Sweet!

Take I-5 to San Juan Capistrano and exit Ortega Hwy. (CA-74). Drive east for 19.4 miles to the trailhead parking area on the left across from Ortega Oaks Candy Store (34040 Ortega Hwy., Lake Elsinore). Hike north from the trailhead 1/3 of a mile to the brink of San Juan Falls. Continue down the trail, staying to the left through a pair of junctions.  Pass Upper San Juan Campground and follow the loop trail uphill back to the trailhead, sticking to the most worn track past a couple spur trails breaking off to the left. An adventure pass is required to park at the trailhead and may be purchased from the candy store. Dog-friendly! 


Adventure Categories