Hike Bommer Canyon with your cell phone because the nature trail through this gem in the heart of Orange County is keyed to interpretive information available from a “Cell Phone Guide.”

You have to hand it to the city of Irvine for its commitment to parklands. More than one-third of the city is preserved as open space, more than any other Orange County community.

Bommer Canyon Trailhead, so near Irvine, yet so faraway.
Bommer Canyon Trailhead, so near Irvine, yet so faraway.

Bommer and Shady canyons are regarded as centerpieces of the City of Irvine’s Open Space Preserve. In turn, this preserve is part of the larger Irvine Ranch Land Reserve. Trails lead through oak and sycamore woodlands and past craggy rocky formations. The trail network is a combo of footpaths for “full time” use and others with access restricted to guided hikes and occasional indie exploration.

Bommer Canyon is a gem and you do get away from it all—though not that far from it all. The canyon is boxed in-in by a trio of upscale south Irvine communities, including Turtle Rock, Turtle Ridge and Shady Canyon. Nevertheless, despite the proximity of haciendas and the toll road, you get out of audio and visual contact with civilization and enjoy some peace and quiet.

Despite being boxed in by upscale haciendas and a toll road, Bommer Canyon has a wonderful feeling of remoteness.
Despite being boxed in by upscale haciendas and a toll road, Bommer Canyon has a wonderful feeling of remoteness.

Bommer Canyon preserves a mixture of ecological communities including coastal sage scrub, native grasslands, and woodlands of oak and sycamore. Wildflowers such as Indian paintbrush, butter-cups, shooting star, Johnny jump-ups, and Mariposa lily color the canyon with spring blooms.

For a short intro, follow the nature trail loop through Bommer Canyon with a stop at a cattle camp, used by Irvine Ranch cowboys from the late 19th century all the way to the 1990s. Today Bommer Canyon Cattle Camp is a popular “special event” locale for company picnics, weddings and family reunions.

The Bommer Canyon Nature Loop is always open to hikers; other trails have limited access.
The Bommer Canyon Nature Loop is always open to hikers; other trails have limited access.

Linking Bommer Meadow, Nature Loop and Bommer Pass Trails creates a pleasant short hike of 2 to 3 miles round trip

BTW the stops along the nature trail in Bommer Canyon are keyed to interpretive information available by dialing 949-743-5943 and accessing the Irvine Ranch Land Conservancy Cell Phone Guide. Press 3# for a commentary about biodiversity…

Directions: From the San Diego Freeway (405) in Irvine, exit on Culver Drive and go south 2.6 miles. Turn left on Shady Canyon Drive and proceed 1.2 mile to the signed turnoff of Bommer Canyon. Follow the oddly colored par access road to the trailhead, complete with small (13 space) lot, restrooms and picnic tables.

Bommer Canyon Nature Trail is keyed to a Cell Phone Audio Guide.
Bommer Canyon Nature Trail is keyed to a Cell Phone Audio Guide.

The hike: Join the wide path across grassy Bommer Meadow. Cross ravines on a couple of solid footbridges to a junction. Save Bommer Meadow Trail for the return trip and head out on “Nature Loop.”

Loop over to the historic Irvine Ranch operation to see farm implements and corral over mustard. Extend your walk on 0.5-mile-long Bommer Pass Trail, which rises then descends to the back end of the ranch and connects to 3 more trails: East Fork Trail (guided hikes only), West Fork Trail (leading to the toll road). Or take the long way back: 2 miles up and along Turtle Ridge, then a mile on Community Trail back to Shady Canyon Drive.

Retrace your steps on Bommer Pass Trail, follow the east leg of Nature Loop parallel to paved Bommer Canyon Road, and rejoin Bommer Meadow Trail for the walk back to the trailhead.

Hike On.

John McKinney
The Trailmaster