By John McKinney
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Get the most out of your time on the trail! Inspiration, information, practical tips & entertaining stories
Mission Viejo’s Oso Creek
Oso Creek Trail
2-mile loop with 100-foot elevation gain
The “Oso” bear is long-gone from these parts, but the trail uses a paw print logo on its signage, homage of sorts to the last grizzly bear sighted along Oso Creek. A family-friendly pathway winds along Oso Creek, now a suburbanized stream channel.
Oso Creek is a tributary of one of Orange County’s largest waterways, San Juan Creek, which flows from high in the Santa Ana Mountains some 27 miles to the Pacific near Dana Point Harbor. Oso is one of the county’s creeks most altered by development: channelization, paving of the flood plain, loss of riparian habitat and biodiversity.
Oso Creek Trail has a collection of natural and cultural attractions along its banks to make it worth the casual hiker’s while. En route, you’ll encounter a handsome oak grove, a meadow, a butterfly garden and a plant maze. My family’s favorite is a peace obelisk, inscribed with the word “peace” in a dozen languages and displaying hundreds of copper relief peace emblems fashioned by community members. Now there’s something you don’t see very often alongside a trail!
Oso Creek Trail is the chief passageway in Mission Viejo’s fledgling trail system. The path links to 2-mile-long Jeronimo Open-Space Trail and connections with Naciente Ridge Trail which, in turn, extends along the ridge by Olympiad Road and eventually descends to Arroyo Trabuco at the city’s eastern boundary.
Directions to trailhead: From the San Diego Freeway (5) in Mission Viejo, exit on La Paz Road and head east a mile to Marguerite Parkway. Turn left and go 0.7 mile to Jeronimo Road. Turn right and park on or near Jeronimo Road where it meets San Fernando Street.
The hike: From the signed trailhead on the Jeronimo Road bridge, switchback down a paved walkway to an oak grove and the creekside portion of the path. Hike downstream on the woodchip-covered trail along a creek bank shaded with sycamores. Stop at the peace monument and, after wishing for world peace, continue to a mini-maze. Kids will especially enjoy navigating the low circular hedges to find the center.
Continue down-creek to butterfly garden and a signed four-way junction. You can cross the bridge here and loop back to the trailhead by following the path on the other side of Oso Creek. For a longer loop, resume your down-stream journey on a paved pathway to La Paz Road.
Return by carefully crossing La Paz at the light and picking up the signed trail at the Thomas R. Potocki Conference Center. You’ll saunter past Oso Community Park’s sports fields and landscaped mini-gardens. This hike ends back at the Jeronimo Road bridge, but you can continue by traveling under the bridge and joining the dirt pathway that leads through less-developed terrain
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