By John McKinney
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Panorama Nature Preserve
From Summit House Restaurant to Vista Points is 1 mile round trip with 200-foot elevation gain; to Brea Boulevard is 3 miles round trip.
You could take advantage of the drive-through vista point on State College Boulevard just north of Bastanchury Road and skip the hike that begins nearby, but then you wouldn’t be a hiker, would you?
Besides, the hiker’s-only view you can get from Fullerton’s Panorama Trail is better than anything you can get from in—or near—a car. In fact, exactly what you see from the viewpoints atop this end of the Coyote Hills is detailed on signs. You will know and not have to guess that the view to the northeast includes Placentia, Yorba Linda, Brea and the Chino Hills and the view to the southeast includes Orange, Tustin, Irvine, Huntington Beach and Newport Bay.
Panorama Nature Preserve, located at the top of the hill, was set aside to safeguard the panoramic views, as well as a slice of coastal sage scrub habitat. The little refuge is habitat for many birds, including two rare ones, the coastal cactus wren and the California gnatcatcher.
From the hiker’s perspective, Panorama Trail is one of those pathways that start well and finish poorly. Once you’ve conquered the hill and taken in those great views, it’s all downhill, literally and figuratively—a descent into suburbia and around a golf course.
Directions to trailhead: From the Riverside Freeway (91), exit on State College Boulevard. Head north 3 miles to Bastanchury Road. Turn left and then make a quick second left into the large parking lot of the Summit House, an upscale, English inn-style restaurant. Look for the beginning of the trail on the far west side of the parking lot at a gate leading into the Coyote Hills Golf Course.
The hike: Follow the paved drive into the golf course. The “Nature Trail” veers off from the golf cart track and soon passes an active oil well. Before long you’ll junction a signed equestrian trail on your left and follow this dirt road on an ascent up the hill.
The hilltop vista points are connected by Vista Loop Trail, which branches from the Panorama Trail. Be sure to get those panoramic views from both sides of the hill.
If views are all you want, turn around here.
Otherwise, follow Panorama Trail on a descent into suburbia, where it passes through a gate and continues as a wide walkway in front of homes. At Ridgetop Lane, the path leads alongside a white fence and drops to the fenced boundary of the golf course. The trail reverts to dirt and, sandwiched between homes and golf course ascends to the Golden Hill Little League’s baseball diamonds and Brea Boulevard.
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