Old Towne Orange

Hike El Modena Open Space in Orange County

If you’re local, you know that Orange County is home to more than just Laguna Beach and Disneyland. In fact, the OC can rival its famous metropolitan neighbors in both landscape and cityscape.

Tour the county’s namesake city via a 2.5-mile hike on the Orange Hills Trail in nearby El Modena Open Space, followed by a 2-mile stroll through the charming Old Towne district. Park your car at the corner of Cannon St. and Patria Ct. and look for the singletrack trailhead, marked by the Santiago Oaks Regional Park sign.

The path immediately ascends almost 500 feet in just half a mile. At the first junction stay right, as the Santiago Creek Basin and suburbia of Orange come into view. Take a sharp left at the next junction for a quick trip up to the peak before continuing on. From here, look north to find downtown Los Angeles framed by the Santa Monica and San Gabriel Mountains. The Santa Anas are to the east, and Catalina Island looms over the coast to the west.

On the descent you’ll see plentiful prickly pear cactus (keep an eye out for the elusive cactus wren foraging for food amidst their barbed abode). Stay right at the next junction, which takes you over another hill and eventually deposits you back onto Cannon Street. Take this north for 1 mile to return to the trailhead and your car.

Next, head straight for the Orange Metrolink station and park on the street or at one of many free 3-hour garages in the area. Head east on Chapman Ave., stopping first at the Chapman Crafted Beer—we like the refreshing Pilsner or Red Ale with Coffee.

Chapman Crafted Beer

Continue on to the landmark circular plaza representing the center of the picturesque Old Towne district, which has the second largest concentration of historical buildings in the state. You could wander the vibrant, antique shop–filled one-square-mile district for hours, but head north to Chapman University and explore the pristine grounds.

Along the way, tempt your taste buds at multiple fantastic food establishments (try Bruxie or The Filling Station for unique eats) and feast your eyes on homes in a variety of architectural styles (many built before the 1920s), including Arts and Craft bungalows and Victorian specimens.

The Filling Station Old Towne Orange

Returning to the plaza and continuing east leads you past Watson’s Soda Fountain, the oldest in the OC, which doubles as a popular filming locale, and to the public library and city hall.

To get to the El Modena Open Space trailhead, take the I-5 to the CA-22 E to the CA-55 N and exit Katella Ave. heading east. Continue for 2 miles and turn right onto Cannon St. After 0.5 mile turn right onto Patria Ct. Park on the street; the trailhead is on your immediate left. To get to the Orange Metrolink Station and parking lot, head south on Cannon St. for 1.3 miles and turn right onto Chapman Ave. Take Chapman Ave. for 3.5 miles, turning right at the tracks. Dog-friendly!

Trending Stories NorCal

View all Stories
  1. Up Umunhum

    Rising from the Santa Cruz Mountains, Mount Umunhum is one of the Bay Area’s highest points, reaching an impressive 3,486 feet. With the new 7.4-mile (round-trip) addition to the Bay Area Ridge Trail, locals can finally step up to its peak.

    View
  2. Cross It Off Your Bucket List

    Crosstown Trail San Francisco may be one of the most beautiful city walks in America, passing through less-visited nooks and crannies while also taking in greatest hits, including mosaic stairways.

    View
  3. Kirby Your Enthusiasm

    Just west of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin is one of the Bay's most-accessible secluded beaches. Kirby Cove is accessed by hiking or biking a 1-mile fire road down to the beach, where the reward is an all-time classic Golden Gate view.

    View
  4. Napa's Wild Side

    It’s wine country’s Amazon. Cutting 50 miles through the famous Napa Valley and emptying into San Pablo Bay, the gentle Napa River is an ecological—and recreational—delight. And Napa Valley Paddle helps you enjoy it.

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Sponsored

    Weekend Sherpa Podcast: Take it Outside

    Adventure for your earbuds. What's new in the world of the outdoors? Listen to Weekend Sherpa co-founders discuss local hikes, beaches, bike rides, camping spots and all kinds of travel and adventure in California and beyond!

    View
  2. Secret Trail at Torrey Pines

    Find cliff climbs, sandy strolls, and secret hikes throughout “America’s finest sandy stretch" at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in San Diego County.

    View
  3. Secluded Royale

    Panoramic coastal views and a killer leg workout combine on this 2.7-mile (round-trip) out-and-back hike to secluded Coast Royale Beach in Orange County

    View
  4. Border Field State Park

    Border Field State Park is the southernmost point in California as well as one of the last beautiful undeveloped coastlines in the state. Visit this natural refuge for a 4.5-mile hike featuring important history and wildlife habitats, plus stunning SoCal beach scenery.

    View