Distance: 4.4 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 1400' (high point in canyon)
Elevation Gain: 600'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.48
Round trip time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Recommended water: 16 oz.
Parking/Fees: $3 OC Parks
Red Rock Canyon lies in the Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park in Foothill Ranch. There are two main entrances to Whiting Ranch, the Borrego Parking Lot entrance is at 26701 Portola Pkwy, Foothill Ranch, CA 92610. There is a portable restroom at the trailhead. Since the parking area is connected to a large shopping center, you won't get any kind of wilderness feel to start. The Borrego Canyon Trail starts just north of the parking lot. Leisa and I headed out along with packs of mountain bikers and scattered hikers. For the first mile or so, houses were visible above the trail on both sides, eventually giving way to more of a wilderness feel. It's hard to believe this suburban park was the site of multiple mountain lion attacks, though not on these particular trails. My theory is that deer attract lions from the Santa Ana Mountains into this park surrounded, in places, on three sides by housing developments. Then, they become accustomed to humans and lose their fear. It's just a theory.
After following the Borrego Trail a while, stay right at the Mustard Road junction and the second junction, then take a left on the signed Red Rock Trail. Once we got onto the Red Rock Canyon Trail, the bikers disappeared, and we relaxed a little not having to dodge them any more. In another half mile or so, the Red Rock sandstone formations become visible and the official trail ends at a sign near the main formation. We climbed up into the main formation, but the smooth sandstone doesn't offer safe holds for climbing all the way out. Back near the entrance to the main formation, (facing toward it), I carefully scrambled up and right so I could take a few pictures from above it. The geology here is striking and rare in Orange County. Use caution when scrambling around on the sandstone since anything you touch may crumble. It's a pretty fun family friendly hike with a payoff at the end. Dogs are not allowed in the park.
Plump acorn woodpecker along the trail guarding a tree stuffed with acorns
(thanks Madison for the ident)