Visit to the Holy Jim Trail
Friends of mine have heard me talk about the Holy Jim trail as being one of my favorite hiking spots in Orange County. The real appeal of this spot is that it is a very woodsy environment with nice stream, several waterfalls, great scenery, and although you will end up walking eight miles, many people from young kids to senior citizens to the hike easily every weekend and all of this right in central Orange County just minutes from the hustle and bustle of homes and businesses. If this sounds like something you want to try for yourself, then read the complete story to find out how to get there and what to expect.
From the 5 freeway exit on El Toro highway and head north and head 7.5 miles until you find the famous biker’s bar Cook’s Corner. Hang a right here and drive another 4.4 miles though twisting roads, through dense forest, and then just as you past O’Niell Regional Park you will find a small area with a restaurant followed quickly by a drainage canal. Pull into the dirt parking area immediately past the canal on the left hand side of the street.
At this point you have 4.5 miles of dirt road to cover to get to the main parking lot. While you can usually drive this is a typical sedan, it is not recommended to try it in smaller compact cars as they simply don’t have the ground clearance, especially when the roads are in pretty poor shape as they were on this particular trip.
Even though the roads aren’t usually in great shape to begin with, on this particular trip they were in the worst condition I have ever seen, on top of that we had a big rain just 48 hours before I headed over. In my car I made it by driving nice and slow and keeping as far to the side of the big puddles as I possibly could. Even though its less than 5 miles in, it took almost 45 minutes to wind my way to the upper parking lot.
On this particular day people had pulled over at different points to try to walk the rest of the way in if they didn’t have enough clearance (or guts) to drive the rest of the way in.
Even the drive in can be a little daunting when you are driving over roads that are flooded and are more part of the river than part of the road. The secret is to take your time and schedule accordingly. Just for safe measure you should budget yourself at least four – five hours from leaving the main road to drive in, hike the trail, and then drive back out. If you have a good high clearance vehicle and the roads are dry then the drive in and out will go much faster. If you are really unadventurous you can ride a mountain bike or motorcycle in. As much as I get thrown around in a vehicle, I know I don’t have the nerves to ride on with less than four tires.
Once you get to the main parking lot by the fire station, take the stairs up to the trail and stay on it even though you walk past several houses. You will eventually see the sign up above and when you have gone one mile from the parking lot you hit the main trail head and the hike is on.
The overall hike is four miles from the parking lot to the large waterfall (and then four miles back of course). The hike follows the course of the river up into the hills. While its a fairly uphill climb, it isn’t too steep in any one area and there are plenty of places to rest. Be sure to take plenty of water, especially during the summer.
If you are in decent shape you can make it up to the big falls in about 45 minutes to an hour and getting down can take 30 – 45 minutes. Along the way you will see numerous man made structures in the water that used to get damned up to provide different fishing holes.
Once you reach the main falls you have reached the end of the road so kick back on the rocks and suck in the falls-induced ozone while you catch your breath. The 30′ falls isn’t the biggest waterfall you may ever see but considering you are just minutes from not just some form of civilization, but from the heart of southern California with millions of people living in the area. This little slice of heaven is certainly worth the trip and makes for an extremely enjoyable getaway. Don’t forget to take a camera!