Portola to Sand Canyon, Irvine

ORANGE COUNTY, ROAD RIDE, PORTOLA TO SAND CANYON On this bike ride you will travel from wilderness to civilization and back. Starting at the edge of Limestone Canyon Park, you will head downhill along on-road bike lanes until reaching Quail Hill. From there the route loops around Laguna Canyon Road before returning to Sand Canyon Road at 10.36 miles. For most of the ride the climbing is quite moderate with only the last bit at the top of Portola Parkway being steep. The ride begins at Portola Staging Area, a small park with picnic tables, interpretive signs and little else. There is no water or restrooms here so you will need to be prepared before setting off on the ride or into the wilderness. Turn your back on the staging area and you will find yourself craning your neck to see a massive hillside, the beginning of Limestone Canyon Park. What lies before you is 4,300 acres of woodland canyons, grasslands and steep slopes. Due to a 2007 fire that destroyed many acres, the park is in recovery and it is important that hikers and mountain bikers stay on the trails. At the bottom of the pleasant downhill first leg is Quail Hill. Besides being a beautiful place to picnic, the park offers excellent hiking opportunities. Especially attractive is the 1.8 mile Quail Hill Loop. The trailhead is located behind the bathrooms which are off to the right as you travel around the Quail Hill roundabout. At the Quail Hill Village Center, located adjacent to the park, you will find a range of dining establishments from coffee shops to Asian food to wine bars. Near the route’s intersection with Interstate 5 is Marine Way, entrance to Orange County’s Great Park. Once this vast space was Marine Corp Air Station El Toro, this defunct base hopes to become Orange County’s premier park. While much of the park is waiting for funding, its first attractions are open and include the Great Park Balloon, which is, not surprisingly, orange. This giant attraction takes 25-30 riders up 500 feet for a panoramic view of the park and surrounding countryside. The ride operates Thursday through Sunday and is free. Also in the park are expansive green fields and a kid’s climbing playground. The park has yet to build bike paths, but look for them in the future. Side Trip The ride’s start is at the edge of Limestone Canyon and Whiting Ranch Parks, two contiguous wildernesses that cover a combined 4,300 acres. The Orange County Great Park is a short detour off the middle section of the ride and at the other end, park the bikes and hike the Quail Hill Loop. FOOD AND DRINK Your best dining options are in the Quail Hill Village Center which has a number of dining options, located at 7.0 miles. Try Lucca Café, a deli that focuses on organic produce and meats or Thai Bamboo is an excellent choice. Quail Hill Community Park is an attractive park to picnic with a view. ACCESS By car, take exit 25 off of CA-241, a toll road. Head north 0.1 miles and park in the Portola staging area.
Ride type:
Mountain biking
Road riding
Kid friendly
Rail Trail
Difficulty: Intermediate (Red)
Ride Duration: 1-2 hrs
Fitness Level: Medium
Shared Bike Path - Paved
Shared Bike Path - Dirt
On-Road Bike Lane
Off-Road - Fire Trail
Off-Road - Rail Trail
Off-Road - Single Track
Off-Road - Downhill
Estimated Distance: 25.0
First Aid
Bike hire
Bike servicing
Accessible by bike
Accessible by car
Accessible by public transport
Accessible by shuttle / uber
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