Contact Us


Rancho Ortega Blog discusses matters of public interest in South Orange County, including the communities of San Juan Capistrano, Ladera Ranch and Rancho Mission Viejo.

The writings of Don Juan Ortega on the Rancho Ortega Blog are the personal views of the author. This blog is not authored by nor does it have any affiliation whatsoever with any other person, place or entity using the name "Rancho Ortega" (or any similar name).

We have installed some new anti-spam software, and we are going to try again with open registration. Registration and sign-in information are available at the bottom of the far right column. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, you may email us at



Trail Guide: Sendero Loop Trail

Recently, while Don Juan Ortega was out on one of his evening constitutionals, he happened upon a new trail marker that he hadn’t previously seen before.  It seems that the trail elves at the Reserve at Rancho Mission Viejo have been busy.  Two new trails have been built that now connect the Village of Sendero (and the gated community of Gavilan) to the Ladera Ranch Trail (part of the larger Ladera Ranch trail system).  These two connector trails form what has been dubbed the Sendero Loop Trail, and consist of a western trail (Sendero Loop West) and an eastern trail (Sendero Loop East).  In the map below, we’ve annotated the approximate locations of the two connector trails that form the Sendero Loop.

map source: Google

Below the jump, join us as we explore the Sendero Loop Trail.

Sendero residents can access the Sendero Loop West along the road that lies on border between Gavilan and the Rancho Mission Viejo orchards.  Gavilan residents can access the trail through access gates from within their community.  Others will need to access the Reata Road rotary via Ribera or some other public street from within the village.

Here’s the trail head at the bottom of the Sendero Loop West:

If you are thinking to yourself that the trail between Sendero and Ladera Ranch has to be a steep one, you’d be right.  Look at the topographic map below:

map source: Google

At a minimum, there is a steep 400 foot vertical gain climbing from Sendero to the Ladera Ranch Trail.  Anyone who has been out on site knows that the Sendero Loop East basically tip toes across a narrow spine that drops straight down into Sendero.  If you are hiking the western trail, however, you can look forward to a well-placed bench about a third of the way up the hill that provides expansive views of Sendero and the hills beyond.

As the western trail approaches the top of the hill, hikers will entertain a handful of switchbacks to navigate the final vertical push.  Another bench with an even more impressive view awaits you at the top.  Looking south, you can take in what seems like the entirety of Rancho Mission Viejo:

At the top of the Sendero Loop West trail, you will find yourself in a large meadow.  A subtle dirt trail will connect you to the Ladera Ranch Trail, which at this location is a fire access road running around the perimeter of Covenant Hills.  So stop in the meadow and enjoy the scenery.  To the west, you will be rewarded with ocean views.  And, if you time your hike just right, you will be able to watch this:

From here, you can return to Sendero the way you came or head east along the Ladera Ranch Trail.  At the top of a large promontory, you will see the upper trail head for the companion trail, the Sendero Loop East.  From the top it looks like this:

Whether you are heading up or going down, be careful on the eastern trail.  That’s a steep ridge down there:

At the bottom, the Sendero Loop East passes a retaining basin and connects with the linear El Paseo park through the center of Sendero.  The Sendero side trail head of the Sendero Loop East Trail actually abuts the largest of Sendero’s playgrounds.  You can see it on the El Paseo map below, and it becomes apparent that a hike along the Sendero Loop can easily be integrated into a longer hike through Sendero and to points beyond:

source: Rancho Mission Viejo

The Sendero Loop Trail is also good news for residents of Ladera Ranch.  We’ve discussed in great detail how the Ranch Plan will promise miles of new trails and bikeways, and these connectors will eventually provide direct access to Ladera residents to that same regional trail network.  The map below shows some of the future trails coming to South County as a result of the Ranch Plan.

In that article, we wrote this about the future trail system through Rancho Mission Viejo:

Many new trail and bikeway linkages are proposed as part of the Ranch Plan.  Most significant will be the completion of the San Juan Creek trail and bikeway from its current terminus at the point where San Juan Creek crossed beneath Ortega Highway just west of Antonio Parkway/La Pata.  The new regional trail appears likely to run adjacent to the new fifteen acre community park at the corner of Ortega and Antonio (it’s noted as a proposed staging area on the map above, or see the community park directly on our map of Sendero), will likely pass underneath the Antonio Parkway bridge and will continue adjacent to San Juan Creek and the new Cow Camp Road all the way to where Ortega Highway again connects with Cow Camp at the entrance to Caspers Wilderness Park.  The San Juan Creek trail is designated as both an unpaved riding/hiking trail and an off-road paved bikeway.  We assume this means that the trail will be physically separate from the Ranch Plan roadways, meaning that it should pass underneath the new 241 extension and avoid any additional major north/south roads built as part of the Ranch Plan.  If so, once this critical trail is completed, it should be possible to hike or bike from Sendero (or even Ladera Ranch) all the way to Caspers and even into the Cleveland National Forest without crossing a single major street!

It’s exciting to see some of those trails start to take shape.

We also have to give credit where credit is due.  Early trail maps associated with Planning Area 1 (now Sendero) only had the Sendero Loop East trail proposed.  That’s a gut buster of a trek, on an exposed ridge, with steep drops on both sides.  And while the Sendero Loop West is certainly still a climb, it doesn’t feel as severe.  It’s also nice to be able to make a complete loop without the need to retrace your steps.  In short, both are nice additions to the local trail systems.  We hope that this is the future template for open space access through the Reserve at Rancho Mission Viejo and among the different villages of the Ranch Plan.

Remember, when you are on these trails you are hiking through a protected reserve.  Please stay on the trails and do not disturb native plants and animals in their natural habitat.  Be careful, and please do not litter or damage anything along the way.  Help everyone to enjoy these open spaces for a long time to come.

Comments are closed.