Quail Hill … a running gem hidden in plain sight

I’m lucky to live a short distance from many great places to run. This is a fact I’m just beginning to realize.

IMG_3970For a year, my boyfriend and I passed the Quail Hill Open Space Preserve on our way to the Irvine Spectrum or the gym (or more often, the gym then the Yard House at the Spectrum to undo our workout). We thought the lush scenery was just for show until one day we noticed people in them hills. A quick Google search of Irvine Open Space Preserve led us to discover this nature trail practically in our backyard.

In January, we walked the almost two-mile Quail Hill Loop Trail. This was right after the rains had turned the hills bright green like Ireland, so needless to say it was a slow pace as we took lots of photos. The cool thing about this trail is that dogs are allowed, but for our first visit we left our dog at home since his arthritis had been acting up.

Today, I returned to run the loop twice for almost four miles total. With a decent hill to up the difficulty level, temps in the mid-60s and a dirt surface to keep my knees happy, this was a great run!

The trail is easy to get to. From the 405 South, take the Sand Canyon Road exit and turn right. You’ll go through a roundabout at Quail Hill Parkway, then the parking lot is on the right (the address is 34 Shady Canyon Drive). From the parking lot, you can access the Quail Hill trail or a bike path. There were about 20 cars in the parking lot but I passed only four people on the loop, so I suspect most people were on the bike path.

First Loop:

I started by running clockwise, which means I started with the hill. At the top of the hill, there’s a vista point where you can take photos (past the freeway, you can see Irvine’s tall office buildings, the orange balloon in the Orange County Great Park and all the way to the mountains in the distance). Since I was running today, I didn’t stop. But next time I’ll run to the end of the vista point and back to get the loop distance a little closer to two miles.

The other side of the loop is a flat section next to the freeway. Even though you can hear cars zooming by in the background, the run still feels tranquil because of the swaying grass, chirping birds and expansive views. Civilization—and its frantic pace—feel a world away.

Second Loop:

I felt good after the first loop. I stopped to reset my Runkeeper app and turned around to run the other way. This time I encountered the hill at the end of the run. Muttering “OK” to myself over and over, my now-tired legs slowly made it to the top. After nearly 40 minutes of running, I was rewarded with great views of the city to my left and Quill Hill to my right.

True to form, I quickly cleaned up in the bathroom located next to the parking lot, then undid my workout by having lunch with my boyfriend at Mendocino Farms :). I’ll definitely be back to improve my time, especially since this trail is so close to my home. But even if you don’t live nearby, it’s worth the drive to walk or run this trail hidden in plain sight.

For more info: Irvine Open Space Reserve

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