|Trailhead||4442 Carbon Canyon Road
Brea, CA 92823
Carbon Canyon Regional Park is a true regional park, not a wilderness park in any way. The majority of the park is comprised of a lake for fishing and large grassy open areas. There are also numerous shelters with tables and BBQs, tennis and volleyball courts, baseball fields, and playgrounds. There are also four groves of trees located around the park. Three of the four are easily accessible by car, but the only way to visit the grove of Coastal Redwoods is via the park’s only “nature” trail.
The Carbon Canyon Regional Park nature trail that leads to the redwood grove is the best maintained trail I’ve seen in Orange County. It’s wide, flat and utterly boring. The trail starts at the far eastern edge of the park, through the pinewood grove. Once through the pinewood grove, the trail drops down slightly to cross a dry stream bed and then climbs back up just slightly. Once level again, the trail continues westerly between the foot of the hill and Carbon Canyon Stream.
Currently, Carbon Canyon Stream is being dredged. From the work being done, it looks like they are preparing to line the stream with concrete and generally make it feel less natural. Even without the work being done on the stream, the trail never feels a part of nature. It’s always possible to see the manicured lawns of the park proper or the giant dam that doesn’t seem to hold back any water.
As you continue on the trail it curves around slightly to the left where you’ll see the redwood grove. The dozens of redwoods that make up the grove were planted in the mid-1970s, when the park was first opening. Costal Redwoods are not a native species in Orange County and when you walk through the grove you can tell that they don’t belong. There is no ecosystem around the trees, simply trees in the near dead, hard packed ground of Orange County. The type of magic that’s present in a natural redwood forest is simply missing in this artificial grove.
On the far side of redwood grove is a paved path that you’ll head down to get back. The pavement doesn’t continue very far and you’re quickly back on dirt. This part of the trail heads right up to the foot of the dam and continues along the dam until you reach a graded opening. At the end of the opening there is a short spur of trail that connects up with the main nature trail, which you can take back to your car.
Despite how well maintained this trail is, or maybe because of it, I wouldn’t recommend this trail for most people. It makes for a fine trail run since it is very flat and the trail is smooth, but it would be an incredibly boring hike or bike ride. Even though this is called a “nature” trail, never once will you feel like you’re in nature while you’re on the trail.
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