The Fullerton Loop is a collection of interconnected trails that form a roughly 11.5-mile loop around north Fullerton. It’s popular among horseback riders, mountain bikers, runners and hikers alike.

Day hike preparations. Even when hiking in an urban setting you should always be prepared with extra food, water, clothing, a first aid kit and a multitool.

Day hike preparations. Even when hiking in an urban setting you should always be prepared with extra food, water, clothing, a first aid kit and a multitool. Photo credit: Dustin Malek

Know before you go:

The Fullerton Loop does not have a designated trailhead. The two most common areas to hit the trail are Laguna Lake and the parking lot by the courthouse off of N. Berkeley Avenue. These are also the two locations where the trail is most crowded.

A liter or two of water should be sufficient. Carrying enough water is essential on any hike. However, the Fullerton Loop passes through a handful of parks and city streets. There are places to hydrate along the way.

The relationship between hikers and bikers is generally one of accommodation but there’s occasionally tense.

“Most people are cool, everyone once in a while somebody gets mad when you go by them,” long-time mountain biker Al Aguadoa said.

Cell service is available throughout the hike.

Be prepared to say good morning early and often. Fullerton friendly is on display when traversing the loop.

On the trail:

This article might sound like Bill Hader giving directions on the SNL skit, The Californians. The loop has twists and turns, and there is no official signage. If it’s your first time on the trail, it’s best to screenshot a map before heading out. This is not your typical out and back.

Starting from the courthouse, catch the Juanita Cooke Trail headed north. The loop takes a left through Hiltscher Park about a mile into it. The section of the trail from Juanita Cooke to Euclid Avenue is, in one writer’s opinion, the most beautiful portion of the hike. With its seasonal creek, massive oak trees, weepy pepper trees and colorful maples, it’s roughly a mile and a half of whimsical urban forest.

The Fullerton Loop trail through Hiltscher Park features a community supported California native garden. Nestled under oak and pepper trees it’s a great place to take a break on the trail.

The Fullerton Loop trail through Hiltscher Park features a community supported California native garden. Nestled under oak and pepper trees it’s a great place to take a break on the trail. Photo credit: Dustin Malek

Best place for a picnic:

There’s a community garden in Hiltscher Park that gets my vote for the best place to take a break on the loop.

Once you’re through Hiltscher Park, you’ll take Valley View Avenue across Bastanchury Road and head up Parks Road towards Coyote Hills Tree Park. It’s an attractive section of the loop that passes through a few small parks and features tall eucalyptus trees.

After making it to Coyote Hills Tree Park, head west towards Fullerton fire station 6. This is where the Castlewood Trail and the Rosecrans Trails meet. The Castlewood Trail winds along West Coyote Hills.

The Nora Kuttner trail in the Robert E. Ward Nature Preserve offers up the second-highest elevation along the Fullerton loop at just over 450ft elevation. On a clear day, it offers amazing panoramic views of the valley floor below and surrounding mountains.

The Nora Kuttner trail in the Robert E. Ward Nature Preserve offers up the second-highest elevation along the Fullerton loop at just over 450ft elevation. On a clear day, it offers amazing panoramic views of the valley floor below and surrounding mountains. Photo credit: Dustin Malek

Scenic Views:

The section of the trail from Rosecrans Avenue to Laguna Lake delivers the highest elevation and best views on the loop. On a clear day, one can see downtown Los Angeles, Fashion Island in Newport Beach and the mountain tops of the San Gabriel mountains. It’s as challenging as it is beautiful.

Laguna Lake:

After crossing Euclid Avenue, Laguna Lake is about a quarter-mile up the trail. With an array of waterfowl, the lake is great for bird watching. It’s also stocked with rainbow trout and is popular among local anglers.

The trail from Laguna Lake towards the defunct train tracks is easy to find. Just follow the crowd.

The Juanita Cooke Trail looking east at some long defunct railroad tracks. The tracks will take you under Harbor Blvd to the Fullerton Golf Course. Along an eerie portion of the Fullerton Loop.

The Juanita Cooke Trail looking east at some long defunct railroad tracks. The tracks will take you under Harbor Blvd to the Fullerton Golf Course. Along an eerie portion of the Fullerton Loop. Photo credit: Dustin Malek

The tricky part:

After crossing an old bridge above the train tracks, most people go straight following the Juanita Cooke Trail.

If you’re committed to the loop, you’ll want to go left and catch the train tracks towards the Fullerton Golf Course. This is an eerie section of the trail that fewer people are on. The abandoned train tracks and graffiti-filled underpass give off apocalyptic vibes.

Mountain biker passing through the graffiti filled Harbor Boulevard underpass along the Fullerton Loop Trail.

Mountain biker passing through the graffiti filled Harbor Boulevard underpass along the Fullerton Loop Trail. Photo credit: Dustin Malek

Once emerging from the overpass, the trail goes right and skirts around the golf course. It’s a tight section and one that mountain bikers come down fast.

Some people go this way and some people go that way. A group of runners stop for a picture in one of the two tunnels that go under Bastanchury Rd, towards the Brea Dam.

Some people go this way and some people go that way. A group of runners stop for a picture in one of the two tunnels that go under Bastanchury Rd, towards the Brea Dam. Photo credit: Dustin Malek

The Brea Dam:

After passing the golf course, you’ll come upon two tunnels. Take the one on the left.

Here bikers patiently wait for people to pass as they hit the jumps. The mountain biking terrain here attracts people from all over.

From the Brea Dam, the loop continues about a mile down Harbor Boulevard back towards the courthouse, completing the loop.

Al Aguado, a 20 year Fullerton resident and avid mountain biker takes a break while a group of mountain bikers discuss their next jump behind him.

Al Aguado, a 20 year Fullerton resident and avid mountain biker takes a break while a group of mountain bikers discuss their next jump behind him. Photo credit: Dustin Malek

Postmortem:

The Fullerton Loop is a choose your adventure hike. The entire loop is doable for anyone in decent physical shape. If you’re not interested in completing the whole thing, there isn’t a bad section to explore. It’s a unique Fullerton experience that draws people from all over the southland.

What to do after:

If you’re starting the loop from the courthouse parking lot, as many people do, Gonzo’s Tacos is a short walk and a great place to rest your feet as you enjoy some hard tacos after a hike.

Author profile

Dustin Malek (He/Him) is a Journalism major residing in Fullerton, Ca. In his free time, he enjoys hiking and riding his bike around town.