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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.