Orange County may not be the first destination that comes to mind when thinking of a red rock canyon formation, but visitors to Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park will find a great hike through exactly that along the Red Rock Canyon Trail, which is easily accessible via the Borrego Canyon Trailhead.
Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park is located right in the middle of Foothill Ranch area in Orange County. Because of its convenient location, this are naturally does receive a lot of traffic. Parking is available at the trailhead for a fee, and this is easy to find because of a huge sculpture and information kiosk. The trailhead area is well maintained, and visitors will also find a portable toilet and seating area.
The Borrego Canyon Trail climbs gradually as it leads through old-growth forest for approximately 1.3 miles. Birds and rabbits are everywhere along this forested section of trail. Note that this is a multi-use trail, and while bikes are allowed to use the trail in one direction only, dogs aren't allowed here due to mountain lion activities. Be sure to watch for bikes while on the trail.
As you reach the first junction, the Red Rock Canyon Trail will be on your left. Follow this singletrack for approximately 5 minutes and the red rock canyon formations will start to appear. The change in scenery is dramatic, and none of the red rock is visible at the beginning of the hike. The geologic formations in this canyon are remarkable and worth slowing down for; after all, this section of the hike is only a half mile long. The Red Rock Canyon Trail ends at a restricted area, where it is important to respect the closures meant to protect this area from heavy visitor traffic. When you've enjoyed this phenomenal section of trial, return the way you came.
Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park is a perfect area for weekend family outings as it is kid friendly, though summer temperatures can get hot and there is no water along the trail. Also, be mindful that this is mountain lion habitat: avoid early morning and late evening hikes, and hike with others if you can.