Brea Dam Recreational Area (upstream of the dam)

The description here has mostly to do with the dam, its flood basin and a bit of history about the place. Three out and back “walks” and one loop are detailed here. (More out and back walks and loops are described for this area on web pages –> Brea Dam Park and Lost Trail.

Water Shed One interesting thing about the flood basin between the Brea Dam and Bastanchury is that it used to be the back four holes of the Fullerton Golf Course. The damage caused by several storms is most visible on the south side of the two parallel tunnels under Bastanchury. (Pictures and more description below.) The repair costs for the city to fix it seemed to have no end, so the entire Brea Reservoir flood basin on the south side of Bastanchury is now wilderness hiking and biking. Hooray for us. That’s about 220 acres the Army Corp of Engineers leases to Fullerton for a dollar a year. Click here to see the official agreement. The creek that runs the length of this basin is Brea Creek hence the name of the dam; “Brea Dam”even though it’s in the middle of Fullerton. The other dam –just a two miles away– is called Fullerton Dam because it’s creek is Fullerton Creek. Its flood control basin is Craig Park; a county park. For more about dams click on Dams and Spillways of Fullerton.

Fullerton Sports Center and the yellow arrow indicating the reference point for starting walks.

Accessing the 220 Acre Brea Reservoir (Brea Creek Flood basin)
There’s only one really good spot to park to explore this area. It is surprising that this 220 acre preserve has only one parking place. In addition this 220 acres is absolutely hidden from view from any road, yet right in the middle of Fullerton. That’s Twilight Zone stuff. So in a way it is wonderful that there is only one convenient place to enter. (There’s several places immediate neighbors can enter this preserve by walking.) This one good spot to park is the Fullerton’s Sports Complex. Going east on Bastanchury from Harbor, it’s the first right after the interesting dip and S turns Bastanchury makes. There’s two parking lots. Drive on to the back one where you will see a concrete sidewalk which eventually meets a dirt trail that goes roughly east-west. That point is the yellow reference arrow in this satellite view “reference for Brea Reservoir walks.jpg”

East of that Sports Complex Reference Point (out and back .9 mi)
The walk to the left takes you to Brea Blvd which on the map is called Trail Rest Park. It is undeveloped with no place around there to park. If it would be developed it would probably be just a bench and a sign to signify a junction of three trails; two of which are on the other side of Brea Blvd. Those trails are described in the webpage named, East Coyote Hills Trail.
In the area between Trail Rest Park and the Sports Complex are a number of trails created by bikers. They eventually find their way to Trail Rest Park. One them goes south where you are definitely on oil company land. You can find your way out to several oil wells and a very large flat area surrounding them. It’s oil company land of course but they didn’t seem to work hard to keep walkers out. It easy to get to the sidewalk on Brea Blvd from where those oil wells are.

West of that Sports Complex Reference Point (out and back .8 miles)
Going west from the Sports Complex you will encounter dozens of bike trails of various widths depending on how well traveled they are. Even the main trails are two numerous and winding to describe. The important thing to note is you can’t get lost because you are in a basin and you can see where you are going by noting the land marks on the raised horizon. Saint Jude Hospital is to the west; the dam is south. The tunnels under Bastanchury are at your level so you can’t see them, but you can see the Hospital and picture where Bastanchury is that goes over those tunnels. The tunnels are probably the most interesting goal. Out and back there is You can go under them to the golf course where there’s another trail described in the webpage San Juan Park.

The Hard Side: The West Side of Brea Creek (out and back 1.4 and 2.0 miles)
The Brea Creek runs from the tunnels to the dam. There’s major trails on both sides that go the length of the basin. The east side trail is much more convenient and leads to several other trails on the way to the dam. If you take the west side of the creek toward the dam, there’s nowhere interesting to go other to cross the creek. That can be very messy even in the summer. You can climb to the top of the dam and then walk across the rim of the dam to get to the more interesting other side. It is better to get out of the basin before you go very far toward the dam. Under Saint Jude there’s a trail that goes up to the tennis courts. From there you can find your way to the access road that becomes the top of the dam. There’s a gate to prevent cars from going across the dam, but there’s easy access for walkers. To and from the tennis courts is 1.4 miles. To and from the east end of the dam is 2.0 miles.

Walking Back, Starting from the East End of the Dam
The best place to park for access to the flood basin is The Fullerton Sports Complex. But there’s a  second best parking place that is the formal entrance on Harbor to Brea Dam Park (a block or so north of Brea Blvd). Find your way to the north east corner of the grass area of that park. There you will find a trail that goes directly to the east side of the dam crest. (There’s an access road to the south that also gets there, but much longer.)
Walking north on the asphalt downhill you will come to the end of the asphalt. Here are one, two and three pictures that are of the “end of asphalt road” looking in different directions. Here in Google Earth is that asphalt reference point: 33 53 26.0989 -117 55 26.3854  (Click here to learn how to use Google Earth.)

Notes on the End-of-asphalt reference:

Reference point (end of asphalt) looking along the large flat area.
  • Looking north there’s a stand of tall trees on the left and in the back a deposit of dirt left over from making this large flat area. Do not miss a  view of the basin from that deposit of dirt.
  • Looking west, there’s a huge concrete tie-down for the chain of logs that prevent floating debris from entering the weir gate during a storm.
  • Looking north-west there’s a wide trail that goes down into the basin. This trail has many branches out away from it. You will find them fun to explore and keep in mind this: You can’t get lost in a basin because your horizon with landmarks is above you and always in sight.
  • Looking south-east is the spillway. The trails around this are described in Brea Dam Park (east of the dam)

If you walk the crest of the dam toward the hospital, and continue to the right around the tennis courts the sidewalk goes downhill and tees into a very wide dirt trail. You can follow that trail to the right until you are on the awkward side of the creek near the dam. It is better instead to go to the left, at the tee, away from the dam. It goes down a bit more and follows north at a level that used to be the back nine of the Fullerton Golf Course. There’s two tunnels that go under Bastanchury. Passing in front of the tunnels is now complicated because of the storm damage, but you should be able to figure out your way to the other side of the creek. The easy way is to go out one tunnel and back through the other one.

Brea Dam Loop (1.7 miles)
There are two loops which are better described by looking at the satellite views with “loop” in their filenames. The longer one starts at the Sports Complex. Parking: Going east on Bastanchury from Harbor, it’s the first right after the interesting dip and S turns Bastanchury makes. Walk west along the trails that seems to go in the direction of the east end of the dam. Walk along the crest of the dam where it emerges at the Fullerton Tennis courts. There’s sidewalk that goes downhill and tees into a very wide dirt trail. Go to the left, away from the dam. It goes down a bit more and follows north at a level that used to be the back nine of the Fullerton Golf Course. Go out one tunnel and back in the other to be on the other side of the creek. From there use the raised horizon as your guide to the Sports Complex. (You can see the ball park lights on towers from about anywhere in the basin.)

Tara’s Chance Therapeutic Riding at Coyote Hills Ranch.

Short Walk to a Most Interesting Destination; a Horse Ranch (10 minute walk)
Coyote Hills Horse Ranch is a privately own stable for boarding horses. From there some 28 miles of trails are accessible by horse including all the way to the riding arena at Laguna Lake at Euclid. All of the trails are now maintained by Fullerton Parks but were developed and maintained by the Fullerton Recreational Riders in the early 1960s. The names of the various trails Nora Kuttner, for example, were important members of that club. Alas, they don’t offer horseback riding for the public from Coyote Hills Horse Ranch any more, but there is something worth going there to see on Saturday Mornings; 11:00 AM. Its called Therapeutic Riding. It’s for children with disabilities. There’s some small bleachers where you can observe. Click here for more on Coyote Hills Horse Ranch. If this horse ranch is your destination, starting at the Sports Complex is way to close. It’s only a five minute walk from there. There is a pretty good walk starting from the other side of Bastanchury. For details on that walk see San Juan Park Trail.

Click on the pictures to see them as full screen.

When was reason the concrete was so buckled and what did it look like before?

Suggestions for Parks Department

In Craig Park there’s a low maintenance trail called Cottonwood. It is low maintenance in that hikers can wander around in there making their own trails. The idea is to expose the public to native plants that grow next to standing water. I think there’s potential for a much better version, a longer version anyway, just south of the tunnels under Bastanchury. It has an excellent start just by folks exploring around in there. A good project for boy scouts maybe is to extend or better yet find other places along the creek which can be entered from the side.

In the Fullerton Parks website that lists trails is a listing for the Valencia Mesa Trail. ( It really is a significant Trail if you describe it as going from parking structure on Valencia Mesa into the Brea Dam Recreational Area. It should be in the category of “Featured Trails” and removed from the “Other Trails” category. It should be described as going from the Tennis Courts going exactly east downhill where it joins a trail going north and south inside the Brea Dam flood basin. The trail north goes through the tunnels under Bastanchury to the golf course where there is a nice place to eat. It’s exactly a mile from the Tennis courts.