Brea Dam Recreational Area (upstream of the dam)

This web page has a lot to do with the dam, its flood basin and a bit of history about the place. To skip directly to the trail descriptions hit Page Down Key two times.

Water Shed
The most interesting history about the flood basin pictured above (that is, between the Brea Dam and Bastanchury Road) is that it used to be the back four holes of the Fullerton Golf Course. The damage caused by several bad storms is most visible on the south side of the two parallel tunnels under Bastanchury. (Pictures and more description below.) The repair costs to the city for the greens after each storm was just too much, so the entire Brea Reservoir flood basin on the dam side of Bastanchury is now wilderness hiking and biking. Hooray for us. That’s about 220 acres the Army Corps 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 the history and technology of 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. This 220 acres is absolutely hidden from view from any road, yet right in the middle of Fullerton. That’s Twilight Zone stuff. Your first site of the dam and recreation area is quite a thrill. So in a way it is wonderful that there is only one convenient place to enter. (Even from that parking place you have walk quite a ways to see this stunning view.) 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 to the left above.

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; hence the name Trail Rest, not trail start. 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. (Breitburn Energy). You can find your way out to several oil wells and if you climb to level of Brea Blvd you will be amazed at the huge amount of real estate for what appears to be one oil well. They didn’t seem to work hard to keep walkers away. It easy to get to the sidewalk on Brea Blvd which will get you to Trail Rest Park making kind of a loop.

West out of that Sports Complex (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 .8 mile. You can go under them to the golf course where there’s another trail described in the webpage –> San Juan Park. The two tunnels are the best way to get to the other side of creek. Go out one and back in the other.  You are now on the less interesting side of the creek.

The Less Interesting 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 leads to many more trails on the way to the dam. If you take the west side of the creek toward the dam, there are fewer trails to explore and then you have only creek to cross near the dam. That can be very messy even in the summer. You can climb to the top of the west side of the dam and then walk across the rim of the dam to get to the more interesting side. It is better to get out of the basin at the Fullerton Parks Department Tennis Courts. The trail out of the park is easy to spot because it leads to the base of the cellphone towers which can be seen from anywhere. Walk west beyond the tower and then 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 it’s easy access for walkers and the top of the dam is completely accessible. From the east side of the dam you can go down to the trails on the east side of the creek. To and from the tennis courts is 1.4 miles. To the east end of the dam and then back along the east side is a 2.0 mile loop.

End-of-Asphalt Reference Point
If the Brea Dam Recreational Area will be developed, chances are the End-of-Asphalt Reference Point will be important. And the better place to park (better than the Sports Complex) is the the formal entrance on Harbor to Brea Dam Park (a block or so north of Brea Blvd). On foot, find your way to the north east side of the picnic area. 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 is closed off in the winter while the Hostel has a major house cleaning.)
Walking north from the crest on the asphalt downhill you will come to the end of the asphalt. The end of the asphalt is a very good reference for four different adventures (described in the next paragraph) To see this reference point from a satellite’s point of view click here–> End of Asphalt Reference. You can see that very map more interactively by using Google Earth yourself. Just enter this   33°53’26.3″N 117°55’26.9″W  into Google and click on Maps  (Click here–> to learn how to use Google Maps in 3D.) You can of course find your way to this important reference point from the Sports Complex parking lot. Its about a half a mile as opposed to a quarter of a mile from the Harbor entrance.

Notes on the end-of-asphalt reference point:

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 at the north end of this flat area.
  • Looking west from this references point, there’s a huge concrete tie-down for the chain of logs that prevent floating debris from entering the dam’s penstocks 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. Notice the hills that rise up on either side of the spillway. The trails around these hills are described in the webpage–> Brea Dam Park (east of the dam)

Trails Under the Tennis Courts
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 where you are on the awkward side of the creek near the dam. You can instead 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 four 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.
There is something of a secret abandoned trail located just below the tennis courts. (picture to the left) It is easy to get at from the trail that goes down from the cell phone tower; about a hundred yards. It goes to the right and for some reason gets less and less used until about a hundred yards in where it vanishes. Continue on until you find a very round clearing with an amazing view of the flood basin looking east. This is an unusual direction for a scenic view of the basin. Further on you will find an abandoned pavement sidewalk and then an interesting view of the dam itself. (Taking pictures is tough because the shrubs are never cut back.) Continuing on the trail disappears entirely but you can find your way to the dirt road which the Army Corps of Engineers uses to access to the inlet of the dam. Walk up hill to get back to the sidewalk next to the tennis courts entrance.

Brea Dam Loop (1.7 miles)
This loop is better described by looking at this satellite view. As a reminder of where to park at the Sports Complex: Going east on Bastanchury from Harbor, it’s the first right. Take the sidewalk to the dirt trail and then walk to the right (west) but when there’s a fork to the left take that to the east end of the dam. (That’s about a half a mile.) 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 four 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. They are proud to brag that from their stables, there some 28 miles of trails are accessible by horse including all the way to the riding arena at Laguna Lake at Euclid. Of course those are the trials that this website is all about. All of the trails are now maintained by Fullerton Parks but were originally 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 and Taras Chance. 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 to the ranch. For details on that walk see San Juan Park Trail.

Click on the pictures to see them as full screen.

What 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 Bastanchury tunnels. 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.