Castlewood Trail

The Amazing Goal; The Early Morning View of West Coyote Hills
Most of the trails described here are loops. All of them go past a particularly spectacular viewing spot; above.  It is the best view of the largest un-inhabited area in Fullerton; the famous West Coyote Hills.  This land has been a matter of great debate for many years. The latest (winter of 2017) is that it will become a “State” Park. If it is true, this will be the the second state park in Orange County that is not a beach (the closest one is actually out of the county –> Chino Hills.) The trails described here are entirely in Fullerton Parks Department land. It’s the view that is under contention.

First: Where to Park
There’s a few places to park right where Castlewood Trail sign is;
just a few dozen feet west from the corner of Gilbert and Castlewood. Gilbert is a main street off of Rosecrans (1 mile east of Beach). Castlewood is then 3/4 mile north. If this entrance to Castlewood Trail has more than a few cars parked there, a better place to park and a place which the neighbors would prefer you to park, is next to a wide section of the trail that has easy access to the street. It is also where that street –Somerset Lane– gets wide enough for parking. From the corner of Gilbert and Castlewood, drive into the housing tract south. It curves to the right and take the first right you can. What you will quickly come to see is tiny Somerset Lane Park. Park your car on the park side of Somerset Lane. 
You lose a quarter of a mile of walking by parking this far along, but there’s still a mile of trail left. (It is excellent hard packed dirt, nice hills and great views.) The official end of the Castlewood trail is the fire station on Rosecrans. That trip is what’s described next.

Castlewood Trail Out-and-Back (1.8 mi)
The goal here is the fire station on Rosecrans (a few blocks east of Beach). The start is the
Somerset Lane Park describe above. Your journey will go past the Amazing Goal described above. The start of your walk is the trail to the south-west of Somerset Lane Park. There is a junction (a place for a decision) in this trail ¼ mile in. The main part of the Castlewood Trail is to the right; take that. (The other way is a few hundred feet to Gilbert and a shorter loop described below.) The longer trip will take you around a water tank and then around a hill to the right. You will pass the cul-de-sac of Coyote Hills Drive then down a very straight tree line lane. The end of the trail is Rosecrans right next to the fire station. Alas, the trip described here misses the Amazing Goal pictured at the top. That’s because this wide trail was made before the houses were in place and everywhere you looked was spectacular. To see the one remaining wilderness on this particular walk, you have to take a side trip when you arrive at the Coyote Hills Drive cul-de-sac. Look for a narrow un-maintained bike trail along the fence. Anywhere along there is the great view. (See also this map–> Place with a View)

Tree Park parking place is so convenient it seems too good to be true; on the park side of the street. After your party is all there walk north on Parks Rd and then left on Castlewood Dr.

Long Loop (3.6 miles)
This loop starts far from the entrance to Castlewood Trail. It starts at Tree Park which is the starting point for several other trails. Tree Park has park benches which makes it a good spot to meet others to begin a walk. Parking is on Parks Road; next to the park. (Picture to the left or if you have installed Google Maps enter: 33 54 05.1 -117 57 25.6) For this rather long loop, walk north on Park Rd sidewalk about 1,000 feet where it turns left and changes its street name to Castlewood Drive. After a quarter mile further on the sidewalk you will cross Gilbert and immediately spot the Castlewood Trail sign. The Castlewood Trail from there is 1.2 miles and ends at Rosecrans Blvd where the fire station is. There is a junction in this trail ½ mile in. The main part of the Castlewood Trail is to the right. A short cut is to the left. The longer loop (right at the junction) winds around a water tank, passes a cul-de-sac and continues on south to Rosecrans Blvd where the fire station is. (See below on a description of the scenery at this point.) You then walk east on the Rosecrans Blvd sidewalk 1.2 miles to Grissom Park where you will go north on Grissom Trail crossing Camino Rey Street and then following that more rustic trail which curves west then south. You will emerge exactly where your car is parked. The 3.6 mile loop is pictured here –> long loop map.
This 3.6 mile loop has 1.2 miles of sidewalk. The 1.2 miles can be cut in half and still get you back to your car. Here’s how: When you are on Rosecrans watch for a trail north just past Canyon Dr. It is the Rosecrans Trail. You will walk about a block on a sidewalk until you get to the bottom (less well-groomed part of…) Tree Park.  To see a map on this shortcut, click here –> less sidewalk.

The green rectangle in the middle is where you leave the trail for a real adventure in hiking. This adventure is described in detail at the bottom of this webpage.

Water Tank
At the Castlewood Trail junction ½ mile in, if you take the path to the right (this is the long loop) you will find this by far the more interesting. For one thing you will walk very close to a large water tank. This is an example of a low water tank which are placed where they can’t be seen by houses or streets. The small tank with round ends is a surge tank, not a propane tank. It is part of the pumping system for this tank. High water tanks don’t have pumps. The lower tank pumps force water uphill into the higher ones and of course the upper ones feed the city by gravity. All tanks for a given city are tied together. If in a disaster of some sort, where there’s no electricity, the higher tanks can feed the city for several days. The electrical power for the pumps comes in underground but doesn’t have to come from very far away. There’s a street about a 100 yards away where houses are, and they have underground power as well. In the picture at the top of this page you can see in the distance the nearest “high” tank fed by this one. You can see that one up close in the trail described in –> Hawks Point.

East Castlewood Very Short Loop (1.1 miles)
That junction mentioned above. . . in case you are wondering where the trail to the left goes . . . it goes to Gilbert. This makes a much shorter loop that starts at the Castlewood Trail sign (or the Somerset Lane Park) described above in green. That junction is ½ mile from the start. There’s an abandoned brick building there. The trail splits, going in opposite directions. Take the path to the left for the shorter loop; right for the longer one. The shorter one takes you to Gilbert Street where there’s a very wide sidewalk which you will take back (to the left) to the beginning of the Castlewood Trail.

Going east from the Rosecrans Fire Station is a spectacular stand of Eucalyptus Trees.

West Castlewood Medium Short Loop (1.4 mi)
This loop starts where the out-and-back trail described above ends; the fire station on Rosecrans.
The closest parking if you begin there, is across Rosecrans from the fire station and east about a half a block. If you are driving on Rosecrans turn south into Sunny Ridge and park there. After leaving your parked car, cross Rosecrans at Sunny Ridge. Alas… there is no crosswalk at the fire station. If you are not afraid of jaywalking the more interesting walk is along the south side of Rosecrans. In that case, on your left is the remains of the McColl Dump Superfund site. (Ongoing actually.) All those pipes going every which way are interesting to look at even though no sense can be made of what you are seeing. Next on your left is where rich people waste their money on manicured laws with the occasional small hole which they like to a roll a small ball into. Then with the cocky teenage attitude of a biker, go ahead and jay walk at the fire station. To quote Kathryn Hepburn as Rose Sayer in African Queen: I never dreamed that any mere physical experience could be so stimulating! Next to the fire station is the grand entrance to the Castlewood Trail a much more bourgeois adventure than flaunting the law. The first quarter mile of this end (the Rosecrans end) is dead straight but you are engulfed in some very lovely tall trees as represented in the photo to the right.  At the end of this straight segment is the very end of a street named Coyote Hills Drive. You will walk past it and continue on the Castlewood Trail uphill. If you wish to be of the mundane, follow the wide trail uphill on the right. But if you were excited by that daring dart in front of the fire station, then take the narrow bike trail up along the fence.  Just a hundred feet or so is the incredible view of West Coyote Hills which should be illegal. (I dunno know; might fall off, holds up those who are there for exercise, the sight will turn you into an eco-freek.) When the views run out you will eventually come to the water tank described above. A hundred yards of so beyond the tank is the junction, and the small abandoned brick building. But instead of turning left you will take the shortcut to Gilbert. Follow Gilbert down to Rosecrans then right to where you parked your car.

trail up to the scenic route

The More Adventuresome Version of the Long Loop Described Above (3.6 miles)
The main path of the Castlewood Trail is of fairly constant altitude once it gets going. That path is wide and smoothed by the Fullerton Parks Department (Landscaping actually). There’s an alternative to the maintained trail that takes you to the Amazing Site at the top of this web page.  All you need to know is the following bold text: On the Castlewood Drive you will come to the junction ½ mile in. Take the trail to the right. Walk about a quarter of the way around the water tank and look for a narrow trail on the right that goes steeply uphill. (see picture to the left.) At any branching of the trail, take the higher one.

What follows is a detailed description in case you want to experience this most exiting of trails as a reading adventure. The alternative path next to the water tank (picture to the left) looks worse than it is. This is the first branching. You will see of many more. The rule of thumb on a place where bikes go every which way is that they all seem to end up in the same place. The other rule of thumb is to take the trail that seems to go higher up. If you can be next to a fence somewhere along there, is just about guaranteed to be very good view. There’s only one very heavily warn trail that doesn’t go anywhere, but it’s worth the view. That’s the one to the right about 30 feet after you leave the main wide trail. It would seem to be a shame that the best views are of land we can’t walk on, but then as long as we can see them . . .
____Along the fence, up as high as you can go there is an opening in the fence. (It may be repaired by now.) Go through there (you will no longer be on public land) as far as you dare and enjoy a very impressive view of the hills that is the Chevron oil field. Or what was reserved to be oil field. There are no oil wells or signs of anything man made. It is perhaps the largest expanse of natural flora in Fullerton. The view is of a wide valley and all that you can see, is in the city of Fullerton. (Chevron property though.) Unseen, just over the furthest hill is Westridge Golf Club. It is in the city of La Habra. The top of the water tank that you can see in the top photo is still in Fullerton and the very one you walk past if you take the Hawks Pointe Trail.
If you didn’t take the steep climb ¼ way around the water tank, and instead continued on the very wide trail lower down, you will still have a scenic view to the south-west. There is a yet to be developed park (probably to be named Grandwood Park). Beyond that virgin park area, unseen but good to know to gain your bearings is Gilbert Street and a similar sized park that is developed and named: Coyote Hills Park.
Eventually all the many bike trails join the main trail about the time you begin to see civilization again. This happens at the Coyote Hills Drive cul-de-sac. You will note that this is popular place to park for bikers. You could go back by way of that road, then Gilbert to the left which takes you to Castlewood. The longer 3.6 mile loop described above will have you walk past the cul-de-sac and then through a grotto of tall trees and finally to Rosecrans.
Throughout the above descriptions there were many references to the bike paths that are off the main trail. Castlewood is on the Fullerton Loop for bikers so you will encounter them. The main trail they try to go fast so you may be safer off the main trail. When you do encounter a biker, it is a courteous thing to do, to step off the fast part of the trail and let them go by. If you can remember, the traditional direction for bikers is from Rosecrans. So you will see the bikers coming if you walk in the opposite direction; that is, starting at Castlewood Drive or Somerset Park. Click here for more on biker/hiker etiquette.

Trail Mystery
Most of the trips described above pass by the junction that is 1/2 mile in from the start at tiny Somerset Park. This junction has a concrete block building. The mystery for this trail is what was that building for? Here’s an even better mystery. What useful purpose can be made of it?

Click on the pictures to see them as full screen.


Suggestions for Improvement

Somerset Lane Park
Make the small park where Somerset Lane makes a sharp bend more prominent by at least naming it. That will encourage people to park there. There’s more parking space and it is less intrusive on the neighbors than the entrance next to Gilbert. This is because the street is wide as well as long where there are houses on only one side. Fixing the water fountain would be nice. You already have benches and information signs, so it really is a park.

Expensive Trail Repair
The Castlewood Trail is the most poorly built trail of all the expensive trails in Fullerton. Where the bikers have moved off the main trail is both more interesting and safer for walkers. The maintained trail is actually more of an embarrassment for the department than it is a concern for being sued by someone tripping in the ruts. I don’t think it’s the design so much as workers not being supervised. For the whole length, the trail is a good one or two feet lower than the U-channel that it is next to. Most, not some, most . . . of the trail conducts the water instead of the U-channel. Do not make the mistake of assuming that the U-channels need to be free of debris. If water was ever to flow in them, the channels would clean themselves. There is one place where clearing the debris from the U-channel would help: 33 54 2.4499 -117 57 51.0205. But it must be accompanied by a redirecting the rut in the trail to allow the water to flow back into the U-channel. This will at least stop making things worse for that one steep grade west of the highest point. The expensive way to fix this embarrassing mistake is to bring in many tons of dirt and raise the level of about 2/3 of mile of this trail. That’s most of it from Castlewood Drive to the Coyote Hills Drive cul-de-sac.

A cheaper way is one I saw on the Sally Pekarek Trail. They removed the dirt from under the face of the U-channel that was on the trail side. They then broke the concrete so it leaned down into where the dirt was removed. In some places no dirt was removed and the broken part was discarded.

Expedient; Rut Management
If you don’t mind people seeing an elevated U-channel you must accept the fact that the trail will have to conduct all of the water in ruts. This isn’t unsafe, just embarrassing. Using natural ruts there is something important to know: the speed of the flowing water is what makes the rut narrow and when you use a large piece of wood to move the rut from one side of the trail to the other, the angle of that wood must be as much along the fall line as possible to keep it flowing fast. There’s a tendency to want to move the water at a blunt angle so only one piece of wood is needed. The flow deflected at the shallower angle  slows down there. The result is the spreading out of the water for the first few minutes of rain and then after that it flows over the wood. All it does is make it so mud will be there for a long time.

Bench to Mark the Place as a Place with a View
The view of Coyote Hills that is s
o spectacular is not very far from Coyote Hill Drive cul-de-sac. 33 53 59.4149 -117 58 10.1641. Theoretically higher up the trail would have a better view but that better view is blocked because of the trees. There is a break in the trees lower down near the cul-de-sac.  A bench carefully chosen for its view and its own visibility from the street would call attention to the value of the trail.

Trash Can
The Coyote Hill Drive cul-de-sac might be a good place for a trash can. The placing of a trash can is not as critical to the users as it is to those who have to empty it. Users can carry it with them if they knew there was a trash can in their direction. This is especially important for those that pick up trash for the exercise. For that reason using a simple trail marker with an indication of how far along the next trash can is would be useful at the ends of a trail.