Clark Park, at the extreme north-west end of Fullerton, like Craig Park at the north-east end of Fullerton, is a county park. Both parks overlap city boundaries. (Clark Park is mostly in Buena Park.) It makes sense that where city boundaries go through a park, shared maintenance is awkward. County parks are better funded, and are perhaps too well groomed for hikers. But they all are starting points (or ending points) for dirt trails. And even within the park, there are miles of both dirt trails and sidewalk.
___The original name is appropriate for its location “Los Coyotes Regional Park”, but in 1987 its name was changed to honor Ralph B Clark who served as a County Supervisor longer than anyone else. He was well known as an advocate for county bus system and parks. This webpage is more about the park than the trails because it is the best park in the area in that it is most educational from a naturalist’s point of view. (The other county parks in Fullerton are Craig Park and Tri-City Park.)
Clark Park Walking Loop (1.2 mi)
To save the $5 entry fee you can park on Rosecrans next to the main entrance on the south side of the street. But only in the places where there’s an absence of “no parking” signs. This gift of free parking fills up pretty fast, in which case, drive on (east) a block or so to park on Sunny Ridge. There’s an entrance on Rosecrans to the east end of the park. For walkers this (east end of the park) is actually the best place to enter. It leads directly to a well groomed dirt trail going up to a stunning view of the park. (photo at the top) The west side of this hill is surprisingly steep, but the trails are professionally cut into the side so they go along the face at an angle. There are several branchings of the trail and as a rule-of-thumb, choosing the one away from the center of the park makes for a longer path. It makes a 1.2 mile loop if after the berm slopes down to ground level you walk past the main gate and then east on the sidewalks to the ball diamonds. From there, find your way to the “dirt stairs” on the north east corner of the park.
____This loop can be made a little longer, if after the berm slopes away, you walk past the tennis courts and stick to the outside most area of the park, in parallel with the Rosecrans sidewalk. It’s close to the street and very noisy and that noise is why there is a berm that isolates the city noise from the rest of the park. There’s no trail on the quiet side of the berm, but all grass is perhaps the better substrate to walk on.
____There are many trails and sidewalks that wonder throughout the park which makes each visit here a new experience. (For trails outside of Clark Park but that can be begun (or ended) here, click on PageDown key about seven times to where it says Extra Credit.)
____Behind the nature center is an isolated hill which is fenced off from visitors. It’s called Elephant Hill for some reason. If you talk to the ranger posted at this park, you will learn that it has been denuded of all vegetation to allow native plants to grow back. It had been invaded by Mustard Plant which small animals cannot use. Its not clear if that hill will ever be available for hiking. Probably not. But there’s plenty of dirt and shrubs that are available to walk around in just east of that hill. Well walk close to. There are signs that continually remind you to stay on the trail.
Walking the Berm
That berm is a feature also of the south and west portions of the park where there is trail on the very crest of the berm. It is fun because it give something of a commanding view for such a long way; very unusual. The berm is left over dirt from making the lake and the leveling of the playing fields. More importantly, the berm blocks the sight of houses (and streets) from anywhere inside the park. This is a common and very effective architectural trick especially if the sides of the berm can be watered so it can be green with trees and shrubs. Disneyland used this trick from the very beginning in 1957.
Facilities of the Park
County Parks, if they are sufficiently large, charge cars to enter, but not walkers. (Five dollars on the weekend, three dollars; weekdays.) It makes sense, since people in cars usually use more of the facilities than walkers. After that everything in the park is free to use, unless you want to have a company picnic which reserves a bunch of tables ($100) or even the amphitheater for a bit more money. There’s play equipment, as well as picnic tables and benches . . . bathrooms of course, and a small lake that is stocked with fish you can catch and release. (For detailed information fishing license click here.) There’s even a structure which looks like play equipment which is well built enough for kids, but obscure enough that when you ask your friends what the mystery objects are, they will be very amused when you tell them it is art. Here’s a more complete list of their facilities: http://www.ocparks.com/parks/ralph/amenities The most important structure is a museum on the east side, which isn’t worth seeing on its own, but is worth seeing when it hosts events there. “Animals, Then and Now,” for example. The museum’ purpose is to demonstrate what is to be found in the cliffs across the street. It is the source of some fairly notable fossils. As of July 2018 the naturalist who gave talks there retired. But it is still being used for special events when volunteer naturalists will be there to give talks. Because the naturalists are volunteers there is no schedule so check here to ask when there will be such an event. http://www.ocparks.com/parks/ralph/interpretive. Because of the informal nature of this facility, if you have a group you can arrange to have the volunteer there. The phone number for that is on the page of that link.
More on Parking
All parks that charge to get in, can’t keep people from walking in, so there’s something of a tradition, that walking is encouraged. They even go to some trouble to allow free parking on the side of the road at both Craig and here at Clark. (The “No Parking” signs along Rosecrans have been removed for a few hundred feet next to the main entrance. It was mentioned above to park on Sunny Ridge (east on Rosecrans) if along Rosecrans next to the entrance is full. But Sunny Ridge is actually the better place to park if you are driving west on Rosecrans. There’s a small entrance that is less than a block from Sunny Ridge. Going in with your car is worth $5 to take advantage of the facilities of a park. There’s picnic tables and sports venues which require stuff to be brought in. It is also convenient for a family with small kids to drive in rather than walk along the street before going in.
___There is also a walk-through entrance on the south (middle) side of the park which is a cul-de-sac of Hillcrest Road. It is very convenient entrance for the neighborhood, but very hard to get there by car if you don’t live there.
There are several openings in the fence that surrounds the park. The small openings have no gates so essentially the park is never closed for walkers. There are many walkers as early as 6:00. There’s one large gate for cars. To drive within the park ($5) the park hours (summer) are 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM. To be sure click here–> http://www.ocparks.com/parks/ralph.
Google Maps Street View . . . Clark Park
Sometime in 2018, county staff on foot, will be collecting imagery of Orange County trails using the Google Street View Trekker, a wearable backpack with a camera system on top. The Trekker automatically gathers images as it goes. Later the imagery will be stitched together to create the 360-degree panoramas you will be able to see on Google Earth. Here’s a 31 second video of that the Trekker does–> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ae5MzPKAQ4
The Sea Floor Fossil Bed Across the Street
It was only in the 70s that the Buena Park and Fullerton kids had the best adventure park in the world across the street from Clark Park. This was before Clark Park or the ball diamonds were there of course. It was called Motor Cycle Hill, even though it was mostly for kids and their BMX bikes. There was also fossils to be dug up. The information kiosk that described what fossils were to be found there is still there, but the whole area is now fenced off. There’s a road that goes up behind the fossil bed, but it too, is in the process of being fenced off. The problem of course is that kids are supposed to only play organized sports. They are to learn to play as a herd and never wander off on their own lest they get interested in exploring nature. Everyone knows you must have PhD to explore and it must be far away; not in big cities like Fullerton. (sarcasm)
___The top two pictures immediately below, are of the ocean seabed fossils. As of July 2018, the kiosk was still there, but a six foot fence is going up. One hopeful sign is that the fence has a locked gate exactly below the kiosk which means, there may be tours there someday. The rest of the pictures show what you can see from up behind the fossil bed.
Extra Credit Trail
The Castlewood trail is available across the street from Clark Park and east about a block; next to the fire station. (If you don’t like jay walking, cross the street at the main entrance to Clark Park. Fire stations are famous for having a signal light but no crosswalk.) Hawks Point trail is the other trail that can be accessed from Clark Park. It is across the street (at the Clark Park entrance) and down a hundred feet or so.
The Extra Credit has to do with the trail between the ball diamonds and the fire station. It is perfectly OK in that it is on park property but it hasn’t been developed so it just doesn’t seem like like we should be there. (See map to the right.) This unofficial trail is parallel to the sidewalk. Not only is this trail less noisy, there’s a much better view up there.
____Notice in the picture above there’s a wide dirt road that touches the trail (on the right in the photo) near the fire station. There’s a gate there and next to the gate, a very old sign, that is of a vintage when Chevron was Texaco. It doesn’t say no trespassing. Instead it says things like “Persons under the influence of drugs or alcohol are not allowed on this property.” In other words, at one time, this sign effectively gave permission to wander about inside Coyote Hills. Isn’t that something !!! At one time Coyote Hills was available for hikers. Wow.
____Can’t go in there now alas, but there’s an even more interesting trail that starts at the left end (photo above) where it again touches the sidewalk. Right there, slip through the gate that separates the ball diamonds parking lot from Rosecrans. Walk behind the right field fence and go all around the outside. It eventually takes you to the Hawks Pointe Trail. Before then, when you get between the ball diamonds, there’s a row of very tall trees that seems as their only purpose to block the view from the street of the fossil bed and the fossil bed information kiosk. Perhaps by the time you read this a heroic child will have cut a hole in the fence so we can once again experience real live archeology.
Click on the pictures to see them as full screen.
Suggestion for Other Parks Departments
Notice the title ” . . . for Other Parks . . . ” This is a county park and has the budget to be perfect and a model for city parks. One example of perfection is the placement of park benches where views are magnificent, or where it’s about time for a senior citizen to have a well deserved sit-for-a-spell. There’s a lesson to learn about making dirt trails that go up hills. In the east corner next to Rosecrans there’s a very well built stairs made of dirt reinforced by 4 by 4 wood. It seems to hold up over time, and no ruts. This method should be adopted by city parks. (The mistake cities usually make is 4 by 4 wood so widely spaced, that they are like little dams that create ruts instead of defeat them.)
___But these stairs are also an example of something to avoid. They made an ergonomic mistake that is well worth noting. The spacing of the steps is exactly wrong. Instead of each step being placed where each foot takes a step up, here, you end up making two steps at the same level, then one step up. Then again; two steps along, one step up. That one step up each time is done with the same leg. That is painful in short order. When carving the path into the side of the hill make the spacing random.