If you want to do every park in Fullerton; do this one last. It is incredible. It is well manicured; not merely maintained. It has picnic tables, a BBQ, three walking bridges, babbling brook, (all year long) and absolutely stunning in the amount of green even in late autumn of no rain.
It has the tallest of trees around a very deep valley. There are eight places to park next to it, and yet no parked cars can be seen from within the park. And if that isn’t design perfection enough, it is on two levels. This park is in a neighborhood that is away from the main streets of Fullerton and thus very much under utilized. Trails described in this webpage take a lot of explaining because they are so unused, the normal wearing in of trails is absent. You have to go on faith in many places.
It is in the extreme north-east corner of Fullerton near the 57 and Rolling Hills Drive. Rolling Hills Drive is an amazing street. It has to be the least used four lane street in the world. It isn’t even a mile long and goes nowhere. (Well . . . it ends at Tri-City Park.) Street planners sort of goofed here.
___The park is on the south side of Rolling Hills Drive; down from there actually. The Google Earth view in the gallery below can be made interactive if you have Google Earth loaded on your computer. Enter this lat/long into Google and then click on “map”: 33°54’07.9″N 117°52’36.4″W. Click here–> for instructions on using Google Earth.
A Bit Of History The park is named after Richard Gilman, who founded the first commercial Valencia orange grove in California. The western end of the park was originally part of the Gilman family 1906 home site. A plaque of Richard Gilman’s accomplishments can be found on the campus of Cal. State University in Fullerton. The reason it is there is because that original Valencia Grove was on the property that is now Cal State Fullerton. (The particular variety of orange, the Valencia, ripens at a different time of the year than what Florida produced. Orange County should be named Valencia County. The history of Richard Gilman, his family, as well as the park, is available at the Launer Room of the Fullerton Public Library. (Gilman and Hillcrest are the most well documented of all the parks.) For more on the history of the Valencia in Orange County click here –> Phil Brigandi’s article on Valencia in Orange County
The Unbelievable Number of Ways In
The park and the housing development around it is about 40 years old. The housing tract was clearly built around access to the park by the neighbors. But the architects of the park figured out a way to keep all seven ways in invisible from the park. The ways in for the neighbors are listed here, just for the sake of completion.
- Treeview Pl (Medford, Rolling Hills)
- Treeview Pl (Hartford, Rolling Hills)
- Marymount (Cambridge, Clairmont, Placentia)
- Hartford Ave (Cambridge, Bastanchury)
- Hartford (Treeview, Hartford, Rolling Hills)
- The best place to park for those that will be driving here is the south side of Rolling Hills Drive. You can get to Rolling Hills Drive from Associated Road (a few blocks north of Bastanchury). Watch for the park sign before you get to Medford Place.
- The second best is the Eucalyptus way in. (Parking along any street is OK in this neighborhood.) From Bastanchury, just east of the the 57 Fwy, turn left on Hartford, left on Devonshire, right on Deerpark, 3 blocks to Eucalyptus.
The Gilman Loop (1 mi)
The trail, starting at the Eucalyptus parking spot, is wide at first where it was deliberately graded. But it is so unused there’s no warn path to confirm you are on a trail. (This lack of wear is evident throughout.) Before you go too far up on the north side of the creek appreciate the beauty of the creek here. The creek runs the middle of the mowed lawn area of the park and has three walking bridges across it. But if you go around the park this is the closest to the water you will be. It’s flowing, even after 6 months of drought. Note also how deep the valley is that you are in and how tall the trees are that are planted on the sides. This is the best loop in Fullerton on a hot day. Everywhere is in shade. The trail climbs to the very end which is the Rolling Hills Drive access. The trail continues to the right, but once again, it is so rarely used, you can never be sure it is a trail. You will walk along side a concrete U-channel with just enough room on the park side. You are assured you were on the trail when you encounter a park bench near the Treeview Pl. entrance. The picture in the gallery below with the name, “south end of trail…“ shows that bench at the end of that narrow path. The trail continues across the top, (behind the camera) but the better trail is downhill from there. Once again the shape of the hill is right, but there’s no hint of a warn path. Pretend you are forging the trail, and just go down the least steep way. Eventually you will be where it is a straight forward walk to the parking place on Eucalyptus and Deerpark.
Gilman Park is mostly in a valley, low enough to be a flood control basin which is of course why it is a park. But the park boundaries includes an acre or so at an upper level. This is on the south side accessible from Marymount (see the list of entrances above). Even the 3D view of Google Earth shows Gilman Park as elongated ball of green. It doesn’t reveal the height change which the developers turned into two parks. This upper park has one rather steep side down to where the rest of the park. It’s too steep for a trail down that way, but it’s a wonderful view of the lower park from there. The upper park is more like a city park in that it is mowed grass with trees only on the periphery. To get to this upper part you can use the Marymount way in (see above) but there’s also a lovely walking trail from the lower part of the park. The trail starts where a rather new looking concrete block building sits. This building is probably a pump house when there is a flood condition.
While wandering in this park you may meet a wonderful lady with a deep French accent. Here name is Christi. She’s a birder; a volunteer for Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The reason this park is good for that, she will inform you, is because it is a quiet park. Also, there is water in the creek all year long and most important there’s a number of trees that are dead but left standing. For more on the conservation effort to keep the parks departments in America from cutting down dead trees see Cavity Conservation Initiative.
A Bit of History About the Park
Gilman Park was built around 1979. Before that, it was popular bike park and had a hill that was so steep the bikers named the whole place “Suicide Park.” That inspired the park architects to put in a 110-foot concrete slide. It was of course a lot safer than the ones the bikers but in 1992, the City Council had it removed because of their vulnerability to lawsuits. During the hearings 20 neighbors took 3 hours to speak in opposition to removing it. Apparently it took 13 years for the Council to learn of how fun it was. Also unique to this park was a tree house with a rope net to climb, a cable ride that ran between two trees, a suspension bridge and a bicycle motocross trail.
You can extend the 1.1 mile loop described above by exiting the park when you get to the very top next to the Rolling Hills Entrance. (This would be exactly half way around the park loop.) Cross the street-that-is-never-busy. Walk east on the sidewalk that is along the street-that-is-never-busy. And then go left (north) on Placentia Ave all the way to Arts Ave. That’s as good a place as any to turn around in that it is the city limits. That out and back sidewalk journey adds 1.1 miles to the 1 mile loop described above.
Click on a picture to see it in full screen.
Is that new looking concrete block building a pump house?
None. This park is perfect.