Juanita Cooke Trail

The the most famous path in Fullerton is the “half-marathon Fullerton Loop”. (Click here–> for map.) If the Fullerton Loop isn’t famous for you then you probably don’t own a bicycle. But just living in Fullerton for a while you learn of the Juanita Cooke Trail as the most famous “trail” in Fullerton. The biker’s Fullerton Loop use the Juanita Cooke in two places. The Juanita Cooke is the first of two abandoned rail lines to be converted from rails to trails. (Click here to read more about –>  Rails-to-Trails)

This is an example of how a neighbor helps beautify the trail. He tends this garden and provides water for it.

The Juanita Cooke Trail goes 2.8 miles, straight as an arrow, from the courthouse (Berkeley at Harbor) to the Walmart parking lot on Imperial. Except for about two blocks of sidewalk the entire distance is a wide dirt trail shaded on both sides with tall trees. The trail has been groomed by the Parks Department for a long time which accounts for why the trees along the side are so tall. Along the way (north of Bastanchury) you may see pipes sticking slightly out of the dirt. These were installed when the trees were young. Once established, watering was no longer needed and the pipes were left in place mostly out of sight. The main effort in maintaining this trail now is trimming new growth and clearing dry brush with fire safety in mind.

Cooke’s Corner is important for several reasons. Easy to get to. Plenty of parking. One trail goes through it and it is quite near three others.

Cooke’s Corner The Juanita Cooke is best known for its starting point at the courthouse. For bikers it is the principle starting point. But do consider Cooke’s Corner as the better starting point for walking the Juanita Cooke.
Cooke’s Corner is at the north end of Laguna Lake. From Euclid take Lakeview Drive east to Hermosa and continue east on Hermosa one more block. If you are coming from Harbor take Hermosa Drive west. Parking is on the side of the street that is parallel to Juanita Cooke; Lakeside Drive.
Cooke’s Corner: Fullerton Public Works landscapers call it that because it is triangular in shape and the main trail through it is the Juanita Cooke. Why it is the best starting point for walkers is that it is also the starting point for two other trails. The Bud Turner Trail starts about 100 feet from Cooke’s Corner. The Lucy Van Der Hoff is about 1/4 mile away. These other trails are described in the web page: –> Laguna Lake Park.

Out and Back From Cooke’s Corner (1 mile, 1.5 miles, 2 miles and 3 miles total)

  • To give yourself a goal going north there is the very end of the Juanita Cooke at the Walmart on Imperial; ½ mile. (1 mile total). There is actual 1917 rail at the end.
  • To give yourself a goal going the other way, there is a bridge ¾ mile along where the Juanita Cooke passes over another abandoned rail line. (1.5 miles total). When going back (north) just north of the bridge is a wide part of the trail. That point also marks where a bike trail goes up above the normal trail. Click here for a picture of that–> Alternate Trail. It should be noted before you go up there, that this section of the Juanita Cooke is part of the Fullerton Loop. Bikers will be going fast on the main trail and up there on this alternate trail as well. If you do plan on trying that alternate trail, please read –> biker/hiker etiquette.
  • If a picnic lunch is the goal, and you don’t want to eat on the bridge find your way down to the abandoned rails going north east. You will see the Fullerton Golf Course on your right but follow the Union Pacific rails a quarter of a mile further to San Juan Park. It’s easy to see the park on your left. (2.0 miles total)
  • To give yourself a goal going west from Cooke’s Corner, there is the highest point on the Nora Kuttner Trail. (3 miles total). Landscape guys call it “top of the world.” It takes a bit more in the way of description. In fact you may find the map to Nora Kuttner easier to use. Here it is in words, if you prefer that…
    Start by walking along the lake (either side). The lake is not quite a half mile long. Past the dam stick to the left on a perfectly groomed dirt trail through a park that is actually longer than the lake. You will be on the Bud Turner Trail. This park is the Laguna Lake Park. The park itself is actually larger than the lake. Instead of following this perfectly groomed dirt trail, choose the narrow bike trail to the left that takes you to a higher level across the park. It lets you down to street level at Lakeview Drive. Cross Euclid at Lakeview Drive at which point you are no longer on the Bud Turner. Walk south to the entrance to the Nora Kuttner Trail. The best reason to be on the Nora Kuttner is ½ mile further, to the “top of the world” where with a bit of exploration you can find places with incredible views looking east and south. The total distance from Cooke’s Corner out and back to the “top of the world” is 3 miles.
This end of the Juanita Cooke is nothing in the way of a goal. But it does make a good place to start. The Court House and its huge parking lot is to the right and Harbor is about 100 feet behind the camera.

Going The Other Way . . . Making Cooke’s Corner your Goal (4.6 mi total) Between Corner and the southern end of Juanita Cooke is 2.3 miles. But that end is nothing to look forward to. Instead, you can start at the south end and have Cook’s Corner (and the lake) as your goal. It is the main parking lot for bikers who do the 11 mile Fullerton Loop. It is the parking lot of the North Justice Center (Superior Court of California). On Harbor, north of Chapman, turn left (west) on N Berkeley Ave. From there is it obvious where to park. The trail entrance (to the right–>) is at the extreme south end of the parking lot. This is about where the billboard (the one on the right) was, in the picture below.

The people to the left standing around is evidence that this was a “rail fan” run. The woody station wagon suggests the date was about1948 which is exactly 10 years after the passenger service was discontinued.

Pacific Electric Line Through Fullerton Yes, the Red Car was in Fullerton. And it went right where you are walking, on the Juanita Cooke Trail. The Red Car was reduced to one car a day by the time the service ended in 1938. (The Red Car between Long Beach and Los Angeles ran until 1961.)  The passenger service began in 1918 and the rails continued carrying freight until the late fifties.  The picture to the left is about the most famous picture of Fullerton history. The words “Welcome To Fullerton” doesn’t make any sense now, but from where those words were seen, Fullerton was undeveloped land except for Hillcrest Park.

Fullerton Station on Commonwealth in front of the present day Amtrak station. (Now Hopscotch bar and restaurant.)

The Pacific Electric passenger service (Red Car) connected Fullerton and Whittier.  A short walk to another Pacific Electric line would take you all the way into Los Angeles. But its major use was moving citrus to the packing houses near Commonwealth and Pomona. Pacific Electric historian Al Donnelly, gives this perspective on how this line was used: “The line was never intended as a passenger service, but more as an invasion of Santa Fe freight territory.” (There was a Santa Fe spur where Bastanchury Road is now.) What you would see on the bridge above, even before 1938, was rarely a passenger Red Car, but instead a small electric engine pulling a few ordinary freight cars. This combination had the strange name: “juice pack” (see gallery below). After 1938 only the juice packs would be seen.

The Fullerton Depot is now the Hop Scotch Restaurant on Commonwealth. Before arriving there, the freight went along what is now Santa Fe street where there was a row of packing houses. The strangest aspect of the Pacific Electric in Fullerton is that before it came to the packing houses, it passed right through the middle of Fullerton College.
For a slide show click here –> Electric Trains Through Fullerton

Click on a picture to see it full screen.



This might be a good trail to put stumps in the ground every ½ mile or so for seniors who need to sit down periodically. It would be good to see how these are used for a year or two before putting them in any other trail. The effort may not be worth it, if they are never used. Certainly if landscaping has to cut down dead trees the cut should be made 19″ off the ground.

Since this trail is most famous and the most perfectly maintained (as far as I’m concerned) I think it should have more of a grand entrance. The reason there isn’t one at the Court House end is probably because it’s not clear where to put it. My vote is  where it crosses Valley View. There’s lots of traffic there and so it will be seen by thousands. (The reason for making the trail prominent is to advertise that Fullerton is proud of its trails and parks and that they should check it out some day.)

Also where Juanita Cooke crosses Valley View on the court house side. . . it would be nice if we could talk the county into putting some picnic tables and benches. (The argument would be that court house staff uses the trail, so how about putting a picnic table as their contribution.

On the zig zag path down to Bastanchury, it would sure be nice to have a sign that says the trail continues 2 blocks along Morelia and then 50 feet up Laguna Road. This isn’t so much needed but more as a show of being proud of this the premiere trail.

If the city council ever wants a wall devoted to street art, there’s one place that is just begging for that. It’s next to the Juanita Cooke near where it crosses over the Lucy Van Der Hoff Trail. It is ideal because the audience is limited to those who walk on the trail (it’s 1,400 feet from the Walmart parking lot.). Right now it is used for that anyway, but because it is not “sponsored” by the city, there’s no trashcan there so the spray cans are just get left there. If it was a “sponsored,” city thing, not only would there be a regularly serviced trashcan, but you could put up a sign that says…
“Once a year this wall will be erased.” Or something like that.
As to the argument that the owners of the wall wouldn’t like that. It used for that purpose now and they aren’t objecting. The difference is respectability. If sponsored artist would know people who look at the wall will be expecting more art than graffiti.  And that means more art and less graffiti.

Next to the iron bridge, on the corner of Santa Barbara and Domingo there is a trail that goes up to join the Juanita Cooke. It does not go down to the other trail, but it looks like it does from the bridge. The way you go down is 100 yards farther south. This is very confusing. A sign that says “Use other side of bridge to go down to the other trail” would be OK, but better than a sign is to make a trail that goes down there from Domingo.

Would it be appropriate to put a sign at the opening to Horse Alley? Or should we keep it secret. I prefer it be a secret.

There’s some rather large open spaces next to the trail north of the iron bridge. Is there a way that sort of “claim” that excess land for Parks by putting a picnic table there, or maybe a fenced off garden of no-need-to-water native plants.