The picture on the right is what San Juan Park looks like from the trail it is next to. The park is primarily to serve the neighbors in the form of just looking nice and perhaps flipping the Frisbee. There is a park bench and a BBQ and a restroom that has been closed because of a homeless problem. It can also serve the inhabitants of the whole city in that it can be a staging area for at least four interesting journeys as described below. The “just looking nice” phrase has to do with the towering eucalyptus trees planted in the 1950s and a recent planting of lawn. To get to San Juan Park, take Harbor (3/4 mi) north of Bastanchury to Entrada. Right on San Juan Drive until it makes a small loop right next to the park. It is easy to find the opening in the fence to the trail which you can take either north or south.
The trail that goes right by San Juan Park is nameless. It follows the abandoned Union Pacific line that goes mostly north and south through Fullerton. Someday the Rails-to-Trails program will make it to Fullerton. The hard part is done, get the abandoned line to be used by people even if it hasn’t yet been transferred to the city. There horrible EPA threats which the Union Pacific fears but if that is resolved the next step is surplussing the steel and left the ties and rocks. Even if the rails say, the most unpleasant thing about the existing experience is the rocks. Every footfall is a concern.
The 1.9 mile Loop Starting North from San Juan Park
Perhaps this loop should be called “railroad loop” since it almost entirely on abandoned tracks. To walk the loop starting north you will be very impressed by the tall trees and dense vegetation that the neighbors are lucky enough to enjoy. (So dense you can’t see the neighbors from the trail.) It is very lush even in the summer. (Morning hikes are better if you want to be in the shade of those trees.) Those trees surround an unnamed creek that parallels the tracks. There’s virtually no slope there, so there’s a lot of standing water from yard runoff. A third of a mile along, you will come to Hermosa Drive where you will turn left and walk on the street. (If you continued along the tracks beyond Hermosa the trail becomes narrow, rocky and very littered.) Traveling on Hermosa (west), you will find the street to be free of traffic which makes the off-trail part of the walk, not so bad. After several blocks you will cross Harbor and then you will see Laguna Lake. But to make the loop don’t go the lake. Instead enjoy the small shady park on this side of the lake Cooke’s Corner. Through that small park is the most famous trail in Fullerton; the Juanita Cooke Greenbelt Trail.
Half Way Done
At Cooke’s Corner you are about half way done with the 1.9 mile loop. You are going to follow the Juanita Cooke Trail south. It is a dead straight path because it was once railroad tracks. (This was from 1918 to the late 1950s. The rails, the ties and the rock were removed in the 1960s which makes this part the walk most comfortable.) You can’t miss where one train track crossed over the other. The other track is the one you started on. (The path down is on the other side of the bridge.) Now that you are on the more uncomfortable line walk back (north). You are now only .4 miles from where you started. Yes that’s Harbor you will be walking under. You will pass a small portion of the Fullerton Golf Course for even more interesting things to look at. Just past Harbor there’s a trail that takes you past two dams. That trail is described in are described in other folders.
You probably were tempted to explore the lake when you got to Cooke’s Corner. If you do that, it will add 3/4 mile (20 minutes) to the total path.
That shady park where you were “Half Way Done”, has only a single park bench but the park itself is very well maintained. The landscape guys call it Cooke’s Corner because it is actually just a wide section of the Juanita Cooke trail in the shape of a triangle. Nearby is the Bud Turner Trail. The Bud Turner Trail follows the lake on the south side. Cooke’s Corner is easy to drive to if you want to use that as your starting point and San Juan Park as your destination. (Cooke’s Corner: From Harbor, -north of Bastanchury- take Hermosa Drive a few blocks west.)
That Same 1.9 mile Loop but Starting South from San Juan Park
To leave the park and begin the loop going south, you will shortly see Harbor Blvd going over a bridge which you will of course, walk under. (Before you get to the bridge, even before you see the bridge you will have passed the trail to the left which takes you past two dams. That begins a journey described in another webpage.) About 700 feet beyond the bridge that supports Harbor is a railroad bridge that now supports the Juanita Cooke Trail. You will see the ramp up to the Juanita Cooke off to the left. Once on the upper trail, go over the bridge. It is a dead straight path north with green on either side and below you. Yes you are on an elevated abandoned rail line. You will pass Laguna Lake in about .6 miles. There’s a nice park bench in the park next to the lake. That’s Cooke’s Corner. You are halfway. Get off the trail and walk east along Hermosa Drive ½ mile. You can’t miss the tracks and trail that will take you back to San Juan Park. The walk back to where you parked at San Juan Park is the most spectacular if you like trees.
Out-and-Back Hikes from San Juan Park
The advantage of “out and back” is that it is customizable in length. And don’t forget, the view is completely different going the other way, but wherever you are along the path, going back should be familiar. It will feel safer than a loop. But if you need something of a goal, for going north, how about a donut shop on Imperial? For going south there is the Brea Dam. More details to follow:
Out-and Back Starting North (1.7 mi)
The trail that leaves San Juan Park going north goes on past Hermosa Drive, past La Palma, past Imperial. It passes Lambert and curves around Home Depot heading west to Los Angeles. (There is a program called Rails to Trails Conservancy which Fullerton may participate in, in the future, which will allow bicycle commuting from Fullerton to who knows where in L.A.) The trail beyond Hermosa, however, is very uneven with lots of junk and uncomfortable rocks to constantly watch for. (This distracts from appreciating the scenery.) A good place to stop is Imperial where there’s lots of parking and a donut shop. Out-and-back (to Imperial) is 1.7 miles. Out and back if you park next to Hermosa Elementary is .67 mi.
Out-and-Back Starting South (1.4 mi, 2.6 mi)
The trail that leaves San Juan Park going south toward the two dams is not quite as green, but more interesting. In starting this way for the loop you would go to the right under Harbor Blvd. But for the out-and-back walk, take the trail up and to the left. You are climbing to the top of first of two dams that are a part of this extended trail. It is straightforward to find your way to the west end of the dam crest. You can walk the crest east to the Golf Course and wander around there. (They want you to pay $20 to walk the course. It is two miles in length and all sidewalk, if you are into that sort of thing.) But there’s dirt trail that’s free. The west end of the dam is the start of the Brea Dam Trail. It is very interesting walk with the fairway on one side of you and a steep hill on the other side of you. A good place to turn around (1.4 mi round trip) is the tunnels that go under Bastanchury. You can go through either tunnel into the Brea flood control area. The two tunnels lead to different trails which parallel the Brea Creek. If you walk clear to the larger dam (Brea Dam) the round trip distance is 2.6 miles. (East tunnel has the better trails.) See the web page “Brea Dam (upstream side)” for more information about the trails on that side of Bastanchury.
The Brea Creek
Every dam has at least one creek associated with it. (A “stream” if it is a creek with water flowing all the time. We don’t have rivers; we are a desert.) The creek seen under the small dam is part of that zero slope creek mentioned above, with the standing water that makes the trees and brush so lush north of the San Juan Park. This creek has no name because it is so short. (From Hermosa to the golf course.) The output of this little dam is a definite creek but for only 500 feet or so, where it becomes part of Brea Creek which goes right down the middle of golf course. Even in the summer, runoff from yards produces a tiny bit of water flowing in Brea Creek. That water drops down through a large pipe under the two tunnels that are so prominent under Bastanchury. Only in a storm does the water flood the golf course and go through those tunnels. The reason for water normally going under the tunnels is keep the tunnels dry so they could be used to conduct golf carts to the fairways south of Bastanchury. That was before a storm destroyed the golf course on the downstream side of the tunnels. The tunnels are now for bikers, horses and walkers. A sign warns golfers not to go through there anymore.
Fullerton Creek which is blocked by Fullerton Dam to form Craig Park has less water when it rains but has more homes on either side of it up stream to produce more yard runoff all year long. The Brea Creek is the largest creek in Fullerton when it rains. It comes from the hills of Carbon Canyon passing through Aerovista Park (city of Brea), Fullerton Golf Course, the Brea Reservoirs (flood basin), and passing under Fullerton largest dam; Brea Dam. Both Fullerton and Brea creeks after passing under their corresponding dams are much smaller and concrete lined for the rest of their journey to Coyote Creek. They are smaller and concrete lined because the dams limit the flow in even the most severe storm. That’s their purpose. Flood control dams do more than prevent floods. They allow a stream to carry no more than a certain amount of water so that it can go through a city without taking up very much room. Often going underground through pipes.
If the restroom is still working at San Juan Park, perhaps you can put up a sign that says call this number to reserve the park and have the restrooms open. Even if no one does, having the sign there removes the stigma of Parks and Recreation being so dumb as to have a restroom and then close it.