This isn’t a park, but a really good parking place for starting on three trails. This webpage describes getting on those three tails and it is also an opportunity to talk about the encroachment of trees in front of places that were once intended (and still described) as having a view.
_____On a map, the Summit House Restaurant is on Fullerton Parks Department land. Hopefully, the city is taking in pretty good rent. (That place looks like they charge a lot.) There is an arrangement where the public can use their parking lot to go on three important trails. There is even a Fullerton Park within what appears to be the grounds of the restaurant; tiny Vista Park. Vista Park seems to have nothing to do with the trail most closely associated with the Summit House Restaurant; Panorama Trail. There are two other trails that also have nothing to do with Vista Park but like Panorama Trail are accessible from the restaurant’s parking lot. These three trails are described below.
Trails and parks are well known for being left-over land which is why their shapes have no straight lines on the map. The left-over nature of the land sometimes means access to them involves passing over private property. The key to such arrangements is a friendly relationship with the private owners. In this case 200 feet of golf course property and oil company property have to be traversed from the parking lot to get to the start of Panorama Trail. It is hard to see where the Parks Department trail begins, but certainly it is theirs near the two viewing spots. The land around the two viewing spots is part of a Fullerton Parks “Panorama Preserve.” Preserve means there’s budget for maintenance to make it fire safe, but not for lawn or even trails for roaming around in. (That may explain why there’s so many fences.)
Starting Panorama Trail From Summit Restaurant Parking Lot
The Summit Restaurant parking lot can be entered from either State College or Bastanchury. There’s a very large parking lot uphill from the restaurant. Park at the extreme north end. Look for a large gate west of the parking lot. That gate should be open after 6:30 AM. Just past the gate you will see a tee-off green for Hole 3 of the Coyote Hills Golf Course. To get a better view of where the hole is, you will probably be on golf course property. (There are signs that direct you to the Panorama Trail is.) Along the way there are several very wide trails away from the main trail. They lead to more private property; either the oil company or the golf course. Although private property, exploring a short ways they have found awkward to police. Just keep in mind that golfers sped up to $94 to play. Where they tee off on hole 3 is very close to where you are supposed to be. Further up is hole 7. This is a little farther off trail but it is thru trees that will mask your misdemeanor. If no golfers are there check out that drive. The hole is as much down as it is far. It is said to have the largest changes in altitude in the county. So steep is this course, the golf course management doesn’t even allow golfers to walk it, let alone us poor folk. Click here to see the golf course layout.
A bit further west are the two very prominent observing places. This view is the climax of a trail described elsewhere in this website. (See Panorama Trail) Continue on for about a third of a mile through the preserve. You will emerge onto a gravel sidewalk next to Ladera Vista Drive. It’s pretty easy to find your way downhill from there to where a well maintained trail takes you down into a ravine. Going up hill on the other side of the ravine the trail will then curve to the right where you will pass the Little League Park. Out and back to that point is 3.0 miles.
Access to East Coyote Hills Trail
There’s a much easier access to the East Coyote Hills Trail from the parking lot. Just walk down there. What is described here is how you would find your way down there if you were on the Panorama trail walking from the west. (It is by far the more interesting way down.) What you would see is something like the picture to the right. Follow the guide rail to the left. You are now walking through BreitBurn Energy Partners land. If there are workers there, they are very good at answering questions about what they are doing. They are used to walkers on the trail. It is one of the few places where working oil wells are so close to the general public. It is particularly interesting how they recycle the water that comes up along with the oil. (They actually push the now filtered water back down in another place.) This area is also where golf carts putter about. Golfers too know to expect folks walking on the trail. Remember your place in the social status, though. They are spending about $50 an hour to be there. They know you are spending zilch. If you are offended by what they may think of you, don’t forget you have your own prejudicial hubris watching them climb back into their golf cart instead of walking.
There are sign posts to reassure you, you are on the right path between the oil wells. When you reach the East Coyote Hills Trial the paths merge going east. Make a hair pin turn and take The East Coyote Hills Trail down hill (west) for almost a mile along Bastanchury. One goal is where the golfers park their BMWs. There’s even a restaurant there. Prices are surprisingly affordable at $9 to $12 for lunch. Out and back to this point is 1.3 miles. Longer journeys are described in the webpage East Coyote Hills Trail.
Access to Craig Park
Described above was a way to get down to the East Coyote Hills Trail from atop the Panorama Trail. It is a very interesting way to go down in that you can experience a golf course and oil wells up close. But there’s a far easier way to get to the East Coyote Hills Trail directly from the parking lot. Merely find your way down there using the parking lot’s entry road. Craig Park is from there, .6 of a mile away. Craig Park is the largest most attended county park in North Orange County. To walk to Craig Park from East Coyote Hills Trail, first cross Bastanchury and check out the view from Mountain View Park. Cross State College to the trail that goes down (north) along State College. Walk another 1/2 mile. You can’t miss the trail that leads into the park. It is another 900 feet (now a dirt trail) into the park where the dirt becomes concrete trail, a sidewalk, that is like the paths throughout the park. Yes this is an official way into the park which is free for walkers. For more on this trail into Craig Park, and the trails to take within the park, go to the webpage Craig Park.
Vista Park (and a wheelchair accessible trail)
This park is an odd duck. It may have been a deal struck between the restaurant and the Parks Department. It is something of a gazebo with a place for an audience. It doesn’t have a view anymore because the trees have grown up. Perhaps of more value than the gazebo is a sidewalk that leads from their and goes around the hill the restaurant is on. For visitors to the park who are wheelchair bound, this trail is not to be missed. The sidewalk is about .2 of a mile around with lots of places to stop for a view; night or day. Yes there are picturesque lights all the way around.
It was mentioned above about the two view spots on the Panorama Trail that have their view north east blocked by trees. Across the street in the not apply named Mountain View Park, its view has also been overgrown with no way to see north east. There is a place about a 50 feet into golf course property that has this view, but no other high point for seeing north east. There is one other place but its lower down and that is right in front of the gazebo. It is the view the audience had before the shrubs and trees dominated the landscape. But even this spot will be overgrown by landscaping, so go there now while there is still a view.
Summit House Restaurant Mystery
There is the business mystery of whether the restaurant owns or rents. But a much more satisfying mystery is why Bastanchury and State College meet at the top of a hill. Bastanchury kind of meanders around, so why didn’t it meander in such a way that it would go somewhat around the “summit?” (Hint. Look at Google Earth, not Google Maps.)
Click on a picture to see it full screen . . .
Suggestions for Parks Department
There’s little that walkers or occasional visitors to Vista Park can do there. But by putting a bench down below the gazebo, it will signal to those who see the bench to walk down to it to see what it faces. Here’s what that bench would see…