My daughter gave me a box of beautiful rose-gold metal straws for Christmas, exactly what I asked for. It was also a gift for her, as she got to tease me about being a VSCO girl (apparently there’s a big metal straw and Hydro Flask component, but I still don’t fully understand the rest of it). It was the latest addition to my small list of ways to be more environmentally responsible—canvas bags for groceries, reusable water bottles, electric car, and recycling.
I’ve got a long way to go to match the folks we’ve highlighted in our cover story, Sustaining Orange County (Page 68). You’ll meet leaders and entrepreneurs who are making a difference in areas such as waste management, saving the oceans, and renewable energy. They’re passionate and engaged, and the biggest message from most of them is that every little bit helps. Check out the tips and advice: You’re likely doing some things already, and you can probably add one or two more actions. I’m going to think more about packaging and food waste, and I’m definitely going to visit the zero-waste shop and refill station we feature here (Page 75). As we attempt to adjust to a new COVID-19 reality, it might be an opportune time to take stock of what negative environmental habits need tweaks and which ones we can eliminate entirely.
Speaking of coronavirus (I made it two-thirds of the way through this note without mentioning it!), we’re making shifts while keeping our focus on the great things in Orange County. Some of the features you’re used to in Orange Coast might be different—dining reviews are tricky now—but we’re committed to looking toward the future with hope and optimism. We’re at work on our annual Best Of package for July, and we’re grateful for the amazing response to our May issue. In happy news, we’re excited to share that for the ninth consecutive time, Orange Coast has been honored for excellence in magazine publishing with Maggie Awards—this time for Best Overall Design and Best Editorial Layout. We hope you are celebrating the positives in your lives as well, and staying safe!
Ms. Alan Gibbons Editor-in-Chief
Restaurants in Orange County have started to open this week for customers who want more than takeout food. The county lifted some restrictions over the weekend to allow restaurants to reopen with proper safety measures in place. Selanne Steak Tavern in Laguna Beach opens its doors tonight for diners who make advance reservations and wear a face covering to enter and exit the restaurant.
Places with outdoor seating seem the first candidates to get diners back to their tables. Guests sat on the outdoor patio at Lido Bottle Works in Newport Beach on Saturday evening. Chef Amy Lebrun described her mood and the strange circumstances of this period, exclaiming “I’m plating food again!”
Many local establishments are taking precautions beyond the official guidelines. Glasspar in Dana Point, which will reopen at the end of this week, installed hands-free doors for the restrooms, has single-use menus, and employees there will wear clear cloth masks or full face shields. “It’s important to us to be able to convey to our guests how genuinely happy we are to see them, while ensuring both their safety and the safety of our staff,” says chef-owner Rob Wilson. “These clear face shields and masks allow us to continue to welcome and serve guests with a smile.”
The Winery begins taking reservations today for dine-in experiences starting Friday. The locations in Tustin and Newport Beach have been fitted with clear partitions throughout to contribute to diners’ safety. “(The) gorgeous custom dividers … are made from medical-grade Lexan (and) are transparent for a ‘barely-there’ feel that won’t distract from our guest experience,” says co-owner JC Clow. Employees at The Winery will have their temperature checked before starting work and will wear face coverings and gloves, tables will not be preset, and the restaurant will have a reduced capacity to adhere to physical distancing guidelines.
These are just a few examples of steps O.C. restaurants are taking to get customers back into the dining rooms. When you’re ready to eat out, call your favorite place to see what measures are in place and then head over. Provided we can stay safe, it will be good to show our love to the local restaurants, and they will be delighted to see you, too.
Orange County has many outdoor trails to explore. Discover ocean vistas at sunset, waterfalls in the wilderness,and wind-swept mountain peaks with 360-degree views.
Sitton Peak Cleveland National Forest
Distance: 10 miles Elevation gain: 2,150 feet Difficulty: Moderate Dogs: On leash Best time: Fall to spring Need to know: An Adventure Pass is required for trailhead parking.
This hike gives you a double-digit challenge on well-marked trails off the Ortega Highway corridor. Park in the lot across from Ortega Oaks Candy Store, then carefully cross the highway. The trail begins just to the west of the store.
Follow the single-track trail over the ridge and down into an oak-lined valley. At 1.9 miles, you connect with the Verdugo Truck Trail. Turn right and follow the dirt double-track for another mile, where you’ll reach the junction with the Sitton Peak Truck Trail on the right.
The trail climbs and winds around a couple of ridges for 1.25 miles to a marker for the Sitton Peak Trail. This trail requires some scrambling and light bushwhacking up to the ridge. The 360-degree view from the 3,273-foot summit overlooks a wide area of the Cleveland National Forest. On clear days, you can see the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island. When you’re ready to head back, retrace your steps to the trailhead. Bring at least two liters of water and good sun protection. Stop in at the Candy Store for a well-earned post-hike treat.
Moro Canyon Loop Crystal Cove State Park
Distance: 5.5 miles Elevation gain: 820 feet Difficulty: Strenuous Best time: Year-round Dogs: No Need to know: Parking at Crystal Cove State Park requires a day‑use fee, payable at the ranger station.
This loop is a favorite route in the Crystal Cove backcountry, with ridgeline views of the coastline and a shady canyon that feels a world away from suburban life. All this, and it is easily accessible from Newport Coast.
Park at the El Moro Visitor Center on the inland side of Coast Highway. The trail begins at the southwest end of the parking lot. Follow the dirt path along the car campsites, continuing down the dusty trail to the bottom of the hill. Turn left and head over the bridge to continue on the El Moro Canyon Trail. Continue up the canyon, keeping a watchful eye for deer, roadrunners, rabbits, lizards, and other critters.
At 1.4 miles, turn right and head up the East Cutoff Trail, affectionately known as “I Think I Can,” a slow and steady climb to the El Moro Ridge Trail. Turn right here and head downhill toward the coast. This stretch has some steep sections where trekking poles might be handy. There’s a good reason many hikers call this “BFI” (Big Fat Incline).
The coastal views are beautiful. When you see Coast Highway, look for the trail marker on the right, leading you down to El Moro Canyon near the bridge, and follow the dirt trail back to the visitor center.
Las Ramblas Trail San Juan Capistrano
Distance: 4.5 miles Elevation gain: 1,150 feet Difficulty: Moderate Best time: Year‑round, especially at sunset Dogs: On leash Need to know: Check the street signs for trailhead parking regulations.
The grassy hilltops of San Juan Capistrano offer wonderful networks of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Time your hike to catch the sunset over Dana Point Harbor and Catalina Island in the distance. Be sure to bring a headlamp to light your path on the return trip.
Although the trail is entirely within San Juan Capistrano city limits, park at the end of Camino de Los Mares in San Clemente. Follow the North Los Mares Trail on a slow-but-steady climb for the first mile, turning left at the ridge on the Prima Deshecha Trail. Keep left at the Las Ramblas Trail until you reach the saddle and then turn right to climb the steep hill on Patriot Trail. Once you reach the top, take a moment to catch your breath and take in the views. From here, the trail follows the roller-coaster ridgeline to a vista point with a flagpole and spectacular view at sunset.
Keep your eyes open for wildlife, including deer, bobcats, and the occasional rattler.
On your return, take the junction to the lower route around the ridge, back to Prima Deschecha and Los Mares. Our favorite post-hike treat? Fish tacos at Wahoo’s.
Salt Creek Trail Laguna Niguel
Distance: 6.8 miles Elevation gain: 500 feet Difficulty: Easy Dogs: On leash Best time: When rain closes other local trails Need to know: Family friendly
Many of the local wilderness parks shut down their trails after the rain. This protects them from erosion and damage, but it presents a challenge when you’re looking to get your fix of the outdoors.
The Salt Creek Trail in Laguna Niguel is a great alternative. When the dirt trails are closed, this meandering bike path provides a beautiful destination (Salt Creek Beach), and you can hike or jog it anytime, even in the rain. No, it’s not the dirt-under-your-feet experience, but it provides a good distance through a wild canyon on a weatherproof path.
The trail begins at the southwest end of the sports park on Chapparosa in Laguna Niguel. Follow the path as it parallels Salt Creek, keeping your eyes open for rabbits, frogs, and the occasional snake. The path crosses under Niguel Road, Camino del Avion, and PCH via tunnels. The main path is marked with a dashed yellow line—a reminder to keep right as bicyclists share the route.
When you reach Salt Creek Beach, you can extend your hike with a beach walk, returning via the same path when you’re ready to head back.
Chiquito Falls Cleveland National Forest
Distance: 9 miles Elevation gain: 2,900 feet Difficulty: Strenuous Dogs: On leash Best time: Spring, after rainfall Need to know: An Adventure Pass is needed for trailhead parking.
Chiquito Falls is a seasonal waterfall best viewed soon after decent rainfall. The trailhead begins across the street from Ortega Oaks Candy Store on Ortega Highway.
Start at the San Juan Loop Trailhead, which leads to a short climb over the nearest ridge and a descent toward San Juan Creek. You get a great view of San Juan Falls—a popular destination due to its proximity to the trailhead—but continue on the trail that follows the creek downstream.
At 1.1 miles, there’s a marker for the creek crossing where you’ll boulder-hop across. The trail continues up a smaller tributary for nearly another mile before turning sharply back and heading up the steep slope. Continue up and around the ridge to a high point of 2,700 feet above sea level before descending to Chiquito Falls. A short spur trail leads to the top of the falls, while the main trail continues on to connect with the San Juan Trail.
Hike this trail after a good spring storm, as the water slows to a trickle quickly and dries up by summer. Follow the same route back to the trailhead.
Aliso Peak AlisoWood Canyons Wilderness Park
Distance: 1.6 miles Elevation gain: 530 feet Difficulty: Easy Dogs: Not allowed When to go: Year‑round Need to know: The hardest part is the way back
This short trail is officially part of Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, but it isn’t connected to the more familiar trails in the park. The trailhead begins at the west end of Seaview Park in Laguna Niguel, where you can park along Talavera Drive.
Hike through green, grassy Seaview Park to the west end where you’ll find information signs with park rules and the beginning of a wide dirt path. The trail follows the ridgeline with Aliso Canyon on your right. You’ll pass a number of picnic tables in the first 0.3 miles, after which the trail descends steeply. Follow the signposts marking the trail. At 0.7 miles, you’ll reach a junction with the Toovet Trail, ascending from Laguna Beach below. Bear right, heading up the steep, final push to the summit of Aliso Peak.
At the peak, you’re rewarded with a bench to sit on and panoramic views of the coastline. This is a great spot to catch the sunset (be sure you bring a headlamp) or watch for whales during their annual migration. Save some energy for the return trip. Unlike most peak hikes, on this hike, you do most of your climbing on the way back.
Black Star Canyon Waterfall Cleveland National Forest
Distance: 6 miles Elevation gain: 300 feet Difficulty: Strenuous Best time: Fall to spring Dogs: Not advised Need to know: The last three-quarters of a mile to the falls requires bushwhacking, boulder scrambling, and likely getting your feet wet.
The trail begins at the public end of Black Star Canyon Road, just before the gate. Continue hiking past the gate and up the road. You’ll pass private property on either side, as the road turns to dirt, winding under oak trees and old farm equipment. About 2.4 miles in, the road veers sharply left, but here you bear right, down to the creek. What has been a leisurely stroll now gets challenging, as you make your way upstream along the creek for the three-quarters of a mile to the falls.
The “path” here is sporadic at best. Keep to the left when possible, and take care to avoid the poison oak. Travel up this stretch is slow as you bushwhack and boulder scramble upstream. The payoff is the waterfall, with a twin cascade emerging from an abandoned mine shaft when the water is flowing strong. This is a good place to rest and enjoy the fruit of your labor before you turn around and make your way back.
Dreaded Hill Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park
Distance: 5.25 miles Elevation gain: 860 feet Difficulty: Moderate Best time: Year-round Dogs: No Need to know: Hikers, bikers, and equestrians share trails here.
Whiting Ranch is surrounded by subdivisions, but inside the oak-lined canyons it’s easy to be transported to another time and place. This lollipop loop climbs up the appropriately named Dreaded Hill. Unlike the stair machine at your gym, this climb rewards you with panoramic views of the county.
You can start this trail at the parking lot for the Portola Ranch Wahoo’s. At the north end of the lot, a bike path leads down to Serrano Creek. Follow the path under Portola Parkway, into Whiting Ranch on the Serrano Creek Trail. After a mile of easy warm-up, turn left at the junction and head up the Dreaded Hill Trail. This trail climbs relentlessly, reaching a top elevation of nearly 1,600 feet.
From the summit, follow the trail down the other side, bearing right toward to Four Corners, a popular spot to rest, refill your water bottle, and regroup. From here, take the Whiting Trail downhill and back to the Serrano Creek Trail. Tread quietly as you hike through the oak trees back to the trailhead, and if you’re lucky, you might spy a family of deer.
Santiago Peak Cleveland National Forest
Distance: 16 miles Elevation gain: 4,470 feet Difficulty: Strenuous Best time: Fall to spring Dogs: On leash Need to know: You’ll need an Adventure Pass for parking, and a high-clearance vehicle is recommended.
This epic hike climbs to the highest point in O.C.—5,689-foot Santiago Peak. Just getting to the trailhead is part of the adventure, with a 6-mile trip down a bumpy dirt road into Trabuco Canyon for which you’ll want a high-clearance vehicle.
Park at the signed trailhead area and follow the road beyond the gate into Holy Jim Canyon, crisscrossing the seasonal creek several times. About one mile into your hike, turn left at the junction to head up the switchbacks toward the Main Divide Road and begin the climb in earnest.
When you reach the Main Divide Road, turn right. As the road climbs the eastern slope, you’ll catch glimpses of the Inland Empire. Watch carefully for the sign marking Upper Holy Jim Trail, which branches out from Main Divide Road at about the 5-mile mark. This single-track trail climbs up a ridgeline, ultimately rejoining the Main Divide Road for the final stretch to the top.
The summit is easily identified by the cluster of cell towers. Make your way around to take in the views. Break for lunch, and head back down the way you came. When you return to Holy Jim Canyon, take the quarter-mile trip upstream to see the falls before heading back to the trailhead.
Hiking to the summit of Santiago Peak takes the better part of a day. Start early, take plenty of water, food, and layers of clothing, and be prepared for a change in weather. There can even be snow at the summit.
Laguna Ridge Loop Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
Distance: 3.6 miles Elevation gain: 930 feet Difficulty: Strenuous Best time: Year‑round Dogs: No Need to know: This trail is exposed. Go early or late to avoid the heat of midday. Day-use fee required for parking at Big Bend.
Begin this hike at the Big Bend staging area for Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. Follow the trail that parallels Laguna Canyon Road for a short distance before turning uphill on the steep Laguna Ridge Trail. The climb is tough, ascending nearly 925 feet in a short 1.25 miles. At the top of the ridge, turn right and hike up the Bommer Ridge Trail. This ridgeline route gives you great views of Emerald and Laguna canyons and the coastline beyond. Follow the Bommer Ridge for about a mile, turning right at the junction with the Big Bend Trail. This final trail descends back to the staging area, closing the loop and returning to the parking lot.
Laguna Coast Wilderness has a network of trails that allows you to mix and match your own route to suit the time and distance you want. But no visit is complete without some dirt time on Bommer Ridge.
Looking for something on the lighter side? Click below to download guides to some of our favorite O.C. walks.
Glasspar is the swankiest fish market in O.C., at least as of press time in early April. Rosy ahi, Scottish salmon, and pudgy scallops glisten with freshness behind glass display cases. Twice a week, locals line up 6 feet apart, awaiting their turn to buy seafood typically sold to resorts and upscale restaurants. That gorgeous fillet of Alaska halibut is ready to rock the grill or saute because it’s been expertly skinned, cleaned, and portioned in Glasspar’s shiny kitchen.
Batch cocktails and discounted bottles of wine also beg to be taken home. And perhaps consumed with desperate gusto. Such is life during virus wartime.
Before this ad hoc micromarket opened, Glasspar was Dana Point’s dashing new seafood spot on the footprint of Mahé, a longtime player past its glory years. But a terrific location made it a fixer with promise, so chef-owner Rob Wilson and team went all in with an extreme makeover that suits Wilson’s dream of a seafood destination built for a long run.
After a mid-December debut, Glasspar found its sea legs faster than most indie newbies. Wilson’s decades of experience include tours of duty at the Ritz-Carlton and Montage Laguna Beach and give this newcomer a stellar head start. The name Glasspar is a tribute to the iconic maker of fiberglass boats designed and built in midcentury Costa Mesa. Wilson grew up fishing from his father’s 1965 Seafair Sedan. “I’ll always be tied to this coast,” Wilson says. “My first job was washing dishes at the Dana Point Chart House.”
Glasspar’s menu stars no-nonsense renditions of the day’s finest and freshest. Wilson sources from an ace wholesaler and selected local fishermen. It’s a high crime to obscure primo goods with convoluted recipes, so Wilson keeps it simple. It doesn’t get simpler than oysters on the half shell, and the selection is broad enough to suit the pickiest slurper. The 10-seat oyster bar supplies a vibe with comfy eating, affable servers, and an icy stage for cracked Jonah crab claws, whole lobsters, and crab legs.
Six fat white Baja prawns in a cocktail are sweet, chilly delights beside dots of zingy sauce and a tangle of cool ribbons of cucumber slick with vinaigrette. Yellowtail crudo needs help; it’s drowning on this visit in a sea of aguachile that requires a spoon. Far better are the oysters Rockefeller bubbling in a concoction of Pernod, spinach, bacon, and cotija cheese. Wilson says he’s not ready to share the entire magic formula, so for now, he makes every order himself. Charred octopus boosted with cracked olives, pole beans, and romesco is popular and likely the most contemporary of the starters. It’s not daring, but rather, a commendable execution of a tricky dish.
Batter-fried cod and duck fat potatoes, a special, should have permanent entree status. It’s a winner with its IPA-spiked batter and flaky cod. And, oh, those duck fat fries—crispy wedges of deep gold delight—make this the fish ’n’ chips of dreams. Another side dish, charred baby Brussels sprouts, nudges the fresh line-caught Catalina swordfish with lentils and balsamic reduction into the highly recommended lane.
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Do not overlook the trio of Prime beef offerings hiding in the bottom corner of the menu. These options allow surf-and-turf combos or welcome relief for that seafood avoider in your party. Blackberry-thyme braised short rib is a surprise bestseller. Grilled Prime hanger steak gets the bistro treatment, complete with roasted bone marrow.
Much attention to libations ensures half the menu is devoted to well-considered cocktails, wine, and beer. The bar serves as a draft room since both wine and beer are on tap. Thanks to some nifty new delivery tech, 10 wines we see only in bottles, such as Tablas Creek, are on tap here. Cocktails cover classics, and house signature drinks, say, the Club Lido, are named for models in the long-retired Glasspar line.
Elevation and wraparound windows give Glasspar a bit of a perch over the harbor, pulling boatloads of natural light into the room. It’s a sprawling venue that meanders from patio to fire pits, bar to dining room. Once gatherings and events resume, Glasspar is the next new spot for coastal celebrations.
But for now, Glasspar is Dana Point’s sweet find for ultra-fresh fish at splendid prices. Wilson is on hand to give five-star advice for coaxing the best from the day’s catch. And though Glasspar brings locals together 6 feet apart, Wilson would rather be in the kitchen every night. When that time comes, Glasspar will pivot once more, giving Dana Point a destination where seafood lovers gather close enough to raise a toast to better times.
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24961 Dana Point Harbor Drive,
5 BEST DISHES Batter-fried cod and duck fat fries
Baja prawn cocktail
Braised short rib
Starters $6 to $19; entrees $22 to $87
Diners ordered 12,500 oysters in Glasspar’s first five weeks.
Celebrate the holiday with curbside barbecue and ready-to-grill meal kits from these local restaurants.
Note: Please check each restaurant’s website or social media for the latest details.
Adya This weekend, get your grill ready for chicken and paneer skewers with veggies. Turmeric-marinated sea bass is also available. Ready-to-grill meal kits come with watermelon chaat, Indian-style street corn, cumin rice, naan, and mint chutney. Email email@example.com to place your order. $35 to $45 for two people, Available for pickup at the Anaheim and Irvine locations and the Friday Artisan Pop-Up at OC Baking Company in Orange, adyaoc.com
Falasophy In time for the holiday, the restaurant launched ready-to-grill Lebanese barbecue kits. Meals include kebobs, roasted veggies, garlic sauce, zaatar pita chips and pita bread, and your choice of hummus, baba ganoush, or muhammara ($39). A $59 meal includes extra dip, grape leaves, and cheese taquitos. At Irvine Spectrum Center, 949-536-5008, falasophy.com
Georgia’s Restaurant Family packs include the fried chicken bucket (eight pieces) with two large sides and Nana’s signature cornbread ($20). Get your choice of two entrees with four sides, house salad, and cornbread ($35 for two people). The Family Feast Special includes eight pieces of fried chicken, six pieces of fried catfish, four sides, house salad, and cornbread ($50 for four people). At Anaheim Packing House, 440 S. Anaheim Boulevard, Anaheim, 714-906-1900, georgias-restaurant.com
Haven Craft Kitchen + Bar Chef Craig Brady offers a meal kit featuring a 36-ounce stout-braised pulled pork shoulder with cumin cilantro slaw, potato and green bean salad with bacon vinaigrette, and four Portuguese buns from OC Baking Company. $49 for four people, 190 S. Glassell St., Orange, 714-221-0680, havencraftkitchen.com
Khan Saab Desi Craft Kitchen
The Fullerton newcomer is offering a family takeout barbecue kit with your choice of smoked beef kebob, Malai chicken tikka, or Afghani Seekh kebob, and served with vegetable biryani. All phone orders get a 10 percent discount. $50 for four people, 229 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, 714-853-1081, khansaaboc.com
Lido Bottle Works
The weekend barbecue kit includes 1-pound chimichurri-marinated Prime flank steak, four garlic-herbed marinated shrimp skewers, four white corn on the cobs, potato salad, summer gem salad, and chocolate chip cookies. $60 for four people, 3408 Via Oporto, Newport Beach, 949-529-2784, lidobottleworks.com/product/weekend-bbq-kit/
Old Vine Kitchen & Bar The family-style feast includes pork short ribs with strawberry serrano barbecue sauce and sides of elote slaw and twice-baked corn bread ($75 for four people). For dessert, indulge in a fresh strawberry pie ($40 for six people). Order in advance for pickup on Sunday or Monday. 2937 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, 714-545-1411, oldvinekitchenbar.com/heat-serve-meals
Olea The Memorial Day meal package includes a large organic butter lettuce and herbed goat cheese salad, two 8-ounce herb grilled Faroe Island salmon filets with Valencia orange gastrique, two 24-ounce Double R Ranch ribeye steaks, large sides of rustic mashed potatoes and sautéed farmers market vegetables, and housemade oatmeal raisin cookies. Order in advance for pickup on Sunday or Monday. Just grill or reheat to serve. $169 for six people, 2001 Westcliff Drive, Newport Beach, 949-287-6807, oleanewportbeach.com
Provenance On top of takeout cocktails, chef Cathy Pavlos is also offering grill kits with your choice of Santa Maria-style smoked pork tenderloin, marinated chicken breast, and dark beer-poached bratswurst ($36 for two people, $68 for four people). These include a choice of two sides such as borracho baked beans and potato salad. Top your meal off with housemade peanut butter cookie and chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches ($7). 2531 Eastbluff Drive, Newport Beach, 949-718-0477, provenanceoc.com
Taco Rosa Take home barbecue grill kits with items to make barbecue tacos al pastor, barbecue tacos asada, and barbecue chicken breast. Order by Saturday at 5 p.m. for pickup on Sunday. $40 to 50 for four people, 949-720-0980, Newport Beach; 714-505-6080, Irvine, tacorosa.com
Research findings …
Organizers are doing this really important work of reminding people that their homes don’t have to look like magazines. What organized means is not that everything is pretty and color-coded but that you can find what you need relatively quickly.
Staying organized …
One of the rules that most organizers have is a place for everything and everything in its place. I’ve heard some say that if you can find it in five minutes, then you’re organized enough. If you don’t know where to put something, put it with the other things you use at the same time.
Organizing a closet …
If you’re working on a closet … take everything out and organize it so you see what you have. Then figure out what (stays) and put it back in and organize it by section. People’s inclination is … to go out and buy all these organizing tools, but that’s not necessary. Marie Kondo just uses old boxes, like gift boxes, to organize drawers.
Are you in the mood for people-watching along the coast, followed by a picnic surrounded by nature? Do you want to speed along a curvy road in a sportscar before breakfast? Perhaps you’re in a contemplative state of mind, looking for a quiet vista. O.C. drives offer these rewards—some take an hour; on others, the interesting part lasts for 10 minutes. Although the past 50 years have seen a population explosion and the quieter parts of the county have filled in, it’s still possible to find a satisfying road on a Sunday morning. The good news is if you know what you want, there are roads here to take you there.
Modjeska Canyon Only a few miles deep, Modjeska Canyon features a seasonal creek that runs down the narrow floor, surrounded by a canopy of trees with tidy homes tucked against the hillsides. The queen of the canyon is the Modjeska House, but at the end of the road is another treat: the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary. This educational center has informative nature trails. There is also the arduous Harding Truck Trail to the top of Modjeska Peak. A fun variation on entering the canyon is to use Modjeska Grade Road—about 2 miles south on Santiago Canyon Road. This narrow side road runs up then drops precipitously down a grade into the canyon. It’s one of the tightest-turning 2 miles in O.C.. The trailhead for Santiago Truck Trail, a great mountain bike route, branches off this road.
Helena Modjeska Historic House and Gardens is a National Historic Landmark, home to the Shakespearean actress from 1888 to 1906. She lovingly created the gardens that surround the large cottage. The historic site won a restoration grant in 2018 from the National Park Service. Docent-led tours are available by reservation at OC Parks.
Carbon Canyon Nestled in a tight canyon connecting Brea and Chino Hills, Carbon Canyon Road’s two lanes pass through the enclave communities of Olinda and Sleepy Hollow. It can feel like you’re in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada as the road weaves toward Highway 71 in Chino Hills. On the Brea side, stretch your legs at Carbon Canyon Regional Park. This 124-acre park has a 4-acre lake with piers for fishing. An easy hike takes you to a grove of coastal redwoods. To extend your canyon drive, take Imperial Highway south across the 91 Freeway, where it turns into Cannon Street, before hitting Santiago Canyon Road near Irvine Regional Park.
Eat! TAPS Fish House & Brewery is a great option in handsome downtown Brea. The restaurant sits inside a bustling brick building, and the menu is loaded with delights such as Mama Manzella’s meatballs, Cold Harbor cioppino, and nearly 40 award-winning ales and lagers. Plus, there’s a Sunday brunch.
Avenida La Pata Opened in 2016, this section of road connects Antonio Parkway from Ortega Highway to an existing portion of Avenida La Pata in the hills above San Clemente. It allows for a continuous route from San Juan Capistrano to San Clemente without the 5 Freeway. Or take Santiago Canyon Road and head over to Antonio Parkway for a scenic, inland alternative to get from the 91 Freeway all the way to the South County line. The most pleasant part of this drive is the newer section of four-lane Avenida La Pata that rolls across open hillsides. For a bonus, when you hit Avenida Pico and turn toward the water, you arrive at The Outlets at San Clemente, which hosts South OC Cars and Coffee on Saturdays. It’s a fitting place to end as you take in the sights and sounds of enthusiast-owned automobiles.
Just a mile or so from the outlet mall, on El Camino Real, is Iva Lee’s, a Southern restaurant serving Creole cuisine with modern takes on classic recipes, including new twists on combinations of grits, glazes, ham hocks, and pork chops.
Coast Highway Over the course of the 37 miles from Seal Beach to Dana Point, there are about 75 traffic lights and multiple names for Highway 1, Coast Highway, Pacific Coast Highway, or PCH (but never The PCH, please). Taking the coastal route is not about getting somewhere fast but about soaking in the beach vibe and views. There’s a lot to take in: three nature reserves (Seal Beach, Bolsa Chica, and Upper Newport Bay); five state beaches (Bolsa Chica, Huntington, Corona del Mar, Crystal Cove, and Doheny); and three expansive harbors (Huntington, Newport, and Dana Point). Traveling south just past Warner Avenue, you’ll find the lovely stretch along Bolsa Chica with unobstructed views of the ocean on one side and the ecological reserve on the other with trails among the tidal zone. As you pass dog beach and the cliffs at Goldenwest Street, you’ll see surfers changing next to their cars, shaking water from their ears. At Main Street, you enter the heart of nuevo Huntington Beach, with resort hotels and shopping at Pacific City. This stretch—and Main Beach in Laguna—provides the best people-watching on the coast, with masses crossing at each light. Enjoy the view of miles of golden sand from Huntington Beach to Newport Beach. When you cross the Santa Ana River, what you lose in ocean views you gain in the Newport Beach lifestyle. Ferrari dealerships, yacht clubs, and bayfront homes fill the landscape. Consider stopping at Castaways Park overlooking the bridge that crosses Newport Bay. From here, you’ll see Saddleback in the distance, the harbor spread out in front of you, and the ocean reaching to the horizon with Santa Catalina Island on its edge. As you head into Corona del Mar, imagine what it was like when it was founded in 1904—an isolated village reached by muddy carriage road. For refreshment, Café Jardin at Sherman Library and Gardens offers a French menu amid impressive botanical displays.
The most scenic stretch of Coast Highway opens up at Crystal Cove State Beach. The speed limit increases, and there’s a chance to enjoy brisk driving, feeling the wind off the glorious Pacific. Consider a stop at The Beachcomber restaurant near the Crystal Cove Cottages, where there is a feeling of a simpler time of sand and surf. Coast Highway moves freely past the beach at Moro campground, then you have to slow as you enter Laguna Beach. Passing Main Beach shows a broad spectrum of humanity: A parrot sits on a man’s shoulder; barefoot high schoolers carouse; lean volleyball players jump next to slumped-over vagabonds; basketball players bounce in time with the pounding surf. It’s slow going through South Laguna Beach, with barely a glimpse of the water until reaching the five-star resorts of the Montage Laguna Beach; Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel; and Monarch Beach Resort. For kids, the playground at Aliso Beach is a welcome stop. Continue to Dana Point, where Highway 1 turns sharply onto the 5 Freeway—but Pacific Coast Highway carries on for an additional 3 miles, where it turns into El Camino Real at Camino Capistrano in San Clemente.
There are plenty of fine dining restaurants with great views along this drive. But consider a vintage diner for something different:
Harbor House Cafe, Sunset Beach and Dana Point
Open 24 hours since 1939, these diners are full of movie memorabilia and antique displays. The menu is massive, including 25 omelets, 13 salads, and 15 wraps and burgers.
Cappy’s Cafe, Newport Beach
This institution offers generous portions, fresh fish, and a full bar. For 62 years, it has been a local morning hangout and a late-night gathering place.
Galley Cafe, Newport Beach
Hidden off Bayside Drive and overlooking the Balboa Yacht Basin, the small diner is a favorite with local mariners. Open since 1957, it’s known for hearty breakfasts, burgers, and milkshakes with vintage flair.
Santiago Canyon Skirting the Cleveland National Forest, Santiago Canyon Road rolls above Silverado Creek, with Modjeska and Santiago peaks towering above it. Heading south, your first diversion is to pull into Silverado Canyon. A California Historical Landmark, Silverado was home to silver mines, and it has marine fossils in its sandstone cliffs. There are plenty of interesting side roads, such as Black Star Canyon’s popular hiking trailhead. The road weaves for 15 miles into the narrowing canyon, before it turns to gravel after the Maple Springs Visitor Center. If you have an off-road vehicle, this route can eventually take you to the top of Saddleback (check ahead, as it’s often closed). Back on Santiago Canyon Road, the Cowboy Canyon Winery’s tasting room exudes a Western flair and is open weekends from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Continuing south, you’ll pass Cook’s Corner, a historic roadhouse bar and diner.
Cook’s Corner has roots going back about a hundred years—so old it was a big deal here when Prohibition ended. In 1946, an old mess hall from the Santa Ana Army Air Base was moved to the location and created today’s tavern. By the 1970s, it catered to motorcyclists, and there are usually dozens of bikes in front on the weekend. Although the vibe is heavy on leather, tattoos, and weekend warriors, it’s a friendly place to enjoy a burger and a draft beer on its large shady patio.
Live Oak & Trabuco Canyon Roads At Cook’s Corner, take the turn onto Live Oak Canyon Road and head toward O’Neill Regional Park. The road rises, drops, and narrows as century-old oak trees stretch to a canopy above, creating a tunnel of filtered light and soft shadows. For precious minutes, Live Oak feels like a magical place where roads are the destination, not the means to arrive at one. In the early 1990s, when the county considered widening the road, community members each took a tree under their protection, vowing to do whatever it took to prevent its destruction. It worked, as the road has remained relatively unchanged for 50 years. When you arrive at the entrance to O’Neill Regional Park—a fine stop for a hike and picnic—the road turns into Trabuco Canyon Road. Pass over Trabuco Creek, then up the steep hillside, and you’re back in suburbia.
Rose Canyon Cantina & Grill, just off Trabuco Canyon Road, has a shaded patio surrounded by ancient oaks and sycamores overlooking Trabuco Creek. Opened in 1956, it has had ups and downs, but for the past 30 years has served generous margaritas and classic Mexican cuisine.
Ortega Highway At the right time—non-commute hours—Ortega Highway is the most rewarding road in the county. It runs for 32 miles from San Juan Capistrano to Lake Elsinore, the first 17 miles in Orange County.
Dedicated in 1933, the road was an impressive construction feat as it reaches to nearly 2,700 feet crossing the Santa Ana Mountains. The highway was named after Spanish explorer Jose Francisco Ortega, one of the first Europeans to see this area. Once you pass the new development by Rancho Mission Viejo, you climb quickly, passing Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park, an 8,000-acre preserve with camping and several hikes. Continue the climb up San Juan Canyon, an area explored by Ortega about 250 years ago. The road climbs in a series of sweeping curves, passing smaller canyons, and when you see a sign for the Ortega Oaks campground, you are at the Candy Store. This Ortega institution offers pies, cakes, fudges, hard candies, and espresso. Next, it’s a sharp climb for a mile to get to the parking lot for the trail to Ortega Falls. During wetter months, it’s a worthwhile 10-minute walk over boulders to the 35-foot falls. Ortega Highway then begins its descent toward Lake Elsinore, gradually at first, and then in increasingly sharp downward curves.
Opened in 1945, the Lookout Roadhouse provides a marvelous view, and it’s a fun place to have barbecue ribs and a cold beer at the outdoor tables. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the restaurant offers big breakfasts, sandwiches, and a surprising variety of desserts.
Laguna Canyon Road Driving toward the ocean from the 405 Freeway to the 73, Laguna Canyon Road is a four-lane divided highway. A series of historic seasonal spring-fed ponds—the largest is Barbara’s Lake—helps explain why Spanish explorers called the area Cañada de las Lagunas, or Canyon of Lakes. Just south of Barbara’s Lake is the gravel road to the Nix Nature Center, a good starting point for hikes in the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. The nature center has bathrooms, exhibits, and friendly rangers. The 7,000-acre park encompasses coastal canyons, oak woodlands, and more than 40 miles of trails open to hikers and bikers. As you drive the approximately 8 miles from the 405 to the beach, Laguna Canyon Road narrows to two lanes. The Laguna Coast Wilderness Park continues on your right side, with two more parking lots for trails (Willow Staging Area and Big Bend). Stopping at one of these and taking a walk up the steep hillside rewards you with expansive views of the Pacific Ocean. On your left side on top of the steep canyon walls is the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. You can access it via a trail off Canyon Acres Drive, which is a left turn at the first traffic light as you near Laguna Beach.
After a sweaty hike in the hills, grab a casual meal with a great view at The Deck in Laguna Beach, offering fresh seafood and cocktails from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The Toll Roads (73, 133, 241, 261)
Some of the most scenic roads in the county. A stunning moment is on the north 73, just after the toll plaza, where the long descent offers views that stretch to Santa Catalina Island, downtown Long Beach, and beyond Anaheim.
Top of the World, Laguna Beach
Well named, since you feel like the view goes toward the endless horizon. The drive up the Laguna hills is twisty, but your GPS will take you there if you enter Alta Laguna Park.
Lookout Point, Corona del Mar
Where Ocean Boulevard turns, overlooking the entrance to Newport Harbor, you’ll see from Balboa Peninsula all the way to the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
Seaview Park, Laguna Niguel
On Talavera Drive, off Pacific Island Drive, there is parking along the road that offers unobstructed views of the hilltops and ocean.
Lantern Bay Park, Dana Point
Park Lantern, overlooking the harbor, offers a relaxing setting for watching the sunset from your vehicle.
2019 All Carbon Fiber Ford GT: courtesy of Stephen Alderson
1966 Ford Shelby Cobra Replica: courtesy of David and Lisa Bourguignon
2019 Lamborghini Aventador: courtesy of Dave Riemann
Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster: courtesy of David Kuzmiak, @newportslsamg;
photograph by Mathew Knox @cali_carspotter
2018 Fat Bob Harley-Davidson: courtesy of and photograph by Hugo Franco,
2016 Lamborghini Huracán Spyder: courtesy of Mohammed Zobaer and Zain Hussain, @supercars_unleashedd
2018 McLaren 570S: courtesy of Greg Earl,
@thetintpros and 2019 Porsche 911 GT3 RS: courtesy of Peter Godden, @hb_gt3rs; photograph by Cody Lewis, @ lacarspotter_
1971 Porsche 911 Targa: courtesy of Scott M. Brown
Orange Coast shares stories of how people in our county connected and coped in the early days of COVID-19: tales from the helpers and heroes, tips for surviving stay-at-home orders, shifts local businesses made to adapt, advice going forward, and a community displaying hope and resolve. You’ll find plenty of reasons to be proud of where we live and how we’re rising together.
“For musicians, what we can offer as an orchestra is probably one of the most important ways for us to stay together, which is through the joys and the beauty of music, and we’ve been silenced. That’s sad and that’s painful for all of us. The optimism is that this too shall pass. Soon we’ll be sharing and making music together for Orange County. I firmly believe that there will be a moment when we will be reunited and make music, and that Pacific Symphony will go on serving our community.” —Carl St.Clair, director of the Pacific Symphony for 30 years
“We have staff using their talent. I have (someone) leading a karaoke singalong in memory care. (Another staff member) is asking her church junior high group to send us cards for our seniors. She also plays her guitar for small groups. And a resident in memory care is making scarves, hundreds of them, for veterans. Belmont is sending care packages to all the staff weekly for the foreseeable future. … Our obligation is to our staff as much as it is to our residents!” —Sadie Harness, executive director at Belmont Village Senior Living, Aliso Viejo
“I’ve been making packets of vegetable and wildflower seeds to plant a garden. Activity can reduce anxiety, plus with all of the food insecurity, I think it will help everyone feel better to know that in short course they will have food to eat steps away from their own back door” @kellys_monarch_mansion
“I’m posting simple quick home-ec style recipes and activities for all us homeschooling parents” @lilpinkiesup
“I’m cooking healthy food. Reconnecting with my husband. Taking more online Spanish lessons. Doing beach workouts and long walks. It’s still rough. There’s so much uncertainty. Loss. My sister-in-law had to lay off her entire staff of 8 people. A fellow student was supposed to start a job she badly needed. My dentist’s receptionist called to cancel my appt and said she “hopes” they can reschedule in two weeks or she’s “out of work.” My single friend spent her birthday alone and quarantined. Weird times.” @ktimes2
“An afternoon family walk with mom, dad and 3-year-old daughter has been great. 1 hour walk, play “I spy” the whole way, has been refreshing and eye opening” @hilbill778
“I’m planting an edible garden” @65_stormyweather
“I’m working from home and it is very awesome because more designs come to my mind” @xibyximenayivanna
“I have been on the Nextdoor App, and offered to help with seniors in our neighborhood” @aishi.teru_boudoir
Orange Coast shares stories of how people in our county connected and coped in the early days of COVID-19: tales from the helpers and heroes, tips for surviving stay-at-home orders, shifts local businesses made to adapt, advice going forward, and a community displaying hope and resolve. You’ll find plenty of reasons to be proud of where we live and how we’re rising together.
Mindy Ferrantelli, co-owner of Union Ryde, an indoor cycling studio at The District in Tustin
“(After we closed the studio), one of my girlfriends said, ‘Hey, can I come in and ride by myself? I said, ‘No, but I could bring a bike to you and rent it out to you?’ And then I said, ‘Do you think anybody would want to do that?’ So, I put a poll on Instagram and everyone was like, “Oh my god, that’s great!” The number of messages I got (from people wanting bikes delivered) was overwhelming. I still have messages that I haven’t been able to answer. I sold out within the first 24 hours. I currently have 60 bikes rented out, and I have three left because I need them to film (live online and Instagram classes). My whole fitness journey has never been to get skinny but to stay sane. I’m a high-stress person all the time and for me, working out is the only way I can semi-control it. I think it’s important for people to keep that going because it just keeps you sane. It’s not about the look, but about the mental rewards. Sometimes I get stuck in my ways and I don’t like trying new things. But through this I’ve learned that every time I’m open-minded about change, goodness just floods in. It’s just a reminder to go with change and be open to it. Not only are we going to be able to make rent now, I literally think I just created a new business for us.”