10 Ways to Escape into the Wild Lands in O.C.

#8: Hike to a Notorious Place

The Hangman’s Tree Monument Hike is challenging and offered infrequently from the Irvine Ranch Conservancy through the county’s eastern foothills. The hike is six miles and moderate, but there is an 1,800 elevation gain and a strenuous initial climb. You’ll pass near a working avocado ranch in Orchard Hills, followed by a steep climb over Loma Ridge. From the summit, you can see across the county to the ocean and, in the opposite direction, to the peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains. You then descend into a small gully with sycamores. A marker near one of the trees indicates it is the infamous place where members of outlaw Juan Flores’ gang were lynched.

Story highlights:

  • Flores led a troupe of outlaws whose misdeeds in the mid-1800s culminated in the killing of a sheriff and two others.
  • Flores and his men were pursued, but managed to flee. Flores and his horse slid down a 200-foot cliff.
  • Two in the gang were hanged on a sycamore tree, by lawmen who were supposed to take the outlaws to justice in Los Angeles.
  • Flores was captured days later and hanged on Valentine’s Day 1857.

Register here, type Hangman’s Tree in the “Keyword” section, and in the “All Areas” menu, scroll to Orchard Hills. Directions to the staging area will be given after registration. Free; extra water provided.