Trabuco Canyon - AKA Holy Jim Canyon

Trabuco Canyon, California (Orange County)

Last Updated: 05/13/2019
3 /5 ( 5 reviews )
Nearby Trails
Status: Partially Open
Typically Open: Year Round
Difficulty: 1-4
Length: 5.5 miles
Highest Elevation: 1650 feet
Duration: About 1 hour
Shape of Trail: Out & Back
Best Direction to Travel: East
Nearest Town: Trabuco Canyon
Nearest Town w/ Services: Trabuco Canyon
Official Road Name: Trabuco Canyon
Management Agency: Cleveland National Forest
District: Trabuco Ranger District
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Highlight: Trabuco Canyon - AKA Holy Jim Canyon

Please note, a majority of the area has been closed due to the Holy Fire... Holy Jim Canyon (AKA Trabuco Canyon Road) is among the most popular off-road trails in all of Southern California. With thousands of visitors a day, this is a great place to get out, have some fun, do a little socializing, and partake in people watching all at the same time. Less than 20 minutes from anywhere in Orange County California, there is no doubt why so many 4x4 enthusiasts can say they have driven this path into Orange County's unknown forest. While Holy Jim is a very mellow off-road trail, there are plenty of challenging options in the area from rock crawling, hill climbs, off-camber areas, a creek to play in, and lots of hiking that lead to some of the tallest waterfalls in the Southern California. If you are in the area, and are looking for a place that is suitable for every type and skill level of off-roader, then check out Holy Jim Canyon aka Trabuco Canyon.



7 day forecast for Trabuco Canyon - AKA Holy Jim Canyon

Route Information

Advanced Rating System (BETA)

Recommended Vehicle:
2WD Vehicle with High Clearance

Technical Rating: 1-4

Typically, more rock or undulated road surface. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 18" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 18" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 36" inches. Tire placement becomes more difficult. Can be steep and off-camber.

Read more about our rating system


The mild dirt road that any vehicle can do in good weather. 4WD may be required in wet weather. Plenty of side options are available for those looking to test their skills. Near half the trail has been closed and will remain closed due to the holy fire. Likely opening of the trail will be no earlier than 2020.
A majority of the area has been blocked off after the Holy Fire


1. Trailhead (0.00 mi)

The trail begins right off the road in a dirt pull out. There is plenty of space if you want to air down for this area.

2. RC Airport (1.00 mi)

There is a private RC Airport along the road. This can make for many hours of entertainment as you watch people fly and crash there RC planes.

3. Possible Water Crossing (1.20 mi)

This old water crossing used to flow deep year around, but now it is mostly dry except for the few rare storms that pass through Southern California.

4. Small Trail Network To The South (1.60 mi)

Off to the south of the trail is a small group of short trails that loop out to the creek and back. People often use this area when bbq'ing for the day.

5. Trailhead - Trabuco Creek Road To The North (Closed) (1.90 mi)

This area has been closed... This old trail was recently rediscovered once again. People are slowly pushing their way up this trail over the last couple of years. But due to the several washouts along the route, no one has completed the trail in a 4x4 in some time now. This trail once went up Saddleback to where Maple Springs aka Silverado Canyon and Main Divide Mid join. This trail is much more difficult and should only be done by experienced drivers. Also, never attempt this trail if the conditions are wet or could become wet. There are several spots that can easily lead to a rollover.

6. Rocky Play Area (Closed) (2.00 mi)

This area has been closed... This small area can easily be one the most popular spots on the trail for the off-road enthusiast. Many people find themselves hanging out here to either watch others play in the rocks, creek, or on the hill climbs or try it themselves.

7. Gate - Closed at this point. (2.90 mi)

This new gate was installed after a landslide blocked the upper part of the trail. The trail is closed past this point.

8. Trailhead - Holy Jim Falls To The North (4.70 mi)

This trail heads north up Holy Jim Canyon / Falls. The trail you ride in on is actually Trabuco Canyon Road but has gotten its name from this very popular off chute of the trail. The trail used to lead all the way up the backside of Saddle Back but now is a hiking trail only.

9. Locked Gate (5.50 mi)

The end of the trail. This gate was put up in the early 90's and closed permanently after a small landside blocked the trail.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 33.659165, -117.585576

Starting Point: Trabuco, CA

Take Santiago Canyon to Cooks Corner and head east on Trabuco Canyon Road. Take Trabuco Canyon Road 4.6 miles till you cross over a small bridge. The trail is on your left immediately after the bridge.


Not allowed

There is a formal campground not far from the trail known as O'Neil Park. This is a great place to take the family and enjoy what is left of the remote Orange County. The Ranger Districts offer remote camping, also known as “dispersed camping”, where camping outside of developed campgrounds is an option. Please note: wood or charcoal fires are never allowed outside of developed campgrounds or picnic sites on the Cleveland National Forest, but portable stoves or lanterns that use gas, kerosene, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel are permitted unless elevated fire conditions prohibit their use in identified locations. Trabuco - allowable only in the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness, permit required. (951-736-1811) or click here Trabuco Ranger District

Camping: Trabuco Canyon - AKA Holy Jim Canyon

Land Use Issues

Please check with Cleveland National Forest for trail conditions. This trail closes for many reasons throughout the year. Click Here For Current Trail Closures Trabuco Ranger District - (951) 736-1811

Trail Reviews (8)

Author: Official Crew
Status: Temporary Closure
Offroaded on:
Last I heard, the ranger district plans on keeping this area closed through the winter of 2020. The idea is to allow plant life and animals to return before allowing human traffic.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
I was in the area and decided to see what the condition of the trail was since I hadn't been on it in about a year and a half. Currently there are no trespassing/ no off road driving signs posted all along the road along with concrete K-barriers across the entrances to every spur off the main road. there are a couple of gates along the way which are all locked and when you get to the gate where the water crossing is, the gate is locked shut with additional no trespassing signs

Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Trabuco is going to be closed from the USFS gate onward for at least the next year due to Holy Fire (Ranger confirmed) Jeep Hill is now blocked with security cameras watching it, and the Sheriffs and Highway Patrol are fining anyone caught in the creek bed. It was only a matter of time before this became a bust, and it’s reached that point. Special thanks to OC Sheriffs and CHP for ruining what used to be a fun local trail.

Status: Temporary Closure
Offroaded on:
I drove there today after taking a drive on Maple Springs Truck Trail. Right at the entrance off of Trabuco Canyon Rd, There was a sign that stated the road was closed from July to August 10. It also indicated that it was only open for residents. Curiosity got the best of me So I drove in for a look. There are many new signs that say no trespassing located on the off chute area. I also saw at least one new security camera where the first off chute is located. Once I saw the security camera, I turn around and drove out. I hate to think of it, but this trail might become close soon. If anyone has any more information please let us know.

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Great beginners trail. This was my wifes and I first off road experience in our 2017 Jeep JKU. The views where very beautiful. Fun play areas nothing too serious.

Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Trail gate closed at #7 (2.9 mi) above. Many people parking there and hiking further. Definitely check ranger before heading there anytime soon. Otherwise great fun first road and some side adventures open prior to that closure. Easy run. Thanks again for this great website and encouragement for beginners like us.

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Trail was open, lots of Jeeps, Toyotas and even a Prius! Due to the recent rains there was a bit of mud to drive around in. Everyone was friendly and polite on the narrower parts of the trail. There are Porta Potties at the entrance to the hiking trail that leads to the waterfall. It was our first time taking my Jeep, Lara Croft, off of the pavement and we loved it!

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Great day to play on one of my fav trails. Its not too far from my house. Rain made it better! LOT of vehicles. MAKE Sure to Air Down, otherwise you will feel the bumpy ride. I did the whole trail in 2WD, didn't need to even use the 4X4. Be careful of speeding Toyotas around turns. Cheers, VM

Questions & Answers (6)

Q: December Trail Update? Is it open with all the recent fires?
–Matthew (12/09/2018)
A: Currently closed, they are cleaning the lower, and it is closed at the lower gate, likely for 2-3 years.
–Josh Noesser (12/09/2018)
Q: any update on the trail , is it still closed ?
–eric lopez (10/15/2018)
A: Trail is almost all paved and offshoots are barricaded off. Private property signs are now posted outside the trailhead.
–c (12/01/2018)
A: Still closed. Lower part that used to be open for some off path hill climbs are now barricaded. 1/3 of the way in after the road turns from flat to trail the gate is locked. Signs stating only Rangers and fire vehicle access.
–Richard (11/23/2018)
A: I haven't heard anything yet. I am sure the lower part of the canyon is open but I would doubt the upper part is.
–Josh Noesser (10/29/2018)
Q: Does any one know if it's open. Since the fire
–Daniel Mendoza (08/23/2018)
A: Still closed drove out this morning, sign posted that states “due to increased fire hazard the trail will be closed” bummer.
–John (09/01/2018)
A: Last I heard from the forest service is that the reclosed all of the areas threatened or even close to the fire.
–Josh Noesser (08/23/2018)
Q: Is it possible to drive a two wheel drive truck on the trail or do you need 4 wheel drive
–Steven (08/01/2018)
A: 2wd is fine
–Josh Noesser (08/01/2018)
Q: Any worthy offshoots to this trail?
–Jesse (03/10/2018)
A: Trabucco Creek at waypoint 5 is the only off chute. But this trail is very short. What are you looking for when you say worthy?
–Josh Noesser (03/10/2018)
Q: Is ATV and dirtbike riding allowed on this trail? Thanks!
–Aravind (01/07/2018)
A: This area is restricted to street legal vehicles.
–Josh Noesser (01/07/2018)

Writer Information

Josh Noesser

Mapping Crew - California

Joshua Noesser grew up in Southern California but has lived in different parts of the country during his young adult life. Josh was first turned to four wheeling when he road with one of his friends dad up Surprise Canyon in the Panamint Valley at age14. After nearly 3 different roll overs later and a half dozen intense waterfalls, Josh was hooked. At 16 he purchased his first Jeep a CJ 7 and by 17 was putting his first locker in it. Currently, Josh is the owner and CEO of Nybble, an IT Solutions Company based in Orange County, California. Nybble isn't your normal IT company where everyone stays in and plays video games. Nybble's average company trip is out on the trails since a good amount of his staff enjoy wheeling too. As Josh likes to say, he offers the only IT Company with the ability to provide services in extreme locations. "If you want a server at the top of The Hammers, we will take care of that for you." Today you can find Josh out on the trail behind the wheel in one of his three different off-road vehicles. See the vehicles below for more information. If you ever run into Josh, please say high, he is a very friendly person and is always happy to have a new person join the group.
For individual use only, not to be shared.