Trabuco Canyon - AKA Holy Jim Canyon

Trabuco Canyon, California (Orange County)

Last Updated: 12/21/2021
2.9 / 5 ( 17 reviews )
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Highlights

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.

Video

Route Information

Advanced Rating System

Recommended Vehicle:
2WD Vehicle with High Clearance
Concerns:
Summary:
The trail is a dirt road.

Technical Rating

MANDATORY
1
EASY
OPTIONAL
4
MODERATE
Dirt and/or rocky road. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 5" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 5" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 6" inches. Good tire placement likely. Can be steep, but with good traction.
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Community Consensus

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Description

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. The likely opening of the trail will be no earlier than 2020.
A majority of the area has been blocked off after the Holy Fire

Waypoints

1. Trailhead (0 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 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 (1.2 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 (1.6 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) (1.9 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 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. (2.9 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 (4.7 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 (5.5 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

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.

Camping

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 (22)

Questions & Answers (8)

Q: New to the community. Got my 4runner at the beginning of this lockdown unfortunately. Have been itching to try out her capabilities. Is this trail open yet? If not, does anyone know of trials close to OC that are?
–John Opalski (01/09/2021)
A: Sounds like the lower part is open but the upper might be closed. You can also look at maple springs road and if you are up for a bit further drive Cleghorn taking the easy path.
–Josh Noesser (01/09/2021)
Q: Anyone knows if this is now reopened? Thanks
–Alejandro Sanchez (04/23/2020)
A: 2nd half is still closed last we heard.
–Josh Noesser (04/23/2020)
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 (12/10/2018)
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 (11/24/2018)
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.