Once the dwelling place of native Tongva peoples, once held under Spanish and Mexican rule, and once home to a coal mining operation, Black Star Canyon Wilderness Park has provided people and animals alike with food, shelter, and prosperity throughout its history. Today, the canyon is enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year and offers both introductory trails for beginner hikers and families and more challenging experiences for advanced trail users. Whether visitors want to explore the native plants and wildlife on a 30-minute stroll, or tackle a 7-mile cardio excursion, the canyon’s diverse history enriches the trails throughout the park.
Black Star Canyon Wilderness Park is tucked away in the northern region of the Santa Ana Mountains and intersects with the Cleveland National Forest, Fremont Canyon, and Limestone Canyon. The wilderness park is well-known for many historical stories starting with the Tongva people, who were the canyon’s first settlers. In the hot summer months, the native Tongva people would travel to the canyon to escape the heat and harvest acorns from the region’s abundant oak trees.
By the late 1700s, the canyon fell under Spanish and later Mexican rule. During this time, the land was known as Cañon de los Indios or Canyon of the Indians. Up until the 1800s, the area was even home to many California grizzly bears. In 1877, The Black Star Coal Mining Company found coal deposits and opened a mine near the mouth of the canyon. The mine, which gave Black Star Canyon its name, operated on and off until it was completely shut down in the early 1900s.
Today hikers, cyclists, and equestrians venture into Baker Canyon, a section of Black Star Canyon Wilderness Park, for guided programs and Wilderness Access Days. While easily accessible to visitors, Baker Canyon trails are tucked away from the highways, giving visitors a truly secluded and natural experience. Visitors who travel through Baker Canyon along the ridgeline can see the neighboring landmarks including Silverado Canyon, Santiago Creek, Irvine Lake, and Limestone Canyon.
Due to its central location, Black Star Canyon acts as a wildlife corridor for larger animals like bobcats, mountain lions, and deer. The creeks within the canyon, including Santiago Creek, lure wildlife from the Cleveland National Forest and Limestone Canyon, providing animals with cover and fresh water. Visitors can also spot diverse sage scrub, chaparral habitats, and beautiful red rocks along their trek through Black Star Canyon. Irvine Ranch Conservancy offers several programs for nature lovers to experience the park. Whether visitors are looking to explore the canyon on their own or take part in an interpretive program to learn more about their surroundings, there is a program that suits each visitor’s interests.
- Wilderness Access Day: Black Star Canyon on Saturday, September 2 from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. invites nature lovers 12 years old and up to explore Black Star Canyon by foot, bike, or horse.
- Explore Black Star: Guided Hike on Saturday, September 2 from 9-10 a.m. encourages visitors to learn about Black Star Canyon during this fun and easy interpretive program.
- Family Hike: Black Star Canyon on Saturday, September 9 and Saturday, September 30 from 4-6 p.m. are great early evening opportunities to hike 2-3 miles with a docent along a flat trail though Black Star Canyon.
All activities at Black Star Canyon are free with required pre-registration, which closes at 4 p.m. the day prior to each event. Some programs are suitable for children 8 and over, and children must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian. Jogging strollers welcome on most trails. For more details on programs on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks visit https://letsgooutside.org/activities/.