In a small canyon deep in the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, there are seven sycamore trees whose distinctive, deep green leaves and tall, straight trunks lay claim to one of Orange County’s more notorious bits of outlaw history.
In the mid-19th Century, a group of bandits known as the Flores Gang blazed a trail of robberies extending from Los Angeles to San Juan Capistrano before ambushing Los Angeles County Sheriff James Barton, killing him and three others. The “Barton Massacre” and the hunt for Flores himself became the stuff of legends. Flores was eventually captured and hanged in front of several thousand spectators in downtown Los Angeles, while two of his gang – Francisco Ardillero and Juan Catabo – were chased down and hanged at the grove of sycamore trees still standing today in the Landmarks.
This summer, visitors to the City of Irvine’s Orchard Hills can experience the monument in person during docent-led hikes to the Hangman’s Tree Monument. Scheduled activities are listed below; all hikes are free with required pre-registration. Click the titles to read more about and register for these programs:
- Thursday Morning Trek: Orchard Hills, Thursday, 7/7, 8-11:30 a.m.
- Hangman’s Tree Monument Hike: Orchard Hills, Saturday, 7/9, 7-11 a.m.
- Thursday Morning Trek: Orchard Hills, Thursday, 8/18, 8-11:30 a.m.
- Hangman’s Tree Monument Hike: Orchard Hills, Saturday, 9/10, 7-11 a.m.
“The legend of Juan Flores has been told for years,” says Dave Raetz, Irvine Ranch Conservancy deputy director. “The Hangman’s Tree Monument provides a connection to reality for the story, differentiating fact from fiction. By getting people to experience the monument firsthand, we hope that the tales and local history of the area continue to spread from generation to generation.”
While hikes to the Hangman’s Tree Monument are only 6 miles, they include several steep climbs and a total elevation of gain of 1,800 feet – so make sure you are prepared for the challenging trek before signing up. There is little to no shade available on the trails to Hangman’s Tree Monument, so bring plenty of water. Read more on Trail Tips here to better equip yourself for hitting the trails. Programs to this iconic piece of O.C. history are popular and fill up fast, so click the titles above to register. For all upcoming guided activities on the Landmarks, go to LetsGoOutside.org/activities.