Lots of people wonder if Black Star Canyon is haunted. While most of the stories come from teenagers looking to scare each other, the area's supposedly haunted history becomes a topic of conversation around this time every year. Luckily, OC Parks and Irvine Ranch Conservancy offer plenty of self-guided and docent-led opportunities for you to see for yourself.
With views of majestic Red Rocks and miles of trails to explore on foot, bike and horseback, Black Star Canyon is worth a visit – ghosts or no ghosts. Either way, the area is undeniably rich in Orange County history.
Early settlers in Black Star Canyon told stories of an 1831 skirmish between Native Americans and American settlers. The battle was over suspected horse thievery, with the Americans’ rifles swiftly overpowering all but a few of the Tongva-Gabrieliño people found at that site. Then, in 1899, a disputed horse trade led to another gunfight, resulting in the death of James Gregg. The killers surrendered to Sheriff Theo Lacy (namesake of the Orange County Sheriff’s Theo Lacy Facility), but were later released.
The ghosts of the Native Americans and Gregg are said to wander through Black Star Canyon at night, seeking revenge. However, this historical site is 6 miles into Cleveland National Forest from Santiago Canyon Road, 4.5 miles of which must be travelled on foot, bicycle or horseback. So unless you are ready for nearly 9 miles of hiking on mostly rugged terrain through unmarked wilderness areas, casual hikers should stick to the OC Parks portion of Black Star Canyon.
OC Parks offers self-guided and docent-led activities in Black Star Canyon, in partnership with Irvine Ranch Conservancy. Docent-led activities are held regularly, with options for many different interests and activity levels, from photography hikes to strenuous mountain bike rides. Self-guided Wilderness Access Days are held every other month in Black Star Canyon, with the next one on Saturday, November 2. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., visitors are welcome to explore the trails of Black Star Canyon on their own. Check-in is required at the Baker Canyon Staging Area, where volunteers are on hand with trail maps and information that helps visitors pick the best route for their abilities and schedule.
More information about Wilderness Access Day and other upcoming activities is available at www.LetsGoOutside.org/activities. If you register in advance for Wilderness Access Day, you will receive driving directions via email. Pre-registration is required for all docent-led activities, which are free.