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Black Star Canyon Wilderness Park

Black Star Canyon is part of OCParks’ Irvine Ranch Open Space. This area is suitable for beginner hikers as well as the more experienced, but it’s also popular with mountain bikers who want stunning scenery and fun or challenging trails. The trails are also open to horseback riders.

Black Star Canyon can be accessed via Santiago Canyon Road at Silverado Canyon Road. The Black Star Staging Area is near the intersection of Black Star Canyon Road and Red Rock Ridge Road, just past Peltzer Pines Christmas Tree Farm.

Black Star Canyon Wilderness Park

Black Star Canyon Details

Black Star Canyon Wilderness Park Website
Silverado, CA 92676
Black Star Canyon Trailhead: 13333 Black Star Canyon Rd., Silverado, CA 92676
Black Star Canyon Falls Trailhead: 11893-12247 Black Star Canyon Rd., Silverado, CA 92676
Black Star Canyon Indian Village Historic Site: 10499-10967 Black Star Canyon Rd., Silverado, CA 92676
Black Star Canyon is open daily for public use
Dogs are permitted only on Black Star Canyon Road

About Black Star Canyon Wilderness Area

This is not just a recreational area, Black Star Canyon is a name historians pay attention to as this is an important archaeological zone featuring artifacts of native folk known as the Tongva-Gabrieliño people, who are said to hail from the Los Angeles Basin and Southern Channel Islands.

Archaeological projects have uncovered a variety of artifacts in the area; it’s said that some came to areas like Black Star to look for food or to get a break from the heat. But some may also have made homes in areas like Black Star Canyon where the bear population seems to be lower compared to similar spots in the area.

Today, the trails at Black Star Canyon are open to hikers and riders, but veering off the trails can be unsafe due to the area being a protected habitat. Off-trail, encounters with snakes, mountain lions, and other wildlife are highly likely. The safety of the trails is matched by the wilderness just beyond.

Who Can Use Black Star Canyon?

Hikers, horseback riders, cyclists, and bird watchers are all common visitors to the area, but you may hear rumors of ghost-hunting parties, informal “secret society” gatherings, or other such uses.

Those who write hiking and camping reviews of Black Star Canyon say none of the more oddball uses of the area have ever been spotted “in the wild” such as cult gatherings, frat hazing, or other activities. You can likely ignore the more salacious rumors about the canyon based on such reviews.

Basically, Black Star Canyon is a day-use hiking site, overnight stays or camping in trail areas are not advertised and the trails close one hour prior to the closing time–all trails are “cleared” before the area closes.

There are designated trails for all uses of the area from self-guided hikes or bike rides, horseback riding, etc. There are short walks and multiple-mile journeys to be had here. The key to using these trails is to STAY ON THEM and do not veer off into the wild, where there is much danger from plants, animals, insects, and sometimes even the terrain itself.

Black Star Canyon Camping And Events

As mentioned above, there is no camping or overnight activity permitted in the canyon itself, but a quick search on Google reveals multiple nearby camping opportunities and RV resorts.

OCParks holds outdoor events at a variety of locations including Black Star Canyon. In some cases you may need to pre-register, in other cases you may be able to simply show up with the right clothing and equipment (where applicable) and get information on the event at the staging area at the canyon. Regularly scheduled programs at Black Star Canyon include:

  • Walks & hikes
  • Yoga
  • Birdwatching
  • Equestrian rides
  • Flora & Fauna walks

When You Arrive At Black Star Canyon

You should show up at the canyon with all the things you need to stay safe on the trails including enough water, proper footgear, first aid kit, the right clothing, and any meds you need to get through the day while hiking, riding, or cycling. 

Keep in mind that restroom facilities here are more primitive than you may be used to, and you should prepare accordingly. Those who do attend scheduled events without the proper safety gear, clothing, shoes, etc. may be turned away for safety’s sake.

What To Know About Using The Trails At Black Star Canyon

As mentioned above, you must stay on the designated trail at all times. Black Star Canyon is a protected habitat, and as such no dogs are permitted. All riders under the age of 18 must wear appropriate helmets. If you are under 18, you must also be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Most importantly, it is crucial to remember that when using the trail, bikers yield to hikers and both hikers and bikers must yield to horses.

The trails here are subject to closure at any time due to bad weather, threats of fire, or other hazards.

History Of Black Star Canyon

Fun fact! Until the late 1800s, many California Grizzly Bears lived in the Black Star Canyon area.

Black Star Canyon was originally inhabited by the Gabrielino or Tongva people. In the early days under Mexican Rule, it was known as Canada de los Indios.

A coal mining operation known as Black Star Coal Mining Company opened in 1877, giving the area the name we currently know it as. Coal mining operated off and on until the early 1900s. The only thing that remains of the coal mining operations today is a single covered mine shaft.

Is Black Star Canyon Haunted?

There are stories that report paranormal activity at Black Star Canyon. Some report strange smells, others report constant temperature changes. There are reports of Bigfoot sightings, strange things in the sky, and unnerving sounds.

Some say that an 1831 conflict between trappers and Native Americans resulted in many deaths that may be the cause of hauntings to this day. According to legend, Native American horse thieves were terrorizing local ranchers. The ranchers, led by William Wolfskill, tracked them down and murdered them around their campfire. Some sources site that there is no evidence to support the claims of this event, so it may just be urban legend to perpetuate the stories of hauntings here.

Here are a few other stories and sites that may be the cause of the mysterious hauntings of Black Star Canyon.

The Miner: Some people report sighting an apparition known as the Miner, thought to be a miner that died while working at the Black Star Mining Company.

Hidden Ranch: An area known as Hidden Ranch within Black Star Canyon was owned by Henry Hungerford and George Howard. In 1899, A dispute over unpaid debt between Hungerford, Howard, and a man named James Gregg resulted in Hungerford fatally shooting Gregg. Hungerford was not convicted of the murder due to lack of evidence.

La Llorona: An ancient Mexican legend says that a woman murdered her two children by drowning them in Black Star Creek then committed suicide, and wanders the canyon in a white dress searching for her children. Some say they can hear her wailing in the night.

School Bus Tragedy: In 1970, a school bus that traveled through the area on its normal route crashed and tumbled into Black Star Canyon killing most of the people on board, including the children. The bus remained in the canyon until 2012. There have been reports of apparitions near the area of the bus crash site.

Spanish V. Tongva: Native Americans were involved in many conflicts with Mexican Settlers and Spanish Conquistadors. Many Native Americans were brutally slaughtered in these conflicts, which may be the cause of some of the hauntings of the area. Some have also reported seeing the ghosts of Spanish Conquistadors roaming through Black Star Canyon.

Rituals: During the 1980s, the members of a satanic cult gathered here for meetings.

Black Star Canyon Points Of Interest

Black Star Falls: Black Star Canyon Falls can be accessed beginning at the Black Star Canyon Trailhead. The hike is approximately 7.1 miles round trip. There is a lot of boulder hopping an creek crossing to get to the falls so you should expect to get wet, especially if it has recently rained.

Black Star Canyon Indian Village Site: Listed as California Historical Landmark Number 217 and registered in 1935, the indian village site is about a five mile hike in from the trailhead at Ken Sampson Overview and Black Star Canyon Road. The notable features here include a number of rocks with significant grinding holes used by Native Americans.

Beek’s Place: If you continue along Black Star Canyon Road to the Main Divide Truck Trail, you can find Beek’s Place. Located near the KSOX doppler tower, this site has the remains of an old stone cabin owned by Joseph Beek, the man who founded the Balboa Island Ferry.


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Joe Wallace has been covering real estate, mortgage and financial topics since 1995. His work has appeared on ABC, The Pentagon Channel, Veteran.com plus a variety of print and online publications. He is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News.