Skip to Content

Trabuco Canyon

The unincorporated community of Trabuco Canyon is located in the south eastern area of Orange County near Rancho Santa Margarita. Set in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains partly within the Cleveland National Forest, the community is mostly undeveloped, with the exception of residential neighborhoods and a few small businesses. The Trabuco Canyon profile includes history and information for residential services, shopping, dining, and points of interest throughout the area.

Trabuco Canyon, California
About Trabuco Canyon
HistoryThings to Do
City StatisticsInformation & ServicesSchools & Libraries

Things To Do In Trabuco Canyon

There are very few major businesses in Trabuco Canyon. There are some popular local restaurants, like Cook’s Corner, Rose Canyon Cantina & Grill and the landmark Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse (a favorite of President Nixon), as well as several other small, local businesses. There is also the Screamin Ice Cream shop. You’ll also find the Trabuco Canyon Community Church, Trabuco Presbyterian Church and the massive Vendanta Society of Southern California with the Ramakrishna Mission Monastery.

For major shopping, entertainment, dining, and work, residents will need to travel a short to neighboring communities of Rancho Santa Margarita, Lake Forest, and Mission Viejo for the nearest options. Portola Hills and Foothill Ranch in Lake Forest are two newer communities that very close by to Trabuco with many new restaurants, entertainment and shopping.

The Trabuco Canyon area offers a multitude of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and remote camping for those seeking an alternative to developed campgrounds.  Great for family and beginning hikers, with mountain biking being very popular going up to Santiago Peak and Holy Jim Trail. The cooler months are the best times to go to avoid the high temperatures and increase the potential for running water in the creeks (during a wet year).

Trabuco Canyon Restaurants & Establishments

Cook’s Corner
19152 E Santiago Canyon Rd, Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679

Possibly the most well known spot in Trabuco Canyon is Cook’s Corner, a cabin-turned-biker bar. On any given weekend, the parking lot is packed with motorcycles. The bar itself dates back to 1884, and the original owner’s son converted the cabin into a restaurant in 1926. The site was purchased in 1975 by the owners of a motorcycle accessories company and they transformed Cook’s Corner into a social spot for motorcycle clubs.

Cook’s Corner is open to everyone and the food is good, but it is by all means a beer drinking establishment complete with regular live music outdoors, open mic night, a pool table, and picnic tables for outdoor seating. Cook’s Corner is located at the intersection of Santiago Canyon and Trabuco Canyon Roads.

Hamilton Oaks Vineyard Events *Closed
This former rustic winery wedding venue has been closed.

Ramakrishna Mission Monastery (Trabuco Canyon Monastery)
19961 Live Oak Canyon Rd, Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679

The monastery sits atop 40 acres of largely undeveloped rolling hills in Trabuco Canyon. The monks maintain the buildings and grounds of the monastery which include a shrine, a shrine trail honoring the world’s major religions, and a bookstore. They also sell honey and have events, classes and worship services available.

Rose Canyon Cantina & Grill
20722 Rose Canyon Rd, Trabuco Canyon, CA 92678

Rose Canyon Cantina serves authentic Mexican dishes along with original Southwest selections. They have a bar, inside dining and an outside patio surrounded by sycamore and oak trees and Trabuco Canyon.

Trabuco General Store
31021 Trabuco Canyon Rd, Trabuco Canyon, CA 91278

This is the last place to get supplies before heading further into the canyon and as you might expect this is quirky store with old school vibes and decor. They sell a variety of grocery items, food, drinks, locally made items (jams, syrups, wine, etc.) and various knick knacks. They even have a Taco Tuesday special, hold a yearly chili cook-off and summer concerts on Friday nights.

Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse
20782 Trabuco Oaks Dr, Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679

Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse serves steak and potatoes and drinks. The semi-casual restaurant is famous for its no-tie policy; if a patron is wearing a tie at the restaurant, it is cut off and hung from the ceiling alongside many other ties. The restaurant first opened in 1968.

More restaurants in nearby cities: Carmelita’s Kitchen, The Blind Pig, Wood Ranch, Hanna’s, Urban Grill and Wine Bar, Taps and Beer, Yamame.

Trabuco Canyon Parks & Preserves

Cleveland National Forest

Cleveland National Forest 

The Orange County portion of the forest is managed by the Trabuco Ranger District and is bisected by Ortega Highway and includes Ortega Highway Area and San Mateo Wilderness South Area. Visitors can hike, bike, dirt bike, camp and horse ride.

O’Neill Regional Park
30892 Trabuco Canyon Rd, Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679

Nature lovers will find plenty to enjoy here, with multiple local trails. Plus, it’s the home of O’Neill Regional Park. Operated by OC Parks, visitors can find camping and hiking opportunities among the coast live oak and sycamore trees with access to both Trabuco and Hickey Creeks. These are often dry, but occasionally flow again in winter and early spring.

Preserves: Bobcat Ridge, Trabuco Rose, Wren’s View

There are three preserves in Trabuco Canyon where public can access the properties via free docent-led hikes or equestrian rides.

Bobcat Ridge Preserve is a 48-acre parcel located northwest of the City of Rancho Santa Margarita in Trabuco Canyon. Access is from Live Oak Canyon Road and Shelter Canyon Road. The Preserve features rolling terrain with elevations ranging from 1,200 to 1,300 feet above mean sea level.

The Trabuco Rose Preserve, formerly known as Ferber Ranch, is a 396-acre parcel located northwest of the City of Rancho Santa Margarita in Trabuco Canyon. The Preserve features rolling terrain with elevations ranging from 1,120 to 1,650 feet above mean sea level.

The Wren’s View Preserve, formerly known as O’Neil Oaks, is a 116-acre parcel located northwest of the City of Rancho Santa Margarita in Trabuco Canyon, and immediately north of O’Neill Regional Park and Trabuco Creek. Access is from Live Oak Canyon Road and Trabuco Canyon Road. The Preserve features rolling terrain with elevations ranging from 920 to 1,250 feet above mean sea level.

Santiago Peak/Saddleback Mountain

Saddleback Mountain, also known as Santiago Peak, is an intense 15 mile out and back trail with steep inclines and enough challenges to push yourself to the limit. At almost 6,000 elevation, the peak is the highest point in Orange County and offers scenic views of the the Pacific Ocean, Orange and Riverside county, and on a clear day Catalina Island.

Santiago Peak is best accessed via Holy Jim Trail which is located off Trabuco Canyon Road approximately 6 miles up stream from O’Neil Park. Roads are not paved on the way up and 4-wheel drive vehicles are recommended

Starr Ranch Sanctuary
100 Bell Canyon Rd, Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679

Starr Ranch Sanctuary is an educational, conservation-oriented organization is owned and operated by the National Audubon Society and serves to protect birds, wildlife, and habitats of the local area. Starr Ranch offers a variety of educational programs for children and adults focusing on ecology and biology. While drop-ins are not allowed, visitors can attend one of the Ranch’s many events or sign up to participate in an educational or family program as they are offered.

Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park
27901 Glenn Ranch Rd, Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679

Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park has scenic rock formations, including Red Rock Canyon. There are three streams: Borrego, Serrano and Aliso Creek meandering through the park, each hosting an abundance of wildlife. Remnants of the former cattle ranching days can be seen throughout the park.

Trabuco Canyon Events

The Saddleback Canyon Riders are an equestrian group in Trabuco Canyon. The group attends and hosts horseback trail rides, parties, campouts, field trips, horse clinics, trail maintenance, parades and many other social events.

  • 4th of July Parade: Starts at the Trabuco General Store and includes horses, floats, golf carts and much more in the parade.
  • Annual chili cook-off
  • Music at the General Store
  • Easter Egg Hunt
  • Halloween potluck

The General Store or Saddleback Canyon Riders typically have information on these events.

These places also regularly hold events:

About Trabuco Canyon

Trabuco Canyon

Trabuco Canyon is located in both located in both Orange and Riverside counties. Santiago Peak boasts the highest point in Orange County at 5,700 ft elevation.

Trabuco Canyon is located in Orange County approximately 55 miles from Los Angeles. The nearest cities are Rancho Santa Margarita, Mission Viejo, and Lake Forest.

The community of Trabuco Canyon is largely undeveloped and feels more like a small town in the Midwest rather than a typical Southern California city. The rural, equestrian friendly enclave is lightly forested and slightly old fashioned.

You won’t find any sidewalks or streetlights, and there is no mail delivery to the area. Instead, residents must make their own way to the local post office on the edge of town to pick up their mail. There is a general store, though, where you can pick up snacks, general groceries, and fresh, locally made products.

Trabuco Canyon is not a city as it is an unincorporated area of Orange County.

Trabuco Canyon History

Trabuco Canyon is named after a gun, or trabuco in Spanish, a type of shotgun. Legend has it, the name of the community came from the time of the Portola Expedition in 1769. A soldier lost his gun in the arroyo and so the creek became know as Trabuco Creek, and the name for the surrounding area soon followed. The members of the expedition group were unable to find the trabuco, but in the 1970’s a rusted trabuco was found in the canyon and it can be seen on display today at the Bower’s Museum.

Trabuco Canyon was settled as Rancho Trabuco by John Forster in 1846 when he received the area through a Mexican Land Grant. Much of early Orange County was framed by events occurring on or around the Trabuco Canyon area. In the early 1900s, the area saw some mining activity in an attempt to mine tin. Remnants of this activity can still be found around the area, including dams, stone foundations of an ore-processing stamp mill, and tunnels into the sides of the canyons, although the tunnels are closed to the public to protect your safety.

Other early settlers found success in beekeeping and woodcutting operations but were forced into new areas of Orange County as resources diminished and the government claimed much of the lands.

Yaeger Mines

In 1887 a miner named Jake Yaeger began work on nine mines on the south side of Trabuco Canyon, about two miles beyond Holy Jim Canyon (not on Yaeger Mesa, which is above them). These mines were sealed in 2009 but the entrances can still be seen with small openings to allow animals in and out.

Santiago Fire

The Santiago Fire occured in October 2007 and was an intionally started wildfire located near Santiago Canyon. The fire eventually spread to Trabuco Canyon and other areas. The fire burned approximately 28,445 acres.

Holy Jim Fire

On August 6, 2018 a fire started in Holy Jim Canyon on the west side of the Santa Ana Mountains in Orange County and eventually spread into the Trabuco Canyon area. Holy Jim Canyon resident Forrest Clark allegedly ignited the blaze that burned over 23,000 acres and damaged at least five inhabited structures

Trabuco Canyon Statistics

Size: 11.9 Square Miles (138,971 acres)
Population: 21,103
ZIP Codes: 92678, 92679

Information & Services

Trabuco Canyon Water District

Related Articles

Sitton Peak Day HikeBlack Star Canyon
Campgrounds In Orange CountyAnza Borrego
Hiking & Biking Trails In Orange CountyPalomar Mountain State Park
Monique McArthur
Monique McArthur is a mother of two, writer, and creator of delicious recipes. In her spare time she enjoys exploring all that Orange County has to offer, traveling, shopping, running with her dogs and spending time with family.