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
||History||Things to Do|
|City Statistics||Information & Services||Schools & Libraries|
About Trabuco Canyon
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.
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.
Today, 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, a pool table, and picnic tables for outdoor seating. Cook’s Corner is located at the intersection of Santiago Canyon and Trabuco Canyon Roads.
There are very few major businesses in Trabuco Canyon. There are some popular local restaurants, like the Rose Canyon Cantina & Grill and the landmark Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse (a favorite of President Nixon), as well as several other small, local businesses. You’ll also find the Trabuco Canyon Community Church and the massive Vendanta Society of Southern California with the Ramakrishna Mission Monastery.
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.
Starr Ranch Sanctuary is also located in Trabuco Canyon. This 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.
For major shopping, entertainment, dining, and work, residents will need to travel to neighboring communities of Rancho Santa Margarita, Lake Forest, and Mission Viejo for the nearest options.
Trabuco Canyon History
Trabuco Canyon was settled as Rancho Trabuco by John Forster in 1846 when he received the area through a Mexican Land Grant. 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.
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, or in Spanish, his trabuco, 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 Statistics
Size: 11.9 Square Miles