The Bell View Trail can be found in Rancho Santa Margarita (or Google Maps shows this as part of Trabuco Canyon) off Robinson Ranch Road. It’s open to the public and there are no fees. It is divided into to in two sections: East and West though both trails join at one point.
The west entrance can be accessed off Heritage Drive and is not listed on this page. Click here for a map. The east entrance is further up Robinson Ranch Road and applies to this page.
If you opt to take the more challenging east trail, continue on Robinson Ranch Road until you pass Vista Drive on your left. You’ll note a park bench just after Vista Drive. Once you pass the bench, make a u-turn and park at the bench (or park on Vista Drive and walk up to the trail head). There you will find the entrance to the Bell View Trail East. I’ve included a screen capture of Google’s Map below with notations that may be more insightful . From the entrance point to the loop and back is 2.6 miles and is gradual yet steep in 2 areas. The trail ascends to several scenic view points which overlook most of Rancho Santa Margarita and out to the Pacific Ocean or if you are facing east it’s a breath taking view of the Saddleback Mountains.
Once you reach the top of the first view point, you can continue on the widened dirt trail until it begins to descend (steep). At the base of this descent you can bear left or right (you are at the loop juncture). My recommendation is to bear right if you opt to hike this loop. This is incline is quite steep and it would appear a bit more challenging going down this section should you choose to do the entire loop. At the top of this second summit you’ll find continued spectacular panoramic views of the Saddleback Mountains (see photo section below) as you face east. Continue on this trail as it gradually traverses downward. You’ll ultimately come across a meadow (marked on map below) to head back to the aforementioned loop intersection which takes you back to the trail entrance.
Recommendations: water, good hiking shoes and walking poles if you desire. Please keep in mind this is Mountain Lion and Rattlesnake country. Be mindful of your surroundings at all times. Check ocparks.com for further wildlife recommendations.
Map with notations
This is a 2.6 mile trail however it excludes where the trail veers off to the right at the top part of the map below. It is this portion of the trail that connects to the Bell View Trail west end.
Photos (click to enlarge):
This illustration shows the top of the first summit facing east. ©Anthony Gliozzo
This illustration shows the top of the first summit facing east. Yucca plants are in view. ©Anthony Gliozzo
Bell View Trail top of 2nd summit. This is facing east also. ©Anthony Gliozzo
Bell View Trail at beginning of 2nd descent facing east. ©Anthony Gliozzo
This area is at the base of the second summit and it also begins the Meadow area.
This illustration shows the top of the first summit facing east.