Peter’s Canyon Reservoir

Peters Canyon - Image courtesy of Tony Nungaray  CC-2.0

Peters Canyon – Image courtesy of Tony Nungaray CC-2.0

Peter’s Canyon Reservoir

When you want to get away from everything, Peter’s Canyon is a great place to go. It has plenty of trails and roughly graded dirt roads which are great for mountain bikes, horses, and hikers alike, and the well placed benches get my vote for being a wonderful place to sit and contemplate the world.

The trails wrap around the enclosed reservoir, and it becomes a magnet for local wildlife. With that in mind, be careful of some of the wildlife, in addition to deer and red-tailed hawks, we also have cougars and bobcats. So, stay aware as you hike through this park. Check the board as you enter for any updates on sightings.

Open Daily: 7a.m. to sunset, 7 days a week.
Closed for three days following rain and/or hazardous conditions.

Location: 8548 E. Canyon View Ave. Orange, CA 92869

The History of Peter’s Canyon Reservoir

Excerpted from

Peters Canyon Regional Park was part of the original Spanish land grant, Rancho Lomas de Santiago. During those Spanish days, Peters Canyon was called Canon de las Ranas or “Canyon of the Frogs.” This was attributed to the canyon’s drainage into the Cienega de las Ranas or “Marsh of the Frogs,” which is known today as Upper Newport Bay.

In 1897 the rancho was purchased by James Irvine, who leased out the canyon to several farmers.

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In 1899, a group of sportsmen from Orange and Santa Ana introduced the game of golf into Orange County. Leasing land in Peters Canyon from the Irvine Company, a nine-hole course was laid out by the Santiago Golf Club. Greens were made of oil-soaked sand and fairways of native soil. A red clubhouse was built on the ridge that now extends into Upper Peters Canyon Reservoir. The conspicuous building was seen by those who crossed the canyon between the El Modena Grade and Irvine Regional Park, hence the name “Golf Canyon” came into use.

To supply Irvine Ranch’s water needs for its growing agriculture industry, two reservoirs were built. The first, Upper Peters Canyon Reservoir, was completed in 1931. The lower reservoir was constructed in 1940. Both lakes were used to regulate the Irvine Company’s draft from Santiago Reservoir, as well as conservation of run off from Peters Canyon watershed. Today the lower reservoir is dry and serves as a flood control basin.

During World War II, Peters Canyon was used as a training area for the U.S. Army. “Camp Commander,” as it was known, was established in the eucalyptus groves near Little Peters Lake, or what is known today as Lower Peters Canyon Retarding Basin. Mock battles were staged between Camp Commander and “Camp Rathke,” an Army post two miles away in Irvine Park.

On March 3, 1992, the Irvine Company dedicated 354 acres of Peters Canyon to the County of Orange to be preserved as open space. This land was turned into the beautiful park that exists today.

Be sure to pick up your OC regional park pass over at Irvine Park. It’s good for entrance into Irvine Park, Santiago Oaks Park and Peter’s Canyon Reservoir, as well as countless other parks throughout the area.

Peter’s Canyon Trail Map

Click on the map below to download a PDF version of the Trail Map.

Peter's Canyon Trail Map, courtesy of OC Parks

Peter’s Canyon Trail Map, courtesy of OC Parks

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