From a trail high on the wall of Weir Canyon, look west and you'll see Orange County as we know it now: freeways, houses perched everywhere on the Anaheim Hills, other homes and businesses sprawling toward the coast. Look east, though, and you'll see the county as it used to be, a pastoral landscape of hills and canyons that looks like a plein-air painting.
I'm happy to report that Weir Canyon Regional Park -- not nearby subdivisions -- has been extending its boundaries farther into the hills, toward the toll road Highway 241. A four-mile hike along Weir Canyon Trail is an excellent introduction to these hills, which comprise a long, low ridge that extends west from the Santa Ana Mountains and rises above Santa Ana Canyon and the Santa Ana River.
To reach the trail head, follow the 91 Freeway to Anaheim Hills and exit on Weir Canyon Road. Drive southeast seven-tenths of a mile to Serrano Avenue and turn right (south). Proceed two miles to Hidden Canyon Road and turn left (southeast), following that road half a mile until it ends at Overlook Terrace and the signed trail head. Park along Hidden Canyon.
From here the trail leads northeast. Ignore a path descending toward the canyon bottom and continue on the main path as it rises and then levels. The view east is of Weir Canyon; to the west lie intriguing sandstone outcroppings.
The path dips and climbs, skirts some homes around the 2 1/2-mile mark, then U-turns and heads south. After a mile of hiking along the western rim of the canyon, the path drops to the end of Avenida de Santiago. Walk down the steep residential street to Hidden Canyon Road, turn left and return to the trail head.
John McKinney offers other tips at www.thetrailmaster.com.