Black Star Canyon is a remote mountain canyon in the Santa Ana Mountains, located in eastern Orange County, California. It is a watershed of the Santa Ana River. Black Star Canyon is a popular destination for mountain bikers due to its wild scenery and the fact that its main access road is closed to automobile traffic. Despite its cultured and diverse history and reputable environments, it has recently become a place filled with urban legends, disturbing events, and reported illegal gatherings and activities, causing hesitation and reluctance for many visitors.
Traces of the Black Star mining operation can still be found, including rusted mining equipment, abandoned shafts, and piles of low-grade coal scattered about the floor of the canyon (similar to those found in Fremont Canyon to the north). In the early 1920s, the United States Forest Service built a narrow but well-graded road up Black Star Canyon and down the eastern slope of the mountains to Corona, thus opening the ranchlands of the upper canyon to hikers. Today, public access to the canyon's upper reaches in the Cleveland National Forest is currently allowed via a county easement through the lower section of the canyon, although Orange County officials do not maintain the road.
The lower part of the canyon, along both sides of Black Star Canyon Road from Santiago Canyon Road, is OC Parks property. The area is open for scheduled programs only, managed by Irvine Ranch Conservancy. This portion of the canyon is part of a National Natural Landmark, known as the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. A listing of programs is available on the Landmarks'.
The beginning of the canyon is marked with signs which declare the road as private, which is half-true since the lower part of the road is privately maintained, although the county and, therefore the forest service, have an easement of public right-of-passage on the road, and have had that right for many decades. As is true with all wilderness areas, it is recommended that those exploring the canyon do not travel alone, especially at night.
Although Black Star Canyon has many roads and trails for hikers and mountain bikers, there have been many reports throughout the years of locals shooting at people passing through. There are many “Private Property” or “Trespassing” signs but according to authorities, they are not official and are used by the locals to scare off people passing by. “The Orange County Sheriffs Office has confirmed that all of the trail is in fact open to the public, and those signs were hung some time ago by squatters attempting to keep people off the land.” There are also many signs throughout the area filled with bullet holes.