3 Best Hikes in Laguna Beach [OC Resident]

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As a current resident of Huntington Beach, I can assure you that some of the best hikes in Orange County can be found at Laguna Beach, more specifically Aliso and Woods Canyon Wilderness Park.

Due to the stunning views of the ocean and downtown Laguna Beach, the 4500 acres of beautiful hills attract a myriad of hikers every weekend, offering a chance to reconnect with wildlife including deer, bobcats, quails, and coyotes.

The following three hikes may be located within the same wilderness park, but each one offers a completely unique destination, which is why they are, in my opinion, the best hikes in Laguna Beach.

 

1. Top of The World

top of the world

Total Distance: 2.2 miles

Type: Out & Back

Elevation Gain: 862 ft

Restrooms Available: Yes (At the park)

Parking Lot Available: No, only residential parking

Dogs Allowed: Yes On a Leash

Best Time to Visit: All Year

Read Full Post, Map, & Directions: Top of The World Laguna Beach

The Top of The World hike is the most popular hike at Laguna Beach. It begins in a residential area next to a tiny jump line built by the local bikers.

I love this hike for two reasons, its views and the weather. You can see all the way to Catalina Island and downtown Laguna Beach to the south and the Cleveland National Forest with it’s highest point, Santiago Peak towering to the North.

The weather is unbeatable. Unlike the extreme heat in most mountain ranges, the weather at Laguna Beach rarely exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Most of the hike is exposed to the sun, but due to low temperatures and elevation gain, you won’t even notice the heat.

However, I still recommend wearing a hat and taking plenty of water! The last time we hiked this trail it was closer to sunset, and we had the lucky experience of running into a quail flock.

Back when I used to downhill bike, my buddies and I used to session a trail called Telonics, which cuts in and out of the hiking trail, so keep an eye out for mountain bikers, especially in the mornings. This place is well known in the biking community because it’s been sessioned by former world downhill champion Aaron Gwin.

I highly recommend this trail for beginners and hikers of all ages.

 

2. Car Wreck Trail

Total Distance: 3.4 miles

Type: Loop

Elevation Gain: 836 ft

Restrooms Available: Yes (At the park)

Parking Lot Available: Yes (At the park)

Dogs Allowed: Yes On a Leash

Best Time to Visit: All Year

The Car Wreck Trail begins at the Top of the World hike, but begins by descending north toward the Santa Ana Mountain range. This trail is perfect for anyone trying to venture deeper into the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park.

The hike begins on a wide dirt road which quickly becomes a single track with steep and slippery rocky sections. Right before you reach the canyon floor you’ll come face to face with a 1940’s car wreck precipitously laying on its side.

Many believe it’s a 1946 Dodge Coup, but it’s still up for debate. As for how the car reached its current destination, no one truly knows.

I prefer this hike over the Top of the World because I enjoy the feeling of being in the woods. As you probably already know, the vegetation becomes dense on the canyon floor. Although only a very small section of this hike involves being in the canyon, I still enjoyed it very much.

The last time we hiked here, we got the chance to see a doe grazing on the hillside. Deer are very common here, you just have to keep a very keen eye out because they camouflage extremely well.

If you enjoy steeper and more technical hikes as well as hiking in the woods, I recommend this trail for you.

 

3. Dripping Cave

dripping cave trail

Total Distance: 5 miles

Type: Out and Back

Elevation Gain: 400 ft

Restrooms Available: Yes

Parking Lot Available: Yes

Dogs Allowed: Yes On a Leash

Best Time to Visit: All Year

The Dripping Cave trail begins on the north side of the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. This hike has a lower elevation gain than the Top of The World or Car Wreck Trail, making it very beginner-friendly for most people.

One of the things that I like best about this hike is the neat little side tour to another set of caves. About halfway into the hike, you’ll reach a split. If you take the left side you’ll run into a set of small caves called Cave Rocks (I know, the names aren’t very creative).

Keep your eyes peeled throughout the hike, as there are many other caves in this area. The Dripping Cave is famously known for its use as a hideout by Juan Flores, a notorious bandit who was popular from 1856-1857.

Although it’s called the Dripping Cave, don’t expect much dripping. Only during or after decent rainfall will you see water dripping from the caves.

This cave is actually much larger in person. You can fit dozens of people inside, but as per usual, pictures don’t do justice.

I highly recommend the Dripping Cave for hikers who want to avoid steep and rocky hikes, but still want to venture deeper into the outdoors.

Gear You’ll Need For Laguna Beach Hikes

I wouldn’t consider the hikes at Laguna Beach to be extreme or dangerous. The weather is relatively cool, hikes aren’t too long, and the trails are pretty safe for the most part. Nevertheless, you should take the following basic necessities:

  • Hat: Although it’s usually not too hot at Laguna Beach, the majority of the trails are exposed to the sun. If you’re hiking during the day, take a hat or you will get sunburned, which leads me to my next item.
  • Sunscreen: I like to use SPF 50 for high protection levels, but any type of sunscreen is better than none.
  • Trekking Poles: The only hike that may require trekking poles is Car Wreck Trail. However, if you’re young, fit, and/or have a good balance you’ll be fine without them.

By the way, if you’re in the market for low-cost, high-quality trekking poles click the link here. I used Trailbuddy trekking poles for a year before writing this review.

  • High Traction Shoes: You don’t need hiking boots for these hikes, but you should still use some type of outdoor shoes with more traction than your average sneaker.
  • Water: Take plenty of water with you, even if it’s not a long or hot hike. The rule of thumb is half a liter of water for every hour of moderate activity.
  • Backpack: Do yourself a favor and invest in a backpack that holds hydration bladders for your water. They’re so convenient because they hold all your items while allowing you to sip on the water without taking off your backpack. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

That’s it! those are all the basic necessities for hiking in Laguna Beach. Now, get out there and explore the amazing hikes this place has to offer.

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Hello, There!

I’m Phillip, and just like you, I feel very passionate about California and the outdoors. After many years of exploring amazing and hidden places, I thought I’d share them with you. Life goes by fast so get out there and enjoy it.  

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