Laguna Coast Wilderness Park

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Big Bend staging area    
     
 Laguna Ridge / Big Bend (dayhike)   Moderate-Difficult 3.9 miles
Synopsis: The beginning and end of this hike consist of hard climbing and steep descending. But the views of the ocean to the west and the Saddleback range to the east are worth the effort, even if you mostly get to enjoy them during the middle 1.5-2 miles of the trip along Bommer Ridge and the top part of Big Bend trail. Don't expect much solitude on weekends and holidays.
     
 Laguna Ridge / Willow Canyon Rd. (dayhike) Moderate-Difficult 5.7 miles
Synopsis: After the initial challenge of climbing the rocky and steep Laguna Ridge trail, the hike tops out on Bommer Ridge, offering excellent views in virtually all directions. Although the eastern sections of this trip do follow the road, the canyons and ridges are quieter and enjoyable. Weekends on these trails include a lot of company, many of which are on wheels.
     
 Stagecoach south / Bommer Ridge (dayhike) Moderate-Difficult 10.6 miles
Synopsis: If you're looking for a good long walk with great views and a few challenging climbs (and descents), and don't mind sharing the trail with a significant number of like-minded friends, this hike is an excellent choice. And if you pick a really clear day you'll have some spectacular views from Bommer Ridge, in all directions.
     
James Dilley Greenbelt Preserve    
     
 Blackjack / Lake Trail (dayhike) Easy 3 miles
Synopsis: The James Dilley Greenbelt Preserve borders freeways on two sides and housing development on the other two. Consequently it's not a real wilderness experience, but it is a worthwhile section of the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park - if only because it protects one of the few natural lakes in southern California (and the only one in Orange County): Barbara's Lake. The hike starts out with a steep climb on Blackjack trail through coastal sage habitat. You then follow fire roads around the perimeter of the preserve as you circle back and down to pass on the east side of the lake before paralleling the road back to the parking lot.
     
 Canyon / Lake Trail (dayhike) Easy 2.5 miles
Synopsis: Canyon trail is a pretty walk through oaks and sycamores and coastal sage which turns into a bit of a climb along a rocky track before leveling out and beginning a descent back toward Barbara's Lake and Laguna Canyon Rd. The walk along Lake Trail back to the parking area can be crowded.
     
 Mariposa / Canyon (dayhike) Easy 2.1 miles
Synopsis: This is a typical short and sweet hike in the Dilley part of Laguna Coast. Though the hike up Mariposa is nice, the highlight is the often shaded ramble along the Canyon trail.
     
 Mariposa / Sunflower (dayhike) Easy 1.3 miles
Synopsis: The hike up Mariposa trail is rocky and a bit steep, and the descent on Sunflower is similar, but this is a fun little jaunt through coastal sage scrub with some views (sure, roads intrude but the views are still nice). Probably not great for young children but if you need to work up a good sweat and have little time this route is a good choice.
     
Laguna Beach street access    
     
 Laguna Bowl Loop (dayhike) Moderate 3.9 miles
Synopsis: This is a short and often quite steep hike into the hills behind the coastal town of Laguna Beach. On a clear day the views are spectacular, especially on the return leg toward the ocean. There is a short (but, again, steep) bit of walking along the streets of Laguna Beach at the end of the hike, but it's a worthy jaunt nonetheless.  
     
Nix Nature Center    
     
 Bommer Canyon (dayhike) Moderate-Difficult 10 miles
Synopsis: This hike begins in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, but takes advantage of a once-a-month tradition of the city of Irvine's Open Space Preserve to make its normally-closed trails available to all. The trip takes you to Bommer Canyon Cattle Camp, where you'll find facilities and picnic tables under peaceful sycamores. The return loop up East Fork trail includes some steep grades.
     
 Cattle Crest / Shady Oaks (dayhike) Moderate-Difficult 8 miles
Synopsis: This is a hike that begins in Laguna Coast WP on Little Sycamore trail, a nice, easy climb through some riparian areas. Then, after working along a ridge, the trip heads into Irvine's Open Space Preserve, traversing coast sage habitat that is open to the public only one day a month.
     
 Coast to Cove shuttle I (dayhike) Moderate-Difficult 9 miles
Synopsis: This is a shuttle hike between two southern California parks. The trip begins at the Nix Nature Center in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and ends next to the coast in Crystal Cove State Park. There is plenty of interesting habitat along the way and lots of great views. Plan on having company on the weekend, and when you're done check out the Shake Shack about a mile north on the coast highway.
     
 Coast to Cove shuttle II (dayhike) Moderate-Difficult 9.5 miles
Synopsis: This is another shuttle hike between Laguna Coast Wilderness and Crystal Cove parks. As with the first, the trip begins at the Nix Nature Center in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and ends next to the coast in Crystal Cove State Park. This trip, however, adds an interesting detour along the newly opened Lizard Trail. It's a nice little single track digression from the usual Laguna Coast trails, but beware of bikes.
     
 Little Sycamore / Stagecoach north (dayhike) Easy-Moderate  4.4 miles 
Synopsis: The first part of this hike is an enjoyable climb through riparian and coastal sage habitat to a ridgeline trail offering nice, almost 360 degree views of Orange County. Most of the return part of this hike is a dusty, exposed, less than spectacular walk past phone towers and highway. But as long as the day isn't too hot it's a nice way to spend a couple of hours.  
     
 Little Sycamore / Stagecoach south (dayhike) Easy Moderate 4.9 miles
Synopsis: A nice, not too demanding hike that leads initially (and briefly steeply) up to and through a meandering riparian area, eventually topping out on a sage-scrub covered ridge where on clear days you'll enjoy nice 360° views (a lot of surrounding suburban areas included). The return along Camarillo and Stagecoach South trails generally follows the toll roads so expect a bit of road noise. On nice-weather weekends expect company as well. 
     
 Mary's Trail (P.O.I.) Easy 0.2 miles
Synopsis: This is a short, well maintained interpretive trail with museum-quality displays, benches, and views of the hills and sycamores. Mary's Trail is great for kids, and for those with a bit more energy there's the option of picking up the trail to Barbara's Lake at the end of this one.
     
Ridge Park Rd. staging area    
     
 Bommer Ridge / Emerald Canyon (dayhike) Moderate 6.3 miles
Synopsis: Emerald Canyon is a lovely little, and less visited, spot in Laguna Coast. Getting there by way of Bommer Ridge makes for a gentle, fairly flat walk with great views all around. The hike through the canyon itself can be a bit challenging because the trails can be steep, but it's an adventure well worth the trouble.
     
Bommer Ridge / Lizard (dayhike) Moderate 5.0 miles
Synopsis: Bommer Ridge skirts the west side of Crystal Cove State Park, giving the hiker great views all the way to the ocean. But at the halfway point this hike drops away from that scenic perspective and travels through some of the riparian parts of Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. The return leg up Lizard trail is interesting, pretty, and often tight single track on which bikes are allowed, so keep a wary eye and ear.
     
 Bommer Ridge / Moro Ridge / Rattlesnake (dayhike) Moderate-Difficult 8.7 miles
Synopsis: This trip gives the hiker an excellent introduction to some of the trails in Crystal Cove State Park. Yes, it leaves from a Laguna Coast WP trailhead, but excepting the time spent on Bommer Ridge most of this trek travels Crystal Cove terrain. As with most hikes out of the Ridge Park Rd. area, be prepared for a return uphill leg.
     
 Bommer Ridge (dayhike) Moderate 7.7 miles
Synopsis: There is plenty to recommend this hike, but it makes little sense to talk about anything but the views. The path follows a ridge out and back, with views of the mountains to the north and east, the ocean and islands to the south, and much of Orange County in between. Just be sure to pick a clear day.
     
  Pacific Ridge / Moro Canyon (dayhike) Moderate 6.7 miles
Synopsis: A hike that, especially on temperate, clear days, demonstrates the best of California coastal range hiking. There are ridge walks with tremendous views inland and out to the ocean, beautiful forested canyon paths with some old growth trees and interesting rock formations, and (mostly) gentle drops and ascents. Try to go on a weekday or very early on the weekend to catch a bit of solitude.
     
 Rattlesnake / Pacific Ridge (dayhike) Moderate 5.8 miles
Synopsis: This hike begins and ends in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, but due to the unique way the open space here has been divided, most of the trip takes place in Crystal Cove State Park. It's fortunate for hikers that access between the parks is open and easy because it allows a wide range of distance and destination options. The ramble along Rattlesnake trail is the highlight here and worth the effort expended in returning uphill.
     
Willow staging area     
     
 Big Bend / Laurel Canyon (dayhike) Moderate-Difficult 5.5 miles
Synopsis: Taken clockwise (the direction in this guide) this hike offers a challenging first couple of miles with some steep climbing along Big Bend trail. But after you reach the ridge the views open up pretty much all around. The hike finishes with a leisurely descent through riparian Laurel Canyon trail. 
     
Big Bend / Lizard Trail  (dayhike) Moderate-Difficult 7.3 miles
Synopsis: This hike begins with a challenging workout, gaining 600 feet or so in less than a half-mile. But your effort is rewarded with beautiful views as you traverse wide, sandy trails atop Bommer Ridge. The return trip along Lizard Trail takes you through riparian habitat and oak woodlands before descending through pretty Laurel Canyon as you return to your car.
     
 Emerald Canyon (dayhike) Moderate 7.3 miles
Synopsis: This trip takes the hiker into a less visited part of Laguna Coast Wilderness. Emerald Canyon can only be reached by climbing to the ridges that surround it and then dropping in. It's a nice spot to find some shade and escape the crowds (though you'll still probably have some company). In spring of 2014 the Emerald Canyon trail, currently closed at the junction with Old Emerald trail, is supposed to re-open.
     
 Laurel Canyon / Camarillo Canyon (dayhike) Easy-Moderate 5.7 miles
Synopsis: Not a particularly rigorous hike, but enjoyable nonetheless. You'll walk through coastal sage scrub and riparian areas, as well as some meadows which are significantly impacted by non-native species. In spring Laurel Canyon trail is especially good for wildflowers (and it's the only part of this hike where mountain bikes are not permitted). The return trip along Stagecoach trail does follow fairly close to the road in some places, but manages to lead the hiker through some interesting terrain. 
     
 Laurel Canyon / Little Sycamore Canyon (dayhike) Moderate-Difficult 8.5 miles
Synopsis: A rare hike where at the halfway mark you'll find nice bathrooms, shade, seating and a nature center. This trek takes you through coastal sage scrub and riparian areas, as well as along ridges with nice views. In spring Laurel Canyon is especially good for wildflowers. The last part of the trail does follow fairly close to the road in a few places, but manages to lead the hiker through some interesting terrain.
     
 Laurel Canyon / Stagecoach north (dayhike) Moderate-Difficult 10.9 miles
Synopsis: A rare hike where at the 3/4 mark you'll find nice bathrooms, shade, seating and a nature center. This long trek takes you through coastal sage scrub and riparian areas, as well as some meadows which are significantly impacted by non-native species. In spring Laurel Canyon is especially good for wildflowers. The return trip along Stagecoach Springs north can be dry, hot and dusty, but the reward for this section is an opportunity to cool off at the nature center. The last part of the trail does follow fairly close to the road in a few places, but manages to lead the hiker through some interesting terrain.
     
 Laurel Canyon / Willow Canyon Rd. (dayhike) Moderate 3.5 miles
Synopsis: This is a short but stimulating hike through coastal sage scrub and riparian areas, as well as a return along a hill side offering views to the east and south. In spring Laurel Canyon trail is especially good for wildflowers. There are some steep sections and you may have to share the trail with bikes, especially on weekends.
     
 Lizard Trail (dayhike) Moderate 5.8 miles
Synopsis: Lizard trail is not on most Laguna Coast WP maps because for a long time it was an illegal trail. But the park has worked to prepare it for use and now the trail is open to hikers. It's a great mile or so, and can be seen as a sort of extension of Laurel Canyon trail. Woodland for much of the way, the trail becomes more exposed as it ascends to meet Bommer Ridge. 
 
      

All photos and video by Laura or Bob Camp unless otherwise indicated. Use without permission is not cool.