Hilltop Conservation Park - Red route (P.O.I.)

Trip date: 2/13/2017

Location: Dana Point Hilltop Conservation Park

Permit/Pass: None required, but parking can be limited on busy weekends.

Directions: From Interstate 5 take the Camino Las Ramblas exit for Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point. As you pass beneath the Dana Point welcome overpass slide into the left lane for the left turn onto Dana Point Harbor Dr. After turning, pass through a light before veering right along the north side of the marina. Going straight through another light brings you to a turning circle past which you'll continue on. Just after the road veers left there is a right turn onto Cove Rd. Take this road and head up the hill. Turn left on Green Lantern St. and look for a place to park along the side of the road.

Maps/Guides: traillink.com, danapoint.org

Synopsis: If you're looking for a half-hour to forty-five minute walk that gives you a great overview of the Dana Point area, along with a bit of a workout, head for the Hilltop Conservation Park. There are several route choices, and if you have a bit of extra time you can stop in the Dana Point Headlands Interpretive Center for info about this interesting preserve.

Trail sequence: Red route trail

Type: Loop

Distance: 1.6 miles

Elevation: Min: 165', Max: 279'


Rating: Easy (factors: heat, wind, some up and down) 

Trail notes: In season, keep an eye out while walking along the headlands for whales breaching or spouting just off the point.

Track: Hilltop Conservation Park (Red route) - Dana Point Hilltop CP: AllTrails, GaiaGPS

Turn by turn:

  -- [If you have parked on Street of the Green Lantern, you are already on a part of this track - it follows the street up the hill to the Dana Point Headlands Interpretive Center.] If you wish to directly emulate our track, walk back north along Green Lantern, pass the first trailhead on the left and find the second one on the other side of the apartment buildings. then head up the stairs to pick up the trail.

  -- Upon reaching the top of the stairs, turn left (south) and follow the fenced trail along the hilltop. After a short distance you come to a left turn and a descent down another set of stairs. Upon returning to the street level turn right and follow the sidewalk as it circles to the right and climbs the hill up to the Interpretive Center.

  -- Find the trailhead on the ocean side (south) of the Center's building and follow it down to the swinging gate. Take this headlands trail as it winds its way along the bluff and then works back up toward some more apartments on the west side of the point. Exit another swinging gate here and head up the street.

  -- Soon you crest the hill and begin descending. Follow the sidewalk down to a right (east) turn along a dedicated HCP sidewalk which eventually brings you to busy Pacific Coast Highway. Turn right and walk just a few steps, keeping an eye out for another set of stairs that lead back up to the hilltop area. Ascend these stairs and begin the short climb to the east.

  -- The trail veers back to the south and junctions with the stairs where you began this track. Walk past this junction a few yards to a right (west) turn that climbs to a viewpoint. From here there are excellent nearly 360° views (this part of the track can be done at the beginning of the trek if desired).

  -- Head back down the stairs to the trailhead - or continue to the other set of stairs, depending upon where your car is parked.