Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.
Badlands Trail (Laguna Niguel)
- Location: Laguna Niguel. From I-5, take the Alicia Parkway exit. Drive 5.9 miles to Pacific Island Drive and turn right. Go 1.7 miles and turn right on Ocean Way. Go 0.2 miles and turn left on Isle Vista. The street ends at a gated community but parking is available on the curb. Walk to a staircase just before the gate, that leads up to the park. From Pacific Coast Highway, take Crown Valley Parkway 0.8 miles. Turn left on Pacific Island Drive and left onto Ocean Way.
- Agency: City of Laguna Niguel/County of Orange
- Distance: 1.4 miles
- Elevation gain: 150 feet
- Difficulty Rating: G
- Suggested time: 1 hour
- Best season: Year round
- USGS topo map: “San Juan Capistrano”
- Recommended guidebook: Day Hikes Around Orange County
- More information: here
- Rating: 5
For most people, the name “Badlands” conjures up images of rugged rock formations in the western plains of Nebraska and South Dakota. However, the badlands of Laguna Niguel, while not as famous as those in the midwest, are well worth a visit if you’re in the area. You can also expect some panoramic ocean views as well.
From the end of Isle Vista, walk up a staircase and take a left on the Seaview Trail. (The trail continues to the right, an option if you want to extend the hike.) Head right at a staircase that heads down to the park, where you can see the interesting rock formations. The Badlands Trail continues on the left, working its way around the backs of the houses in the gated community. You get great views to the north, including Aliso Peak and the distant Palos Verdes Peninsula, and when you round a bend, you can see farther south, past Dana Point andtoward San Diego. A rough trail branches off to the right, where you can descend to a clearing where you get closer views of the ocean.The main trail continues, passing the end of the residential street Monarch Crest, and continues southeast for a little ways, over the top of a steep and deep canyon. Just over half a mile from the park, you arrive at a sign indicating the end of the county trail. Here you can enjoy nice views of the southern end of the Santa Ana Mountains and Dana Point before heading back.
The Badlands Trail is a great way for people who are new to hiking to explore some of Orange County’s great scenery, and even veterans will be impressed by the ocean views and unique geology. True, the trail never escapes the sights and sounds of the residential community nearby or P.C.H. below, but it’s a good one to keep in mind if you only have a little bit time. The coming summer heat is another reason to keep this trail in mind.