Five Oaks Trail to Moulton Peak (Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park)
- Location: Canyon View Park, Aliso Viejo. From I-5, take the Oso Parkway exit and head west (turn left if you’re coming from the south, right if from the north) for 5 miles to Canyon Vistas. Oso Parkway becomes Pacific Park along the way. Turn left and go 0.4 miles to Canyon View Park. Park on the street where available, being aware of parking restrictions.
- Agency: Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park
- Distance: 4.6 miles
- Elevation gain: 850 feet
- Suggested time: 2.5 hours
- Difficulty: PG
- Best season: All year (Hot during the summer)
- USGS topo map: San Juan Capistrano
- Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
- More information: Video about the geology of the area here; Peakbagger page here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 6
Climbing steeply from the bottom of Wood Canyon to Moulton Peak, the Five Oaks Trail is popular with mountain bikers and makes a good workout for hikers as well. It used to be possible to reach the peak from the adjacent residential neighborhood, but to do the hike by the book, you have to start at one of the official trail heads.
The shortest route is from the northern end of the Wood Canyon Trail, at Canyon View Park in Aliso Viejo. From Canyon Vistas, follow the paved path on the right side of the park downhill into the canyon. At 0.4 miles, the path becomes dirt and you enter the park (Moulton Peak is visible to your left at this point.)
You follow Wood Canyon downhill for a pleasant mile, passing junctions with the Lynx Trail and Coyote Run. At about 1.4 miles from the start, the trail enters a meadow and the Five Oaks Trail branches to the left.
The trail crosses the meadow, passing by some sandstone caves on the left and a few tall sycamores on the right. You cross a footbridge and enter an attractive grove of oaks; a tributary of Wood Canyon. The bill soon comes due however as the trail leaves the shade of the canyon and begins a rugged and steep ascent to Moulton Peak. The good news is that when you stop and catch your breath, the views of the park get better and better.
Near the top, you cross a service road, pass by some water tanks and arrive at the scrubby summit of Moulton Peak. A radio installation prevents the view from being 360 degrees, but you can still see an impressive distance especially on clear days, including Catalina Island, the coastal foothills of San Diego County, Old Saddleback and more. You also get a nearly aerial perspective of the park itself. If anything, the best views are on the descent, which are unobstructed by power lines.
Return via the same route or if you have time and energy, continue exploring Wood Canyon and the rest of the park. With a car shuttle at the Alicia Parkway trailhead, you can continue toward Dripping Cave and Aliso Canyon.
Text and photography copyright 2014 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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.