Laguna Bowl Loop


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  • Location: High Drive, Laguna Beach. From Pacific Coast Highway, take Broadway/Highway 133 north for 0.2 mile. Turn left on Acacia and make an immediate right on High Drive. Park where available, noting posted restrictions. If you are coming from the north, the turnoff for Acacia Drive is 8.3 miles south of the 405 Freeway and 3.8 miles south of the 73 Toll Road. Note that to return to Broadway, you must follow Acacia Drive to Cliff Drive, take a right and then a left on Beach Street.
  • Agency: Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
  • Distance: 3.9 miles
  • Elevation gain: 900 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Best season: Year-round (hot in summer)
  • Dogs: Not allowed
  • Cell phone reception: Good
  • Water: None
  • Restrooms: None
  • Camping/backpacking: None (nearest as at Crystal Cove State Park)
  • Recommended gear: Hiking poles, sun hat, sun block
  • More information: Trip descriptions here, here and here; AllTrails report here
  • Rating: 5

Updated February 2019

For most people, Laguna Beach conjures images of art festivals, cozy bistros and sunsets on the beach. This loop shows off Laguna’s rugged side with steep, exposed ascents and descents. It might not be a hike for all tastes, but it offers a vigorous workout close to town with less foot traffic than the northern end of the park. On clear days, the views of the ocean and mountains are impressive.

This write up assumes a start at the corner of High Drive and Poplar St. in Laguna Beach. The route is described here in the counter-clockwise direction, allowing hikers to get the least interesting part of the loop (the portion on streets) out of the way first and not requiring a steep ascent right at the beginning. Begin by following High Drive downhill to Acacia Drive. Turn left and walk a short distance to Broadway. Turn left and follow Broadway past Pageant of the Masters to the park entrance, a metal fence on your left, half a mile from the starting point.

Now the work begins. The Laguna Bowl Trail gains more than 450 feet in a half mile before the grade becomes a little more manageable. The next 1.1 miles has only 350 feet of elevation gain and you are rewarded with views on both sides. Old Saddleback is prominent to the north; if visibility is good you will see the San Gabriels in the distance. To the south, Catalina lies off the coast.

At 2.1 miles from the start, make a hard left and head south on Water Tank Road, another wide dirt path. The trail follows Bommer Ridge between Boat Canyon and a small tributary of Laguna Canyon. The Boat Canyon trail is prominently visible on the right.

After about a mile, Water Tank Road bends southeast, taking in views of the town and beach almost 1,000 feet below. The trail then makes a sharp descent, dropping over 300 feet in 0.4 mile. You exit the park at gate 17 at the south end of Water Tank Road. From here, follow Poplar Street downhill back to your starting point.

Laguna Bowl Trail, Orange County, CA

Start of the Laguna Bowl Trail

Laguna Bowl Trail, Orange County, CA

Ascending the Laguna Bowl Trail

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, Orange County, CA

Geology near the junction of Laguna Bowl Road and Water Tank Road

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, Orange County, CA

View of Laguna Canyon on the Water Tank Road descent

Text and photography copyright 2019 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.

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