As seen in the Nobody Hikes in L.A. guidebook!
Text and photography copyright 2010 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.
Dripping Cave in Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park
- Location: Aliso Viejo. From I-5, take the Alicia Parkway exit south (right if you’re coming from the north, left if from the south), and go 4 miles. The park is on the right side of the road, 0.2 miles past the intersection with Aliso Creek. From Laguna Beach or Dana Point, take Pacific Coast Highway to Crown Valley Parkway. Head north on Crown Valley for 3 miles and take a left on Alicia Parkway. The park will be on your left at 2 miles. Parking is $3 for weekdays, $5 for weekends and $7 for holidays.
- Agency: Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park
- Distance: 5 miles
- Elevation gain: 200 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 2.5 hours
- Best season: September – May
- USGS topo maps: “San Juan Capistrano”, “Laguna Beach”
- Recommended gear: insect repellent; sun hat
- More information: here; trip reports here.
- Rating: 4
Tucked away beneath the civilized world of south Orange County, Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park quietly expands over 4,200 acres, providing a quick and easy escape for those who live nearby. The park contains some nice oak groves and interesting geology, and while this hike might not have a whole lot of the former, it visits a great example of the latter.
The first mile and a half of this hike is a “take one for the team” sort of mission: Heading southwest from the parking lot on the maintenance road, you have to pass a few buildings and still hear the noise from Alicia Parkway. There is no shade on this stretch either, so an early start is best. However, as you get farther into Aliso Canyon, it gets quieter. You are still on a service road, but at 3/4 of a mile, you pick up a single track, and at 1.5 miles, you arrive at a junction. Head north (right) on the Wood Canyon Trail, and the scenery gets much better.
You pass by Cave Rock and continue to another junction signed for Dripping Cave, where you turn left. Work your way through a slightly overgrown stretch of trail and you arrive at Dripping Cave. It is also known as Robber’s Cave; thieves once used it as a hideout. You can still see pegs on the wall where the thieves hung supplies.
From here, retrace your steps and head back to the main trailhead, or if time and energy permits, follow the Wood Canyon Trail deeper into the park.