Colinas Bluff Trail, San Juan Capistrano, CA

Colinas Bluff Trail

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  • Location: Laguna Niguel, on the corner of Marina Hills and Golden Lantern.  From I-5, take the Crown Valley Parkway exit.  Go southwest on Crown Valley for 0.3 miles, and go left on Cabot.  After 0.6 miles, go right on Paseo De Colinas.  After 0.9 miles, go left on Golden Lantern.  After a mile, park in the shopping center on the right side of the road (just past Marina Hills).
  • Agency: City of Laguna Niguel/City of San Juan Capistrano
  • Distance: 4.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 850 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Best season: Year-round but hot during the summer
  • Dogs: Allowed on leash
  • Cell phone reception: Good
  • Water: None (available at the shopping center)
  • Restrooms: None (available at the shopping center)
  • Camping/backpacking: None
  • Public transportation: OCTA bus route 90 has a stop on Golden Lantern, just south of Marina Hills.
  • Recommended gear: sun hat
  • More information: Trip description here; Yelp page here
  • Rating: 5

The Colinas Bluff Trail, also known as the Colinas Ridge Trail, is a suburban hiking route that makes up for what it lacks in solitude with panoramic views. On clear days, visibility extends from the western San Gabriels to Cuyamaca Peak deep in San Diego County. Much of the route is dominated with views of Old Saddleback and Mt. Baldy behind it. The trail’s convenient location makes it popular with local hikers. Four legged visitors–canine and equine alike–also enjoy the trail. The ridge’s western exposure makes for some good sunset watching.

From the northeastern corner of the shopping center (by the Starbucks), cross Golden Lantern and head south to the signed trail head. The wide trail makes a steady uphill ascent, passing by the backs of some houses as it climbs to the first of three high points on the route. At the second high point (1.5 miles from the start) you reach a junction with the Shea Trail, which descends to the east. The Colinas Bluff Trail continues, now bending southwest, heading toward the ocean.

At 2.1 miles, you reach a saddle. An unofficial use trail heads to the left. The center route head straight up the small hill in front of you, while the right fork loops around the back of the hill, also reaching the top at a more gradual place. Together, the two trails make an elongated half mile loop. From the top of this third high point you get a 360-degree view of south Orange County, including the San Juan Capistrano mission.


Colinas Bluff Trail, Laguna Niguel
Interstate 5 and Old Saddleback from the northern end of the trail
Colinas Bluff Trail, Laguna Niguel
Looking south from the first bump
Colinas Bluff Trail, San Juan Capistrano, CA
Heading southwest from the junction with the Shea Trail
Colinas Bluff Trail, San Juan Capistrano
Looking north from the third hill (turnaround point)

Text and photography copyright 2018 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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