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Fall colors on the Canyon Trail

Cholla cacti on the Mariposa Trail

Woods End Loop (Laguna Coast Wilderness Park)

  • Location: Laguna Woods, at the intersection of El Toro Road and Aliso Creek Road.  From I-5, take El Toro Road southeast for 2.4 miles.  Just past the intersection with Aliso Creek, look for a small parking area on the right.  If no parking is available, turn left onto Aliso Creek and right onto Hummingbird Lane, a little ways up, and park there.
  • Agency: Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
  • Distance: 3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 650 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Best season: October – June
  • USGS topo map: Laguna Beach
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; hiking poles
  • More information: Laguna Coast Wilderness Park here; Woods End Wilderness Preserve here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 5

This short but challenging loop uses a little-known access point to the Dilley Preserve, a section of Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. The route is similar to the Barbara’s Lake Loop (the lake is visible from this trail), but is a little more rugged and arguably more scenic.

From El Toro, begin on the Woods End trail, a fire road that wastes no time ascending. After climbing almost 300 feet in 0.3 miles, the trail meet a T-junction. It doesn’t matter which direction you head, but for the purposes of this post, we’ll describe taking the loop counter-clockwise. Head right and make your way along the fire road, soon reaching a junction where the trail continues down toward the lake. Head left, climb past the water tank and cross a small clearing to reach the Mariposa Trail.

This trail follows a ridgeline, with nice views of Laguna Canyon on the right. (You can also see Barbara’s Lake). Stay straight as the Sunflower Trail branches off. Soon the trail makes a steep descent, reaching the Lake Trail at the bottom of the hill. Head left and through the main parking lot, turning left on the Canyon Trail.

After passing a few trees that are still showing nice fall colors (as of Thanksgiving weekend), you cross a stream on a small footbridge, and then you turn right on the Blackjack Trail. Here you make your second steep ascent – two hundred fifty feet in a quarter mile – finally arriving back on the ridge. The trail curves left (north) and follows the ridgeline, soon returning to the first junction. Head right on the fire road and make your descent back to El Toro Road.

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. 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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