Canyon Acres Trail (Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park)


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Sunset over Catalina Island from the Canyon Acres Trail
Full moon and sandstone geology, Canyon Acres Trail

Canyon Acres Trail (Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park)

      • Location:  Hills north of Laguna Beach in south Orange County.  From I-405, take the highway 133 exit south for 8.5 miles.  Turn left on Forest, which becomes 3rd St, and after 0.3 miles total take a left onto Park Ave.  Go 1.8 miles on Park to its terminus in Alta Laguna Drive, and head left, and park at the end of the street.
      • Agency:  Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park
      • Distance: 2.6 miles
      • Elevation gain: 850 feet
      • Suggested time: 1.5 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: here; Everytrail report here
      • Rating: 6

This short but steep “reverse” hike explores the southwestern corner of Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. There’s a nice variety of scenery, including great ocean views, aerial vistas of Laguna Canyon and the characteristic sandstone geology of the area. You can also see Old Saddleback, and on clear days, the San Gabriels. This trail is a great place to watch the sunset, and it is short enough that it can be done easily as an after-work excursion, as well as on the weekends.

From the end of Alta Laguna, follow the Park Avenue Nature Trail past the billboard and downhill. Where the nature trail heads off to the left, take a right to access the Canyon Acres trail, a fire road. The trail bends to the left and starts heading downhill, providing nice views of Laguna Canyon far below. Several false trails branch off, although the main route is pretty obvious.

After a steep descent, the trail levels out for a little while and begins another descent. Look for some sandstone caves on the right (and possibly some people climbing inside them). At 0.8 miles, the trail splits again. Head right, around a horseshoe-shaped curve that takes in some great ocean views. As you round the side of a knoll and head back into the canyon, you get a nice look at some more geology, including an outcrop that may remind some of Griffith Park’s famous Bee Rock.

The lower end of the trail is pleasantly quiet, protected from the nearby street noise. At 1.3 miles, you reach a bridge that connects the trail to the end of Canyon Acres Drive. There’s a nice wooded area where you can sit for a little bit and catch your breath before making the steep climb back to Alta Laguna. The silver lining is that whenever you have to stop and catch your breath, you’ll have some great views to enjoy. If you really want to burn a few extra calories, try returning via the Park Avenue Nature Trail.

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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