Location: Laguna Niguel: 28373 Alicia Parkway, about 100 yards south of Aliso Creek Road. Look for signs that say Aliso and Wood Canyons Park. You’ll make a quick turn on a small road called Awma.
Hours: 7 a.m. to sunset daily. Trails close for up to three days following rain.
Cost: The county parking lot is $3 per vehicle, paid at an automated pay box that takes coins and dollar bills.
For ages: Best for 5 and older
A popular park for mountain bikers and family bike rides, Aliso and Wood Canyons is probably one of the county’s best examples of life here more than 100 years ago. Native sagebrush and mature oaks sprawl out in pastoral views, while rare and endangered animals still make their home here (the park is designated as a wildlife sanctuary). The park also has more than 30 miles of interconnecting trails that connect to Laguna Beach, Dana Point, and the Santa Ana Mountains. Elevation gains and losses of more than 800 feet treat hikers (and bikers) to views of canyons, caves, rock outcroppings,clusters of sycamores and elderberries, and more. Two of the most popular trails take the heartiest athletes to “Cave Rock” and “Dripping Cave,” both natural caves with plenty of ranchero folklore surrounding them. This park also is home to the regionally famous peak “Top of the World.”
With small children, however, you probably won’t get that far – little ones might be able to bike or hike in for 15 minutes or so before wanting to turn around. For good mountain bikers, though, this park is a must-try.
There’s not much shade here, so be sure to wear hats. Be sure to bring your own bottled water on the hike. And stay alert for wildlife: There’s a whiteboard at the ranger’s trailer called “What Did You See?”, filled with dates of wildlife sightings, from bobcats and mountain lions to snakes, so always enter with caution.
A handful of picnic tables are near the ranger’s trailer under the sycamore trees (check out the bird houses hanging from the trees). The tables are well positioned close enough to the parking lot to make packing in and packing out pretty easy, but be sure to bring a tablecloth and some wipies if you’re worried about dirt.
Port-a-potties are in the parking lot.
Where to park: Parking is plentiful in the county lot.
What to bring: Cash for the entry fee, which you’ll leave in a drop box. Bottled water per person, sunscreen, hats. Best to wear tennis shoes for the hike.
Best time to go: Any time, although summer and early fall can get a little hot for hiking. Spring is nice and fragrant, but don’t forget that trails close for three days after rain.
For more information: 949-923-2200 or visit the Orange County Parks website
Do like to hike or ride through Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park? What are your favorite parts of the trail?