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Directions to Park

The main park entrance is located at 28373 Alicia Parkway in Laguna Niguel.

By expanding the Google Trail map on the right you can easily ascertain the best way depending on your location.

Many people avoid coming through the main park entrance since it is 1.5 miles along a paved road before you actually enter the park at the Wood Canyon Trail.  Canyonview Park and Top of the World are the best alternatives.  See the Google Trail map on the right for these locations.

Parking
The parking fee is a reasonable $3. 

There are numerous alternatives to entering the park and avoiding the parking fee.  The most common include:
  Canyonview Park
  Top of the World

Both of these locations include ample street parking.

See the Google Trail map on the right for the precise location.

Park Hours
7:00 am to sunset

Dogs
Dogs are allowed along the Ridge Trail only.  Dogs are NOT allowed in the heart of the park.

Facilities
There are 2 restrooms and water fountains; one at Ranger Station and the other at Top of the World.  There is NO water in the park. There is a porta-potty near Canyonview Park.

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Aliso & Wood Canyon Wilderness Park

Aliso & Wood Canyon Wilderness Park is one of the most popular parks in Orange County ... it has challenging single-track runs for mountain bikers, terrific scenery and solitude for hikers, and plenty of options for runners Aliso Wood Canyonwith both flat and/or hilly terrain. 

What makes Aliso & Wood Canyon especially appealing are the various degrees of difficulty options.  There are plenty of near flat sections for those looking for nothing more than a pleasant stroll and an escape from the congestion of Orange County.  Conversely, there are some extremely challenging trails which will test runners, bikers and hikers alike.

The park is easy to access and close to major cities.  There are entrances in Laguna Niguel, Aliso Viejo and Laguna Beach.

With so much going for this park...the park can be fairly crowded, especially on weekends.  Enjoy!

The following map is provided by OC Parks:
Aliso Wood Canyon Map
Click here to download map.
 
Distances in Aliso & Wood Canyon
Trail Name Distance (miles)
Aliso Creek Trail (park entrance to Wood Canyon Trail) 1.5
Cholla Trail  0.4
Canyonview Park to Cholla  0.4
Coyote Trail Total 1.2
Coyote Run Trail from Mathis to Rock-It 0.9
Coyote Run Trail from Rock-It to Wood Canyon 0.3
Dripping Rock Trail  0.7
Five Oaks Trail  1.2
Lynx Trail  0.6
Mathis Trail  1.4
Meadows Trail  1.7
Rock-It  1.3
Top of the World Street (Meadows to Top the World)  1.5
West Ridge Trail from Top of the World To Mathis  0.6
West Ridge Trail from Mathis to Rock-It  1.0
West Ridge Trail from Rock-It to Lynx 0.3
West Ridge Trail from Lynx to Cholla  0.2
West Ridge Trail Total (Top of the World to Cholla)  2.2
Wood Canyon from Aliso Creek to Mathis 1.0
Wood Canyon from Mathis to Coyote Run 1.1
Wood Canyon from Coyote Run to Lynx 0.6
Wood Canyon from Lynx to Cholla 0.3
Wood Canyon Total from Aliso Creek to Cholla 3.1

As you can see there are multiple trail options in Aliso and Wood Canyon giving you the flexibility of easily creating your own course depending how far and how hilly/challenging you want to go.

A Few Pointers...
The Aliso Creek Trail which begins at the the Ranger Station on Aliso Creek Rd., is a flat, paved, and somewhat boring road which extends for 1.5 miles until you reach the Wood Canyon Trail which is the real entrance to the park.  Most hikers will likely want to bypass this stretch; I suggest you begin your hike at the Canyonview entrance or at Top of the World.  On the other hand, runners looking for a flat course, coupled with the Wood Canyon Trail, will find this an attractive alternative to running on sidewalks.

The 2 main trails in the park are Wood Canyon and the RidgeWood Canyon Trail Wood Canyon(see photo) is mostly flat and meanders pleasantly along the canyon floor for 3.1 miles.  It's a great running trail and offers surprising solitude.  Near the end of the trail is a heavily wooded area with over-hanging sycamores and oaks providing a delightful canopy of shade.  The Ridge is a fire-road connecting Top of the World and Cholla and extends for 2.2 miles.  This trail is wide open, fairly hilly, and the most popular stretch in the park (most enter via Top of the World).

There are 5 main trails connecting the lower Wood Canyon Trail with the upper Ridge Trail: Meadows, Mathis, Rock-It, Lynx, and ChollaMeadows is a seldom used trail mainly because it requires going through the residential area of Top of the World before reconnecting to the Ridge Trail MathisMathis (see photo) and Cholla are the 2 primary ways of going up or down the mountain.  While neither of these trails are easy they are comparatively much less challenging than either Rock-It or Lynx Mathis is a wide open but long, steady climb (1.4 miles).  Cholla on the other hand is much shorter (0.4 miles) but is a curvy, often rutted, challenging single-track.  Rock-It has it's name for a reason...its a challenge whether going up or down.  Lynx is mostly single-track and has some very steep and challenging sections.

I've noted three trails and two detours in Aliso & Wood Canyon Wilderness Park which cover the majority of the park ... Canyonview/Cholla/Ridge/Rock-It/Wood Canyon Loop, the Aliso Creek/Meadows/Top of the World/Mathis/Wood Canyon Loop and the very popular Ridge Route (not shown on the trail map).  The detours are an excursion to Dripping Rock Cave and the Coyote Run Trail:

Trail Info...
Trail Name Distance Elevation + Difficulty
Canyonview/Cholla/Ridge/Mathis/Wood Canyon Loop (yellow line) 4.2 miles 800' Moderate
Aliso Creek/Meadows/TotW/Mathis/Wood Canyon Loop (blue line) 9.2 miles 900' Strenuous
Ridge Route (from Top of the World to Cholla and back) 4.4 miles 400' Moderate
Dripping Rock Cave (green line) 0.7 miles 200' Moderate
Coyote Run 1.2 miles 75' Moderate
Aliso Summit (orange line) 7.7 miles 400' Easy

Trails and Map

Canyonview/Cholla/Ridge/Rock-It/Wood Canyon Loop (4.2 miles) --  This moderate to challenging course encompasses two of the major trails (Cholla and Rock-It) connecting the ridge with the lower canyon . While Cholla is extremely popular, Rock-It, because of it's difficulty, is traveled less often.  The course Chollastarts at the Canyonview Park entrance which has 2 benefits; no parking fee and you avoid the boring Aliso Creek Trail.  After a quick trek through Canyonview park you'll come upon Cholla Trail (see photo).  This short (0.4 miles) climb is mostly single-track and rutted making for a reasonably difficult ascent for those on mountain bikes.  Once you hit the Ridge Trail you proceed for a modest 0.5 mile until you reach Rock-It. Note: for those who want to add Rock-Itsome more mileage simply proceed along the Ridge.  You can turn back down at the Mathis Trail or continue up to Top of the World (see distance chart above).  Rock-It starts innocently enough but before long you realize why they call it Rock-It (see photo).  It's steep and rocky; for those on bikes it's a grinder going up and and requires a bit of daring coming down.  At the end of the trail turn left on CoyoteCoyote Trail which will be a refreshing reprieve from Rock-It; it's a single track meandering through the lower canyonWood Canyon with only a few modest hills.  When you cross the bridge turn left on Wood Canyon.  This section of Wood Canyon is flat and surprisingly isolated.  Deer can often be found grazing in the meadows and further down the trail you'll find yourself surrounded by over-hanging sycamores and oaks that run along a small stream.  Along the canyon floor it's easy to forget you're located in the heart of Orange County. As you approach Cholla, the trail begins a modest climb; soon you'll be back at Canyonview ParkFor a pictorial presentation of this course click here.

Aliso Creek/Meadows/Top of the World/Mathis/Wood Canyon Loop (9.2 miles) -- This loop starts off at the main Ranger Station located on Aliso Creek TrailAlicia Road and proceeds along the paved Aliso Creek Trail (see photo).  About half way there is a parallel dirt trail.  This initial stretch is 1.5 miles.  When you get to the Wood Canyon Trail (turn right ... the paved road continues).  Don't go far...the entrance to Meadows is only 20 feet on the left.  It starts out as a single-track and meanders leisurely for another 0.5 miles where you get to another junction...turn right.  Within 0.2 miles you begin a relentless upward climb which will continue for almost a mile.  The trail is in good shape and is a series of switchbacks.  No matter whether you're running, biking Top of Meadowsor hiking ... you'll get a workout ... it's manageable but long and fairly steep.  Upon reaching the top you'll be rewarded with a great view of Laguna Beach and the ocean ... the view down at the canyon you just left is pretty cool as well.  Now for the boring part.  At the top of Meadows (with great views) turn right on the paved road (see photo) and make your way to Alta Laguna Road (you'll need to take a short detour on the Trail Access).  This stretch goes through a residential section for 1.5 miles.  Fortunately Alta Laguna takes you straight to Top of the World.  This is a good place to rest, refill your water bottle(s) and enjoy the views.  Now it's back down.  Take the Ridge Trail down Wood Canyonfor 0.6 miles until you reach the Mathis junction.   Mathis (see photo) is one of the most popular ways up and down the mountain; plenty of mountain bikers use this route to go up.  When you get to the bottom ... Mathis hits Wood Canyon Trail where you turn right and head back to the Ranger Station ... it's all flat from here.  In summary, this course is primarily flat with the glaring exception of Meadow's one mile upward climb. For a pictorial presentation of this course click here.

Ridge Route from Top of the World to Cholla and back (4.4 miles) -- The trail along the Ridge is certainly the most popular stretch in the View of Laguna Beachpark and for good reason: Easy access; you simply park at Top of the World, terrific views (the ocean, Laguna Beach and the canyon below), modest distance (the round-trip to Cholla and back is only 4.4 miles) but with enough hills to get the heart pumping, and finally it's the only part of the park that allows dogs.

Dripping Rock Cave (0.7 miles) -- This isn't a separate course but represents an interesting detour for all; runners, Dripping Rock Cavehikers, bikers.  Rumor has it Dripping Rock Cave, also known as Robbers Cave, was used by thieves back in the day.  From Wood Canyon it is a flat trail until you reach the cave which is worth exploring for a few minutes.  The trail takes a dramatic incline as you progress the relatively short distance towards Mathis.  It's a tester for those on bikes.

Coyote Run (1.2 miles) -- This is another detour which is especially popular with bikers.  For the most part this single-Coyote Runtrack trail parallels Wood Canyon and pleasantly meanders among sycamores and open meadows; there are no real climbs of any consequence with one notable exception, the short incline and descent near the Mathis junction.  For runners and hikers, the trail is often narrow and expect bikers to come flying by.  For hikers, this trail shouldn't be overlooked...there are some exceptional old-growth trees that are stunningly magnificent. For a pictorial presentation of this course click here.

Aliso Summit Trail (7.7 miles) -- This very scenic, ridge trail is technically not part of Aliso/Wood Canyon ... however, it offers very nice views of Nice viewthe park along the southern border/ridge.  {The trail is a tad confusing so I recommend you use the Google map above to assist}  This easy out-and-back trail also includes some excellent views of Laguna Beach and Dana Point.   To access this trail park along the road at the intersection of Ridgeview and Highlands (the one farther up the street).  The trail is typical fireroad; wide and easy.  For almost the entire stretch you will have homes immediately on your left with views on the right.  An isolation trail thiOcean Views is not.  For the initial 2+ miles you will be along the Aliso Summit Trail.  Aliso/Wood Canyon will be down below on your right and the ocean will soon appear including a nice view looking down at Ben Brown's Gold Course.  The trail ends at 2.3 miles.  From here, turn right and walk along Pacific Island Drive for a quarter of a mile.  Then turn right on Talavera DriveTalavera will curve to the left in a few hundred feet...at this point there is a nice grassy park with terrific views of Aliso/Wood Canyon.  Continue along Talavera until you reach the gate (gate protected community). They will allow you  Viewto continue through the gate to connect to the trail.  The trail continues where Talavera ends.  At this point the trail (paved) begins to parallel PCH down below.  The paved section continues for almost 0.4 miles.  Now proceed through another gate and connect with Seaview Trail on the other side.  Continue along Seaview Trail ... in less than a third of a mile you will pass the Badlands Park...a worthwhile detour.  Continue along  and in another 0.4 miles you'll reach bend in the trail with outstanding views of Dana Point to the south.  Take a short break and retrace your route back. For a pictorial presentation of this course click here.


Running
This park offers runners a bunch of options.  If you prefer a generallyRunning flat course you can stick with Aliso Creek and Wood Canyon trails which are almost completely flat.  The Ridge Trail is a series of moderate hills which should satisfy those looking for some moderate hill work.  Meadows/Mathis/Rock-It/Lynx/Cholla all contain some significant climbs with Cholla being the shortest.   Mathis, while long (1.4 miles), is wide open with a consistent steady climb.  Rock-It can be tough to navigate (rocky) and Meadows is both long and steep.

Biking
Plenty of opportunities here for speed, technical Biking challenge, and quad-burning hills.  The most popular ways up are Mathis and Cholla Rock-It and Lynx have some serious stretches which make pedaling up almost impossible. Meadows falls somewhere in between; a good trail but oh-so long with steep sections. Generally speaking, most bikers will do a loop that either starts at Canyonview Park or at the Ranger Station on Alicia.  A typical course would then include going up Cholla, along the Ridge to Top of the World, and then coming down Mathis or perhaps Rock-It...repeat until exhausted.

Hiking
There's a lot of variety here...a good place for a 2 to 3 hour hike.  As noted previously...I Hikingsuggest avoiding the Aliso Creek Rd. entrance to avoid the initial stretch along Aliso Creek Trail (unless you just want to add some miles).  Note: the park can be very crowded on weekends especially among mountain bikers.  There's plenty of room along the upper Ridge Trail and the lower Wood Canyon Trail but but when going up or down the narrower mountain trails, be on the lookout for bikers flying down ... and mercifully give way to the bikers struggling on their way up.

Photo Gallery and Narrative
Canyonview Loop (Cholla/Rock-It/Coyote/Wood Canyon)
Click on the lower portion of the photo to start slideshow

Meadows/Mathis Loop ... Via the Main Entrance
Click on the lower portion of the photo to start slideshow

The Cool World of Coyote Trail
Click on the lower portion of the photo to start slideshow

A Stroll Along Wood Canyon Trail
Click on the lower portion of the photo to start slideshow

Aliso Summit/Seaview Trails
Click on the lower portion of the photo to start slideshow

More Info
For additional information...
  Aliso & Wood Canyon Wilderness Park
 
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