Run/Bike/Hike Trails Photo

Directions to Park
There are 2 park entrances both off of Laguna Canyon; one north and the other south of the 73.  See map on the right.  There are 3 corresponding parking areas.

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

The parking fee is a reasonable $3. There are 3 parking lots (see map on right).  Note: the parking lots close at 5:00.

Unless you want to park on Laguna Canyon ... there is no readily available free parking.

Park Hours
7:00 am to sunset.  NOTE: the parking lots close at 5:00.

Dogs are NOT allowed in the the park.

There are 2 restrooms and water fountains at the 2 Ranger Stations.

Click here to sign-up for our free monthly newsletter. It's filled with all sorts of cool info including upcoming events and the latest in running/biking/hiking news.

Help Support Us
By clicking on our sponsor sites you will help support the maintenance of this site.  Thank you.



Laguna Coast Wilderness Park

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is a smaller cousin to the neighboring Crystal Cove and Aliso/Wood Canyon parks.  Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and its corresponding trails are best suited to trail runners and hikers since many of the better, more interesting trails are closed to bikes. 

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is really 3 smaller interconnecting parks: the James Dilley Greenbelt Preserve, the Nix Nature Center and the Willow/Laurel Canyons.  The Willow/Laurel Canyon area borders up against Crystal Cove State Park and you can easily continue a run/bike/hike in that direction.

The 3 most interesting trails are: Laurel Canyon, Little Sycamore and Serrano Ridge.  A visit to the seldom seen Barbara's Lake is worth a trip.

The following map is provided by OC Parks:
Laguna Coast Wilderness Park Click here to download map (includes trail distances).

I've noted three trails which I think are noteworthy and which cover the majority of the park ... Willow and Laurel Canyon Loop, the James Dilley Greenbelt Preserve Loop w/Barbara's Lake and the Nix Nature Center Loop:

Trail Info...
Trail Name Distance Elevation Difficulty
Willow and Laurel Canyon Loop (blue line) 3.5 miles 600' Moderate
Willow/Lauren Canyon w/Emerald Canyon 6.7 miles 600' Moderate
James Dilley Greenbelt Loop (yellow line) 2.6 miles 400' Moderate
Nix Nature Center Loop (green line) 4.8 miles 800' Moderate

Trails and Map

Willow and Laurel Canyon Loop (3.5 miles)
-- This moderate, Willowshort course is popular with bikers, hikers and trail runners (note: Laurel Canyon is closed to bikes.  Bikers typically use Willow to get to Bommer Ridge which offers a multitude of additional options).  The trail starts at the Laguna Wilderness Willow/Canyon parking lot and quickly proceeds up a steady and long upward climb (see photo).  The climb is not particularly challenging, Laurel Canyoit just takes a while to get to the top.  After one mile you'll get to an intersection with several options.  If you go straight you can follow Bommer Ridge west into Crystal Cove State Park or take Bommer Ridge south towards Laguna Beach.  For our purposes we're going to turn right on Laurel Spur; it's all downhill from here.  Laurel Spur is a short Laurel Canyontrail; pretty steep but wide open.  After a half mile you'll get to another intersection; left is Upper Laurel and right is Laurel CanyonLaurel Canyon is closed to bikes.  This stretch is the most scenic part of the park (see photos).  The trail is single-track meandering Laurel Canyonthrough old oak stands with occasional remnants of previous wild-fires.  Further down, the trail becomes more rugged; a bit of scrambling is required.   Hearty trail runners (see photo) will run this course in reverse going up Laurel Canyon and taking Willow down.   Laurel Canyon will return you to the parking lot.

For a pictorial presentation of this course click here.

Trail Name Distance
Willow Canyon 1.5 miles
Laurel Spur 0.5 miles
Laurel Canyon 1.5 miles

Willow and Laurel Canyon with Emerald Canyon Extension (6.7 miles) -- When you reach the Laurel Spur Trail above (1.5 miles) instead of turning Emerald Canyonright and proceeding down Laurel Spur continue moving along Willow Canyon for another short 0.13 miles.  Here you'll reach Bommer Ridge Trail; turn right and proceed another short Old Emerald Canyon0.11 miles to Emerald Canyon Trail which will be on your left.  Emerald Canyon Trail is fairly wide open and for the next mile drops  gradually down to the canyon floor.  Most bikers use this trail on the way up from Emerald Canyon.  Once at the bottom...the trail narrows and you enter the thick wooded area of Emerald Canyon.  BikerUnfortunately, the trail only continues for a few hundred feet at which point you'll be greeted by a "Trail Closed" sign; apparently the result of trail damage (washed out).  A re-opening date of the trail is not available.  But all is not lost; at this point you can proceed up Old Emerald Canyon Trail, a single-track popular with bikers (most use it to go down into the canyon).  Old Emerald Trail is a consistent climb, which after 0.7 mile merges with Bommer Ridge Trail.  Turning left on Bommer Ridge, it's another mile back to Willow Canyon Trail and the return trip.

Trail Name Distance
From Laurel Spur (via Willow Canyon) to Bommer Ridge 0.1 miles
Bommer Ridge to Emerald Canyon 0.1 miles
Emerald Canyon 1.2 miles
Old Emerald Canyon 0.7 miles
Bommer Ridge to Willow Canyon 1.0 miles

James Dilley Greenbelt Preserve Loop (2.6 miles) -- This is another short course and frankly not a particularly popular one.  This preserve is closed to bikers which may explain why it feels so empty.  Canyon TrailThat said...I'm surprised there aren't more runners out here.  This course is mostly flat with an interesting climb at the end of the Canyon Trail.  The course starts in the parking lot and proceeds north along Canyon Trail.  The scenery is pretty good though you can hear the constant hum of traffic from the nearby toll-way.   At the end of the canyon you proceed upwards to the top of the ridge.  The climb is moderately steep and loose stones/gravel make the climb interesting. Barbara's Lake At the top the trail merges with the Edison Road which doubles as a utility and fire-road.  From here you get your first glimpses of Barbara's Lake which is one of the only natural lakes in Orange County.  The slow descent along Edison takes about half a mile and the trail turns into the Lake Trail.  The trail hugs the lake along the eastern/southern shores and this is certainly the most rewarding section of the trail (see photo). From here it's mostly flat and back to the parking lot.

For a pictorial presentation of this course click here.

Trail Name Distance
Canyon (parking lot to Edison) 1.0 miles
Edison (to Lake) 1.0 miles
Lake Trail (to parking lot) 0.6 miles

Nix Nature Center Loop (4.8 miles) -- From hiking perspective, this is the best of the bunch.  Sycamore CanyonThe trail (Little Sycamore) starts at the Nix Nature Center and proceeds immediately with a moderate climb.  Note: Little Sycamore is closed to bikes.  The trail flattens out and proceeds, via single-track, through the canyon.  The look and feel reminds one of being out west (see photo); thick, Shady Canyondry chaparral, and rocky canyon walls, especially on the right.  At the end of the canyon you climb again until you reach the Serrano Ridge Trail.  From here turn left.  This ridge route is typical fire-road except the views are exceptional.  Over the course of the next 1.5 miles you'll get great views of Irvine, Little Sycamore Canyon, Shady Camarillo Canyon TrailCanyon, Camarillo Canyon and the surrounding hillsides.  As you approach the toll-way you'll turn left on Camarillo Canyon Trail.  This single-track looks as if it was cut out of the shrub with a chainsaw; a tight, windy and fairly steep trail that proceeds down to the canyon floor (see photo).  This trail is surprisingly well Bikersmaintained and is popular with mountain bikers.  After a mile you'll merge with Stagecoach Trail which takes you back to the parking lot.  Note: when you reach Stagecoach you're likely assume it's flat all the way back...its not!  Back up the mountain you go and this stretch is likely to see a variety of traffic: runners, bikers and hikers.  Have fun.

For a pictorial presentation of this course click here.

Trail Name Distance
Little Sycamore 1.0 miles
Serrano Ridge (between Little Sycamore and Camarillo) 1.5 miles
Camarillo (to Stagecoach) 1.0 miles
Stagecoach (between Camarillo and parking lot) 1.3 miles

This park offers runners several varied options. If you prefer a generallyRunners flat course try the James Dilley Greenbelt Preserve trails (2.6 miles).  This course if almost entirely flat with the exception of the relatively short climb at the end of the Canyon Trail.  The climb canRunner in Laurel Canyon be a bit steep but there's nobody on this course anyway so if you walk a portion of it nobody's going to know.  On the other hand if you want some serious work try the Willow/Laurel Canyon course. Runner It appears most runners prefer going up Laurel Canyon and coming down Willow.  It is just a matter of preference/comfort regarding running down a steep rocky trail (Laurel Canyon).   For a bit more distance try the Nix Nature Center Loop (4.8 miles).  This trail has some serious climbs interspersed with many flat sections and with the exception of  Stagecoach you aren't likely to share the trail much with bikers.

A lot of the trails in the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park are closed to bikers.  The entire James Dilley Nature Preserve Bikeris off-limits as well as Laurel Canyon and Little Sycamore Trails.  But even so Willow/Laurel Canyon and the Nix Nature Center are good staging areas to some outstanding biking.  Stagecoach, Camarillo, Serrano Ridge, and Willow are all worthwhile and give you access to Bommer Ridge and the endless opportunities with the inter-connecting trail system including the adjacent Crystal Cove State Park.

There's a lot of variety here...a good place for a 1 to 3 hour hike with trails from easy to fairly strenuous.  HikersThe easiest and shortest hikes can be found in the James Dilley Greenbelt Preserve.  The climbs are modest and short; the view of Barbara's Lake is the highpoint. Conversely, Willow/Laurel Canyon offer more strenuous hikes with more interesting surroundings.  In addition, at the top of Willow you have the option of easily extending your hike in a number of directions.  As noted above, the Nix Nature Center is the most interesting  place to hike.  You'll love the Little Sycamore Trail and appreciate the views along Serrano Ridge.  The hike down Camarillo is fun.

Photo Gallery
Willow and Laurel Canyons Loop...
Click on the lower portion of the photo to start slideshow

Dilley Greenbelt Preserve...
Click on the lower portion of the photo to start slideshow

Nix Loop...
Click on the lower portion of the photo to start slideshow

Willow and Laurel Canyon with Emerald Canyon Extension...
Click on the lower portion of the photo to start slideshow

More Info
For more information about this park... 
  Laguna Coast Wilderness Park

Tell Us What You Think

Copyright 2013 Run, Bike and Hike Trails, All Rights Reserved.