Saturday, November 12, 2011

Salt Creek Trail (Laguna Niguel)

Recently, Ashley and I had the opportunity to explore the Salt Creek Trail which is offers great hiking in Orange County to the Salt Creek Beach. The Salt Creek Trail is popular hiking trail with Laguna Niguel and Dana Point locals and you will see hikers, joggers, and other people riding their bikes when you are on this Orange County hiking trail. The Salt Creek Trail crosses the City of Dana Point, the City of Laguna Niguel and four parks: Chapparosa Community Park and Salt Creek Regional Park in the Salt Creek Canyon and Crown Valley Community Park and Laguna Niguel Regional Park in the Sulphur Creek Canyon. The Salt Creek Trail is is more of an urban hike that follows two large coastal canyons down to Salt Creek Beach. It goes through a semi-wilderness area in Laguna Niguel surrounded by homes and is the perfect hike to do after a rain storm or midweek after work. For more pictures check out our Facebook Page.

Directions to Trailhead: There is not one trailhead used to access the Salt Creek Trail, there are multiple trailheads. The furthermost trailhead is the parking lot for the Laguna Niguel Dog Park. To reach this location from the Interstate 5 freeway, exit at Crown Valley and head toward the beach, away from Mission Viejo. Continue a couple of miles and make a left onto Golden Lantern. In a couple of miles the Dog Park will be on your right. If you pass Beacon Hill Way you have gone to far. For a map click Here. No cost for parking.

Additionally, another trailhead option to hike on the Salt Creek Trail to Salt Creek Beach is Chapparosa Community Park, which is located just down the trail from the Laguna Niguel Dog Park. To reach this location from the Interstate 5 freeway, exit at Crown Valley and head toward the beach, away from Mission Viejo. Continue a couple of miles and make a left onto Golden Lantern. In a couple of miles you will make a right onto Chapparosa Park Road. You will dead end into the park. For a map click Here. No cost for parking.

Another trailhead option in the middle of the Salt Creek Trail system is the shopping center on Niguel Road. To reach this location from the Interstate 5 freeway, exit at Crown Valley and head toward the beach, away from Mission Viejo. Continue for several miles and make a left onto Niguel Road. You will head up a hill and then down a hill and the shopping center is located by the light at clubhouse drive. No cost for parking.

Lastly, another option is to start hiking at Salt Creek Beach. Salt Creek Beach Park is located in Southern Orange County between the communities of South Laguna and Dana Point. The park entrance is located at Pacific Coast Highway & Ritz Carlton Drive, approximately four miles north of the San Diego freeway. This parking area is open daily from 5:00a.m. - 12:00 midnight. There is a cost for parking $1/hour year round.

Additionally, there are many side trails that connect to adjacent communities along the Salt Creek Trail, so if you live near the Salt Creek Trail you might have a trailhead very close to your home!

Description of Hike: The Salt Creek Trail is an urban hike that goes through semi-wilderness areas in the City of Laguna Niguel and the City of Dana Point all the way to Salt Creek Beach at the Pacific Ocean. The trail system is well maintained and the majority of the trail is paved. There are several sections where you have the option to travel on dirt/gravel trail away from paved trail (Between the Laguna Niguel Dog Park and Chapparosa Community Park), however most of the trail is paved with (at times) a dirt trail next to it. From the Laguna Niguel Dog Park to Salt Creek Beach it is approximately 4.75 miles on the dirt trail and just over 5 miles on the paved trail one way. Roundtrip you are look at 9.5 to 10 miles for the whole trail system marked in blue on the Google Map Below. Total elevation gain/loss for the trail is approximately 400 feet.

There are more trails to this Salt Creek Trail system, marked in Yellow on the Google Map below, but we are considering them community access points for the residents near the bulk of the semi-wilderness area and have not included these in our mileage calculations. From the Dog Park to the Shopping Center at Niguel Road it is approximately 1.85 miles one way on the dirt trail and just over 2 miles one way on the paved trail. From the Shopping Center at Niguel Road to Camino Del Avion it is approximately 1.13 miles one way. And from Camino Del Avion to the Salt Creek Beach Parking area it is approximately 1.62 miles one way. For a map of the entire trail system click Here. The nice thing about the Salt Creek Trail system is you can choose to do one long hike or can do a shorter hike, depending on your needs.

Further Thoughts: Ashley and I really enjoyed this hike, even though it was not in a true wilderness setting. It is a great hike when you don't have enough time to get away to a true wilderness area and it is a great mid-week hiking option for those that live near the trail and are looking for a place to go after work. Additionally, since the trail is paved, it is open even after a good rain storm when other county parks are closed due to muddy conditions. It is a kid friend hike in Orange County as well as a dog friendly hike.

Many areas along the Salt Creek Trail offer scenic vistas of the canyons the trail meanders through. Eventually you get far enough down the canyons where you can see the Pacific Ocean. We did not hike the entire Salt Creek Trail system, but hiked from the Laguna Niguel Dog Park to just past the shopping center at Niguel Road. The total hike was roughly 5 miles in length with 200 feet of elevation gain/loss. We observed many people out on the Salt Creek Trail, from joggers to hikers to road bikers. You will likely see other people while out on this Orange County Hike. Additionally, you might have the chance to see some local Orange County wildlife while hiking on the Salt Creek Trail as the hike is in a semi-wilderness area, so make sure to bring your camera.

Ashley and I enjoyed our hike on the Salt Creek Trail, but if you are looking for a true wilderness feel then this is probably not the trail for you.

Rating: (Varies Depending on Length) Total Salt Creek Trail System: Elevation Gain: 400 feet (Easy), Distance: 9.5 - 10 Miles Roundtrip (Moderate).

Time to Complete Hike: Varies depending on segment length. For the whole trail out and back 4 - 6 hours.


View Salt Creek Trail in a larger map

4 comments:

  1. Hello, Brian and Ashuley
    Can I use OC Parks annual pass at Salt Creek Beach Park?

    ReplyDelete
  2. It all depends on the type of pass you have. If it is the beach pass or combination pass then you can use it there. Here is the link to the OC Parks pass information page http://www.ocparks.com/uploadgraphics/2012_AnnualPassInfo.pdf

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have both.
      But I rarely use them.
      Thank you.
      -Su-

      Delete
  3. We're looking to do some rollerblading from the Ritz Carlton. Would this path be an option from that direction?

    ReplyDelete

Ashley and I encourage and welcome our readers to submit comments about their experiences on the trails we have posted on our blog or about their own hiking experiences in general.