Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Laurel Canyon (Laguna Coast Wilderness Park)

Ashley and I went hiking this past Saturday at Laurel Canyon which is a fun day hike in the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. The Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is a spectacular place for Orange County residents to go hiking. We hiked Laurel Canyon, which offers a great overview of the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. The Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, 6,800 acres, is part of the more than 20,000 acre South Coast Wilderness. We also brought with us seven of my law school friends along for the hike. It was an absolute beautiful day and everyone enjoyed the hike.

Directions to Trailhead: Laurel Canyon is located in the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. Coming from I-5 exit El Toro Road going towards Laguna Beach. Follow El Toro Road until it dead ends into Laguna Canyon Road. Make a left onto Laguna Canyon Road. The trailhead to Hike Laurel Canyon is on the right side about a quarter of a mile from that intersection. A map of the area can be found Here and the trailhead is indicated by the W/L on the map.

Description of Hike: The hike going up Laurel Canyon and back down Willow Canyon is a 3.5 mile loop. The approximate elevation change for hiking Laurel Canyon is 700 feet. The trail is well maintained by OC Parks and there are always lots of people on the trail during the weekend and most weekdays. Remember to bring 3 dollars for parking at any trailhead in the Laguna Coast Wilderness. The Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is open from 7am to Sunset year round.

Further up Laguna Canyon Road, if you made a right onto Laguna Canyon Road instead of the left, is the Nix Nature Center. The Nix Nature Center is a great place to visit with the entire family as it has fun informative education exhibits about Orange County's local wildlife and natural areas. The Nix Nature Center is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily, including holidays. It is free admission to the Nix Nature Center which is great price, but still costs 3 dollars for park. For the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park brochure, click Here. For a hiking trail map for the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, click Here.

Further Thoughts: This was a great hike in the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and we added a little extra to the 3.5 mile loop. We started at the parking lot near the intersection of El Toro Road and the 133. We went up Laurel Canyon which is over a mile long to the top. This section of the hike is known for its spectacular views and scenery and it did not disappoint. It was a great section of the hike. There was green grass and some dampness left over from the rains a couple of weeks ago. This area is beautiful anytime of year, but it is especially beautiful after a good rainy season. When you are hiking in Laurel Canyon you feel like you are miles away from Orange County.

The hike started close to the road going to Laguna Beach, but slowly as you got further into Laurel Canyon you lost the noise from the road and entered the wilderness. The view at the top was spectacular. It was Ashley and I's first time at this location and it was one of the best views we have seen of Orange County and the surrounding Santa Ana Mountains. To get the best view at the top, instead of completing the loop, make a right and head up to the overlook. At the top, we had a 360 degree panorama of Southern California. We could see the Pacific Ocean, Catalina Island, San Clemente Island, Saddleback Mountain, Mount Baldy, and most of Los Angeles and Orange County.

The hike up Laurel Canyon in the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is a gorgeous hike. We descended back down Willow Canyon which completes the loop. Willow Canyon offers great views the whole way down to the parking area. The Laguna Coast Wilderness also has some pretty neat rock formations and one of the rocks at the start of Laurel Canyon had what looks like a smiley face on it. The Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is part of the larger 20,000 acre South Coast Wilderness and is truly a gem in Orange County that Ashley and I look forward to visiting again soon. When doing this hike, remember to always been on the lookout for wildlife as it is readily abundant throughout the greater South Coast Wilderness. Keep your camera ready!

Rating: Elevation Gain: 700 ft. (Easy), Distance: 3.5 Miles Roundtrip (Easy).

Time to Complete Hike: 1 - 2 hours.


Laurel Canyon (This Post) 


January 20, 2009 (This Post)


  1. Great post! I really like the details and the maps. Will definetely read your other entries and hikes since I am just starting out. Thanks!

  2. Hi!

    I did not see Peters Canyon (Irvine, CA) on your OC list?

  3. We have not had the opportunity to visit Peters Canyon yet, but it is on our list to visit in the next couple of months.

  4. Brian - Awesome post! You mentioned wildlife. Any known sightings of bobcats in this hike one should be careful of?

    1. Bobcats do inhabit the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and the greater South Coast Wilderness area. Ashley and I have seen them several times on other trails we have hiked, but have not had the chance to see one while on this particular hike. Bobcats don't really pose a threat to people as they are much smaller than a mountain lion. So not to much to worry about with bobcats. Additionally, there has not been a confirmed mountain lion sighting in the South Coast Wilderness area of a mountain lion in a long time.

  5. Great post.. I like the map..Hope to see more from you.


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.