Saturday, June 13, 2009

Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park (Dripping Cave aka: Robbers Cave)

On Saturday June 13, Ashley and I did one of Orange County's most popular hikes to Dripping Cave which is also known as Robbers Cave in the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. Our goal was to hike to Dripping Cave, which is one of the major highlights of the Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. This was a great hike and is one that the whole family will enjoy because it is not strenuous. The trails in the Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park are well maintained and you have a great chance of seeing wildlife.

Directions to Trailhead: To get to the main trailhead for Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park exit the 5 freeway at Alicia Parkway and head towards the ocean. Make a right on Awma Rd. The parking area is on your left. This is also some street parking available. A map of the area can be found Here as well as the Google map below. There are other trailhead options available to enter the park, but the main entrance is one of the easier options for accessing the park and it has ample parking. Parking costs 3 dollars.

Description of Hike: The Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park is roughly 4,200 acres and has over 30 miles of trails. The main trail through the park is flat and is a very easy hike. There are also more challenging trails available in the park that have significant elevation gain. Ashley and I took Also Creek Trail to the Wood Canyon Trail, the two main trails in the park. We stopped at Cave Rock, Dripping Cave, and the Old Corral, which are several notable points of interest on this hike. To see those points of interest you must also take the dripping cave trail. The overall hike was around 5 miles with approximately 100 feet of elevation gain. Maps of the trails in the park are available at the main trailhead (directions given above). In the Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, because of the variety of trails available, you can make your hike as easy or as strenuous as you would like. A printable map of the hiking trails at Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park can be found Here. For the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park Brochure, click Here.

Further Thoughts: Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park is a great Orange County Hiking location. There are challenging trails available for the more experienced hiker as well as easy trails for the entire family/beginning hiker. One caution when hiking here is there are a lot of mountain bikers who use the park, so be on the lookout while you are on the trails. While we were out in the park we saw families with children as well as seasoned hikers and mountain bikers.

Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park has a lot of wildlife. During our hike Ashley and I saw a Red Diamondback  rattlesnake which was approximately 3.5 - 4 feet long. Unfortunately, we were unable to get our camera out quick enough to take a picture. Also during this hike to Robbers Cave we saw a 3 foot long gopher snake, which we did get a picture of (you can see its head in the picture above). We saw several rabbits as well as numerous lizards. We even saw a horned lizard in the canyon as well as evidence of deer in the park. For pictures of deer we have seen in Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park on a different hike, click Here.

Ashley and I also found a hawk nest while we were hiking and we got good pictures of the nesting pair. It was great to just listen to the hawks communicate back and forth and and to see there interactions. Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park also has two year round streams running through it, which make this a very unique hiking location in Orange County. These streams provide water to the wildlife that inhabits the park. There are also signs posted warning about the possibility of mountain lions in the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, however we seriously doubt there are any because the South Coast Wilderness is not big enough to support a mountain lion population for any extended period of time. Additionally, park rangers have told us in the past there have been no confirmed mountain lion sightings in the area for a long time (But there is always a very slight chance one could migrate from the Santa Ana Mountains into the South Coast Wilderness). Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness park does have bobcats though. 

There are several points of interest in the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness area. The main point of interest is Dripping Cave which is also known as Robbers Cave. Robbers, who would hold up local stage coaches going from San Diego to Los Angeles would use Dripping cave as their hideout to escape capture from law enforcement. When you visit Robbers Cave in the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, you can still see the burn marks from the robber's camp fires on the roof of the cave. (Picture to the right)

Another point of interest is Cave Rock, a large rock with several caves, as well as the Old Corral, which was left over from the old farming days of Orange County. All of the different points of interest in Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park are highlighted on the park map and make this area a great Orange County Hiking location.

Overall, this hike has many things to offer any Orange County Hiker. When you go to the park make sure to stop by the ranger station at the entrance and pick up a map of the trails. If you have any questions the rangers at OC Parks have always been friendly to us and are always happy to answer any questions. We will return to this place soon as it is a great hiking location.

Rating: Elevation Gain: 100 ft. (Easy), Distance: 5 Miles Roundtrip (Easy).

Time to Complete Hike: 2 - 3.5 hours.


Trail to Dripping Cave (aka: Robbers Cave)(This Post)

Alta Laguna Park Trailhead
View Untitled in a larger map

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  1. Hi there! I'm an avid hiker mom in SoCal and love seeing where you guys go. I'm curious, how do you map your trails on google maps? I haven't been able to figure it out, but would love to add that feature to my blogs. Tks!!

  2. Naomi,

    When you go to Google's homepage, in the top left they have a link that says maps, click on that. Then the next page has a section that says my maps, click on that. The next page has a link that says create map. Click on that and you are set to go. Hope that helps.

  3. My wife and I had a great time doing this hike. The one draw back is that is a favorite park of mountain bikers so watch yourself if you head up any of the narrower side trails.

    Great Blog!


  4. My husband, daughter and I have hiked around the trails where we live and this one is close by. We will definitely have to try this one out. I love the dripping cave, I have got to see that. Its the time now when the snakes start coming out, the ranger told us the other day. I'm such a baby when it comes to snakes. I'm a fall and winter hiker. Love your blog site, good job guys.

  5. Just did this hike today! Thank you for the recommendation! This one wasn't in my Southern CA hikes book and we loved it! It was perfect for a few hours to get out and about. We didn't see any rattle snakes (although other people we ran into did), but we DID see a coyote that got a little close :) I also recommend checking out Car Wreck Trail (off of Oak something or other). There is a cool old car that is stuck in the side of the hill. Fun little detour!

  6. I have a question is this trail stroller friendly??? IF not, do you guys know any good stroller friendly trails? thanks so much!

    1. The first half of this trail would be stroller friendly. You might want to try the Aliso Creek Trail, the Oso Creek Trail, or the San Clemente Beach Trail. Happy Hiking.

  7. my husband & I just did this hike today......and we had a very nice time :) first off I want to thank brian & Ashley for this great site - it has helped us find all kinds of new hikes like this one :)
    well to start off it was very easy to find & parking was great......there were 2 outhouses in the parking lot as well as one half way thru the hike (nice option LOL ) but FYI bring some tissue - not all outhouses had toilet paper..............I was really impressed with how nice the trails were kept up...........but just another heads up u actually walk about 2 miles either on a paved road or theres a narrow dirt trail that runs along the paved road (which is what I took ) before u actually turn onto the trail that takes u to dripping cave - the reason I mention this is cuz yes its great exercise but its a little dull as far as scenery - it felt more like an urban hike ..................but as soon as u start towards dripping cave then u feel like u are in nature :):) dripping cave was very easy to find & it was a really cool site to see............unfortunately we didn't go past dripping cave (but we will next time ) but on the way back we took the cave rock trail (in & out trail about .25 miles - very short but worth it ) & I loved that trail............there were lots of cool rock formations with little caves here & there.................I felt it was a highlight................and u can climb around the rocks too which was an added exercise treat :) also just a note the dripping cave trail is very easy to hike on & its flat with the exception of cave rock trail - cave rock trail does have some hilly far as the bike riders oh my there were plenty LOL but in no way did it interfere with our hike - its a very spacious area & there were no problems with the riders.............if u are into mountain biking or riding this would be a perfect place for u - there are lots of paved & unpaved trails :)
    as we came close to the end we came across a nature hike area that's near the parking area............we went in to check it out & it was a nice little finale to our hike......don't forget to check it out :)
    as far as wildlife - well - we only saw an egret & a bunny.........but we loved our day......nice hike !!!!


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.