Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park (Pecten Reef Loop)

Recently, we had the opportunity to hike at the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park again. Ashley and I hiked the Pecten Loop Trail. This hike takes place in an area that is not directly associated with the main segment of the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, but is a fun offshoot of the park. This is a fun short hike that is great for the entire family or for those who only have a little bit of time to get away. For more pictures to see what the area looks like, you can visit our Facebook Page

Directions to TrailheadThere is no specific trailhead parking for this hike, but there are several options. There is available street parking on Laguna Hills Dr, right by Sheep Hills Park (Which is where we parked). There is also parking available in some of the neighborhoods near this area as well. Head down into Sheep Hills Park and follow the Aliso Creek Trail heading south. Once you go underneath the Moulton Parkway Bridge you will see a sign stating you are entering the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. There is a sign indicating the beginning of the Pectin Loop Trail. There is no cost for parking.

Description of HikeThis is a fun short hike and the trail is well maintained by OC Parks. It would be classified as an urban hike because of the hikes proximity to 3 roads. The hike begins on the paved Aliso Creek Trail. The Aliso Creek Trail goes from the beginning of the Santa Ana Mountains all the way into the heart of Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. The trail is well mark and there is a sign marking the start of the Pectin Reef Loop Hike. The Pectin Loop Trail is mostly a single track dirt trail. You have two options on the loop, one is to finish the loop using the flat section of trail or the other is to take the trail up to the top of the hill that the loop goes around. I would recommend going to the top of the hill as there are more fossils located there.

You want to pay attention to the rocks in the area where you are hiking to look for fossils, the most visible are the pectens (scallops), but oysters and other mollusks are visible. The hike goes around a section of a prehistoric reef that is approximately 10 miles long. Many neat fossils have been dug up by surrounding developments, some of which are displayed in the Laguna Hills Community Center. Click Here for another link to the city's fossil displays. This is a fun hike for those with kids, as it is not to long and you have the opportunity to look for fossils. A map of 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 ThoughtsThis hike was really enjoyable because of the time of year we visited the area. Because of the large amounts of rain everything was green and the aliso creek had plenty of water in it. We even saw a white heron looking for lunch in the aliso creek. We also saw a Woolly Bear caterpillar and my guess is that it will be a bumper year for them given all the rain we have received this year.

While hiking here, make sure to watch out for bicycles when you are on the Aliso Creek Trail. The only real downside to this hike is the close proximity to the main roads in the area in addition to the prevalence of non-native species of plants. Despite this, it was still a very enjoyable hike and it was fun to look at fossils on the reef. If you are looking for a true wilderness experience you will not get that here because of the proximity to the roads and that is the reason we classified it as an urban hike. If you are looking for a hard-copy version of this hike, click Here.

Rating: Elevation Gain: 55 ft. (Easy), Distance: 1.3 Miles Roundtrip (Easy).

Time to Complete Hike1 hour.



  1. Fossils from the Pecten Reef and surrounding areas are on display in the lobby museum of the Laguna Hills Community Center & Sports Complex.

    For fun web site about area fossils go to

    For Pecten Reef information call (949) 707-2600


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