Monday, February 2, 2015

Aliso and Wood Canyons

Since I know that our time in California is not permanent for us, recently I've really been trying to complete everything on my Cali bucket list. I still have over 200 things I want to do before leaving most which are hikes, famous restaurants, and tourist attractions. Since I now love hiking and have always loved the ocean, what could be a better way to spend a Saturday than hiking to the ocean? I went to Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park in Laguna Niguel last summer, but we never actually hiked any of the park. Previously we only drove up the mountain and parked at the "top of the world" for a panoramic view of the ocean, hills, and houses (blogged about this before). Although beautiful, the view was not as rewarding since we didn't have to work for it. Parking then walking 100 feet is not very difficult or satisfying. This time we decided we would start from the bottom of the mountain and work our way up by sunset.

I used the address listed yelp (28373 Alicia Pkwy), but we parked on Awma Road off Alicia Parkway right in front of the church since the park parking lot is currently closed for renovations. We then walked across the street and used Awma Road to begin the hike. The first 1.5 miles of this hike is a paved road that runs along a stream. I read people complain about the start of the hike not being very enjoyable, but my boyfriend and I didn't mind. We loved hearing the sound of running water, and at one point there was even a cool man-made waterfall. 
The start of the trail, houses above
Awesome waterfall
So relaxing
After 1.5 miles the trail splits where you can stay straight on the paved road or turn right onto Lower Wood Canyon Trail to get to Dripping Cave and Cave Rock. We went right and hiked another 1.5 miles until we got to the Dripping Cave. The path to enter Dripping Cave is clearly labeled, so you won't be able to miss it. Legend claims the cave was one a hide out for thieves after robbing livestock. In rained a few days before we went, so when we got to the cave, there was actually water dripping down. We spent a good 15 minutes exploring the cave and taking pictures before heading back to the trail. Instead of going back the way we came up to the cave, there is an alternate trail that we decided to explore. It ended up looping back to the original trail about a mile later, but the views from this lop were really beautiful. 
Sign explaining the legend
Opening to the cave
It is really a lot bigger then I expected 
I seem so small
The Dripping cave is actually dripping 
Once back on the original trail, we hiked back the way we came past the entrance to Dripping Cave when we got to the entrance of Cave Rock, again nicely labeled. Although not as cool as Dripping Cave, Cave Rock was a nice place to sit, eat some snacks, and enjoy the views around us. There were a ton of small caves all along this loop which is where it gets its name. 
The first cave at Cave Rock
Where we ate some snacks
More caves
On the trail to Cave Rock
Enjoying the views
Hanging in some trees
I'm so small
After we had our snacks at the top of Cave Rock we were fueled and ready for the last part of our journey to hike to the top of the mountain and watch the sunset over the ocean. We got back on to Lower Wood Canyon Trail until we came to Meadows Trail on the right side. Meadows Trail was a lot more difficult than it initially looked. The trail kept winding around the mountain and was on an incline pretty much the entire way up. I wanted to give up, but I knew the view from the top would be worth it. Finally we made it to the top and ended up on Aswut Trail which is at 817 of elevation. The view from the top was very similar to the "top of the world" but this time it was much more rewarding since we worked hard to see it. We sat in the grass and watched as the sun slowly starting to fade into the ocean. 
What a view
Sitting in the grass
Once the sun had pretty much set we hiked back down the mountain using the Mentally Sensitive Trail. This trail was really crazy. I felt like I was going to tumble down the mountain pretty much the entire time. I wouldn't suggest taking this trail unless you are an experienced hiker. By the time we made it down the mountain and back onto Awma Road, we still had over 2 miles to go back to the car where we parked. It was getting pretty dark and cold, so we really hustled. I recommend either leaving before the sun sets or bringing a flashlight with you since there is no light around anywhere. By the time we got back to the car, our entire round trip was about 10 miles.

This park is great for running, hiking, and mountain biking. The trails are well maintained and labeled. Bring plenty of water and snacks in your backpack. Parking is free on the street or $3 when the parking lot opens back up. The park is open from 7AM to sunset. This park is truly diverse with different trails and many different features to explore. There is a steam and small waterfalls, caves, mountains, and even a view of the ocean. Overall, this was an awesome hike in Orange County, and I  definitely would do it again.