These picturesque trails serve as the perfect outdoor gym for all fitness levels this spring.
By Jessie Dax-Setkus
For fitness enthusiasts, getting a good workout in is a highlight of any day. But with all of the uncertainty that has developed since the start of the pandemic, and the repeated closures of gyms and other exercise facilities, the ease of breaking a sweat has all but disappeared. But, fear not—just because indoor spaces are closed doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to stay in shape. Laguna Beach is home to a number of hiking trails perfect for getting your blood pumping, whether you choose to walk or run. Ranging from beginner to advanced, these local paths are a great way to enjoy some exercise outdoors in the sunshine as spring hits, no matter your fitness level.
Perimeter of the Park Loop Trail
Nestled between Laguna and neighboring Newport Beach, this scenic route at Crystal Cove State Park is a popular one, offering stunning views of beaches and canyons in the park. Extending roughly 9 miles and tying together several trails to create a loop, the path is heavily trafficked by hikers and runners, especially in the summer months, though no dogs are allowed on any of Crystal Cove’s backcountry trails. It starts—and ends—at the Moro Canyon ranger station. Walk uphill and past a gate to No Dogs Trail, bear left on No Name Ridge and go downhill (right) onto Ticketron Trail, which leads to Deer Canyon, then climb uphill to Red Tail Ridge, veer left toward the park boundary gate and then right onto Fenceline Trail. Follow this path, which becomes Missing Link Trail and ends at Moro Ridge. Stay on the ridge for more than 3 miles and turn right on BFI, which leads to Moro Canyon; turn left here, then proceed over the long bridge and veer right uphill, past the campground, to return to the parking lot. This route serves as an intermediate to advanced experience, given the inclines that you’ll find. But, from up above, pristine views feature rolling waves crashing against the sandy coves below and the glassy Pacific Ocean in the background. Lovers of the great outdoors can also enjoy camping or picnics at Crystal Cove State Park, which boasts 2,400 backcountry acres in all, plus more than 3 miles of coastline and tide pools.
Big Bend/Bommer Ridge/Laguna Ridge Loop
Heading away from the coast and into Laguna Canyon, locals can find another great hiking spot, also located within Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. This loop, created by following three different trails, begins just around the bend from Laguna College of Art & Design. From the Big Bend staging area, simply follow the Big Bend Trail up to the Bommer Ridge Trail, then come back down along the Laguna Ridge Trail, which ends back at your starting point. The advanced, 4-mile hike is popular for mountain biking as well as exploring, with plenty of hills to get your legs working. The scenic views and wildflowers along the trail make all of the pain worth it though.
Aliso Creek Trail
Known for its beauty, the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park is filled with colorful wildflowers, exposed fossil beds, and oak, sycamore and elderberry trees, in addition to two streams that flow year-round and more than 30 miles of paths to explore. Comprising over 4,500 acres in all, the park also features various ecosystems, ranging from coastal canyons and maritime chaparral to riparian woodlands and native grassland meadows. It’s here that you’ll find the Aliso Creek Trail. Although it’s only 1.5 miles long, the paved beginner’s trail—which can be used for hiking, mountain biking or even horseback riding—is the most popular in the park. To extend your experience and create a longer hike, consider continuing along the 3-mile Wood Canyon Trail, which also passes the unique Dripping Cave Trail.
Dartmoor Street-Boat Road Trail
In north Laguna, only a few minutes away from Heisler Park, this trail picks up at the end of Dartmoor Street. Go through the gate, follow the access road (starts out paved then becomes gravel) up to Boat Road, which is a dirt path. Although it’s a straight shot, you’re going to get heated quickly, as the beginning of the trail is the most difficult. Despite the steep incline to start, once the path levels off, you’ll find that the trail is an intermediate one, providing a good workout but still being accessible enough for most active locals. Continue along for 4 miles—past grassland and chaparral landscapes, rocky bluffs and dry creek beds—to find scenic views of the ocean, with Emerald Bay below. At the end of Boat Road, there’s an option to go left on Bommer Ridge Trail or right on Laguna Bowl Trail, all part of Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, which boasts 40 miles of hiking paths across 7,000 acres of preserved land.
Top of the World
At nearly 2.5 miles, the Top of the World hike may sound like an easy one, but don’t let the short distance fool you. This intermediate path, which can be found near Alta Laguna Park, has one of the greatest payoffs of all the hikes nearby: The views of the rolling canyon hilltops and sparkling Pacific beyond are unparalleled. As such, this is one of the most popular trails in the area. But there are a few inclines here that may make you doubt yourself. Push on, making sure to watch for mountain bikers, rattlesnakes and rolling fog, and you’ll feel both accomplished and satisfied once you reach the end. This trail, too, is part of Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, yet feels distinctly Lagunan.