Saturday, August 12, 2017

Canyon Acres Cliffs

Hiked: 8/12/2017
Distance: 9.5 miles round trip on trail and use trail
Summit Elevation: 1008' (near Top of the World)
Elevation Gain: 1830'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.46
Round trip time: 3 hours 20 minutes
Recommended water: 48 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free on Canyon Vistas Road
Difficulty: Moderate

Every time I drove out of Laguna Beach on Laguna Canyon Road, I noticed a small cliff band to the east above Canyon Acres Road. I wanted a closer look. A trail leaves from the end of Canyon Acres that goes near the cliffs, but parking looked severely limited. I decided instead to start on Canyon Vistas Road in Aliso Viejo at Canyon View Park. The West Ridge trail in Wood Canyon connects to the southern end of the park and leads to the Top of the World. The cliffs are a short hike down from there. I took a long route to the cliffs linking several Wood Canyon trails. The fastest way to get there is to drive to the Top of the World and hike down.

I started around 8 AM with weekend hikers and mountain bikers out in force. The West Ridge trail is wide and tame with plenty of room for everyone. It is also rather boring, especially on a day with a heavy marine layer. On the plus side, the marine layer kept things cool. When I reached the Top of the World in Laguna, I descended a trail to the east (not the southeast trail) that got me to the cliffs. There are some interesting formations on both the north (right) and south (left) side of the trail. I exited the trail here: lat="33.557743" lon="-117.766666".

On the north side, there was a "Closed Area" sign. Dropping below the sign, I followed a use trail at the base of the rocks. Wind and water had scooped caves and holes out of the sandstone. Unfortunately, the area was littered with discarded bottles, cans, and other trash. I climbed up to one of the caves and found it filled with graffiti and a fire ring. No wonder the area was closed. I picked up some trash within reach on the way out and headed to the south side (left as you descend).

Closed Area

Below the closed area

Trashed -- it happens

Directly across the trail from the north cliffs, a mountain bike trail branches left toward larger rocks. As the trail starts to drop, a hiker use trail breaks off and skirts the top of the cliffs toward a large rock formation. It ended at the side of the formation. I scrambled half way up and crept down the edge to peek into a large cave with human footprints but no graffiti or trash. I guess the party crowd didn't make it to this side. I scrambled the rest of the way to the top and found three climbing bolts. Two of the bolts were relatively new. The rock has good holds, small pebbles and sea shell bits embedded in it. It would be sweet to have a climbing area this close to home but I'm not sure I trust the eroded sandstone. I went down the other side and found another large cave. I only explored about 1/3 of the southern cliff band, but my curiosity was satisfied (for now).

Climbing bolts

One of the shallow caves


  1. Canyon Acres, Mystic Hills above and their surrounding sandstone were the setting for a pretty fascinating bit of local counter-cultural history--cf. Brotherhood of Eternal Love/ Timothy Leary. Prior to the '93 Laguna Firestorm, this zone (and much of Crystal Cove SP/Laguna Wilderness) were much more lush than we see today. Nice ending illustration--source? Thx

    1. Gloop,

      I had no idea Timothy Leary was ever in the area. Interesting. Laguna Beach is still pretty counter-cultural. I've heard it affectionately described as a "drinking colony with an art problem". Not much wilderness left. The last image was created from the 2nd photo using a program called Prisma (on a phone). That's about the extent of my creative ability.

  2. Thx for clueing me into Prisma; i'm older and apparently falling behind the tech curve. Based on your posted local wanderings i suspect we're nearby one another (Laguna Niguel here) with odds being that our paths will eventually intersect. Please keep up the xlnt reportage!

    1. Gloop,

      You aren't behind the tech curve. I just stumbled on Prisma recently and it might not even be the best at rendering art from a photo. I am in Aliso Viejo so its possible we've passed each other on a local trail.

  3. I love hiking, do you always hike solo? Im originally from Laguna Beach, now live in Trabuco Canyon, about half hour from Laguna. Looking to do more hiking. I used to do a lot of hiking / camping in my younger days, but life put that on hold. I now am trying to make up for lost time, and have the hike/road trip "bug". I have done several trips to Utah,Yosemite,Death Valley, Joshua, and many more. If you are ever looking for a hike partner, hit me up! I'm on Instagram: arturobeltran_ (underscore @ the end of my name).

    1. Arturo,

      I hike solo more than half the time, usually because my schedule isn't confirmed until the night before. I try to work out small group hikes but it is difficult because everyone has a hectic schedule and different goals. I'll check out your Instragram.