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Aliso-Woods Canyon


We took a short hike at Aliso & Woods Canyon Wilderness Park in Laguna Niguel on 11/8/08.  This wilderness park is part of the Laguna Greenbelt. 

From the parking lot/ranger station off Alicia Parkway you must walk or bike ride a 1.5 mile paved road to get to the trailhead which I don't really find very scenic.  But the trip to trailhead is worth it, once you get to the canyon it's beautiful.  Two year-round streams, several caves and groves of trees are found in the park.  Due to the development around the park the streams have warnings posted of high E.coli and pollutants.

This canyon certainly lived up to it's designation as a wildlife sanctuary.  Once we got to the trail head within a mile we saw a rattlesnake lying on the side of the trail, a coyote lying under a tree off the side of the trail, a number of rabbits and many different birds including a Great Blue Heron (which I usually see in wetlands, not in hillside grasslands, but they are found inland near water).  The weather was warm (mid to upper 70's), sunny, the time was 2pm to 3pm.  A passing mountain biker warned us the rattlesnakes were very active this day, the largest he saw was a 5' long Western Rattlesnake. 

Sorry, caopenspace is hitting an all time low on the picture quality for this page--due to an issue with the digital camera the pictures on this page were taken with the "backup"...AKA picture phone.  The pictures aren't high resolution but it will give you an idea of what the canyon looks like. 

We hiked the Woods Canyon Trail to the turn off to Robber's Cave (also known as "Dripping Cave") and turned back at this point.  There is much more to see at Aliso-Woods Canyon, this park has about 30 miles of multi-purpose trails used for hiking, mountain biking and horse back riding.

More information about the park can be found on OCParks website at:  http://www.ocparks.com/alisoandwoodcanyons/default.asp?Show=Introduction

A good trail description and a trail map can be found on the Trail Master's website at:

As mentioned above this is a wilderness preserve...in addition to coyotes and rattlesnakes, bob cats and probably even mountain lions are found here.  Please see my Safety Page for some important wilderness safety tips.  Please remember you are responsible for your own safety in the wilderness.

Cave Rock

Above: Cave Rock Trail off Wood Canyon Trail.  The trail loops around the rock and back to Wood Canyon Trail.

Trail to Robber's Cave

Above: Just off Woods Canyon Trail, the trail to Robber's Cave.  The beginning of the trail is flat but gets steep as it winds up the hill to the cave.  This is also called "dripping cave" because it seeps water.


Above:  view of the hills near Cave Rock from Woods Canyon Trail.

A baby rattlesnake ahead, lying on the side of the trail--click the picture to enlarge.

Baby Western Rattlesnake--click picture to enarge.

Baby Western Rattlesnake--click picture to enlarge.

Above pictures: baby Western Rattlesnake.  This snake was less than 12" long and had not yet developed a rattle.  It had been injured but was still alive.  A number of rattlesnakes were seen on the sides of the trails as shown above.  In the afternoon after a warm day they lay on the sides of the trail soaking up the heat and they tend to be a little lethargic--this is typical rattlesnake behavior in the fall months in Southern California.  I'm standing at a safe distance, about 4 or 5 feet away from this snake when I took these pictures.  The snake was not alarmed until several small children ran up to it (which I quickly intervened), then the snake began shaking its tail.  As I'm taking these pictures a jogger almost stepped on the snake but saw it at the last minute and leaped over it.  Very unsafe.  Give rattlesnakes plenty of distance! 



Left:  Pictures taken off the paved road on the way to the trail head.  Far left is Aliso Creek.  Many warning signs are posted not to come into contact with this water to to high levels of bacteria and pollution.