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Deeply buried in the heart of Aliso Viejo Wood Canyon’s hiking trails is an infamous “Car Wreck.” Dating back several decades, the remnants of the car crash emerge from layers of the trail and are an eery site in the serene wilderness. It’s a mystery to the community about how the car ended up there, since there are no paved trails within a several mile radius of the car. The wreck is sheltered underneath some dense overgrown foliage that extends into a creek at the canyon’s base. It’s worth visiting if you enjoy Southern California hikes. If only the axle could screech!

The Car Wreck Trail is accessible to hikers from both Laguna Beach and Aliso Viejo. The Laguna Beach trial section is shorter (about 3-4 miles round trip), but much steeper. The Aliso Viejo Canyon Trail section is longer (about 6-7 miles round trip), but pretty flat. Depending on your fitness level and hiking experience, both trails can be use to venture to the wreck. However, if you are new to hiking or a “Barry-the-Bear” type of hiker, we recommend keeping to the flat lands starting from Aliso Viejo.
 

Seeing the Car Wreck trail feels like you have taken a Daloreen back in time and are trying to piece together a car accident from the 1960s. It’s eery, mysterious, and adventurous – all at the same time! The section of the hiking trail that leads into Laguna Beach is strenuous and an excellent trail run for avid trail runners (however: keep an eye out for mountain bikers). If you want to take a leisurely hike on a flatter terrain, the Go Hike It Team recommends starting the trail from Aliso Viejo.Total Distance:

  • 3-8 miles (round trip). There are two starting options (Aliso Viejo and Alta Laguna in Aliso Viejo, see map below).

Trail Map:
 

View Car Wreck Hiking Trail – Aliso Woods Canyon in a larger map

Directions (to Laguna Beach starting point)

From the Los Angeles/Riverside Area:
  • Take the 5 freeway to the US-101 S
  • Make a left on Pacific Coast Highway
  • Turn left onto Park Ave
  • Turn left on Alta Laguna Bvd
  • Park on street
From the San Diego Area:
  • Take the 1-5 N to the CA-1 N in Dana Point
  • Exit toward Beach Cities from 1-5 N
  • Merge onto CA-1 N
  • Turn right on Park Ave
  • Turn left onto Alta Laguna Blvd
  • Park on street


Directions (to Aliso Viejo starting point)

From the Los Angeles/Riverside Area:
  • Take the 1-5 S to Alicia Pkwy in Laguna Hills.
  • Take the Alicia Pwky ext from 1-5 South exit from 1-5 South.
  • Continue on Alicia Pkwy.
  • Drive to Pacific Park Dr.
  • Turn right onto Alicia Pkwy
  • Turn right onto Pacific Park Dr

 

From the San Diego Area:
  • Take the 1-5 N to Aliso Creek Rd in Aliso Viejo.
  • Take the Aliso Creek Rd exit from CA-73 North
  • Turn left onto Aliso Creek Rd
  • Turn left onto Pacific Park Dr.
Where to Park:
  • There are street options available at both locations. Use your best discretion when parking in the street and follow the street signs.
What to Bring:



When to Go:

  • Fall & Spring: One of the best times to explore the Car Wreck Trail in Aliso Viejo is during the Fall and Spring Seasons. It’s typically less crowded during this seasons and the trail can sometimes be more visible due to scheduled maintenance.
  • Summer & Winter: It’s possible to explore the Car Wreck Hiking trail at all times of the year. However, if you venture during the Summer and Winter, use caution. It can be hot and crowded during the summer months and occasionally wet during the winter rain months.

 

 

How the Trail Looks:

Aliso Creek Canyon Car Wreck Trail Terrain
Bottom canyon trail sign
Steep Car Wreck trail terrain
Top trail sign off Mathias Trail (near Laguna Beach)
Car Wreck Trail Terrain

Dog-Friendly


  • No, dogs are not permitted Aliso Woods Canyon trail area. Only licensed service dogs.

 

Intensity Levels:

  • Barry-the-Bear: “Wow! I’m glad I followed the Go Hike It Team’s advice and starting from the Aliso Viejo trail entrance. I saw the steep hill grade after the car wreck, and I’m Barry happy that I did not have to walk up it.” 
  • Larry-the-Lion: “I’m still trying to figure out how that car got there! It’s such a mystery! I started the trail in Aliso and enjoyed every minute of it! It was very scenic and we didn’t see too many hikers during the Fall season. We rewarded ourselves with a trip to Whole Foods after in Aliso Viejo.”
  • Chris-the-Cheetah: “I wanted a challenge and I got it! It was tough running up and down the steep Laguna hill grade. When I was about to run out of cheetah speed and found the wreck! Holly molly! I would hate to carry that wreck out of the mud.” 

Have you explored the Aliso Woods & Canyon Hiking Trails? What’s your favorite Laguna Beach hike?
Share your hiking adventures with a comment below!

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