One of the best trails in this rather stunning park actually incorporates three trails. The 3.5-mile loop starts from the parking lot. Head down the No Dogs trail to the Poles trail, which leads you into the canyon itself and onto El Moro Canyon Trail. You've got ocean views on the first leg, and the abundant vegetation that proliferates throughout the park constantly surrounds you. If you're lucky, you'll spot some critters such as rabbits, red-tailed hawks, and the always fun-and-friendly rattlesnake. There's very little shade, so even though you get ocean breezes, you'll want a hat, sunscreen and lots of water—because wouldn't it be ironic to die of heat stroke in a park right by the ocean? 8471PacificCoastHwy.,LagunaBeach,(949)494-3539.$10pervehicle.
Lots of trails traverse north Orange County's biggest chunk of open space. But there isn't a great deal of shade, unless you take the first trail that comes your way when you park on the Yorba Linda side of the park. It's Easy Street, and it is easy, open only to hikers and only about a half-mile long. You wind up at a nice little creek and the junction with Telegraph Canyon Trail. There, you can cool off and decide whether to turn around or proceed along the much, much longer Telegraph Canyon. Suggestion: go home. It's hot. And there are rattlesnakes and mountain lions and tarantulas and coyotes and hawks and skunks and, fuck, it's really, really hot and things are spinning and you can't feel your tongue and you really don't belong outside on a day like this, really, do you? Takethe91freeway,exitImperialHighway.HeadnorthtoKelloggDrive.TurnrightonKelloggDrive,turnrightagainonYorbaLindaBoulevardandthenleftatFairmontBoulevard.Go1.6milestoRimCrestDriveandturnleft.ParkalongtheeastsideofRimCrestDrive.Free.
This 2.1-mile loop is easy, shady and winding, passing through some phenomenal clusters of coastal live oak and sycamore trees surrounded by an amazing variety of plant life, including two of our faves: California buckwheat and prickly pear cactus. What you won't see are kids because two mountain lion attacks on small children in 1986 resulted in the closure of the park's campgrounds and trails to those under 18. CaspersWildernessPark,33401OrtegaHwy.,SanJuanCapistrano,(949)923-2210.Drive1.5milestothebackofthepark,parktotheleftofthegravel,walkwestabout200yardstotheNatureTrailpost,whichisthetrailhead.$3-$5pervehicle.
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This one is tough any time of the year but will most likely kill you if you try it in the middle of the day in the middle of the summer. Unless you're an experienced hiker or are hearing voices from God, don't try it. But if you're one of those crack-of-dawn strollers who don't mind a strenuous 4.1-mile hike, you'll like this one, which features some heart-pounding ascents and fear-inducing descents during its 1,025-foot elevation gain. Oh, along with the cardio workout, lack of shade, the sun's relentless pounding and the 100-degree temperatures, mountain lions abound. Have fun! TakeInterstate5toElToroRoad.Headnorth(towardthemountains,dummy).TurnleftonRidgeline,justbeforeElToroRoadsplits.Turnleftatthetopofthehill,whichisSaddlebackRanchRoad.GooneblocktoConcoursePark.(949)923-2245.$3-$5pervehicle.