For the past 13 years, my husband and I have walked our dogs daily on the fire road between Moulton Meadows Park in Arch Beach Heights and Sommet du Monde, a private enclave with half a dozen houses. Time and weather permitting, we often go further, along Alta Laguna to Top of the World.
The southwest view from these walks is Laguna Beach, with all its beautiful homes, protected coastline, nestled canyons – Oro, Nyes and Bluebird – and the expansive Pacific Ocean reaching out to Catalina and beyond.
The east view is Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, home to native flora and fauna and miles of trails including Mentally Sensitive, Dripping Cave, and Five Oaks. From our fire road perch, eyes lifted may gaze across the canyons to the ridgeline of Laguna Niguel’s Aliso Summit Trail and further still to Cleveland National Forest. Aliso Viejo landmarks such as the Ziggurat Building and Soka University can be easily spotted and, if timed right, one can even experience the fireworks going off at Disneyland.
Aliso Creek runs her 19-mile course from the Santa Ana Mountains to the Pacific Ocean through Aliso and Wood Canyons. Hills covered in mule fat, coast live oak, toyon, and coyote gourd rise up from the creek. Take a sniff: the sages are earthy and the coyote gourd will surely wake you up! If “earbudless” (not often the case in today’s world), one could perhaps hear a coyote howl, a warbler sing, a western fence lizard scurry, or a covey of quail coo-cooing, their call often described as “Chi-CAA-go; Chi-CAA-go.”
While the southwest view is what drew most of us – my husband and me included – to Laguna Beach, it is the east view, and the rich native habitat surrounding us, that has won my heart.
Laguna Beach is a cornucopia of individual neighborhoods, each minutes away from an amazing trailhead. The North Laguna “tree street” neighborhood has Dartmoor which winds up to Bommer Ridge, Emerald Canyon and many other trails in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. Canyon Acres has, well, Canyon Acres Trail climbing to Westridge and beautiful Catalina views. Mystic Hills has Park Avenue Trail and its lush and rocky terrain, and South Laguna has Valido Trail with a quick 900-foot elevation gain, well worth the effort to see a spectacular view of Aliso Creek meeting the Pacific.
Our neighboring communities also have wilderness trails nearby: Laguna Woods has Woods End; Aliso Viejo has Cholla, and Laguna Niguel has Wood Creek, to name just a few.
And whether you’re reading this thinking, “Yeah, been there; I ride/hike it every weekend,” or “What strange names and places; I must learn more,” or something in between, these 22,000 acres of biodiverse habitat surely enrich our lives. As Laguna Beach residents, it is clear how much we love our city, our beaches, our culture and our neighbors. We take pride in our community. Inspired by The Saloon, our motto may say it best: “Be nice. You’re in Laguna!”
Let’s also love — and be nice to — our open space, that “east view,” the treasure that many Lagunans – more than 25 years ago – fought to protect against development. It is our backyard. Take a look. We must protect it.
Interested in learning more? Laguna Canyon Foundation has been protecting and preserving our wilderness since 1990. Call us; email us. We’d love to chat.