Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hiking Willow Canyon in Laguna Beach

The kids and I are becoming avid hikers. I am planning on using this blog not just as a way to document our hikes, but also to offer as a resource for my fellow trail blazers.
I am compiling a list of Southern California hikes and nature trails that we have experienced ourselves. It is hard to find good descriptions of local hikes and especially ones that provide information about doing the hike with kids. I should have a "button" up soon on my side bar that will lead you to a list of each hike we've done. Then you can read further on the hike itself. Until then, if you look in the category "Hikes and Nature Trails" you will find all the posts there.
Please feel free to pass along the information to other interested hikers and send me any info about good hikes I am missing. I am always on the look out for a new hike. I would also appreciate any additional pertinent information about hikes I have done.
Thanks friends!
As promised, here is some more info about our Mother's Day hike.
We hiked Willow Canyon in the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.
The Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is right off SR 133. It is only a few minutes from the 405 and downtown Laguna Beach, but it feels worlds away. There are many different trails to discover and easy, ample parking at each trail head. Parking is $3.

The Willow Canyon Trail is 1.5 miles one way. It has a 650 foot elevation gain. It is pretty much uphill the whole way. It is a challenging hike, but our boys (6 & 4) climbed the whole thing themselves. They were the youngest hikers on the trail. Lilly had to be carried much of the way. I would recommend a backpack carrier, unless you have a very heavy duty stroller. But, pushing a stroller up the very steep incline might be harder than simply carrying your baby in your arms or on your back.
There is very little shade on the trail, so an early morning or late afternoon hike would be best.
Bring lots of water.
Now lets hit the trail!
A fun part of hiking the Laguna Canyons are the many caves dotting the hillsides. What makes it even better is that you can actually go in many of the caves.
This is paradise to little explorers.
This cave was right at the trail head. If you went no further on this hike, it would be worth going just to climb around in this cave.
The caves are sandstone and formed by blowing wind and dripping water. The sandstone means they are slippery inside and perfect for sliding around in.
If you can tear your kids away from the cave, the Willow Canyon trail awaits you. The trail begins in a wooded valley, full shady sycamores and a seasonal stream.
If you look for it, there is plenty of wildlife to be found. William saw this guy right off the trail.
Very quickly, the trail turns steep and rocky. It is all uphill.
There are lots of red ants.
There are great views of other caves. We liked this one that looks like a face.
At this time of year, there are many, many, different types of wildflowers. I am itching to get a wildflower guide for Southern California because there are so many I can't identify. If you have a favorite guide, I'd love to know.
There are also lots of birds along the trail. We heard this guy before we saw him. Did you know hummingbirds sing? And they are surprisingly loud for being so little.
We also saw this large, Red Tail Hawk soaring below us. Can you see him in this picture? In most of my pictures he blends right into the hills. You can't tell how big he is from this picture, but he was quite large and put on a good show for us.
The views from the top of the canyons are lovely. The breeze up there is lovely too. This was a fun hike and much more challenging than the hikes I normally do with the kids.
It is definitely a "Daddy too" hike. There were times, especially on the way down, when I needed to help William navigate the steep and slippery trail. Sometimes James even needed help. I could not have done that and held Lilly too. Nor could I have climbed that hill with Lilly on my shoulders or in my arms like Aaron did.
Another great thing about this trail is the facilities at the trail head. There are only port-a-potties, but there is a very small nature center that the we all thoroughly enjoyed. The ranger was very helpful and answered lots of questions.
There are picnic tables and Adirondack chairs for enjoying the views and birds.
It was a really nice place to sit and relax after the hike.

Last thing. Another hike, Laurel Canyon, is right next to the Willow Canyon hike. The ranger said it is a mellower trail with only one short climb. It leads through a large meadow and is supposed to be quite lovely. So if you want to explore the area, and the cave, but don't fell up to climbing a mountain, try the Laurel Canyon hike. We can't wait to get back there and try it ourselves.

Happy trails,

1 comment:

katie said...

Can't wait to try this one! Thanks for sharing.