About 3.5 miles, (I added an extra mile making it 4.5 miles), 3 hours in duration, over 600′ elevation change, rated Moderate
This was a very enjoyable hike through the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. The tail head has a cost of $3 for parking. Right as you start the hike there is a cool little cave alcove you can go into. The hike is rated moderate I suppose because it goes up at a steady pace on a fire road. At the top of the Willow Trail is a number of different trails that you can explore. I was going at a quicker pace than my friend Adam, so I added on a mile and took one of the other trails until I got a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. I then rejoined my friend and we took the Laurel Spur to Laurel Canyon Trail. I loved Laurel Canyon Trail. That trail is what a good local hike should be. It has some Oak Groves, rock formations, a legit trail instead of a fire road, a lot of green vegetation from our winter rain, and a rocky cliff canyon, which immediately after a heavy rain forms a waterfall. But no waterfall for our hike. I recommend this hike. It is a great local hike.
Over 2 miles, over an hour in duration, 314′ elevation change, rated Moderate
I have seen this trail referred to as Chiquito Loop Trail and also San Juan Loop Trail. I think that the later is probably correct as that is what it said at the trail head. This is a nice little hike close to Lake Elsinore. I don’t think of it as moderate it seemed fairly easy to me. It has a proper trail with dirt, and rocks, and roots, and everything that one looks for in a trail. It meanders through oak groves, along a stream, through bush, and has scenic views of the Cleveland National Forest hills.
But what I wanted to see was the Chiquito Falls, but the trail is above the falls and there are a couple views of the falls, some of it is more of a peek-a-boo view because of the heavy brush in the area. What I should have done is taken a couple of off shoot little trails that worked it’s way down to the falls, but not being on this trail before I kept thinking there was a better trail and way to the falls ahead, and also I thought that the falls I was looking at might not really be the Chiquito Falls.
However, I still enjoyed the hike, most of it was near water. You could hear it most of the hike, but much of the hike you couldn’t see it because of the heavy brush.
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I hope you enjoyed Pursuing Balance Through Adventure. Don’t forget to leave a comment, and to like and follow this blog. “Being on vacation everyday is a lot of work.” -Roger Jenkins
1/3 mile, less than an hour in duration, approximately 50′ elevation change, rated Easy
Ortega Falls is in the hills above Lake Elsinore and is part of the Cleveland National Forest. It is just a short walk from the 74 Ortega Highway and you will need an Adventure Pass to park, (so I found out the hard way).
Ortega Falls is a seasonal waterfall so you will not always get to see the cascading water as it tumbles over the rocks. With the rains we have had this winter it was showtime for us and it was spectacular. Ortega Falls is made up of two waterfalls with the second just a little downstream from the first.
Speaking of showtime we had some tight-rope walkers that were doing their thing over the falls. How cool is that? A great water display as well as a circus act!
I will say as I have explored some falls in So Cal there is some tagging and I have tried to take my pics in such a way that it didn’t show them. But it is disappointing to see. I can’t believe people like that are even out in nature.
This shows the second of two falls that make up Ortega Falls.
4 1/2 miles, 2 1/4 hours in duration, less than 100’ in elevation change, rated Easy.
There has been a lot of press lately regarding the wildflowers in Southern California because of the unusually wet winter we have had. It mentions places like Lake Elsinore, Joshua Tree, and Death Valley as having what they are terming a “Super Bloom”. While looking for information regarding the phenomenon it mentioned other places with an abundance of wildflowers, and it made reference to Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve right near where I live in Huntington Beach. I had experienced this hike once or twice, but that was a decade or so ago. So it was about time I laced up my hiking shoes and checked out my own back yard, Huntington Beach’s wetlands and start chasing the “Super Bloom.”
This is a delightful little hike right across from Huntington Beach’s Bolsa Chica State Beach. The wetlands of the ecological reserve are home to many species of birds, I saw a few lizards, and even a squirrel. The trail works it’s way across the wetlands to a hill which is covered with wild grasses, the tips gently swaying in the ocean breeze, sprinkled with different wildflowers. But your full attention is captured by the large field of yellow that did not disappoint when searching for wildflowers and I was certainly surprised to see so many. So it appears that Huntington Beach has it’s own Super Bloom.
6 miles, 5.5 hours in duration, over 1,200′ in elevation change, rated Moderate.
It is always fun to share a hike with family and friends. To share the Arizona Hot Springs five out of five star hike is something special. This hike really has just about everything: desert, canyon, slot canyon, hot spring, Colorado River, beauty and with enough elevation to give you a workout.
This is a well traveled hike and on an early Spring weekday with temperatures in the 70’s we encountered about as many hikers as degrees on the thermometer, which is not to bad on a 6 mile hike (7.5 miles for us according to my health app. We took a couple little side tours.)
7 miles, 6.5 hours in duration, less than 1000’ change in elevation, rated Moderate
I had heard that this was a very popular hike and since we have had a lot of rainfall during the last month I knew that the falls would be flowing and it would be a primo time to go. I arrived at dawn so that I would find parking, which turned out to be no problem at that time of day, but there were 4 or 5 cars there already. When I returned there were 40 or more. During my hike I saw over 60 hikers. On the dirt road portion 6 mountain bikers and one trail runner. This was winter midweek mind you! I met up with almost all of them on their way in while I was on my way out, so I was please about my early start.
It was a brisk 48 degrees at sun up and it warmed up about 10 degrees during the time I was there. More than half of this hike is on dirt road making it’s way through rolling green hills, (due to the unusually rainy season), along a babbling brook. I think that is why this hike is rated moderate. The first part is easy, the last part is strenuous. So I suppose that evens out to moderate?
Once the dirt road ends you then begin working your way up the Canyon and the stream. You will ford the stream over and over. It is slow going as sometimes there is a clear path and sometimes there isn’t. You have to hop scotch across rocks, type rope across damp branches, make your way up muddy slopes, always being cognizant of the abundant poison oak. Picking a route is not always easy, and many times you will do an about face and look for a better way across the stream, or across a boulder. It continues to ramp up in difficulty as you go until you are actually rock scrambling. There is one muddy bank that is pretty steep and you wouldn’t make it up without the rope that is tied on to a tree.
Here is a quick story about my embarrassing moment. I had painstakingly and very methodically picked my way across the stream over and over. I brought trekking poles which I thought would help with the balance and they did, but it was slow going. I did not want to get wet although some folks just walked through the water. I had made it all the way to the falls and almost all the way back without a slip or a dip. Then I happened upon these two cute little Asian ladies. They were heading toward the falls and they motioned that they had seen some other hikers go across were they were standing. It didn’t look too bad. It was multiple rocks to hop across. Instead of planting my poles on the bottom, testing it, and slowly making my way across with great care as I had many times, I thought I will just go with momentum and not use the poles. After all these little ladies were waiting, and it would be more impressive to just step step step. Well, about halfway across I slipped on the rock dipping both shoes in the water. I went down on my hip on one rock and my knee on another in a precarious position. At that point I had only two wet feet, but I was now momentarily stuck in this position. If I did not play my cards right this could end in disaster. I was dangerously close to rolling over like a turtle on my back and getting completely drenched and thus utterly humiliated. Luckily I was able to regain my composure, and raise myself up from this slick twister game and make it to the bank, all the while these little ladies were standing there big eyed with their hands over their mouth.
Black Star Canyon is a beautiful place with rushing water tumbling over rocks, and finally when you make it all the way to the end you can’t help but say, “Oh wow!”, as you turn the bend and there is this awesome 65’ waterfall. To the left is a mineshaft opening with water cascading out, which makes this particular waterfall very unusual. This canyon is named Black Star after a coal mining company that worked the area for a short time over 100 years ago.
San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve is a pleasant walk beside a saltwater marsh area, along a trail filled with lush greenery. It is fairly flat until you venture upon Annie’s Canyon. What a delight working through this little slot canyon. It was so cool, more than I expect with a tight squeeze, twists and turns as you went up. Annie’s Canyon was different then other slot canyons I have been to. It was close quarters, just room for one at a time and it went up in elevation. Others slots I have been in where fairly flat, but this had a bit of a climb. The sign said strenuous, but I would not describe it that way. I with describe it as fun.
Heisler Park along the Pacific Ocean in Laguna Beach, California is one of my favorite urban hikes. It is so beautiful there, so serene, so charming. It is pretty much a botanical garden on the Pacific. Every time I am there I see artists trying to capture the essence of this magical setting.
The following pictures are of my hike this winter’s day. Winter’s day… I almost feel bad saying that, as a typical day in So Cal in the winter is much different than say were my daughter is studying at the University of Wisconsin where they have a low of -22. MINUS 22 can you believe that?! Well, it was very pleasantly in the low 70’s on this day at the beach in Laguna.
I have also combined some pictures of another day at this special place that I took in mid fall. You can tell where they start as the skies are a clear blue without so much of a whisper of a cloud.
I park in the neighborhood, a very well to do neighborhood I might add, just north of the park. Then I walk through the park enjoying nature, the ocean, the cliffs, the rocks, and the gardens that make up Heisler Park.
From there I head down the slope to Main Beach in Laguna. This beach is sort of like Mayberry on the Andy Griffith Show. It is surreal, it is almost to perfect. It is the quintessential California kick back beach. Everything is just so cute and so quaint, from the small little lifeguard station, the wandering boardwalk, basketball court, viewing benches, kids play ground, lifeguard tower. It is, in a word, perfect.
I continue past Main Beach south viewing quaint little hotels, cliff side dining, and beach houses that range from kick back to wow I love it!
I walk as far as I can go without having to do a little rock scrambling, which I might have to do the next time to continue adding to my adventure. But this hike there and back, stopping for pictures, and checking out tide pools, so let’s call it strolling, is about 2 hours.