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.
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.
Just under 8 miles, over 1,350 feet elevation change, 3.5 hours
The Newport Coast is one of my favorite spots for day hiking. So Cal has had so much rain lately that our reservoirs are full, and the storms have put a serious dent in our ongoing drought situation. This has brought us a stunning green landscape to enjoy in this late winter season and provided a perfect day to get out and enjoy nature.
Spring seems right around the corner when you are enjoying temperatures in the mid 60’s, hiking in a tee-shirt and shorts, and observing the first blooms.