Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is one of those parks that you see from the Highway but are going too fast to read the sign or slow down for the turn. Specifically, it is located on the West side of the Highway 133 (the non-toll portion) as you head towards Laguna Beach. But, this park is a convenient starting point for many of the hikes that lead into Crystal Cove and the surrounding areas. There are bathrooms and water here, so it also makes for a good checkpoint if you are going on a longer excursion. Parking will cost you three dollars so bring some quarters.
The trail that I took was called Little Sycamore, which leads up the ridges that encompass park. Small rocks inhabit the path to the top, so you'll need to be a little more cautious when walking it. Additionally, the trail is a little bit steeper than most of the others in this area. I took the time during my ascent to view the ever widening picture of the ground below me, as well as the rock formations in the canyon walls.
Three small wooden bridges connect the trail together. The planks of wood seemed pretty sturdy as I cross over them. In the ravine below I could hear the animals scurry about. The place seems alive as I walked along, which is something I tend to like in a trail. As the trail continues upward, there are steeper inclines and more loose rocks on the trail. Be careful as you climb. Only a few minutes away is the top.
A note about the photograph above: it is a 360 degree panoramic shot from the top of the trail. Dead center is back down to the trail head, while to the left and the right are the forked choices presented at the top. I decided to take the left fork (which was from my perspective a right), but the alternate path is no less interesting. Both trails will lead to two hour loops.
At the top I took Serano Ridge heading North. Presented before me were spacious views of Bommer and Shady Canyon. On the other side of the ridge is expansive plain of Irvine and Lake Forest. For the remainder of the hike, the trails will be flat or sloped downward, so there's no need to rush.
At some point in the trail things became a little dusty, and I found myself slipping in stride. If you gaze at the magnificence of view, do take the time to stop first. Such great scenery cannot be properly absorbed in passing. A couple minutes more down the trail and I passed by Rabbit Run, a small trail that is only available by scheduled program. A few more minutes later, and I reached the next fork. The options are either Quail Trail or West Canyon. What is life but decisions at forks? I opted to take West Canyon due to time constraints. (The parking lot closes at 5:00pm, so starting in the mid-afternoon makes for shorter hikes.)
Heading down West Canyon pretty much directly opposes the forward progress I made along the ridge; the fork is more of a cusp. However, the view is completely different, as the homeward trail rides alongside the base of the ridge. Power lines and towers dot the trail in their offshoots, and the cars of Highway 133 can be seen to the left. The vascular tissue of society seems more intertwined with trails as I pressed forward.
After a while, the time came to pass underneath the highway to the other side. I passed by what appeared to be a dried lake bed, preceded by signs instructing me not to fish. If the lake was filled it must only be seldomly so. That said, continuing straight along the trail leads to a larger body of water named Barbara's Lake. A collection of trails branch off here into the James Dilley Preserve, but I chose to stay on Lakes Trail which heads back toward my starting point.
I passed back under the highway bridge again to return to my original side. The parking lot is not but two or three minutes away, thus punctuating my trip. I like this hike as it is conveniently close, well connected, and scenic all at once. At some point in the future I will show the path not taken at the Serano ridge fork.