ALISO CREEK TRAIL – from A&WC Wilderness Park to El Toro Park
A sunny spring day in SoCal finds the TrailBear down at Woodfield Park in Aliso Viejo putting the Gutterbunny ’10 together while Dear Wife checks out the park’s three cabin restroom. She’s happy: It has two cabins for the ladies and one for the men. She likes that ratio. She rates it a 4* on the Irvine Flushie Scale. Woodfield is the best trailhead on the lower trail: Parking, water, flushies, and the trail 100 yds. thataway. What is not to like?
It was a delightful spring day and a fun ride. The Aliso Creek Trail is quite diverse. It’s well worth the ride. It’s a high speed trail with mostly grade-separated crossings and you can get 16 miles of riding. You will do a lot of underpasses. There is something new around each corner.
It’s not a landscaped trail. It’s rather wildish along the creek in the lower portion, then runs through parks and scrub lands, up a bike/walk along an arterial, over the top of the ridge, down to the creek again, up to and under the freeway, passes alongside another park, becomes a flood channel, then runs through El Toro Park, which is where this survey ended.
Good pavement or blacktop all the way. A lot of mud in one undercrossing. Facilities range from PortaPotty Pitstops to 4* flushies. The water points range from a hose bib to sinks to fountains.
First head south to find the trail end.
Trail Link’s map shows two trail end icons and 16 miles of bare track between. This is catnip to the TrailBear. How can he resist finding what is in between. (Obviously, not very well. He’s headed for the bottom end to see what is there.)
TRAILBEAR’S TRAIL LOG…
(Photos from the log have been uploaded to Traillink. You can follow along in Google Earth if you copy and paste the coordinates into Google Earth to see each location mentioned.)
Log 0.00 miles, Elevation 157’, N33.55165 W117.72019
TRAIL END, ALISO & WOOD CANYONS WILDERNESS PARK
“Here there be…” a vast and mostly empty parking lot. The reason is over there – the regional park pay station. Day fee from $3-$10, depending. Still a better deal than state beach parks ($15). The park users are parked across the street and in about 15 minutes, there will be no more room. The church across the street has a vast and empty parking lot. One wonders if they tow with alacrity.
This trailhead is rather rural. The address is 28375 Alicia Parkway, Aliso Viejo. The buildings are trailers, there is a double portapotty pitstop (PPPS) in the corner of the parking lot with a portable wash station. The water point is a hose bib at the eye wash station and shower (OSHA?) inside the maintenance yard. Takes a bit of finding. There is a park office and information kiosks – about the A&W park.
So, where is the end of the Aliso Creek Trail? Across Awma Rd., by the bridge. Nice fresh blacktop, good condition, striped with lanes about 5’ wide.
What’s in a name? What Google Earth labels the Aliso Creek Riding and Hiking Trail is either the Aliso Creek Trail or Aliso Creek Bikeway to the trail managers. Their signs show it both ways. Their big signs show “trail”, so trail it is, and up the trail we go.
0.24m/155’, N33.55409 W117.71919 DAM WITH WATERFALL
You can pull over and admire the dam with little dragon’s teeth below. A curtain of water is falling across the entire face of this dam just south of Aliso Creek Rd. The next rain will probably rearrange the sediments and change that, but today it was good.
1.49m/199’, N33.56855 W117.71879 SPRINGDALE (?) PARK – WATER AND PPPS
Just above the high school is a neighborhood park (no sign seen) with picnic armadas, a non-working water fountain and a PPPS. Wait for Woodfield. It’s better.
2.0m/213’, N33.57336 W117.71743 WOODFIELD PARK – PARKING, WATER, RESTROOMS
Woodfield is the best full service trailhead on the lower trail. It is devoted to baseball, with six ball fields. The trail runs thru it and its free, so it’s a good staging area.
3.06m/230’, N33.58408 W117.71178
BRIDGE AND JUNCTION OF ALISO CREEK AND ALICIA CREEK TRAILS
What’s this? Another trail? Not listed? TrailBear makes a note for further research. Just beyond the bridge over Aliso Creek is a junction with the Alicia Creek Trail coming in from the east. You hang a left there. A sign would be nice. The Alicia appears to run around the toe of a ridge and then along Alicia Parkway in a greenbelt to end at yet another sports park. Needs riding to find out.
3.61m/260’, N33.59075 W117.71143 SHEEP HILLS PARK – A PPPS
Sheep Hills, just beyond the Moulton Parkway undercrossing, is a private association park, but there is a pair of portapotties along the trail there. There is probably water on the far side of the park, but nothing seen along the trail.
3.87m/272’, N33.59270 W117.71114
LAGUNA HILLS DRIVE UNDERCROSSING – HERE THERE BE MUD!
There is a confusion of routes at the top end of Sheep Hills Park. GE and Traillink show the trail going up the south side of Laguna Hills Drive. The trail managers have routed and signed the trail up the other side. Both would seem to work. Take the undercrossing at a slow bell. I found mud inches thick down there. The crossing has no creek-side barrier wall, so when the water is up, the crossing is a channel. They had shoveled a trench thru the mud so you could slowly ride thru.
Thru the undercrossing, then what? Ahead is the creek and a broad, inviting path. Looks like gravel. Here is a sign showing a right turn. A hairpin turn up the ramp to the street. Here you find the equestrian trail (actually a jogger trail – never a sign of horses on these trails) and the bike/walk running alongside Laguna Hills Drive.
4.53m/352’, N33.59578 W117.70177
CONFUSION CORNER – LAGUNA HILLS DR x PASEO DE VALENCIA
Now that you’ve climbed up the hill, what? Trail is where? TrailBear pulls out his handy home-made Goggle Earth pictomaps – Aliso Creek Trail in five sheets. It’s across PdV. Head for that apartment sign. Sure ‘nuf. Here is a blacktop bike/walk heading back toward the creek.
5.12m/325’, N33.60360 W117.70264
BACK ON THE CREEK AGAIN AND HEADING TOWARD THE FREEWAY
You now leave Paseo de Valencia and climb uphill towards the San Diego Freeway. Hear the roar. You will reach the top where there is a charming oxbow bend in the creek below and historical signage trailside about the ranchos era at 5.60m. Two ranchos had their buildings down in the creek below in the Old Days. Below is the freeway undercrossing.
5.80m/345’, N33.60741 W117.69441
TRAIL JUNCTION AT SYCAMORE PARK, MISSION VIEJO
Once thru the undercrossing (watch for the water trickling across the trail here) you are at the bottom of Sycamore Park. The trail goes up the left side of the creek here, but there is another trail leading thru the park which will rejoin the trail at the top. The park looks inviting. Cross the creek on the ford and explore. There is a water fountain at the tot lot and historical plaques at the south end. No restrooms seen.
6.44m/375’, N33.61057 W117.69238 TAKE THE BRIDGE TO REJOIN THE TRAIL
Continue riding thru the park towards the bridge ahead. Cross over and head uphill. Now you are in a channelized section of the creek which curves towards El Toro Park ahead. At Los Alisos you dive under the street and find that the trail now runs along the left bank of the channel with the creek in a center gutter. Better figure that this section is closed in any sort of rain event.
6.62m/378’, N33.61461 W117.69535 RIDING IN THE CREEK – EL TORO PARK
Riding in the creek is rather run. The wall of the channel are quite interesting. They look like blocks that step back with each course. The dimensions of the blocks and the angle of the batter makes them very comfortable seating – rather like bleachers. Park off the trail, have a seat – high or low – and watch the world go by.
On the other hand, you might want to cross the creek on the steel cover and head up the ramp to take the bridge into El Toro Park. Water and decent restrooms can be found over by the tennis courts. The parking appears to be on-street, but this is a decent little trailhead and a pleasant park with a lot of shade trees. The bridge gives a good vantage point for action on the trail below.
6.98m/401’, N33.61716 W117.69354 MUIRLANDS BLVD. UNDERCROSSING AHEAD
The park ends at Muirlands and so does this portion of the trail facilities survey. Time to head downhill and back to Woodfield Park, pack up and get to work on the field notes. That takes many more hours than the ride.
"Filling in the blank spots on the map."