Thanks to Laguna Beach’s crippling floods and mudslides during the Christmas season, my beloved El Moro is closed to trail runners, mountain bikers and anyone on horseback. (And they’re serious – the park rangers are ticketing anyone they find in violation of the posted warnings.)

Given that trail running has become my bi-weekly “outlet,” I’ve had to steer to my two alternate favorites – the gorgeous Dana Point Strands (which I can’t officially write about here because, ehrm, this is a Laguna Beach blog), and Laguna Beach’s “Top of the World.”

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I just spent another Saturday morning at Laguna Beach’s Top of the World (we locals call it T.O.W.) and, frankly, it’s a respectable network of hills and trails in its own right. Aptly named, T.O.W. sits at the top of Park Avenue overlooking all of Laguna Beach – get yourself on Park Avenue and simply wind past Laguna Beach high school, continue on Park into the canyon and wind up past the middle school. When you dead-end in a lovely neighborhood,  turn left and you’ll dead end at Top of the World’s launching off point.

Added bonuses – You can take your favorite pooch on these trails (as opposed to El Moro’s strict no pets policy). And, you don’t have to pay for parking or possess a state parks pass to park at Top of the World.

. . . Back to that “launching off point” I mentioned . .. . Aside from spectacular views, you have a wide selection of trails and fire trails to follow on any compass point from T.O.W.’s pinnacle. Experienced hikers and our own Laguna Beach “RADs” mountain bikers will take the more precarious routes on the ocean-facing side, while beginners to advanced hikers, runners and bikers can head out on the inland side. Here, the fire trails are wide and rambling, and primarily lead to the left (cell phone towers destination) or the right (water tower destination). And, there are a vast number of jumping off points from these larger trails.

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The fire trails offer a great run out to either destination, even if you choose to stay on top of the hill instead of foraging down any number of canyons. Just remember – you’re at the TOP of the world when you begin . . . even the rambling fire trails that seem so easy going down DO follow the laws of nature as well as that chirpy song “what goes up must come. . . ” only this time, you’ll be singing the song in reverse. When you turn around to head back to your starting point, you’ll find the fire trail significantly steeper than you remembered!

If these 3- or 4-mile loops don’t offer enough exercise, you’ll find plenty of alternative add-ons that take you down to Laguna Canyon Road (the 133) or, on the opposite side, El Toro Canyon. When you manage to straggle yourself back up to your parking place at T.O.W., you’ll find a manicured park, picnic tables, a playground for kids, bathrooms and water refill stations. And, as I’ve noted once or twice already, the views are incomparable.

I’ll see you on the trails!

© 2011, Diane Armitage,
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