I love to start every New Year’s Day (or weekend) with a great hike in Laguna Beach. While I’ve tried a number of trails, I find myself returning to El Moro because it has so much to offer.
Just to the north of Laguna Beach’s welcome sign, to the untrained eye El Moro looks like a friendly set of rolling hills … and there are many great trails that accommodate beginner hikers and children, to be sure.
But don’t let El Moro fool you.
Many of her super-wide “fire trails” accommodate professional football and basketball players in training; cross-country teams; and marathon and triathalon greats. The “park” is a mass of long, steep inclines and rollercoaster hills with names such as “Elevator” (one you definitely want to struggle up instead of down), and “Poles” (a 400-foot vertical hill that some people take to crawling up with absolutely no fear of recrimination).
My favorite this year is a great up-and-down loop on the southwest side of the park. I park down at the campground and proceed through the educational nature park to Moro Canyon Trail – a fairly flat trail that allows me to get my limbs working properly. About a mile in, I veer right on the E. Cut Across, where the more hellish ascent begins. (Hey, I’m just being honest here.) One mile up, and about an 800-foot increase in elevation.
Once at the crown of that monster, I make another right on Moro Ridge and the view the remainder of the hike/run is worth every effort. It’s simply stunning with sweeping ocean views as far as the eye can see. On a fairly flat trail on the hilltop initially, the trail begins a decently steep descent that winds its way back to where I started.
Of course, the same loop works in the opposite direction. Instead of taking the Canyon Trail, you’d make a sharp right onto the Moro Ridge Trail and proceed up immediately to the hills’ crown and then descend from there.
After doing the loop in this fashion for quite some time, I decided to dump it for two reasons. A.) The immediate ascent isn’t anywhere close to fun if you’re not warmed up, and B.) Why would you run that ridge with your back to one of the most amazing views in California? (Something that finally dawned on me when I, by chance, decided to stop once to look around. I’m a slow learner.)
Hope to see you on the trail soon!