If there’s a full moon tonight (and there is) it must be time for a Boat Canyon night hike.
Boat Canyon is a terrific 8.2 mile hike in the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, climbing up above Boat Canyon, dropping down to Laguna Canyon Road and climbing back up again before returning to the trailhead — it’s a serious workout! There are fantastic ocean views and it makes a fun hike to do in the evening with the trail lit by the full moon.
Time: ~3 hours
Elevation gain: 2,769 ft
When to go: Year round
Pass the gate and head up the hill on Boat Road. At the first junction, you can take a short detour to the left for panoramic views up and down the Orange County coastline, including Laguna Beach and Newport Coast. Backtrack to the junction and continue up Boat Road. The next junction comes at the ridge. You’ll turn left here and head down Bommer Ridge.
Take the steep Big Bend Trail (the first right) down almost all the way to Laguna Canyon Road. The trail is well marked to the left and the Big Bend parking area, but take the lesser traveled trail to the right. This trail parallels Laguna Canyon Road back towards the coast before finally turning back uphill on the steep Laguna Ridge Trail.
When you reach the top of the ridge, you’ll jog to the right about five yards and turn left on Boat Road, returning the way you came and completing the lollipop loop.
I’ve hiked this several times with a group during full moons, although officially the park closes at sundown. I don’t know of anyone who has received one, but you technically could get a citation for doing this after the park is closed. Consider yourself warned!
Tips for a Moonlight Hike
- Don’t go alone! There is safety in numbers. Go with others and stick together.
- Have the Ten Essentials, especially a flashlight or headlamp with fresh batteries.
- Make sure someone knows where you will be, and when you expect to return.