The Colinas Bluff trail is a great mixed-use double-track trail that follows the Colinas ridge between Laguna Niguel and San Juan Capistrano. It’s a suburban trail with terrific, sweeping 360 degree views from Santiago Peak (or the San Gabriel mountains, when it’s clear) to the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island.
I like this trail because it’s convenient for after work conditioning hikes during daylight savings time. Because it’s an out-and-back route, you can adjust the length to suit the time and distance you want. The geography of the trail lends itself well to two variations: the full 6.7 mile hike and an abbreviated 4.6 miler.
Once you reach the ridge, the trail goes up and down a few smaller hills in roller coaster fashion. There is one fairly big hill at mile 2.3. The top of this hill gives you great 360 degree views, and marks the turnaround point for the abbreviated 4.6 mile version.
If you want to do the full 6.7 miles, you’ll continue down the other side of that big hill, where the trail skirts the behind the McMansions of Bear Brand. At 3.35 miles, you’ll reach the top of another hill with paved walks and benches facing every direction. This is your turnaround point for the full version.
- Bring water and sun protection.
- Trail runners are fine, though I’d recommend boots when it’s wet and muddy.
- There just so happens to be a Starbucks at that corner, with a nice big patio that makes a great meeting place before or after your hike.
- The trail is wide and well maintained, and shared by bikers, trail runners and dog walkers, so keep your eyes peeled. And I’ve heard that people have seen rattlesnakes here. I haven’t seen any, but I would watch where you step.
- Portions of the trail pass behind resident’s backyards; be mindful of your noise level if hiking in a group.
Trail Map and Elevation Profile
Have fun, be safe, and see you on the trail!
This site is great! I was JUST telling my computer developer boyfriend that it is obvious that most hikers are NOT tech savvy because most of the Web sites devoted to hiking are aesthetically horrible, hard to read the information, the maps are non-descriptive, and very hard to navigate.
FINALLY someone in our area that can convey the information easily, beautifully, and helpfully!!
We loved this hike. We will do this hike again. thank you thank you thank you for sharing all of this great information with us!
SoCal Hiker says
Thanks so much, Jenni! Glad you found SoCal Hiker useful. I’m working on some new trail guides covering the local state parks. Check back for them between now and Christmas.
And if you have feedback or suggestions for making it even better (trails to cover; features to add) I’d love to hear them.
Looking forward to checking this one out!
Dhaval Rawal says
Thank you for the trail details! I am new to the area, and your blog is very resourceful.
I took the Shea Trail down thinking it is the right way to descend the hill. Went down, walked the Oso Rancho Trail. Realized I am not going the right way, backtracked to the top of the hill. Went further down, but could not find the end spot. :/
I wanted to explore ways to take your google map guide and overlap it with my current location on the phone.. If we could work that, then I would be so happy!
See you on the trail!
Jeff Hester says
Glad you find the site useful, Dhaval. I appreciate your feedback.
There is a way to download the map using the Everytrail app. Everytrail has apps for both iPhone and Android, and I’ve recorded the Colinas Bluff Trail using it. You can download my track to Everytrail on your phone from this url: http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=623004
Then when you’re hiking, you can compare where you are with where the trail goes, to make sure you’re on track. Let me know if you give it a try.
Juanita Brightbill says
Thank you. I’ve walked this for 27 years but only part of it. You took your pictures at one of the most beautiful times. I have encountered rattle snakes, bobcats, coyotes, road runners, and horses but the most aggravating are dogs whose owners have taken off their leashes! Thank you for your information and website. I’ll now extend my walk. Juanita
Jeff Hester says
Thanks, Juanita! Yes, dogs must be leashed on this trail. Most owners respect those rules, but some owners are unruly.
The last part of the Colinas Bluff trail goes right behind the million dollar homes in Bear Brand. That’s a little weird for a hike (but interesting). The nice part is the little park on the crown of the hill with tremendous views to the Pacific Ocean.
Alan Fontes says
Jeff, the very first picture shows the top of a hill which appears to have given way, causing half the hill to fall down the hillside. Do you know if this is what happened here? This is a great local hike with panoramic views to die for!
Jeff Hester says
Alan, thanks for the question! Yes, that bluff was created by landslide, although I don’t know the details about how long ago. I know it’s been that way as long as I can remember — going back to the 1980s.
Nancy Dandridge says
Great site! Thanks so much. My husband and I just completed the 6.7 Colinas Bluff hike. We encountered a locked gate just before the small park at end that you mention. Fortunately, a woman held the gate open for us but it was locked on our return! Apparently only residents can access? There was no sign to that effect though. We were able to escape by climbing over some bramble. Other than that it was a fun hike.
Marilyn Wallick says
Just tried to hike this trail from the park end. The locked gate is new. Last year it was not there and the hike was fantastic. The City of Laguna NIguel has continuing access problems with gated communities. Complain!
I wrote to the city and the locked access gate is NOT permitted by the City of Laguna Niguel. I wrote to Jerry Sollom and he replied that the City is working on removing this gate as “quickly and as painlessly as possible”. It’s pretty black and white to me; BB has put up a non permitted gate, why can’t the city just take it down?! Please continue to complain: Jerry Sollom
You can walk around the gate now or open it with the code: 717273
Wonderful! I’ll try it tomorrow. Thanks to those who worked on this.
Amazing Trail, was there last evening. Nice wild life – rabbits, coyote and birds.
Update: The gate code has been changed and there is a guard sitting on a chair there taking down names and addresses to prevent “unauthorized” individuals from passing through. The whole thing is ridiculous since Bear Brand is porous from several areas of the trail. This trail has been accessible for YEARS, I don’t know who is making a stink about it now but please continue to complain to the City of Laguna Niguel.
Specifically, complain to the City Manager.
I want to do this hike… but not leary if this gate / guard problem is still active… is this still a problem??
I meant to say now I am l hesitant to do this hike due to the guard/ gate issue…. is this hike closed??
Jeff Hester says
John, the gate issue is only at the tail end of this hike. I’m not sure if it’s still an issue, but even if it is, you should be able to hike 9/10ths of the trail. Now that I’m living in Los Angeles, I haven’t hiked that trail recently, so maybe someone else will chime in.
If you DO decide to hike it, please come back and give us an update.
Jeff, Thanks for the info! I will certainly do that if we end up doing this hike next. Will post my findings here. Thanks again!
Just found your website! Love it so far! I have been looking for more trails to condition for longer/more strenuous backpacking trips. This is right down my street and I never even knew about it. Thanks!!!
This site is great! I just moved back to SoCal and have been looking for awesome places to hike. I did this hike a few days ago and will be back. Thanks for what you do Jeff i know i appreciate it.
Alexia Scheele says
Thanks Jeff, Just did the Colinas Bluff hike yesterday! Beautiful views! Very interesting walking so close to the Bear Brand Ranch homes! The locked gate in the BB community was a disappointment! A home owner told us we weren’t allowed to be there and a lawsuit is going on between the HOA and the City of Laguna Niguel for allowing the public access to BB community! So sometime in the future there will probably be more fences and less trail to enjoy! Do it while you can!
Thank you for your site! We did this trail today and it was great! Went out early to beat the heat, but we had clouds all day. Good thing, too, since this would be a scorcher later in the morning. The locked gate at the park was disappointing, particularly with City of Laguna Niguel signs clearly stating it’s a park.with rules and hours. Still, our round trip was 6.86 miles, even without the finish. Well worth it! We will do this one again!
We did this great trail on Sunday and we didn’t see a guard but the gate is still there. We got a little off track but I guess that made up for not being able to get to the end of the trail. Great website!
Zoey Berman says
It appears the gate is gone, but so are the benches and all. I hiked 6.8 rt following this guide and never came across any kind of developed park that Jeff describes. It should be noted that the portion of the trail continuing behind the Bear Brand houses is NOT part of the Colinas Bluff trail.
Carey VanDruff says
GREAT hike! Thanks for all the info.
Jeffrey Hester says
You bet, Carey! 🙂
Marla Reiter says
Thank you for this site. I just discovered it a minute ago! I have been leading my group of about 20 hikers on this trail since May 2020, smack in the middle of the pandemic. Trails are wide, which is great. We park at the shopping center just like you and we meet at Starbucks, just like you. We take Monarch Trail and then come down behind those big houses at Bear Brand. So I am thinking we do 4.6 miles.
I have heard that you can take this Colinas Ridge to the beach. Do you know how? I want to try it out myself before I post it for my group. I also need to see how many miles roundtrip, because I imagine it might be as much as 10 miles from the trailhead on Golden Lantern and Marina Hills. Thank you in advance!