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Salt Creek Trail

Views stretching out to the ocean
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One of the challenges of winter is that during the week, it’s already dark outside when I leave the office. I don’t mind hiking in the dark, but many people aren’t comfortable hiking in the wilderness at night, and most of the regional trails are officially closed from sundown to sunrise.

Trail Details
Distance: 6.8 miles
Time: ~2 hours
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
Elevation gain: 500 ft
Dogs: OK
When to go: Year-round
The Salt Creek Trail provides a nice mid-week alternative. It follows Salt Creek from near Golden Lantern in Laguna Niguel all the way down to Salt Creek beach and back, all on a paved path that makes it an excellent choice even in rainy weather. It’s a moderate hike that takes about two hours and has gently rolling inclines. And it’s nice to stop for a few minutes and enjoy the sound of the ocean at Salt Creek beach.

The trail begins at the end of the sports park parking lot on Chapparosa. You follow the paved trail as it parallels Salt Creek. Keep your eyes open for rabbits and the occasional snake, and listen for the croaking frogs.

Views stretching out to the ocean

There are three major arteries that the trail passes under, Niguel Road, Camino del Avion and Pacific Coast Highway. There are tunnels under all three, and the trails can get a little confusing as you get intersecting paths from those streets joining the main trail. Remember to head down and through the tunnel, then keep paralleling the creek through the valley.

When you pass under Pacific Coast Highway, you’ll see the golf course and homes for a short distance before you reach the beach. As you can see in this photo, there are several paths that seem to merge together. The main trail is marked with a dashed yellow divider line — a reminder to keep to the right as this trail is shared by road bikers.

Once you reach the beach, you can stop and enjoy the views, or extend your hike with a beach walk. Your best bet is to head south, and you can walk all the way to the Dana Point.

When you’re ready to head back, retrace your steps back to your car.

Even though this trail is suburban and paved, it has beautiful scenery and doesn’t feel like you’re walking through a park. The creek is left in a natural state to support the native wildlife.


Parking is at the end of Chapparosa off Golden Lantern. Follow Chaparossa all the way to the sports park at the end, and park as far into the park as you can. The trail begins at the far southwest end of the parking lot.

Trail Map and Elevation Profile

Download file: salt-creek.gpx

Photo Gallery

Additional Salt Creek Trail Resources and Tips

  • City of Laguna Niguel’s trail description
  • There is ample free parking at trailhead, but avoid parking near the baseball field in season, or risk a dent from a stray fly ball!
  • There are restroom facilities both at the trailhead and Salt Creek beach.
  • Keep to the right. This paved trail is wide, but shared by road bikers and runners.
  • This is a family-friendly hike. You can easily bring a stroller (with big wheels, hopefully) or modify the length to suit your child’s endurance.
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