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Car Wreck Trail Laguna Beach Featured
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Hikes In and Around Orange County

Car Wreck Trail (Laguna Beach)

  • 3.8 miles - Moderate Effort
  • Or: 2.6 miles - 2 hours to Car Wreck and Back
  • 2-3 Hours (Total)
  • 950 Total Feet of Climbing
  • Max Elevation of 1,020 feet
  • No Dogs Allowed

Hidden in the hills high above Laguna Beach, far away from any road, lies the fabled "car wreck," 1946 Dodge 5-passenger coupe. Visiting the car wreck became so popular that Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park officially made a trail to it in 2013. Today it's a fun hike, offering not only a cool vintage car wreck but also expansive views from Catalina to Mt Baldy. This guide has a 3.8 mile loop that makes the climbing a little easier, or you can do a shorter hike to the car wreck and back.

In this Guide:
  • Video & Turn by Turn Hike Directions
  • How to Get to the Car Wreck Trail
  • Everything You Need to Know To Prepare for the Hike

Where is the Car Wreck Trail?

The hike to the Car Wreck Trail starts in Alta Laguna Park, about 1,000 feet above the ocean at Laguna Beach. From the parking area at Alta Laguna Park, you hike into Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park and then to the car wreck.

Use this trailhead address:
Alta Laguna Park, 3299 Alta Laguna Blvd, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Car Wreck Trail Directions 2
The parking lot at Alta Laguna is big, but is shared with people using the park's tennis courts and other attractions. If you can't find a spot here, there is street parking just outside of the park.
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If you need to use the bathrooms, there's a bathroom with the best view in SoCal at the end of the parking lot. You can also fill up with water here.

Gear for the Hike

The trails are rather steep, and there is virtually no shade, so it helps to bring the right gear. I recommend good hiking shoes or boots, at least 1L of water, sun protection, and trekking poles if you have them. If you don't have proper hiking gear, you can certainly get away with fitness clothing, but don't forget the water. Leave at sunrise before it gets too hot and crowded for the best experience.

Gear That I Love Right Now

Nothing is sponsored or promoted, just the actual gear that I use.

Gear Inreach Mini 2
Garmin InReach Mini 2If you are out of cellphone range the Mini 2 will reliably allow you to hit SOS via satellite. You can also send non-emergency texts to just say that you're late, let friends and family follow along, and check the weather. You can see my review here.
Gear Topo Pursuit
Topo Pursuit 2The wide toe box means no blisters, an aggressive tread is great on the trail, it dries very quickly, and it has lots of cushion for long days. It combines everything I love about every other shoe into one.
Gear Epix Pro Up Ahead
Garmin Epix ProThese watches are pricey, but I use them 24/7 for sleep tracking, workouts, heart rate, and tracking my hike. It has preloaded hiking maps that help me navigate the trails and is a backup to my smartphone navigation. The Epix Pro has a great battery life, a screen similar to an Apple Watch Ultra, and works in harsh conditions when just using the buttons. See my review here.
Hikelite 26 Gear
Osprey Hikelite 26This updated version of the Hikelite 26 offers incredible value for the money. It's got a wide trampoline back, so your back doesn't get sweaty. It's under 2lbs, has deep side pockets, and is a great balance of what you need without what you don't.

Check out the complete list here. ( Updated May 2024)

Car Wreck Trail Maps

Car Wreck Trail Directions 1
The trails are all well marked with these posts. With the exception of a few little wrinkles, you should be able to confidently navigate the big trail junctions.
Click Here To View

Use This Map:
View in CalTopo | PDF Map | GPX File

Elevation Profile

Car Wreck Trail Elevation
For me the toughest part of this hike is doing the descent first, and then having to climb back out.

3d Map

Car Wreck Trail 3d Map
From the 3D view you can see how the hike starts up at Alta Laguna Park, heads down the ridgeline (with incredible views), and then into the canyon by the car wreck. You then loop back up Mathis Canyon Trail. Mathis Canyon is steep but not as steep as the Car Wreck Trail.

Hike Brief

Here's the "before" picture of the wrecked car. Photo Allpar

Car Wreck Trail Hike Directions

Car Wreck Trail Start Map
From the parking lot, the actual start of the hike is in the corner here. For the first minute or two, we'll be following this little connector trial around to the bigger junction.
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Head through the gate at the trailhead in the northwest corner of the parking lot.
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Follow the trail, keeping left.
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You'll come to a low wall at a big trail junction. We'll start by doing a side trip to Top of the World, which is the trail on the left. When we are finished there, we'll come back to this junction and head down the other trail (West Ridge Trail) towards the car wreck.
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The trail winds up and around to Top of the World, which is where the antenna is located.
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Avoid the side trails and keep going straight to the top.
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When you get to the top, enjoy the views. To the west you'll see the Pacific Ocean and on a clear day, Catalina Island.
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To the east, you can see the twin peaks (Modjeska and then Santaigo) of Saddleback Mountain.
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And to the north, Mt Baldy and Angeles National Forest.
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Once you're done soaking in the views, head back down the hill to the junction where we were earlier and make the hard left onto West Ridge Trail.

Keep an eye out for mountain bikes that share the trail with you.

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Now you start the nice long downhill to the car wreck. Just remember that you'll have to climb back up this to get out.
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The views from the West Ridge Trail are spectacular.
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Avoid any small side trails and stay straight on the main (wide) trail.
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The West Ridge Trail continues to descend.
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When you get to the t-junction with the Mathis Canyon Trail, make the right.
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You'll see a sign for Mathis Canyon Trail too.
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Shortly after getting on Mathis Canyon, look for the small trail turnoff to the right.
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And again, there's a nice trail for the Car Wreck Trail at the turnoff.
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The Car Wreck Trail is much narrower and rugged than the previous trails you were on. Head downhill.
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The trail is steep and rocky, but very doable. Just go slow and watch your footing.
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Toward the bottom of the climb the trail heads into some trees.
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And right after you go into the trees the car wreck is on your left.
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Today the car wreck is covered with graffiti and pretty much picked clean, but it's still interesting to look a for a few minutes.
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Keep going past the car wreck and in a minute or so you'll see the door and a trail sign. Make the sharp left here.

If you want to do the shorter hike, just turn around and go back the way you came from here.

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The trail becomes mellow and flatter as you hike through the shade of oak trees.
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Keep hiking over the bridge as the trail levels off.
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When the Car Wreck Trail ends, make the left back onto Mathis Canyon Trail.
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And now it's payback time; time to hike back up and out. Mathis Canyon is steep but not rocky. Take it easy and take a break if you need to.
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Mathis Canyon consistently goes up and up.
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Towards the end of Mathis Canyon you'll see the junction where you took the Car Wreck Trail.
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And shortly after that, the junction with the West Ridge Trail. Take the left to retrace your track from the beginning of the hike.
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One last climb up the West Ridge Trail to get back to the start.
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And then the trail levels off and you'll be back at our starting intersection! You did it. From here you can go left back to the parking lot, or right back to Top of the World for another look.

Need More Info?

  • Have a question about the guide or want to see what other people are saying/asking? View the Youtube comments for this video. Leave a comment and I will do my best to respond.
  • When planning, always check the park website and social media to make sure the trails are open. Similarly, check the weather and road conditions.

This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard

Cris Hazzard 4 Mile Trail Yosemite
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!). You can stay up to date with my new guides by following me on YouTube, Instagram, or by subscribing to my monthly newsletter.