Car Wreck Trail (Laguna Beach)
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance (?)||3.8 miles (6.1 km)|
|Other Options||2.6 miles - 2 hours to Car Wreck and Back|
|Hike Time||2-3 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||950 feet (290m)|
|Highest Elevation||1,020 feet (311m)|
|Fees & Permits||None|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park|
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.
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
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.
Stay Safe Out of Cell Phone Range
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Garmin InReach Mini (REI | Amazon | My Review) fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing.
Altra Lone Peak 5
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. Watch my video explaining why they are a great shoe here.
Latest Price on Women’s Shoe
REI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s Shoe
REI | Amazon
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I’ve gone back and forth on trekking poles, but I think for most people they are a good investment. They help you dig in on the uphills, provide stability on loose downhills, act as a brace when crossing streams, and can probably poke away aggressive wildlife in a pinch. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are a good balance of light weight, durability, affordability, and ease of use. If you want something ultralight and a little more pricey, I’ve had great luck with the Black Diamond Z Poles too.
REI | Amazon
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated October 2021.
No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.
Car Wreck Trail Maps
Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File
If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.
How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 6. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.
- The car wreck is a 1946 Dodge 5-passenger coup. In 1946 they sold for between $1,200-1,700, depending on how fancy you went. Innovations on this 1946 model include electric wipers and replaceable oil filters.
- How did the car get here, in the middle on nowhere? There’s no official answer, but it’s speculated by local historians that it ended up here in the 1960s. At the time, the dirt roads in the hills around Laguna Beach were popular spots for pop-up hippy concerts and hangouts. The likely scenario is that this Dodge was in the hills then and got washed down into the canyon during one of the bigger flash floods caused by heavy rains. That’s the theory, but no one really knows for sure.
- The hike makes a stop at the scenic “Top of the World,” a high point in the area that actually sits on top of a buried reservoir. So it’s more of a “Top of the Reservoir.” The 3 million gallon tank, built in 1996, is gravity fed and acts as a water supply to fight fires.
- The “Top of the World” hill lined up nicely with the takeoff path from the (now closed) Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, and planes have crashed here over the years. Some remains of aircraft used to be visible if you really looked, but I believe the park has removed them now.
Car Wreck Trail Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
Keep an eye out for mountain bikes that share the trail with you.
If you want to do the shorter hike, just turn around and go back the way you came from here.
This guide last updated on July 1, 2021. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.
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