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Hikes In and Around Orange County

Dripping Cave Trail Hike

  • 5 miles - Easy Effort
  • 2 Hours (Total)
  • 400 Total Feet of Climbing
  • Max Elevation of 250 feet
  • No Dogs Allowed

Tucked away in Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, just minutes from Laguna Beach, the Dripping Cave Trail is one of the most fun and easiest hikes in Orange County. Dripping cave, used by native peoples and later bandits, is huge, open, and fun to explore. The park is rich with natural beauty and wildlife, and on the way to Dripping Cave, we'll visit Cave Rock, another cool rock formation hidden away from the busier trails. This five-mile hike is mostly flat, easy to follow, and family-friendly.

In this Guide:
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions for the Dripping Cave Trail
  • Where to Park for the Dripping Cave Trail
  • Hike Tips and Recommendations

Where is the Dripping Cave Trail?

The Dripping Cave Trail is in Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. The park has over 30 miles of trails, and there are many ways to get to the caves, but the route I'll show you here is the most popular and the easiest. Use the official trailhead at:
Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, 28373 Alicia Pkwy, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656

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The parking lot is large, but it is a popular spot and is occasionally full.
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Pay for parking at the meter and then leave the ticket on your dashboard.
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Check the park website to confirm the park's opening hours.

There are bathrooms at the trailhead and also about half-way to the Dripping Cave.

Gear For the Hike

This is an easy hike that can be done in fitness clothing or light hiking gear. In the summer it can be very hot. I bring 0.5L of water with me.

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 see my review here.
Gear Hoka Speedgoat 5
HOKA Speedgoat 5These are a great balance of comfort and performance. The high stack height leaves my feet feeling great after a hike.

Check out the complete list here.

Dripping Cave Trail Maps

Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park offers well-maintained and well-marked trails. The first part of the hike is on a paved road, but don't let that put you off; it's peaceful and scenic. The rest of the hike is on sandy dirt trails.

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Sometimes there are maps that you can take with you at the trailhead, by the parking area. There are also maps posted on signs along the trail.
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Trail junctions are marked with trail signs that include the difficulty and trail name.
Click Here To View

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

3D Map

Dripping Cave 3d Map
You'll head down Aliso Canyon from the parking area and then make the right turn to hike up Wood Canyon. Aside from a little bump at Cave Rock, the hike is generally flat.

Hike Brief

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Keep your eyes open for wildlife like these mule deer. There are lots of rabbits, hawks, and deer that you can see consistently.

Dripping Cave Hike Directions

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Go straight through the welcome and visitor center area.
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At the end, make the left onto the paved Aliso Creek Trail. The road is closed to traffic but open to bikes.
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The Aliso Creek Trail is paved, but is still nice as it gently heads down Aliso Canyon. Stay on the paved trail.
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After about 0.75 miles you come to a junction. Cross the road and hop on the dirt trail heading left.
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Aliso Creek Trail becomes a proper trail, winding through trees and fields.
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The trail comes close to the paved road at points. Stay on the dirt trail going straight.
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When the trail ends at the paved road, keep going straight.
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You'll cross the creek and quickly see an area to the right. Make the right turn.

There's a toilet and picnic benches here.

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Go straight down the wide Wood Canyon Trail, avoiding the Meadows Trail on the left.
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The Wood Canyon Trail is wide and picturesque.
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When you get to the Cave Rock trail, make the left and take it.
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The trail is small and much quieter than the larger Wood Canyon Trail.
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There's a point where the trail splits. Take the stairs down and then back up the other side.
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You'll see this in front of you. Check out Cave Rock to the left, then come back and continue up the trail over the top of the rock.
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Cave Rock would provide temporary shelter for native peoples, but today is sadly covered by carved initials. The rocks are still fun to check out.
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Head back and up over the top of the rock.
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Stay straight avoiding any small side trails.
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Bear left when the trail heads over the top of the granite.
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And soon the trail continues on the dirt and is easy to follow.
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At the bottom of the hill, the Cave Rock Trail rejoins the Wood Canyon Trail. Make the left to continue to Dripping Cave.
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There's another cave and interpretive display right before you make the left turn.
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Continue up the wide Wood Canyon Trail for about a quarter of a mile.
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As you hike on this stretch you can still see the damage from a fire here in 2018.
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Look for the wide turnoff to the left and hop on the Dripping Cave Trail.
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The trail is small and winds.
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Head down over the bridge.
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And you'll see the Dripping Cave on your left.
Inside Of Dripping Cave
Photos don't really convey how huge the Dripping Cave is. You can easily fit dozens of people in this space. And it's not really a cave, but an overhang.
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The black marks on the top are not stains from fires, but rather it's plant life that takes advantage of the water seeping in.

Once you're done at the Dripping Cave, return the way you came. You can go straight instead of taking the Cave Rock Trail detour, and if you want, take the paved path back once you get to Aliso Creek.

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.