Dripping Cave Trail Hike
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance (?)||5 miles (8.1 km)|
|Hike Time||2 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||400 feet (122m)|
|Highest Elevation||250 feet (76m)|
|Fees & Permits||Parking Fee|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park|
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.
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
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.
Better Than a Selfie Stick
Part of the fun of a hike is taking pictures, and a flexible JOBY smartphone tripod takes it to the next level. You can use it as a selfie stick, as a regular tripod, but more importantly, as a flexible tripod that can attach to tree branches and other objects. It’s not expensive, and it’s something you can use when not hiking too.
Latest Price – Amazon
Your Biggest Asset If You Get Lost
If something goes wrong and you get lost, sprain your ankle, or get delayed, you might be caught out after dark. And one of the top items that search and rescue departments recommend you carry is a light. Now smartphones have lights, but they drain the battery quickly. It’s better to invest in an expensive yet high-quality headlamp like the Black Diamond Astro 250. It takes AAA batteries, can last 200 hours, and has an emergency strobe. Carry it with you off the trail to use in emergencies as well.
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REI Membership Saves You Money Forever
Have you shopped at REI before? They have all kinds of active clothes and gear, from fitness, to hiking, to snow sports, to casual wear. It’s an overall great place to shop (here’s why) and they offer a $20 membership that gets you 10% back on everything for life, along with frequent coupons, discounts, and member-only sales. It’s a no-brainer.
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Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated September 2021.
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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.
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.
- Dripping Cave and Cave Rocks were used for thousands of years as shelters by native peoples. Aliso Creek, which you’ll hike along, was the border between the Acjachemen and Tongva peoples, and artifacts from the area suggest that trading and seasonal migrations would occur in this area.
- Dripping Cave is also known as Robber’s Cave, because it served as a hideout for Juan Flores and his gang in 1856-57. They would rob the stagecoaches between San Diego and Los Angeles and then hide out in the caves. The holes on the ceiling of the cave housed pegs that held their gear.
- The “drip” from the cave only occurs when it rains, which is rare in Southern California.
Dripping Cave Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
There’s a toilet and picnic benches here.
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.
This guide last updated on March 26, 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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