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.
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
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.
Gaia GPS Mapping App
Smartphones are not backcountry instruments, but almost everyone has one today. And they all have GPS onboard. So I recommend getting a good GPS hiking app like Gaia GPS that supports offline maps. Just make sure to put your phone in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. GaiaGPS not only has smartphone and tablet apps, but also an online planning tool. You can drag the GPX hike tracks from my (or any) guides into the online map and they will sync to your phone. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get up to 40% off here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated June 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.
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?
To start, you should always have a paper map and compass. And it helps to print this guide out or save it on your phone. I highly recommend a GPS as well. I use the Garmin Fenix 6 Smart GPS watch ( REI | Amazon | My Review) with maps (or the more affordable Garmin Instinct). The GPS smartwatch is nice because it’s rugged, works if your phone dies, and also has a billion other features like sleep tracking, workout recording, etc.
- 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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