Southern California Hikes: Salt Creek Trail

Salt Creek Trail 3

California, California, California – always popular among adventure seekers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. You can drop a pin on the map in California, and find a hiking trail within that area.

California is mostly known for its coastal cities and beautiful beaches, along with its soaring mountains filled with lush backcountry trails. Salt Creek Trail is one of those trails in California that cannot be missed.


Salt Creek Trail is full of different “arms” and “branches” that will suit hikers of all experience levels. The trail navigates through two communities – Laguna Niguel and Dana Point and is filled with a mix of different surfaces. It is truly a diverse trail that all user types will enjoy passing through.

The trail starts with a great view that overlooks the Pacific Ocean at Salt Creek Beach Park in Dana Point. Then, it will start climbing up canyons, pass a golf course, and dive under the Pacific Coast Highway. It will then start climbing the west side of Arroyo Salado with Salt Creek just below. At that point, you’ll enjoy wonderful views of the ocean.

Salt Creek Trail then moves inland, crossing Niguel Road. Hikers can then choose to either continue north along the road to a neighborhood on Niguel Ranch, or travel east through San Juan Canyon to the Community Park of Chapparosa, and then the endpoint that’s by a dog park on Golden Lantern Street.

The second option is quite popular because the Chapparosa Community Park features a ton of different amenities like a playground, picnic tables, a basketball and volleyball court, athletic fields, drinking fountains, and restrooms. It’s a great place to end your hike and just enjoy the area with some other activities.

There is another section of the trail, however, that starts further north on Crown Valley Parkway and traces the edge of the Sulfur Creek Reservoir and then ends in Laguna Niguel Regional Park.

Apart from hiking and walking, you can go biking, inline skating, and horseback riding on the trail.


Salt creek interpretive trail

Salt Creek Trail is a great mid-week, easy hike, but there are a few things that will be useful for you to know before you head down there.

Trail Information

The trail is about 5 – 6.8 miles; depending on which routes you take. But generally, it takes about 2 to 2.5 hours to complete. It is tagged as an easy to moderate hike with an elevation gain of 500 feet. It is usable by dogs and is open year round.

All of the paths are paved, so it’s a pretty easy hike that you can do, even if it starts to rain. There are gently rolling inclines so it isn’t a strenuous or continuous uphill climb.


The parking lot for Salt Creek Trail is at the Chapparosa Community Park, Laguna Niguel Regional Park, and Salt Creek Beach Park. The addresses are as follows:

  • Chapparosa Community Park: 25191 Chapparosa Park Road
  • Laguna Niguel Regional Park: 28241 La Paz Road, Laguna Niguel
  • Salt Creek Beach Park: 33333 S. Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point

Just know that Laguna Niguel and Salt Creek Beach charge a parking fee. Usually, there are a lot of parking spots available, but try to avoid parking near the baseball field or else you may come back with a dent in your car from a stray fly ball! So be careful where you park!

Salt Creek FallsHighlights Of The Trail

The trail can get hotter than the beach, but compared to other inland trails, it’s still pretty cool. And since the trail can end at Salt Creek Beach, you can take a dip in the cool water after a long hike.

This is also a great family hike, so if you’re bringing your kids, take along their toys with them so they can enjoy at the beach after their hike. Generally, the place isn’t too crowded or busy, so it’s pretty great if you want a bit of quiet.

Other Things To Note

Remember that it is kind of a long walk, so it may be difficult for young kids to complete the entire trail. Even though it’s quite easy, without too much uphill climbing or crazy, rocky terrain, it’s still pretty long. If your kids aren’t used to long walks yet, go for shorter trails instead.

If you have a dog, instead of a kid (which, may kind of be the same thing for some of you, your pup will be allowed on the trail, but not on the beach.

When you pass the golf course, you may end up competing with golf carts for the road. Keep your eyes open, and keep right – also because road bikers and runners use the trail as well.

Some spots can be isolated, so try not to go hiking on your own. Not just for this trail, but for every trail, have a hiking buddy with you at all times.

Finally, there are restrooms at the trail heads, the parks, and at the Salt Creek Beach. However, there are none along the trail, so just be wary.


Salt Creek Trail is an easy hike, but a kind of long one – almost two hours. So there are some things you should bring with you for a comfortable hike.


Like any good hiker, you should know that water is always a must. Whether your hike is 1 mile or 100 miles. A pretty awesome water bottle to have is the Camelbak All Clear UV Purifier Bottle. Since it purifies water using UV light, you will always have clean water available.

Or, you can also try the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter. It’s a pretty nifty tool to have with you during any hikes – especially long, backpacking trips.


This is for both kids and adults. The hike is around 2 hours long, so having a bite to much on will help give you the energy you need to complete it. Try going for quick and easy snacks, like an energy bar. Clif Bar makes tons of different flavored energy bars, but my favorite is the Chocolate Chip Protein Bar.

Energy Drink

If you aren’t too keen on munching on snacks while walking, you can always go for energy drinks. The good thing about energy drinks is that they’ll usually have electrolytes and sodium to help replenish your body. Even a simple drink like Gatorade will help you power through the long walk.

Hat and Sunscreen

Most of the trail is open, so apply some sunscreen before you go, and wear a nice hat. Women, don’t be afraid to wear those big floppy hats. But of course, your regular baseball cap will do just fine.

There are tons of different sunscreen brands that you can choose from, but a popular choice is Banana Boat. And as I’ve mentioned, any hat will do just fine, but if you want to channel your inner adventure geek with a hat like the one from Camo Coll.


Salt Creek Trail

So, now that you have a brief overview about Salt Creek Trail, as well as the things you need to know and things you need to bring, go out and make adventures of your own and experience it for yourself.

Let me know what you think about the trail. Did you enjoy it? Or was it too easy for you? If you’re looking for more hikes around the Southern California area, you can check my website. I have a lot of different trails, mountains, parks, and campgrounds you can visit – not just in California, but all over the U.S.

As usual, have fun and stay safe!


The author Joshua

Hi, my name is Joshua. founder of MadOutdoorist.Com, I was born into a lovely family that loves nature and adventure. My goal at Mad Outdoorist is to provide you with all the information you need for a successful out-of-city adventure. It is my desire to encourage you to push beyond any physical limit you may have.

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