1940s Car Wreck Trail Hike in Laguna Beach

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3.4 Miles


~2.5 Hrs




All Year

Elevation Gain

836 Ft

Looking for an interesting and cool hike to beat the summer heat? Car Wreck Trail takes you to an abandoned car wreck deep in the woods where deer and coyotes run wild.

Car Wreck Trail is a 3.4-mile loop trail located within Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park in Laguna Beach, CA. The hike is rated as moderate because of steep and rocky sections. Bathrooms are located at the trailhead in Alto Laguna Park’s parking lot. Dogs are not allowed on this trail. Not recommended for young children. 


Map of Car Wreck Trail

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Directions & Parking

For directions to Car Wreck Trail’s trailhead and parking lot click here.

Parking is available at the Alta Laguna Park. Restrooms are available at the park.

Hiking The Car Wreck Trail

The hike begins at the Alta Laguna Park.

I think you’ll be happy to know this trail is much cooler than most hiking trails in Southern California. Therefore, if you enjoy hiking year around, I recommend you save this one for the summer!

The Top of the World hike is located at the beginning of the Car Wreck Trail. Feel free to swing by and enjoy those amazing views!

The first portion of the hike includes descending into the canyon via a dirt road called West Ridge, which has very little shade. Hence, I highly suggest bringing a hat and plenty of water.

Little sandstone caves are located throughout Aliso Canyon, but I wouldn’t recommend veering off the dirt road to check them out, as we were told by a local that the Rangers give citations for doing so.

However, if you want to visit a big cave in these woods without worrying about a citation, checkout the Dripping Cave Trail.

Read More: Dripping Cave: Secret 1800’s Hideout

Keep trekking straight at the fork to continue on West Ridge.

Make a right at the second fork and brace yourself for the much steeper and rocky section.

Car Wreck Trail is also a mountain biking trail, so be very aware of mountain bikers speeding down!

Read More: 7 Best Hikes in San Diego You NEED to Explore

After descending the rocky section, you will arrive at the car wreck. The vegetation here is much more abundant, and the shade feels pleasant after having the sun beat down on you.

This car is believed to be a 1946 Dodge Coup that fits about 5 passengers.

Here’s a closeup of what used to be a fully intact engine.

Read More: 3 Best Hikes in Laguna Beach

Peering inside the car, you can see the dash and springs, which at one point used to be the seats.


No one knows exactly why or how this classic car made its way down to the canyon. However, there are a few theories, which you can read about in the following sections of the post.

Once you’re done exploring the car wreck, continue down the trail through the canyon floor.

It definitely doesn’t feel like you’re in Laguna Beach. The serenity and quietness makes you feel like you’re far away from any beach or suburbs.

After passing the bridge, you’ll make your way through a clearing, followed by a “u-turn” to begin ascending up a long and steep road towards the trailhead.

You’ll really enjoy the Car Wreck trail. It’s a great summer hike.

From ocean views to caves and shady canyons, you’ll get to experience the different environments that Laguna Beach has to offer.

Read More: 5 Best Hikes in Los Angeles: Bonus Secret Waterfall

So, What’s the Story Behind the Car Wreck Trail?

There are a few legends or theories as to how this car ended up here.

Legend #1 is that some crazy drunk teenagers stole the vehicle and took it for a spin but ended up driving it off and abandoning it.

Legend #2 is that flash floods washed the vehicle down. There’s evidence of some strong flash floods in the 60s within the Laguna Beach area.

Whatever the case is, we can only speculate who the owner was and how it ended up in such an unlikely place.

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Hello, There!

I’m Phillip, and just like you, I feel very passionate about California and the outdoors. After many years of exploring amazing and hidden places, I thought I’d share them with you. Life goes by fast so get out there and enjoy it.  

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