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Dana Point Marine Reserve

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Tidepools, shallow sea caves, historic ship, seasickness monument, museum
Near:Dana Point, CA
Distance:1.5 miles round trip
Elevation Gain:0 ft
Hike Time:1 hours
Trail Condition:OK, but a few difficult spots
HikeType:Out and Back

Summary: History lovers cherish Dana Point for two reasons: first, it is the site where vacqueros from Mission San Juan Capistrano threw hides over the cliffs in Two Years Before the Mast; second, the creation of the marina breakwater ignited a movement to save the last wild stretches of the California Coast.

The trail follows the only natural stretch of shore that developers left. The boulders that look like poorly made concrete are conglomerate. You will also find "wishing rocks" -- black stones with calcite stripes running through them. The cliffs mark an ancient river mouth.

Check tide tables for extreme minus tides: November through March are the best months. Watch the waves and the cliffs. Leave sea life, rocks, & shells.

Trailhead: From the north: Take Pacific Coast Highway south from Newport Beach to Dana Point. At Green Lantern Street (no stop light), turn right. Turn left on Cove Road.

From the south: Take Pacific Coast Highway north from Interstate 5 just north of San Clemente. Turn left on Blue Lantern Street, right on Santa Clara, and left on Cove Road.

Park in the lot at the base of the hill.

The trail begins at the Pilgrim, a reproduction of the ship that Dana sailed on to California from Boston. Next to the ship is a monument of two men in the ship's rigging and a quote from Dana describing how nauseous he became while working the job for the first time.

Proceed along the concrete waterfront walk around the back of the Ocean Institute. The rough part of the trail begins at the concrete stairway enclosed in the green cage. If water covers the bottom of the stairs, come back on another day. Do not attempt to round the Point except at extreme minus tides. (Lat:33.462 Lon:-117.7055)

Trail Guides for Dana Point Marine Reserve:
Best Seasons: Year-Round
User Groups: Hikers,
Ranger Contact: Ocean Institute, (949) 496-2274
Localhikes Reporter: This hike was submitted by Joel Sax, who has posted  51 other hikes on this site. To visit this reporters web site, click here.
Trail Reviews  Page 1 of 2   Submit your own review
Reviewed by Viewer on 9/12/2010
It is very nice and perfect place to relax. Would love to hike again in the early morning.

Reviewed by Tanya on 3/7/2009
My mom and I hiked from Dana Point Harbor, behind Baby's Beach where there is this small, kind of private, rocky beach enveloped by teal green waters. We hiked across the slippery rocks and crunched over thousands of delicate seashells. We came to a cave that we had been to before and ducked beneath it to see the light on the other side, a tiny cove that is usually wet with water and to slippery to get beyond. But today there was a narrow path of wet sand that we trekked upon and that got us through to another set of rocks and seashells, a short climb to the beach called Salt Creek. We were delighted to have finally made it across, as many attempts in the past had been made. We ascended the steps at the right hand side of the beach.

Reviewed by Bill on 9/30/2007
Went on this hike a few days after a strong rainfall which made us nervous walking along the loose rocky cliff base for fear of falling rocks and boulders, but none to be seen. Also went at extreme low tide which allowed us to go a lot further then at high tide. Kids, 8 & 10 enjoyed immensely.

Reviewed by BEB on 4/20/2007
Great hike..Will definitely be back.. Luckily I read these reviews before doing this hike..I found Bryan's review/advice to be very helpful..

Reviewed by TTII on 3/16/2007
I don't get to brag very often, especially about outdoor sports activities...and I've done this hike many times...but I did it once under a full moon, well before dawn, on a minus-minus tide, by myself. I wore a bike helmet, plastic kneepads, and heavy gloves so, if I blew it and fell bad enough, I could at least tell somebody my name when they eventually found me. Try it yourself (but bring a partner)! That cave was c-r-e-e-p-y in those circumstances.

Reviewed by Bryan on 10/17/2005
Great Hike! It is a very unique hike and as so, certain things must be considered: 1) Ideally, you'll have closed-toed shoes that you don't mind getting wet. At the very end of the trail is the first cave. If you want to get to caves #2 and #3 (more like an arch than a cave), then you need to wade in waist-deep or higher water; and 2) You go at low tide to be able to enjoy the tidepools. The hike is not too eventful at the beginning, but it is a really neat experience. Don't be afraid to get wet and you will enjoy all that this has to offer. When we went, we actually made it around the point and to the neighboring beach (Dana Strands). It requires some rock scrambling, but it is worth it. Be careful on the return, for high tide.

Reviewed by RBL on 8/16/2005
I liked going north to south on this trail. If you're adventurous you can make it at any point in the tide. My first time I did it it was abut 75% up and rising. Just don't plan on staying completely dry. I got splashed up to about mid thigh. It requires some climbing technique to do at high tide. You can bypass most of the difficult stuff by using the caves.

Reviewed by DW on 7/4/2005
This was a great hike! We made sure we went at low tide so that we could explore the tide pools. My 9 year old loved it. It is a hike that you really can make as difficult as you want if you go at low tide by hopping the rocks while enjoying the tide pools. The cave at the end was great! Even at low tide, we couldn't get around the point....but I will keep an eye on the tide reports and try again when it is lower! :) Also, since there is no parking fees or day's a great FREE hike! :)

Notice: Traveling in the backcountry can be hazardous. You are responsible for informing yourself about these hazards and taking necessary precautions. Information on this web site comes from volunteer reporters and may contain errors or omissions. A current guidebook and proper equipment are essential for safe enjoyment of the hikes posted on this site.
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