The Aliso Creek Regional Riding and Hiking Trail is a furrific 15-mile journey from the Orange County hills to Laguna Niguel, following the banks of its namesake creek for most of its length. This wide, paved trail has a gradual rise in elevation from west to east; when selecting a trailhead, consider whether your pack prefers to start with the uphill or downhill journey.
Though the trail has a few impressive views of the hills and surrounding community, much of its scenery is pretty residential neighborhoods. The trail passes through a whopping 10 community parks along the way, and additional rest areas dot the trail. That means restroom and water access are no problem on this pawpular journey!
With so many possible hopping-on points, you can experience a range of environments walking along Aliso Creek. The trail starts out along El Toro Road and stretches through the county-run Aliso Open Space and the Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park. As you get closer to Lake Forest in the middle of the trail, the setting becomes increasingly suburban. Free street parking is available within reach of the trail, but nearby paid commercial parking lots and parks with day-use fees are a solid backup plan if you don't feel like sniffing out a freebie.
In addition to the 15 miles of the main Aliso Creek Regional Trail, a wide range of alternate routes and additional trails connect to Aliso Creek, giving your pack a lot of choices about your journey. This tangle of trails can sometimes be confusing, though: keep an eye on the signage, as it's easy to veer off onto park paths or a connecting trail without realizing. Do keep in mind that some of the Aliso Creek area trails are not welcoming to pups, even very good ones. Hopefully Fido has a good nose for direction.
Note that the trail hours are shorter in winter: The Aliso Creek Regional Trail closes at 6 pm instead of 9 pm from November through February. Be sure to scoop any messes your pups create along the way: the hikers behind you will really appreciate it.