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Friday, April 1, 2011

Aliso Summit Trail

I got a late start on this HOT morning.  I didn’t hit the pavement until 10:30 or so.  Today’s concoction:  Run out my door to Aliso Summit Trail (which is above Aliso/Wood Canyons Park).  It’s actually the ridge along Aliso Canyon.  I’ve never run Aliso Summit Trail, but knew it existed.  And I have often wondered if I could take it down into the canyon.  More than one person has told me that it’s paved, which kept me away these past couple years. 

My goal today was find a route down to Aliso Creek, cross it, then run up Meadows and then to Top of the World. 

Running the road – I’ve got to run to the top and over the hills ahead to reach Aliso Summit TrailCIMG9532

The climb up Pacific Island was pretty dang hellish.  The sun beamed down.  Cars whizzed by (which I was actually thankful for because of their breeze) and the grade was steep.  I ran up the bike lane.  But those cars drove down so fast, that I often jumped up onto the curb edge that was littered with glass to add an imaginary wall of safety between me and the cars.

I ran the entire road up.  No shade.  But I carried plenty of water on my back.  I think what made that portion of the run bearable was that I ran it with an empty mind.  Really.  I didn’t think about a thing.

Aliso Summit Trail 4-1-2011, Elevation - Distance

Finally Reaching Top of Pacific Island Drive (Notice 7% grade sign in background)CIMG9534

Entrance to Aliso Summit TrailCIMG9539

First off, though the first twenty five feet or so was paved, overall this trail was not paved.  It’s a dirt trail with spectacular views.  At times, the trail is gravel.  And exquisite homes back up against the entire trail.   I ran past two different maintenance crews actually parked on the trail trimming the landscape at the back of these homes.

As a whole, the trail offered very little shade.  Right away, a road runner ran past me.  When I whipped out my camera, I dropped it in the dirt.  Scampering to get a picture of the colorful bird, he ran down the slope before I could.  I also came upon a few hikers and one runner.  All along, I scoured the steep slope for some route down into the canyon.  Though I didn’t see any, I was sure to find one eventually.  I investigated every hint of a trail downward. 

View of Pacific Ocean from Summit Trail (That’s Aliso Beach out there)CIMG9541

California Poppies along the TrailCIMG9543CIMG9538

Aliso CanyonCIMG9546

Well, Aliso Summit eventually dumped me out into a neighborhood.  I picked up the trail again a block away, searching, searching, searching for a way down.  Now way past Meadows Trail, I could see the ranger station, BUT NO WAY DOWN.  My husband had asked me, “Please no ‘cross country’ running today?”  He meant he didn’t want me bushwhacking or sliding down slopes.  I obliged his wishes.

And then.  AND THEN, you will not believe this!  The trail ended at a locked gate.  What is the deal with these trails that end at locked gates?  I was out of water (though I did have some coconut water still in my pack), I was hot and I was fatigued.  There was no way into the gated community.  A single track ran off to the left, which I took with hope in my heart that I’d find a way down to the ranger station, down to shade and water.  I ran that trail (pictured below) to a another dead end, and a slope so steep that I couldn’t rightfully attempt after assuring my husband “no cross country running.” 


I cannot adequately relay how disappointing this was.  I could see the ranger station!  And there was no way I wanted to run the Summit Trail all the way back in that blaring sun with no water (I was saving the small container of coconut water until I was really desperate).  As I ran along the trail, gate after gate into the upscale community was LOCKED.  And then I saw this:

Who’s idea was it to put a sturdy trashcan next to a locked gate??  My Pal – that’s who!CIMG9550

Smile Well, I climbed up onto that trashcan, got on top of that gate and jumped down into the grass on the other side.  I didn’t even fall.

Bye-bye Aliso Summit Trail!CIMG9551

I ran through this gated neighborhood and exited out a gate at the bottom.  Thankfully, from the inside the gate is unlocked.  And then I ran the roads some more while drinking my coconut water.  I ran to the closest shopping center where my husband and two youngest boys were waiting to take this lady crusted in salt to lunch and drive her home. 

Miles logged today:  10

Rating of Aliso Summit Trail:  Thumbs down.


  1. Another great adventure, although not exactly as planned. I love these runs of yours. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wow. I agree with Johann, you go on some serious adventures, girl.

    Your trash can boost cracked me up.

  3. I'm such a dork I thought when you said road runner you meant a non-trail running runner, not the bird kind! HaHa. I always enjoy reading about your adventures.

  4. Thanks for reading Johann. All the adventures are worthwhile, even if they end at a locked gate. At least I got to climb a trash can and jump down into the grass. Don't do that every day : )

  5. Thanks Green Girl. The trash can thing cracked me up too. I couldn't believe my luck! I was so dead-dog tired, there was no way I could run back up that trail.

  6. That is sooo funny Whitney. I didn't think about road runner meaning a runner who runs road. Cracked me up reading your comment. Thanks for reading!

  7. Hello! Please keep your eye on SAVE ALISO CANYON, on Facebook. Aliso Canyon is planned to be destroyed this May, just a few weeks away. The city council has slated Aliso Canyon to be bulldozed into an equestrian center! For information on what you can do to help, please contact Whitney Jones, my 11 year old daughter, on facebook, she is trying to head up a last ditch effort to save the canyon!

    Beautiful shots of Aliso! Just lovely!