Hiking Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park’s Car Wreck Trail in Southern California


I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need a little (or a lot) of motivation to do an intense workout. During my 6+ mile runs, I fantasize about chugging a large glass of chocolate milk afterwards. My motivation to hike up, down, and around Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park? One specific trail: Car Wreck. 

Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park is laced with hiking trails ranging in difficulty. When my parents told me they’d hiked a trail with a wrecked car, I had to check it out.

Something you should know about me: I LOVE the after effects of a strenuous workout (you better believe hiking falls under the strenuous workout category), but the during? Not so much. I chant to myself “tight butt, strong quads, chiseled calves” as I climb up steep hills. But knowing I’m climbing towards something motivates me to keep going.

Hence the appeal of Car Wreck.

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My parents and I started at Laguna Beach’s Top of the World, a scenic spot overlooking Laguna Beach, and made our way down towards Rock It trail, which would lead us to Car Wreck.

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Top of the World

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I soon learned where Rock It trail’s name came from! The dirt disappeared under layers of slick rock, and I was beyond thrilled we were hiking down, not up. To all those who mountain bike: I will forever be in awe of your ability to make it down (and up) trails like this without shattering your bones.


Rock It trail

No thank you! After we made it down the trail, my parents told me Car Wreck — which we needed to ascend — was just as steep as Rock It (greaaaaaat), but not as long. We hiked a little more through the canyons, through tree canopies, and past caves until we finally reached the trail we set out for.


Spoiler alert, if you’re walking UP Car Wreck, the car is at the base of the trail! I wanted to lift the metal frame and plop it at the end, that way I could imagine it as I huffed up the damn rocky mountain.

But alas, sometimes life isn’t fair. So after maybe five steps in I saw the car. Car Wrck is another trail name that describes exactly what you’re getting.



The car itself is a modern work of art displaced by nature. How did it get there? Who was the driver? Were there passengers? SO MANY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS!

Nobody knows the backstory; it’s an unsolved mystery that continues to attract people like me and my family.

A note placed in what would be the hood.


As a creative person who loves to distract herself while doing unpleasant activities (such as walking up a steep-ass rocky trail with the blazing sun overhead), I started imagining what actually happened — this was in between cursing, tripping, and wondering why I continuously put myself in these situations.

I did in fact make it back up the mountain, but rather than indulging in chocolate milk post-hike, my mom and I rewarded ourselves with chai tea by the poolside when we got home (my dad opted for what he calls a red drink…I think it’s fruity iced tea.).

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If you’re looking for a total leg and gluteal workout, Google difficult hiking trails and find one near you. Throwing yourself in nature beats setting the treadmill on maximum incline and looking at a baby TV screen — or worse, a blank wall — for hours. You’ll get the same kickass workout but with a more scenic backdrop.

And you won’t have to wipe down a machine afterwards.

Cheers to living your best life!

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