Day Hikes Around Orange County
The El Cariso Nature Trail is a self-guiding loop that begins at the El Cariso Fire Station and visitor center on the Ortega Highway. The easy trail circles a knoll with north, west, and south vistas, meandering through Coulter pines, incense cedar, cypress, oaks, manzanita, coastal sage, and scrub oak. An interpretive pamphlet describes the surrounding geology, plants, and animals. Before setting out, ask for the self-guiding pamphlet at the visitor center.
From the west (right) side of the El Cariso Visitor Center, walk up the stone steps to the signed trail. Follow the dirt path up the west-facing hillside on an easy grade through a grove of oaks and pines. Views extend across the rolling hills and surrounding mountain peaks.