Dana Point Sea Cave Trail

Dana Point Sea Cave Trail

If you’re cruising down Pacific Crest Highway in Dana Point, you should set aside 90 minutes to see one of the better sea caves in Orange County. The hike to the cave is probably only a half mile round trip, but it will feel like more because the coastline is rocky and slick in a few sections due to the seaweed and algae. You should be careful to avoid this hike during high tide or large wave swells because you're essentially trapped along the coastline next to a large cliff for the duration of the hike and there is nowhere to hide if the ocean comes crashing down on you.

There is a free parking lot for this trail at the ocean institute in Dana Point. The easiest way to find the trail-head is to enter this address into your GPS: 34558 Scenic Dr., Dana Point, CA 

The trail for the sea cave starts at a large fenced-in set of stairs at the edge of the beach. These stairs can be locked during periods when the tide is high or the ocean is too rough. Once you descend the stairs to the beach, just head west (right) on the beach and follow the coastline for about ¼ of a mile. There is a large rock outcropping which marks the cave. The entrance to the cave is hidden until you get up right next to it. Here is the outcropping along the beach that you’ll want to look for:

Hidden Entrance to the Dana Point Sea Cave

This particular sea cave is one of the largest I’ve seen in Orange County, but it's really only about the size of a your living room. We actually don't have very many large caves in the county, so it's unique. The hike will take most people around an hour to complete from start to finish. It may not be suitable for small children or people who may have trouble traversing the slick rocks. 

Inside the Dana Point Sea Cave

If you want to make a day of it, there are several other great areas to explore near the Dana Point sea caves including:

1000 Steps Beach- A great secluded beach with a large sea cave and great waves for surfing and bodyboarding

Crystal Cove State Park/Moro Canyon- A huge park located just north of Laguna Beach with hiking and mountain biking trails, a tent campground, a dedicated snorkeling area and amazing views from Coastal Peak Park at the top of the mountain.

Alta Laguna ParkA smaller park located high above Laguna Beach with basketball courts, a picnic area and a paved 1 mile bike trail. 

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park- A larger park next to Laguna Beach with amazing mountain biking and hiking trails. This park is breathtaking in the spring or anytime when we’ve had some rain and the entire mountain is covered in a blanket of greenery.

The Back Bay Loop Trail at Newport Beach- A wetland preserve in Newport Beach with a fantastic paved bike trail. I highly recommend renting a kayak and experiencing this park from the water.

Snow Canyon State Park, St. George Utah

Snow Canyon State Park, Utah

I recently visited Snow Canyon State Park in southern Utah for the first time. Snow Canyon has several unique and interesting features including arches, petrified dunes, slot canyons, a few small caves, sand dunes and a natural spring which can be easily accessed from the road or by a paved bike trail that runs through the park. The park is located about ten minutes from St. George Utah. If you’re headed to Zion National Park from Las Vegas on I-15, you’re going to come within a few miles of Snow Canyon State Park. I highly recommend taking a half day to explore Snow Canyon State Park.

Unlike Zion National Park which is usually filled with tourists, visitors to Snow Canyon Park are sparse by comparison. However, most of the major trails in Snow Canyon State Park are less than a mile round-trip, so you should expect to see families and and some tourists  on the trails. The paved “Whiptail” bike trail gives you access to most of the trailheads without ever having to cross the road. I highly recommend bringing your bike to this park.

There are several great hiking trails for families including a short quarter mile jaunt on Jenny’s Trail to see a small slot canyon, the Sand Dunes Trail and the Johnson Canyon Trail. For more of an adventure, one of the best ways to experience Snow Canyon State Park is to find the Petrified Dunes trail and just start exploring. The giant sandstone mounds on the Petrified Dunes Trail are perfect for climbing and rock scrambling. From the top of the Petrified Dunes, you get an amazing birds-eye view of the park below. The Petrified Dunes were my favorite feature in the park.

Admission to Snow Canyon State park is $6 per vehicle or $4 per bike. If you have multiple people wanting to bike, it’s a much better deal to drive into the park with your bikes, park your car and start your bike ride inside to avoid the multiple per-person fees.

Petrified Dunes: Snow Canyon State Park

Snow Canyon has a campground, but it's located very close to the road. While it’s probably a great place for an RV, I would probably avoid tent camping in Snow Canyon State Park if you’re sensitive to road noise like I am. The noise probably won’t be an issue in the off-season during the fall and winter when most of the visitors have dwindled. Campsites are $20/per night and can be reserved in advance here: https://utahstateparks.reserveamerica.com/camping/snow-canyon-state-park/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=UT&parkId=345781

Just  a few miles down the road from Snow Canyon Park, there is a free area to explore called Pioneer Park which has several fun features you can explore including a cave, a small slot canyon and a miniature arch. Pioneer Park is situated high above St. George with an amazing view of the town below and it’s one of the best places in the area to catch a sunset. Pioneer Park is comprised of the same type of red Sandstone you’ll find in Snow Canyon. It’s a really great area for rock scrambling and climbing. I definitely recommend taking an hour or two to explore Pioneer Park.

Pioneer Park, St. George Utah

I would avoid visiting this part of Utah in the late summer when the temperatures are usually sweltering. You get very little shade and the sky is cloudless for most of July and August. My favorite time of year to visit is in late September and October when the crowds are gone and the temperatures are in the 60’s and 70’s.

For a good list of trail descriptions in Snow Canyon State Park, visit: http://www.americansouthwest.net/utah/snow_canyon/trails.html

For and interactive map of Snow Canyon State Park, click 

Pioneer Park overlooking St George Utah


Mary's Market Revival in Sierra Madre California

Mary's Market in Sierra Madre

There is currently a plan to revive Mary's Market in Sierra Madre California. For the uninitiated, Mary's Market is a historic neighborhood cafe located at the base of the San Gabriel mountains. It's the kind of cafe that only exists in small towns and old movies where the waitress knows every customer and every customer's dog by name.  The cafe is nestled right in the middle of a picturesque neighborhood which is blanketed by a canopy of old oak and acorn trees. I've visited this cafe on several occasions before hiking Mount Wilson. It's a perfect place to grab an early breakfast before you hit the trail. The menu changes, but they typically serve standard breakfast items, sandwiches, burgers and a few specials. I highly recommend the homemade waffles. I like to grab my meal and eat on the tables outside under the blanket of trees, but feel free to sit at the counter and strike up a conversation with the locals. It's hard to believe a cafe with the magical small-town feel of Mary's Market can exist 15 minutes from downtown LA. I've been to hundreds of cafes in Southern California and I can't think of a single one that I like more than Mary's Market.

Two long-time waitresses at Mary's Market recently purchased the restaurant and started a Kickstarter campaign to restore and repair the building. Since taking over and revamping the menu, the locals have been flocking back in droves to this spot, especially on the weekends. You might want to check this place out before the secret gets out. I highly recommend donating to their Kickstarter campaign. I can't think of a worthier restaurant and I'm excited to see this gem of a restaurant restored.

Mary's Market

Mary's Market
561 Woodland Dr
Sierra Madre, CA 91024
(626) 355-4534
  •  Phone number(626) 355-4534

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