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Family-Friendly Walks near Dana Point Harbor (with Route Maps)

Family-Friendly Walks near Dana Point Harbor (with Route Maps)

Family-friendly walks near Dana Point Harbor definitions depend a little on your family’s ability level and patience for long walks. These 5 walks are a mixture of streets, walking trails and urban hiking in the area, but it’s hard to get these maps across in words. So this post is an experiment in maps.

Each map gives approximate routes for walking near Dana Point Harbor. It’s meant to be a loose overall route guide and NOT step-by-step directions. So please don’t follow the exact routes — the markers aren’t even accurate, just placed to get the route going the way I wanted.

The maps do NOT recommend parking areas to reach the starting point of the walks, because you can start at any point of the walks to pick up the route. Please note that there may be parking restrictions or you may need to pay for parking. I cannot warrant the safety of the walks, nor the condition of the trails. Know your own abilities and proceed at your own risk.

Here are descriptions of each of the family-friendly walks near Dana Point with suggestions for how to make each into a customized full Play Trip.

Dana Point Harbor Bluff Walk

Warning – lots of stairs on this walk because you are going up a hill and along the bluff top, so prepare for some elevation gain. You’ll travel  from the main shops area at the harbor, up through Heritage Park where  you can stand at the Doris Walker Overlook to look out over the harbor. Then you can make your way along the sidewalk and street to the Dana Point Bluff Top Trail.

KCET wrote a super interesting post on the history of this trail called “The Arches: Development, the Depression, and the Scenic Ruins of Dana Point Inn.” It’s worth a read!

From here,  you can either walk back the way you came to avoid walking along busy streets — or head up to the main street of Del Prado and head back to make a loop out of getting back to the harbor on the sidewalk.

Both Del Prado and Golden Lantern are busy main streets, but there’s lots to see and the view down the hill leading into the harbor is gorgeous.

BEST AGES: Older kids and teens.

Make this a Play Trip!


Park/Play only a short drive away:

Lantern Bay Park Walk Loop through Doheny Beach

Lantern Bay Park sits in front of the Laguna Cliffs Marriott. Mornings fill the lawn overlooking the harbor with a free community yoga class every day at 10AM. So you’ll want to take that into account if you pick this walk.

You can take this walk from any point in the loop. You’ll be able to get great views of the harbor with the bonus of a small playground at the top of the bluff.

There are some epic stairs at the corner of Golden Lantern and Dana Harbor Drive which are popular with athletes, but also suitable for us regular folk if you are up for the challenge. So you might want to plan your loop so you go down the stairs instead of up.

My walking map from the harbor over to Doheny Beach forced the route around on the street entrance to Doheny, but you can pick your way along Puerto Place and get down onto the sand without having to stick to the street.

There is a snack bar/concession that changes hands quite regularly (past names: Boneyard Cafe, Cafe del Sol) and it’s just a good turn-around spot on your loop, but feel free to explore more of the beach or bring your own picnic. BEST AGES: Older kids and teens.

Make this a Play Trip!


Park/Play along the walk:

Dana Point Harbor – Inner and Outer Island Loop

This walk takes you from the shops at the Harbor along the wide sidewalk to the bridge that crosses over the harbor.

This is a much flatter walk than the two previously discussed. There’s a dedicated pedestrian path across the bridge.

You’ll end up facing a sculpture of Henry Dana. You can turn right or left from the T-intersection.

It might be fun for you to take the inner harbor sidewalk around to the outer harbor sidewalk. Then you can get a view of the boats in the harbor on the inner side and a view of boats entering and exiting the harbor on the outer side.

Then return the way you came. Just watch your step on this one – some walkers don’t do a great job picking up after their dogs. Also, there are birds nesting in some of the trees that leave droppings on the sidewalk below.

It’s one of my favorite walks for the views and being close to the ocean. BEST AGES: All ages & stroller-friendly.

Make this a Play Trip!


Park/Play only a short drive away:

Dana Point Harbor to Ocean Institute

This is probably the most family-friendly walk and a common walk in the harbor. Visitors decide to take a stroll after dinner and head out on the wide sidewalk towards the Ocean Institute.

If  you walk long enough, you’ll eventually get there, too! You can go across the street over the bridge or wind your way under the bridge.

I like to take the detour around the sailing center before you get to Baby Beach because you get to stay along the water.

You can turn around and go back the way you came at any time. Or if you keep on long enough you can walk past the Ocean Institute to the beach beyond. BEST AGES: All ages & stroller-friendly.

Make this a Play Trip!


  • JC Beans Coffee House on PCH in Dana Point
  • Moulin on Ritz Carlton Drive near Dana Point Library


Creekside Park to Doheny State Beach — Bike Ride Along San Juan Creek Trail

It’s not officially a walk, but it could be! I just think it’s a nice, short bike ride (down and up a few steep hills). Creekside Park – which many call Stonehill Park, because it’s on Stonehill – is an awesome spot because it’s a great play stop at the end of your bike ride + breakfast plans. It’s a pretty straight shot down the trail and to Doheny State Beach.

Kids might want to make sandcastles in the sand or play frisbee on the beach or wide lawn. Return up the bike trail, the way you came. BEST AGES: Old enough to ride bikes for a mile or two — or to ride in a bike trailer if you have one.

Make this a Play Trip!

Park/Play only a short drive away:

All 5 Routes on ONE Map

I originally created only one map with ALL 5 walking routes. But it was a little unwieldy because you have to use the icon to the left of the title to slide out a Legend that allows you to select the walks you want to see. So I separated out the walks above, but you can still use this original map to see them all.

More of my posts on Dana Point Harbor:

Official sources for info on Dana Point Harbor:

Originally published in June 2018.