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Robber’s Cave in Aliso and Wood Canyons

Robber’s Cave in Aliso and Wood Canyons

Robber’s Cave in Aliso and Wood Canyons was high on the list for our 2011-2012 family nature club. We picked February for the cool weather. Our destination is also known as Dripping Cave.

(Once a month, our family nature club met to do some outdoor exploring in Orange County. Each April, we made a list of 12 places we’d like to go for the following year.) 

We parked off Alicia Parkway in the parking lot for Aliso and Wood Canyons ($3-$5) and began our trip.  This is the first time we BIKED for Nature Play Club.  According to The Hiking Guy, the cave is 5 miles roundtrip and takes 2 hours for an adult to walk.  That could be a long day for the kids!  I’d heard from friends that it was more pleasant if they could bike (rather than a long walk).

Turns out that February is a great time to visit with the green hills beckoning along the trail.  Watch for hawks, the wind waving in the grasses, sandstone formations, and wildlife along the creek.

If you leave it up to the kids, they’ll find all sorts of treasures.  My nephews spotted a hole in the bamboo they wanted to explore.

My youngest nephew found 2 X’s of varying sizes. The bigger one had roly polies crawling on it and the smaller one had ants. We know because we stopped to check it out.

After turning onto the dirt road, you’ll come across Cave Rock and get a geology lesson from the faded interpretive sign.

We finished our trek to Robber’s Cave by taking the left fork pointing to Dripping Cave. You can’t miss it!

I took some awesome shots from the inside of the cave, but I’m leaving those out to keep some of the mystery alive!

Go slow, let the kids lead, and enjoy the journey — not the destination.  We have attempted this trip 5+ times in the past 2-3 years — before actually making it all the way. It made getting there feel all that much sweeter.

Trip Summary for Families:

  • Start in the Aliso and Woods Canyon parking lot off Alicia Parkway
  • Follow the paved road into the canyon
  • You will come to a T-intersection, turn left.
  • At this point you are supposed to stay on the dirt trail, but many of the visitors and younger kids on bikes kept to the pavement. The rangers passed by many times and did not warn us against it.  However, the kids liked “mountain biking” on the trail.
  • There is a very obvious right turn onto a dirt road which leads uphill.
  • Ahead on the left, you will come across Cave Rock which is fun to explore.
  • Back on the trail, travel until you see the fork in the road (take the left fork) which will lead you to “Dripping Cave” (which is Robber’s Cave).

Be Aware:

  • Start early because the park closes at sunset and you don’t want to be way back in the canyon when it’s getting dark.
  • Watch for mountain bikers on the trail. They are very courteous, but they can come down the hill fast — so just be aware and stay in front of the kids.
  • I have heard many stories of rattlesnake sightings in this canyon. They can be out at any time of year!  I picked February because I’d hoped it would be cooler and they’d move more slowly.  We didn’t see any snakes! Someone I know DID see rattlesnakes on a hike one November.
  • Also, stay on the trail and be on the lookout for poison oak. I actually spotted some at the top of the cave.
  • Bring: money for parking and plenty of water. Also, wear appropriate shoes, sunscreen, and a hat (if you’re walking) or helmet (if you are riding).
  • Jogger-stroller friendly. One of our kids even rode with training wheels the whole way (not ideal on the dirt, but it worked).  The first part is paved, so no problem there.  The dirt trail is wide and flat enough for a stroller. A couple of uphill parts that are uneven, but do-able.
  • Finally, there are restrooms at the Visitor Center at the parking lot off Alicia.
  • Official website for Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park
  • The Hiking Guy – Dripping Cave Trail Hike

There is now a lovely Aliso & Woods Canyon Visitor Center. That link goes to an entire post I wrote about the center.

Originally published in February 2012.

101 Things to Do with Teens and Tweens in Orange County - Popsicle Blog

Wednesday 20th of January 2016

[…] Rock Nature Center (Irvine) 5. San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary (San Juan Capistrano) 6. Aliso Wood Canyon (Aliso Viejo) free 7. San Onofre State Beach (San Clemente) free 8. Environmental Nature […]


Monday 27th of February 2012

Super fun family outing!! We just went on a bike ride in the "city" yesterday and as much fun as it was, I really enjoy Wood Canyon AND the cave for the chance to pretend like we are pioneers finding our own pathway into nature!! When can we go again??!


Saturday 25th of February 2012

Is the trail stroller-friendly?


Saturday 25th of February 2012

I will add that info into the post. Yes -- it is jogger-stroller friendly. One of the kids even rode with training wheels the whole way (not ideal on the dirt, but it worked). The first part is paved, so no problem there. The dirt part is wide and flat enough for a stroller. A couple of uphill parts that are uneven, but do-able.

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