January 12, 2018

Southern California Hiking Guide

Hiking in California is a great activity year round, but probably our favorite season for hiking is winter. In the winter cooler temperatures make strenuous hikes easier, while occasional rains make our desert landscape a little more green. Whether you're a beginner or expert, there's a trail for you in SoCal - take a look at some of our favorites!

Crystal Cove
Location: Laguna Beach
Difficulty Level: Moderate to Difficult

Ask anyone where to find the best beach hike in SoCal and they're likely to point you toward Crystal Cove. At Crystal Cove you will have access to a variety of trails of different lengths and difficulty levels ranging from an easier 3 mile trail to a strenuous trail almost 9 miles long. Don't forget to bring your camera! The Crystal Cove area is one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in Orange County, featuring 3.2 miles of natural seashore. You can also check out Cystal Coves historic cottages, 46 vintage beach cottages dating back to the 1930's and 40's!

Parking at Crystal Cove is $5/hour or $15/Day. Since parking prices are rather steep, we recommend making a day of it and stopping at the Beachcomber Cafe for a post-hike meal. For more information and a map of the trails at Crystal Cove, visit the Crystal Cove State Park Website .

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
Location: Laguna Beach
Difficulty Level: Moderate to Difficult

If you're looking for a challenging hike in a natural environment but don't fancy paying Cystal Cove's steep parking fees you can check out Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. Laguna Coast is located next door to Crystal Cove and parking is only $3. If you have the time and energy you can hike all the way to the coast, or into Cystal Cove State Park, or just enjoy the beautiful hills and canyons of Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. Personally this is one of our favorite hiking spots for getting away from the hustle and bustle of Southern California and getting lost in nature for a few hours. The park includes lots of different trails with significant elevation change, excellent for an avid hiker looking for a challenge!

San Clemente Beach Trail
Location: San Clemente
Difficulty Level: Easy

So maybe you're looking for something a little easier. We have two suggestions, starting with the San Clemente Beach Trail. We love the San Clemente beach trail for a few reasons. First, the trail is mostly flat and well maintained so it's easy to walk on - you can even bring a stroller for most of the trail! Second, the beach trail runs right along the coast so you can enjoy non-stop ocean views and refreshing ocean breezes as you walk, run, or bike. Third, it's in San Clemente, our hometown! As you stroll along the trail you'll be able to visit some of our favorite beaches including North Beach, the San Clemente Pier, T-Street, Riviera, Calafia, and more!

Back Bay Loop Trail
Location: Newport Beach
Difficulty Level: Easy

Possibly an even easier trail is the Back Bay Loop Trail circling the upper Newport Bay. On the Back Bay trail you have the option of sticking to a paved trail all the way, or taking some time off road. If you stick to the paved trail you will  be walking beside busy roads, but most of the time you'll have a beautiful view of the bay. Or, choose a shorter route, like this one recommended by Hiking Guy and avoid the busy streets.

The Back Bay is also a great place for kayaking , and while you're in the Newport Beach area you might also want to explore Balboa Island, Fashion Island, or the Newport Pier!

The Hollywood Sign
Location: LA
Difficulty Level: varies by trail

The Hollywood sign is one of SoCal's most historic landmarks and we highly recommend going to see it during your visit. After all, who doesn't want a snapshot in front of those classic letters? Planning a Hollywood sign hike can be challenging for those not familiar with LA, but with a little reconnaissance you can have a great time.

When hiking to the Hollywood sign you have several options. If you want to get up close to the sign itself you'll need to approach from behind. While this will get you in the closest proximity to the sign, it's not the best angle for taking pictures. Other trails will give you a better view from more of a distance. Which hike is best for you and how can you access the trails? Take a look at this guide from Curbed which gives you all the details you need to plan a successful hike.

Chantry Flats to Sturtevant Camp
Location: Angeles National Forest
Difficulty Level: Moderate

Sometimes it's nice to get away from the coast and explore SoCal's mountain forests. The Angeles National Forest is the perfect place to do that. Shady and beautiful, there are many trails worth exploring in the Angeles National Forests, including many quaint campgrounds and picturesque waterfalls. One of our favorites is the hike starting at Chantry Flats.

Parts of this hike are a bit narrow or a little strenuous, but the beautiful forest vistas are worth it. Take a look at SoCal Hiker's guide to the trail for a step by step look at this hike. Want to try a different Angeles National Forest Hike? The Cooper Canyon Falls are an excellent choice too!

Trestles Trail
Location: San Clemente
Difficulty Level: Easy

We love Trestles Trail, so we were very glad to see that SoCal Hiker had written up a guide ! Hiking Trestles Trail you'll see a variety of scenery from wetland areas to rugged coastline to of course the popular Trestles surf spots! This trail is a must-visit if you're staying in southern San Clemente, especially in our Surfer's Row or Trestles vacation rentals. Bring your boogie boards or a picnic lunch and enjoy a day at the beach!

The Trans Catalina Trail
Location: Catalina Island
Difficulty Level: Difficult

Last but not least, if you're a hiking enthusiast looking for a lengthy hike, we recommend taking a boat out to Catalina. At Catalina you can make your hike as long or short as you want. Feel like trying a multi-day backpacking trip? Check out SoCal Hiker's Guide to hiking and camping along the trail . Feel like a shorter hike? Check out the Catalina Conservancy's hiking map and choose your own adventure! Personally we like to take the Hermit Gulch Trail, then walk along the East End Road for a while before taking the Garden to Sky Trail down into the Botanic Gardens.

Have we inspired you to get outside?
We hope to see you on the trail!

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