Southern California is known for its beaches, but you can’t have your toes in the sand all the time. The hiking trails here provide another level of outdoor adventure that’s a perfect complement to the seaside activities.
Trade your sandals for hiking boots and explore the many hiking spots of Orange County.
San Clemente Beach Trail
Between the picturesque views, flat sandy pathways, and abundance of shops and restaurants along the way, you can’t exactly call this trail arduous by any means. The San Clemente Beach Trail is an easygoing 2.3 miles along North Beach with several stops at the Pier and T-Street. After departing from the trailhead you pass by some high cliffs as you meander next to railroad tracks to your right. Take a gander at the beach houses perched atop the cliffs and feel inspired. Then, cross over the bridge and hit the boardwalk straight into the heavily populated beachfront area.
Car Wreck Trail
Bring your camera because Instagram is going to want to see this. A spin down Car Wreck Trail leads you on a beaten path through Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park that’s known to be decently challenging. Its fairly uneven terrain and rocky sections make it difficult to navigate at points, but once you conquer this trail. you’re well on your way to seeing one of the coolest things in Orange County. A 1946 Dodge Coupe has made its home at the bottom Portion of this Trail For a few decades now. Nobody is quite sure how it got here, yet it’s still mostly intact and has become one with the ground and surrounding vegetation.
Barbara’s Lake Hike
If you’re looking for something nice and easy, Miss Barbara has you covered. Take a laid-back loop around Barbara’s Lake, which has the distinction of being one of Orange County‘s only naturally occurring lakes. Alternatively, you can treat this trek as an out-and-back to shorten the length while still reaching your aquatic destination. Going counterclockwise preserves the stunning views but saves you from having to do a slight incline at the end of your journey. Be mindful of the lack of shade on this hike and the $3 parking fee this trail requires.
Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve Trail
Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve Trail is for the birds — literally. This trail is a popular bird-watching spot thanks to its close proximity to the ecological center. The trail leads to a marsh area and the trip there is mostly flat. Waterfowl and herons take center stage on the water and the ocean breeze makes this trail cool for the spring and summer. It’s a great, easy hike for people of all abilities, and the trail is fairly wheelchair accessible. Be sure to get here early on a weekend if you want the best experience out of this three-mile hike.
Quail Hill Trail
Rolling fields and open meadows set the scene for the two-mile loop that is Quail Hill Trail. The trail cuts through the Irvine Open Space Preserve and makes for a nice and easy loop without many surprises along the way. The lack of complexity on Quail Hill Trail has designated it as a crowd favorite for those with young kids or non-hikers in their crew. This is also the only trail within the Natural Landmarks network that allows leashed dogs. Another cool feature of Quail Hill Trail is the self-guided audio tour that you can dial into from your phone.
Back Bay Loop
Eleven miles and multiple ways to enter make Back Bay Loop one endless adventure. Stroll along as the ocean breeze caresses you on this shade-less, well-marked expedition. The open water collides with the bright blue sky on sunny days as the sunflowers that dot the wetlands put on a springtime show. Aquatic creatures also like to make appearances in the warmer months. Back Bay Loop is very flat and isn’t as physically demanding as other trails in the area. You can, however, take a detour and swing around Big Canyon for an extra challenge.
Bluffs Beach Trail
The only thing better than a hike is a hike that leads you right to the beach. That’s exactly what happens on Bluffs Beach Trail found at San Onofre State Beach. In three miles you’ll be able to dip your toes in the water after a scenic walk. This is a rocky beach so it’s not as easy to navigate for some, including children or those with mobility issues. A good tip is to take this hike during low tide so you can walk on sand. Bluffs Beach Trail is also known for its array of seashells.
Dana Point Beach Trail
Dana Point Beach Trail is a classic hike with some scenic stops along the way. Walk the coast for under a mile and explore the surrounding tide pools and rock formations. A low tide gives you the opportunity to explore the cave along this trail. There’s even an archway that leads to a secret beach! Also, the rocky nature of the beach warrants some good hiking boots with ankle support. You can make a whole adventure out of hiking through Dana Point Beach Trail by camping out at nearby Doheny Beach and then making your way to the trailhead.
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