Top Beaches

9 Best Hiking Trails in Orange County

If you’re in search of some fresh air and great views, we’ve got you covered with a list of the best hiking trails in Orange County! From scenic strolls to challenging treks that’ll lift your heart rate, these outdoorsy endeavors are sure to give you the dose of nature you need. So lace up your boots, slather on the SPF and gear up for a day in the great outdoors!

Best Hikes in Orange County

Back Bay Loop Trail – Best Family-Friendly Hike

While the Back Bay Loop may seem strenuous due to its 10.5-mile length, this Newport Beach hiking trail is good for all skill levels, given its relatively flat terrain. And perhaps one of the biggest draws of this scenic space is its seaside location. Hikers can take in sweeping views of the Upper Newport Bay Nature Reserve, or as locals call it, “The Back Bay,” and keep their eyes peeled for wildlife, including a handful of endangered species. Bird watching is also popular along this loop, as well as activities like walking, jogging and biking. And whether you choose to travel on foot or on wheels, you’ll definitely want to begin your journey at Vista Point Lookout to snag some great views.

Top of the World – Best Hike in Laguna Beach

  • Miles: 2.4
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Location: Laguna Beach

Ready to ramp up the heart rate? This short but steep trail in Laguna Beach leads adventurers through Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park via Canyon Acres Trail. At the top (of the world), hikers can relish breathtaking 360-degree views of the San Gabriel Mountains to the north and Catalina Island to the west. This trail is open year-round, and pups are welcome too but must be kept on a leash.

Buck Gully Trail – Best Hike in Newport Beach

When it comes to the best hiking trails in Orange County, Newport Beach takes the cake. Tucked in the back canyons of Newport Coast near Corona del Mar, the Buck Gully Trail is a scenic path used for walking, hiking, running and mountain biking. What makes this hike worth the trek is the “world away” feeling you’ll get even though you’re relatively close to civilization. You’ll also notice an abundance of wildflowers and a narrow river along the way! This hike is quite doable for kids, but dogs are not allowed as they could disturb native wildlife.

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve – Best Hike With Open Space

  • Miles: 3
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Location: Huntington Beach

Perched on the coastline of Huntington Beach, this serene ecological reserve offers locals and visitors a serene path with ocean views that just won’t quit. In the summer months, this three-mile loop is heavily trafficked, but features plenty of rest stops like benches that overlook the wildlife-filled wetlands. Be sure to wear sunscreen and sturdy walking shoes because the trail is primarily dirt and offers little to no shade along the way.

Sitton Peak Trail – Best Views of Cleveland National Forest

  • Miles: 10
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Location: Lake Elsinore

For those in search of a challenge, Sitton Peak Trail is sure to test your limits! This 10-mile trek in the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness area takes hikers 3,273 feet above sea level. The hike begins on a fairly easy path, but don’t be fooled—you’ll feel the burn after the halfway point. Luckily, the top rewards hikers with great views of the Cleveland National Forest and, on a clear day, the big blue Pacific.

Weir Canyon Loop Trail – Best Canyon Trail

  • Miles: 3.6
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Location: Anaheim

Situated near the city of Anaheim, Weir Canyon Loop Trail boasts a scenic loop in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains. From winding canyon paths with panoramic views to trails packed with wildlife and blooming flowers, hikers of this trail will relish an abundance of natural sights and sounds. And for those embarking on a family excursion, there are also 1.5- or 2.5-mile options.

San Juan Hot Springs Trail – Best Destination Hike

  • Miles: 10.6
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Location: San Juan Capistrano

Within an 8,000-acre protected wilderness preserve known as Caspers Wilderness Park, the San Juan Hot Springs Trail is a great way to get your steps in for the day! This 10.5-mile out-and-back hike leads adventurers to the historic San Juan Hot Springs—an old resort that closed in the 1930s. The hot springs, however, are still intact, but going in it is not recommended. Either way, the hike offers incredible wilderness views that’ll make the trek totally worth it.

Red Rock Canyon – Best Hike in Lake Forest

  • Miles: 4.1
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Location: Lake Forest

This gently climbing trail in Lake Forest’s Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park leads hikers up an oak woodland canyon that eventually ends in a smooth red rock canyon similar to what you might find in Arizona. Embark on this hike at sunset to witness the glow of the exposed sandstone red rocks! Dogs are not allowed on this trail, but it’s great for kids as it features a smooth and mostly flat path. And if the little ones do get tired, there’s a beautiful oak grove about a mile into the trail, which provides a shady place to rest.

Saddleback Mountain Trail – Best Views of Catalina

  • Miles: 15.6
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Location: Corona

Put your endurance to the test with this 15-mile hike up and down Saddleback Mountain, which takes you to the tip-top of Santiago Peak—the highest peak of both the Santa Ana Mountains and Orange County! This intense trail features steep inclines and astonishing city views, making the entire trek totally worth the effort. Take in phenomenal views that range from Catalina Island to Riverside County, and once you’re done, give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back!

Essential Tips for OC Hiking Trails

Before you set out on one of these hiking trails in Orange County, whichever one it may be, it’s important to come prepared. Make sure you’re familiar with the terrain and wear sturdy shoes that provide proper support. Orange County is also known for its sunny weather, and while this may seem ideal for spending time in the great outdoors, the sun can certainly take a toll. Be sure to apply sunscreen or bring a hat if you plan on being in the sun for extended periods of time. Lastly, be prepared to see wildlife like squirrels, birds, deer, coyotes and more, and do your best to mind their space and respect their natural habitats.

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