Note: Most of these hikes can be modified to be easier or more difficult, but the example routes that are specified below have been rated according to their difficulty.
8548 Peters Canyon Trail, North Tustin, CA 92705
Peter's Canyon (3.5 miles)
This hike begins on a flat trail, and gradually inclines as you approach the ridge. You will climb up and down a couple of small hills and then go back down to the flat trail. Next, the incline becomes a bit more challenging as you trek to the Reservoir Overlook, and then head back toward the beginning on a flat trail through a creek trail. While the trail, located in the midst of a residential area, features a lake and flowery meadows, the views aren't exactly spectacular. "The convenience of Peters Canyon to hike far outnumbers the actual hiking experience," said a Yelp reviewer. "[But it] is a very clean and pretty hike." Try it out for the perfect place to stick your toe in the water.
Park at Quail Hill Park on the left side of the road (off the 405 at Shady Canyon).
Shady Canyon (5.5 miles)
Level: Beginner Plus
Located in the Quail hills between Shady Canyon and Turtle Ridge in Irvine, this trail meanders through the rolling hills in the area. Make sure to stop by the Visitor's Center at the trail head to grab a map of the trails and information about local history, vegetation, and animals. The hike consists of climbing up and then down a number of times on trails that can be either a out-and-back or a loop. It features a variety of vegetation, an old farm and horse stable. Conveniently, there's another paved trail just for bikers so you won't have to worry about sharing the trail.
Ridge Park Rd & E. Coastal Peak Rd
The Loop at Crystal Cove State Park (10 miles) 1,600
The trail begins at the Ridge Park entrance, with a dirt trail heading south for about four miles and ending at the ranger's station near PCH. After reaching the Ranger's Station, where you can drink up, have a quick snack, or check out the Native American exhibit, the trail heads east into "BFI" (a one mile climb of about 1,000 feet). After reaching the top of "BFI", the trail continues through Moro Ridge, a few miles of ups and downs. Turn left at Gate 12 and continue on Bommer Ridge back to your starting point. The terrain varies; one minute you're on top of a hill overlooking the ocean, and the next, you're in a shady canyon among bushes and vegetation.
Ridge Park Rd & E. Coastal Peak Rd
Bommer Ridge to Emerald Bay (12 miles) 2,000
Level: Intermediate Plus
The trail begins at the same location as the Crystal Cove Loop, then continues east on Bommer Ridge. After about 2 miles, you will leave Crystal Cove State park and enter Laguna Canyon Regional Park, where the trail becomes significantly more challenging, with numerous climbs in short distances. After about 6 miles, you will reach the hill just above PCH at Emerald Cove. The view extends from Palos Verdes, to Coronado to the South, to the San Gabriel Mountains, to Catalina and San Clemente island. Returning back, you have the option of dropping into Emerald Canyon, one of the most beautiful trails in Orange County, back to the starting point at Ridge Park.
6757 Bear Canyon Dr & Mt Baldy Road, Mt Baldy, CA 91759
Mount San Antonio AKA "Mt. Baldy"
This one's a bit of a drive, but if you're up for something a bit more challenging, this is the nearest place to go. The highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains of Los Angeles county, this peak reaches an elevation of 10,064 ft. This trail is also quite diverse, as some areas are abundant with tall shady trees while others are barren and exposed. Note that there is snow in the winter, making the trails extremely dangerous. Make sure to pack energizing snacks like dried fruit, energy bars, electrolyte drinks/gels, and a lot of water.
Option 1 (Advanced): Before you park, continue to the very end of Mount Baldy Road (past Bear Canyon). The trail begins at the end of Mt. Baldy Road, where you can take the chairlift to the "notch", and from there climb an additional 2,000 feet to the top of Mount Baldy. (This one gets very sunny.)
Option 2 (More Advanced): Begin at the Village of Mount Baldy. The trail climbs through forests for about 6,000 feet before you reach the summit. (This one is more shady, until you reach the top.)
- Never, ever hike alone.
- Even with a group, make sure someone knows the trail, and that you take a map of the park. Consider joining a hiking club or a group if you're a beginner.
- Tell others where you'll go, bring a fully charged cell phone, plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, and a first aid kit.
- Wear proper shoes with good traction and loose-fitting clothing.
- Have fun! The wilderness is meant to be explored!