Best OC Hikes

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Hello hikers and nature lovers. Are you looking for the best OC Hikes?  Orange County is filled with so many beautiful places, things to do and explore. Lets go on an adventure. Here are some of the most scenic hikes and nature walks in Orange County for you to explore.  Detailed information on each hike such as length, elevation, etc can be found on the AllTrails app

peters canyon

Photo by: Irvine Standard

Peters Canyon Regional Park in Irvine

The Loop Trail is a great 6 mile route. However, the eastern side (the East Ridge View Trail) is super hilly. So, if you want to avoid the leg burn, stick to the western side of the park (The Regional Park Connector Trail).  The eastern side has prettier views, and makes for a great sunset hike!

Park the at the lot on Canyon View Ave, so you can explore around the Upper Peters Canyon Reservoir (Lower Reservoir is dry).

Santiago Oak Regional Park in Orange

There are countless trails to choose from of varying lengths and degree of difficulty.  So, you can choose your own adventure.  We particularly enjoyed crossing the Santiago Creek on the steeping stones (located along the the Santiago Creek Trail) and the beautiful panoramic views of OC from the Robbers Roost rock formation at the top.   There’s also a US flag at the top. This park is especially pretty in the spring when it is most lush and has scattered pockets of wildflowers.

Colinas
Buck Gully Trail in Newport Beach

Unlike many SoCal sights, this remains lush year round!  While portions of the trail are exposed, it mostly consists of a tunnel of vegetation.  So, there is a fair amount of shade.  The trail is located at the valley of the Buck Gully Reserve and can be accessed from multiple trailheads.   I recommend parking on the streets near Poppy Ave and 5th st.

Crystal Cove State Park

This is a fantastic area for hikers, bikers, runners or anyone who just wants to enjoy spectacular ocean views.  The park is approximately 2,400 acres with over 15 total miles of trails to choose from.  Personally, I enjoy running the very hilly 9 mile perimeter loop.  Yes, it’s quite the grind to the top, but you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean.  The park also consists of the “Historic District”, a cluster of 46 vintage cottages originally part of a seaside colony.  There are also 3.2 miles of shoreline.  You can enter the park from PCH (southwest side) or from Coastal Peak Park ( the northeast side, with a trail connecting to Bommer Canyon in Irvine).  

Colinas Bluff Trail in Laguna Niguel

While this trail does not quite have the wilderness vibes of Crystal Cove Park, it still offers very pretty suburban views, especially in the spring when lush, rolling green hills extend as far as the eye can see.  The trail consists of several rolling hills (great views usually come at a price).  It’s approximately 4 miles, out and back with 750 of elevation gain.  You can park across the street from the trailhead at the Laguna Heights Marketplace on the corner of Marina Hills Dr and Golden Lantern St. Free parking!  

Blackstar Canyon
Carbon Canyon Nature Trail in Brea
The  first 2 trails were very hilly, but this one is very flat.  It’s approximately 3 miles if you do the whole nature trail at Carbon Canyon Regional Park as it appears on the AllTrails App.  However, if you want to cut the mileage down even further, park at parking lot B and from the southwest end of the big pond/lake look for Bell’s Vireo Trail. Take this to Coyote Pass and then link up to the Redwood Trail.  This will take you to the real gem at this park.  There is a beautiful, shaded patch of coastal redwoods!
 
Blackstar Canyon Falls Trail in Cleveland National Forest near Silverado
This hike is approximately 6.5 miles in total, out and back.  The real fun starts after about 2 miles when you get to the creek.  From here until the waterfall it is very rocky terrain. Personally, I’m steady on my feet and enjoy a good rock scrambling adventure.  The waterfall is seasonal, so it’s probably best to wait until February-June if you want to see the falls.  
 
Bonus: there is a very hilly and slippery trail to the right of the waterfalls.  Ropes have been installed to help you make the climb.  This additional trail is less than 0.5 miles and takes you to the top of the falls where there is an incredible view of the canyon.
 
Borrego Canyon Trail to Red Rock Canyon in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park near Irvine
This hike is 4 miles total, out and back.  It is a fairly flat trail, and the first half is relatively shaded and lush year round.  Prepare to be wowed by gorgeous red rock formations at the turn around point.  This point has Utah and Arizona vibes.  
 
Boomers Canyon
Bommer Canyon Trail in Irvine

This hike is approximately 4 miles total out and back and goes through the Bommer Canyon Preserve (other trails/routes are available in the Preserve).  The first part of this trail is relatively flat, but as you approach the turn around point there is a big hill to climb.  If you wanted to keep going, this would actually connect to the northeastern aspect of Crystal Cove State Park.  Isn’t it great when these parks and preserves connect to one another? 

Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve

This is probably one of the least known hiking areas in OC.  Since you can only access it on designated adventure days (by reservation only) it is also one of the least crowded nature areas.  There are numerous trails to choose from.  However, the main attraction is “The Sinks”.  This is considered the Grand Canyon of OC by many.  I also enjoyed the short hike to Dripping Springs.  I highly recommend coming here in the spring when the rolling hills are most lush and green.  Most of the trails are completely exposed with minimal shade, so definitely bring a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses to this one!

bolsa chica
Aliso and Wood Canyon Regional Park in Laguna Niguel

With over 30 miles of trails, there is so much to see at this gem!  There are 2 year round streams, wind caves, the quirky “Car Wreck” trail, and the “Top of the World” viewing area with incredible ocean views.  Much of the park remains lush year round even in the dry SoCal months. 

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach

If you want to avoid hills, then this is the place for you! This park is a 1,300 acre estuary by the beach.  You can park either along PCH or Warner.  Pro tip: you can also park for free along Graham, just south of Slater.  However, this will add approximately 0.5 mile (one way) to your total hiking experience.  No matter where you park, you can connect to a network of flat dirt trails totalling about 4-5 miles.  All the pockets of marshland and water are really colorful and beautiful to see at sunset or sunrise, so aim to go at these times, if possible.  There is no shade at all, so wear sunscreen and bring plenty of water.  This is a great place for bird watching as well.

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park in Laguna Beach
This park is approximately 7,000 acres and has several interconnecting trails to choose from.  I did a loop run around the perimeter for the best views of the park (according to a ranger).  This was about 8 miles and super hilly.  However, there are much shorter and flatter trails to choose from. 
 
I parked ($3) at the Nix Nature Center and from there ran Mary’s Trail to Little Sycamore Canyon Trail to the Serrano Ridge Trail to Upper Laurel Canyon Trail to Laurel Canyon Trail to the Stagecoach South Trail and back to the Nature Center.  This route had incredible views along the Serrano Ridge and a few wind caves near the Laurel Canyon Trail.  There was minimal shade, so do take that into consideration if you do this specific route.  The park features some of the last remaining coastal canyons in OC.  Barbara’s Lake in this park is OC’s only natural lake. 
 
 
Are you looking for more of the best OC hikes to explore? Click here for our article on dog friendly hikes in OC. 
Jorge Mendoza
Jorge Mendoza

Guest blogger Jorge Mendoza Instagram @cal.euphoria

Born and raised in the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles, but moved to the Northeast part of the country for almost 15 years after high school. When we moved Back to SoCal, we lived in Irvine for 1 year, before settling down in Huntington Beach. It's at this point that I started exploring and gaining an appreciation for all there is to do in OC. Sometimes, you can forget about a wonderful experience (a beautiful sunset seen through a sea cave, walking on sand dunes, a fantastic dinner, a breathtaking waterfall, etc). But, one look at a photo or video from that moment will cause a rush of memories and emotions to flood your brain, and suddenly you can recall every little detail of that adventure. That's what @cal.euphoria does for me. Follow Jorge @cal.euphoria for more California wanderlust.

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