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.
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.
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!
Carbon Canyon Nature Trail in Brea
Blackstar Canyon Falls Trail in Cleveland National Forest near Silverado
Borrego Canyon Trail to Red Rock Canyon in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park near Irvine
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!
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
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