There aren’t many places where it is possible to hike in the desert, on the beach, high in the mountains and deep in the forest, all in the same weekend, but in southern California, it can be done. Here are ten great hiking trips that allow the curious to explore some of the Golden State’s wild side. With each brief description is a link to more information.
1) San Juan Loop. This 2.2 mile loop, off highway 74 in southwestern Riverside County, is a great introductory So Cal hike: it’s far enough from civilization to provide a wilderness experience, but the trail is also short and easy to follow.
2) Monrovia Canyon. This is one of the easiest, most accessible waterfall hikes in So-Cal, and an attractive one to boot. Not many people realize how many waterfalls there area near L.A., and if even with only an hour before or after work, this is an easy one to see (except on Tuesdays, when the park is closed).
3) San Ysidro Trail. This trail near Montecito might be a little bit of an excursion for the typical L.A. hiker–and it’s probably the most challenging listed here–but, if heading up the coast on highway 101 toward Santa Barbara, it’s well worth checking out. This trail can also combined it with other trails in the area, such as…
4) Inspiration Point in Santa Barbara. This popular trail offers a good workout and great views of the coast, as well as some interesting geology and topography.
5) San Antonio Falls. This 80-foot cascade on the flank of Mt. Baldy is a quick and easy to get to destination. Hikers who aren’t yet up to tackling Baldy itself can enjoy some fresh mountain air and great city views from this trail, as well as the waterfall.
6) Sturtevant Falls. Speaking of waterfalls, Sturtevant may be the single most popular in the L.A. area. It’s a moderately challenging hike that drops into a pristine wilderness only half an hour from downtown L.A.
7) Portuguese Bend from Del Cerro Park. This is one of the most popular trails in the South Bay; a moderate climb with tremendous ocean views.
8) Hermit Falls. Fans of Sturtevant Falls would be well served to check out its neighbor, which tends to get less foot traffic. They can easily be done in the same trip.
9) Santa Ynez Falls. This 18-footer in the Santa Monica Mountains is a little tricky to get to – you may have to do some rock scrambling – and the flow is usually only strong after a big rain, but it’s a quick and easy getaway into nature right off of Sunset Blvd.
10) Garnet Peak. This one isn’t in L.A. – it’s not even in San Diego, being about an hour’s drive east – but it’s a phenomenal hike, especially for those crazy enough to make it up there for the sunrise. It’s near the mountain town of Julian, and also close to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. In fact, from the summit, one can see almost directly down into the park, from a mile above.
Southern California is not often thought of as a mecca for nature and hiking, but those who take the time to get out into nature know that there is a lot of it to be seen in these parts. Everyone who takes time out from the hectic pace of life in Los Angeles to explore the places off the beaten path is glad that they did.