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11 Best Hikes in Orange County, Califonia

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Orange County is the ideal location from which to go on a classic hiking adventure in California due to its location between the mountains and the beach. There are a number of stunning local trails, state parks, and beaches to discover in Orange County, so residents will never be at a loss for things to do outdoors in this region.

Because the many hiking trails in Orange County cover such a wide variety of terrain, from level, tranquil parks to steep, rocky canyons, it might be challenging to choose where to spend your time hiking in the county. To assist you in arranging your next trip into the great outdoors, we have compiled this list of the top hikes in Orange County, California.

Things You Should Know Before Going on a Hike in Orange County

Before you go out on the hiking trails in Orange County, there are a few things you should be aware of before you do so. Orange County is a highly hiker-friendly region to live, vacation, and explore.

  • On most paths, you won’t find much, if any, protection from the sun’s rays. There aren’t many places in Orange County that include extensive woods or trees due to the county’s arid, almost desert-like topography. Because of this, we highly advise going trekking either very early in the morning or very late in the afternoon, particularly during the summer when temperatures may reach quite high levels. If you are planning to go hiking in the middle of the day, make sure that you come prepared with plenty of sunscreens, a hat with a brim, and an insulated water bottle filled with cool water.
  • There are a lot of hiking trails in Orange County, and a lot of them shut periodically because of animals or wildfires. Trails in the region, particularly those that are located close to the mountains, are sometimes closed owing to the presence of wild animals or local wildfires. Typically, a notice of these closures may be found on the notifications page of OCParks.com.
  • On the trails, you should watch out for poison oak. On many of the state’s hiking routes, you’ll find plants like poison oak, which, if handled, may produce a skin response that’s excruciatingly painful. You may learn how to recognize poison oak on treks in Orange County by reading this information, which is available online. When hiking on trails, it is best to avoid coming into contact with these plants and our recommendation is to wear shoes with closed toes and long trousers.
  • If you want to hike in Orange County on a regular basis, you need to invest in a season pass for California State Parks. A significant number of the local parks and hiking trails need either an entrance charge or a season permit to use their facilities. If you reside in the region or have plans to hike on many trails in Orange County, you might consider obtaining a pass to save both money and time on admission fees. This will allow you to explore more trails.

Hikes in orange county

  • Buck Gully Trail
  • Sea Summit Trail at Pico Park
  • San Clemente Beach Trail
  • El Moro Canyon at Crystal Cove
  • Dripping Cave
  • Willow Canyon Trail to Bommer Ridge
  • Peters Canyon Trail
  • Bedford Peak
  • Sitton Peak
  • Big Bend Laguna Ridge Loop
  • Black Star Canyon Falls Trail

Buck Gully Trail

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The Buck Gully route is a nature walk that is simple to moderate in difficulty and winds through the hills of Corona del Mar. This trail is considered to be one of the most beautiful hiking trails in Orange County. This route is a pleasant departure from the normal arid and coastal vistas that are seen in the surrounding region since it is lined with colorful wildflowers in the spring and has scenery that is pleasantly green throughout the rest of the year. Even though there is considerable elevation increase along this path, we would still suggest it to hikers of all skill levels who are up for a little bit of a test of their mettle.

Because the path receives some shade, it is an excellent option for those who want to hike during the brighter parts of the day. You will cross several bridges and walk along some dirt trails as you make your way through the forest to reach some breathtaking vistas of the hills in the area. On the Buck Gully route, there are many possibilities to see native animals and plants, so keep your eyes open for interesting flora and fauna to appreciate as you make your way down the path.

Read: 11 Best Things to do in orange country


Sea Summit Trail at Pico Park

The Sea Summit route in Pico Park, which is located along the coastline in San Clemente, links the park to both Canyon View Park and Vista Del Sol Park providing visitors with mesmerizing views of the sea and the cliffs below. Here you can find a comprehensive map of the hiking path. The Sea Summit is more of a network of paths than a single planned trek; yet, it provides a “choose your own adventure” atmosphere and is an ideal outdoor activity for after work or before daybreak. The walking areas are broad and clearly defined. There are also several pathways in the Sea Summit region that are suitable for strollers and wheelchairs because of their level terrain.


San Clemente Beach Trail

San Clemente

The San Clemente Beach Trail is one of our favorite hiking trails in Orange County because it is bordered on all sides by towering cliffs and pounding waves. It is also one of the most popular hiking routes in Orange County. The majority of this route in San Clemente is level, making it an excellent option for hikers of all experience levels, including novices since it is located directly on the beach. It is simple to get there and has a laid-back, enjoyable atmosphere, making it ideal for solitary or group hiking or walking, despite the fact that it is not very isolated or completely surrounded by natural features.

This route is suitable for families with children as well as dogs, and it offers many entrance locations across the San Clemente neighborhood. The trail runs parallel to the local railroad lines. You will be able to stop and take in the beauty of the native wildflowers and plant species along the route at any time of the year. We really like hiking along this path in the evening, when the sky takes on a golden tint and the sun casts a shimmering reflection on the river as it sinks below the horizon. The San Clemente Beach Trail is without a doubt one of the top treks in Orange County for anyone who is searching for a combination of urban and natural settings in their outing.


El Moro Canyon at Crystal Cove

Crystal Cove

The El Moro Canyon route is not only one of the most well-known local hiking trails in Crystal Cove, but it also offers some of the most breathtaking vistas. This circle is five miles long and gives views of the cliffs that surround the ocean as well as the hills that are in the surrounding area. In addition to that, it is the habitat of a great deal of natural plant and animal species, such as hawks and California kingsnakes. You will get to experience a little bit of all that hiking in Orange County has to offer along this path, including beaches, hills, native vegetation, and animals in the area. In addition to that, after you’ve finished, you may go to the beach and have a refreshing swim in the ocean following!


Dripping Cave

The Stream Beneath

Don’t let on to the other hikers, but the Dripping Cave route in Orange County may very well be one of the most beautiful hiking trails in the county! This route has a loop that is 7.5 miles long and takes hikers through the rolling hills of California, through some stunning oak trees, and ultimately to a picturesque cave where they may take a break in the shade. The Dripping Cave path, which is one of the most variable hikes on our list, is an excellent choice for hikers of any skill who are interested in exploring more difficult terrain.

The route begins on a paved road, but it gradually travels further and deeper into nature until you get the impression that you are no longer in the residential hustle and bustle of Orange County anymore. You have the option of turning around after the cave and doing a shorter, flatter, about 5-mile trek or continuing on around the circle and gaining a little more elevation.

Read: 11 Best Things to do in malibu


Willow Canyon Trail to Bommer Ridge

Do you want to go on a trek that has beautiful wildflowers, the fresh air of the coast, and interesting rock formations? In the Orange County region, a good alternative for those who are comfortable with intermediate difficulty is the Willow Canyon Trail to Bommer Ridge. This 4.6-mile climb, which is located close to Laguna Beach, offers stunning panoramas of the Santa Ana Mountains to the east and the Pacific shoreline to the west.

This is a terrific path to do with groups or families, particularly in the early morning before it becomes too hot and bright outside since it is on the shorter side. Be aware that this route offers little in the way of shade, and that the entry to the parking lot shuts at 5 o’clock (but you may remain beyond 5 o’clock until after dark), so make your plans accordingly.


Peters Canyon Trail

Poconos: Bushkill Falls

With its breathtaking vistas over Orange County and the Peters Canyon Reservoir, Peters Canyon is widely regarded as one of the most popular hiking paths in all of Orange County. This 5.9-mile track, which is also used by mountain bikers, is at its most beautiful in the spring when the wildflowers are in their prime and the trail is shared with them. This is a moderate hike that is suitable for hikers of all ages, including families and those with pets. Some walkers have even reported that there are sections of the trail surrounding the reservoir that is suitable for strollers.

Because this is a highly mountainous climb, you should be ready for many steep stretches that are interspersed with longer, gentler trail areas. Because this path offers little in the way of cover, hikers should come prepared for the heat of the sun and set out as early in the day (or as late in the afternoon) as they possibly can.

Read: 11 Best Things to do in Pasadena


Bedford Peak

sunset in Bedford County, Virginia and the Peaks of Otter

For experienced hikers looking for a less crowded but comparably spectacular summit walk in Orange County, Bedford Peak is an excellent option to consider. It may be a somewhat shorter climb than the one to Sitton Peak (7.3 miles), but it has an elevation rise that is comparable to Sitton Peak, making it an even greater effort. This is not a trek that someone who has never gone hiking before should attempt. There is very little shade to work with along the path, so we suggest traveling during the cooler periods of the year to prevent too much sun and heat exposure. The views from the trail are incredibly stunning, but there is very little cover to work with.

Please take note that in order to park here, you will need a California Parks adventure pass. You have the option of purchasing one right here or at one of the neighboring businesses.


Sitton Peak

Sitton Peak

The Sitton Peak Truck Path is a beloved local hiking trail that goes up to some of the most beautiful mountain views of the Santa Ana Mountains from the peak. If amazing vistas are what you’re searching for, the Sitton Peak Truck Trail is an excellent choice. After starting on a path that gradually ascends, the trail suddenly shifts gears and becomes steeper in the last half mile before reaching the top. Along the trip, you will have several opportunities to explore the native flora and fauna of the area, as well as some of the most breathtaking vistas of the mountains in Southern California.

Take a hat, sunglasses, and plenty of water with you on this one since the path is ten miles long and has very little shade. Avoiding this one during the warmest periods of the year and during the middle of the day, when the sun may be particularly harsh, is something that comes highly recommended by us.

Please take note that in order to park here, you will need a California Parks adventure pass. You have the option of purchasing one right here or at one of the neighboring businesses.


Big Bend Laguna Ridge Loop

One of the greatest hiking trails in Orange County is located in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, and it is called the Big Bend Loop. If you are looking for a short trek that will give you terrific exercise, this is the path for you. This path has a loop that is around four miles long and reaches over one thousand feet in height over the course of only four miles; nevertheless, the beautiful vistas of the Santa Ana Mountains and the surrounding slopes may distract you from the burning sensation in your thighs. If you want to avoid certain steep downhills with loose rock, we suggest traveling counter-clockwise, and if you want milder temps, we propose starting early in the morning.


Black Star Canyon Falls Trail

Along the Black Star Canyon Falls Trail, which is one of the most popular challenging treks in Orange County, you are likely to encounter a large number of other people who are also hiking. However, there is a good reason why it is so popular: the trails here provide some of the most breathtaking views in the area, and if the weather is just perfect, you could even see a waterfall!

Be prepared to utilize both your hands and feet in order to navigate some sections of the path, as they get more difficult and more technically challenging. You will soon come to a brook that you may follow all the way up to the waterfalls. This trek is a favorite among Orange County locals since it differs from many of the other hiking paths in the area in terms of both the terrain (rocks, scrambling) and the vistas to be seen along the way.

A word of caution: along the pathways here, you may encounter poison oak. It may be found in large quantities. We suggest staying away from plants whenever it is safe to do so, wearing long trousers and hiking boots, and keeping your distance from them.

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