With more than 3 million residents, Orange County, California is the sixth most populous county in the entire United States. With all those people and their accouterments, you wouldn’t think there would be much space to get out and enjoy the great outdoors – because, really, how much great outdoors can there be?
The truth is: a lot. Sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and Santa Ana Mountains, Orange County is loaded with beautiful scenery and lots of places to soak it in. The canyons, slopes and mountains are brimming with great trails that provide both a refreshing workout and an up-close look at the remarkable and varied landscapes of Southern Cali. Escape the rat race for a while, bask in Southern California’s year-round mild climate and indulge in the beauty that the Golden State is famous for. Although this doesn’t even come close to a complete list, here are some great hikes in Orange County.
• Aliso Peak Trail, in Aliso and Woods Canyon Wilderness Park, is a short and easy 1.6-mile hike that takes you up to Aliso Peak and offers spectacular views of the Laguna coastline and ocean. If you’re there at the right time you might spot whales offshore, and it’s a perfect place to watch a glorious Pacific sunset.
• Salt Creek Trail is an easy 6.8-mile paved trail that follows Salt Creek from Laguna Niguel all the way down to Salt Creek Beach and back. The elevation gain is about 500 feet; you can do the entire hike in a couple of hours. Of course, you’re welcome to stay and relax on the beach for a while, too.
• Colinas Bluff Trail is a 6.7-mile dirt trail that follows the Colinas ridge between Laguna Niguel and San Juan Capistrano. With an elevation gain of nearly 1,600 feet, it’s a moderate hike, but you’ll be rewarded with sweeping 360-degree views of Santiago Peak, the Pacific, Catalina Island and even the San Gabriel Mountains on clear days. The entire hike takes 2.5-3 hours, but since it’s an out-and-back, you can turn around and start back at any time.
• Ridgeline Trail, located above San Clemente, is a 4.7-mile paved trail that offers great views of Dana Point Marina, Santiago and Modjeska peaks and the ocean. On clear days you might even catch a glimpse of Catalina and San Clemente islands. Rolling hills and an elevation gain of about 1,550 feet are sure to get your heart pumping.