Back to Nature

Arcadia: Sturtevant Falls Southern California offers many back to nature getaways. You can hike to a secluded area for some peace and quiet. You can take the kids to the park for some fun and games or some light fishing. You can go to the nearby beaches to stroll next to the waves, or take the plunge and enjoy some swimming and surfing. You can go to the mountains to hike or play with the snow.

This section will provide information about some of those activities. See the sub-topics for more detailed descriptions.

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Hiking:

  • Oak Canyon Nature Center, Anaheim
  • Crystal Cove - El-Moro Canyon
  • Salt Creek
  • Ralph B Clark Regional Park
  • Grifith Observatory Trails
  • Monrovia Falls
  • Barbara's Lake.

Beaches:

Huntington Beach

  • Huntington Beach (Surf city)
  • Newport Beach: Big Corona Beach
  • Laguna Beach: Main beach
  • Laguna Beach: Crystal Cove
  • Laguna Beach: Salt Creek.

Parks:

  • Anaheim: Yorba Regional Park
  • Anaheim: Brookhurst Community Park
  • Anaheim: Pearson Park
  • Buena Park: Clark Regional Park
  • Orange: Irvine Park
  • El Toro: Orange County Great Park.

Back to nature articles:

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Crystal Cove SP

Image

Crystal Cove state park is both a beach and a wilderness area with many hiking trail.

This 3 mile stretch of beach along the Pacific Coast Highway is one of the newest additions to the state park system. Along with its pristine beaches, it covers 3000 acres of hills, canyons and trails. It also includes primitive campgrounds that only backpackers can get to. A new addition is Moro campground which has some facilities. It sits in between the beach and the hiking trails.

Take a break from all the excitement of the main attractions to commune with nature and forget the hustle and bustle of civilization. Some of the trails are easily handled by young children 6 and up. Younger children may need help.  If the kids complain too much about the hike, remind them about the second part of this excursion: The beach. 

El-Moro Canyon

You can start exploring the state park with a hike in the wilderness area.

The park has about 17 miles of trails to pick from. Get a map online (map) or from the ranger stations. There are now 2 parking areas available for hikers. One of them is at the Moro campground day use area. The other is outside the campground next the main ranger station/visitors center. I usually park at the campground because it also provides easy access to the beach area.

Local Tip: The entrance to the wilderness part of the park may be a little confusing. Just remember that it is behind the El-Moro Elementary School.

You really have to plan ahead for this hike. There are just too many trails to pick from and it is possible to get lost. Don’t forget the map.

Crystal Cove SP - TrailsIf you are looking for an easy hike, start from the back of the campground (away from the beach) and go over the wood bridge then turn left. Follow the trail through Moro Canyon. Turn left at the first fork and make sure that you stay on the left side (called Poles trail). There is a steep incline at this portion of the trail. Once you reach the top, turn left again onto "No Name Ridge" trail. This will take you down to the main ranger station. Keep going past the ranger station and turn left into "Moro Canyon" trail which will take you back to the wood bridge and the campground. This hike is about 2.5 miles.

If you prefer a bigger challenge, study the trail map and plan a longer loop. For example you canCrystal Cove SP - Wild Flower take the Moro ridge to Moro canyon loop for a 5 mile hike. Many of the trails have a great view of the Pacific Ocean, but Moro ridge has the best continuous view. Some people call this the Red Loop. The reverse route (Moro Canyon to Moro Ridge) provides more spectacular views because while descending back to the Canyon you are facing the ocean. 

Most of the trails are out in the open with no shade, so avoid going during hot weather and take lots of water with you. Moro canyon has some shade and follows a seasonal creek. 

Expect to find sage, prickly pear cactus, monkey flowers, golden bush, lemonade berry, deer weed and oak. You can also find lots of birds, some rabbits and some eagles. 

Local Tip: Those trails are also popular for mountain biking, so watch out for speedy bikes going downhill.

Crystal Cove hike

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Crystal Cove State Park

Once you are done with the hike, keep your parking ticket and head out to the beach. Your ticket is good at all the crystal cove parking lots. 

If you are already at the campground, just use the underpass to the beach. If you parked at the main ranger station, exit the parking and turn right onto PCH. Turn left onto any of the Crystal Cove parking areas.  

Most of the beaches at the state park require a steep climb down stairs or ramps towards the beach, so be prepared. You can avoid those steep inclines if you are at the campground.

The beaches here are great for surfing, body surfing, rock climbing and sea life exploration at the tide pools

Crystal Cove SP - Ocean ViewLocal Tip: Try to pack light for this beach trip. Just remember that you have to climb the same steep stairs or ramp on the way back up.

Along the 3 mile stretch of beaches there is a nice pedestrian and bike trail. You can take this very easy hike instead of the El-Moro Canyon trail. The advantage: great views of the ocean. The disadvantage: You can hear the cars along PCH.

For additional exploration, try the other beaches at this state park, each with distinct personality: Treasure Cove; Historic Crystal Cove; 3.5 Cove; Scotchman’s Cove; Muddy Creek.

At Historic Cove you can rent a cottage - if you are lucky enough to get a reservation in time before they disappear.

8471 N. Coast Highway

Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(949) 494-3539

Big Bear Discovery Center

Big Bear lake, CABig Bear Valley is well known for its winter sports fun. But after the snow melts and the skiers flee the area, a whole new adventure awaits you.

The valley and mountains around it are full for hiking and biking trails waiting to be explored, and the “Big Bear Discovery Center” is the place to start your adventure.

Located adjacent to Big Bear Lake on highway 38, the center offers maps, passes, café, souvenir shop (Adventure Outpost) and expert advice from the on duty rangers. You can also join educational Naturalist-led interpretive programs and events.

Big Bear discovery centerFrom the balcony of the discovery center you can enjoy a great view of the Lake nestled in the middle of the San Bernardino Forest - a perfect photo opportunity.

We decided we want to enjoy a hike close to the lake, so we started by talking to the rangers. They were very friendly and helpful. They gave us a map of the area showing all the trails. They showed us how to walk from the Discovery Center to the Alpine Pedal Path - which runs adjacent to the lake.

The trail is paved asphalt, which makes it popular with bikers too. It meanders through forest and meadows with many views of the lake. Along the trail you can find many shady benches to catch your breath and admire nature. Close to the shoreline you can find picnic tables and barbeques (closed during fire season).

The trail is about 3.5 miles long and considered very easy. It is easily accessible for hikers, skaters, joggers and even strollers and wheelchairs.

Snow Play
Big bear snowWinter is here and the kids are screaming for you to take them to the snow. Where would you take them?
You have several options:
You can stop along the way to Big Bear and find a good spot for sliding. But be warned, those spots are rare and parking places are almost impossible to find. Many popular spots are actually off-limits – but people use them anyway. Bring your own inner tube or slid.
You can try one of the official snow play areas. In my opinion they are the safest places to have fun on the snow, but they are usually expensive. Expect to pay around $25 per person. Everyone in the party has to pay – whether you are sliding or not. Alpine Slide snow play has the advantage of offering an escalator to the top – so you can avoid the long an exhausting climb. Inner tubes are provided.
Alternatively, you can go to Big Bear Lake and find a more peaceful and safe area – for free. Try any picnic area or campground. My favorite is next to Serrano Campground (this is also close to the Discovery Center). This place doesn’t have steep hills, but it has lots of snow. It also overlooks the frozen lake - offering great views of the lake and the mountains.

Big Bear Discovery Center

40971 North Shore Drive (Highway 38)
Fawnskin, CA 92333
(909) 382-2843

Other attractions in the area:

Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain

Snow play, Alpine Slide, Go-carts, Waterslide

800 Wildrose Lane
Big Bear Lake, Ca 92315

Pine Knot Marina

Boat rentals, boat tours, Jet Skiis, Para sailing

439 Pine Knot Blvd
Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
(909) 866-7766

Scenic Sky Chair Rides – at snow summit

Take the sky chair to the top of the mountain. Enjoy the views, hike or bike down to the base. Enjoy a BBQ at the top. This is not available during Ski season.

880 Summit Blvd
Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
909-866-5766

Big Corona Beach

Also known as Corona Del Mar State Beach.Big Corona Beach

This is probably the best beach for families. The main reason is the great but easy surf. On other beaches the surf tends to be too high for smaller kids, scaring them away from the water. On this beach the water is very inviting. The surf is just the right size for body surfing, boogie boards and skid boarding. The older kids can go in a little further for slightly bigger waves.

The parks has a snack bar, equipment rental, volleyball nets, picnic tables, restrooms, showers and some fire rings , hills to climb, shaded picnic areas with barbecue grills.

Big Corona BeachWhile enjoying the sand and the surf you can watch the sale boats go by. The beach is adjacent to Newport Beach jetty, which leads to Newport Harbor.

This beach is very popular in warm weather. Parking is at a premium. Go early to reserve your spot. You can avoid some of the crowds if you try to enter the park from Orchid Avenue. Parking is free (if you find it) and the view is breathtaking, but you have to climb down a steep ramp to get to the sand. One the way down you rest in one of the rest stops and take great photos. You can also park anywhere along Ocean Blvd.

If you did not pack snacks or lunch and prefer not to buy food at the snackBig Corona Beachbar, you can grab some food from the many restaurants and coffee shops along PCH. I especially like Baja Fresh Mexican Grill at 3050 E. Coast Hwy.

More information at: http://www.beachcalifornia.com/corona-delmar-state-beach.html

Main entrance
Parking fee: $10
Breakers Dr.
Newport Beach, CA, 92625
Alternate entrance
Parking fee: Free
Orchid Avenue
Newport Beach, CA, 92625

Phone 949-644-3151

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Bolsa Chica Wildlife Preserve

Bola chicaThis 1200 acres undeveloped wetlands are is a quick escape from urban sprawl where you can take a leisurely stroll, take a brisk hike, go jogging, bird watching and take lots of photos.

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is a nature reserve in the city of Huntington Beach, California. It is designated by the California Department of Fish and Game to protect a coastal wetland, with its resident threatened and endangered species. "Bolsa Chica" means "little bag" in Spanish, as the area was part of a historic Mexican land grant named Rancho La Bolsa Chica.

You can start your exploration from either of 2 parking lots (south or north). If start from the south lot, you will cross a long wooden bridge that passes over the wetlands. You will be immediately rewarded with views of plant and animal life. Most prominent are the bird species.

Bolsa chica - birdAs many as 321 species of birds have been spotted in the Bolsa Chica at various times. Some are year round residents, others are migratory and are present for a short time.

You can also spot, rabbits, opossums, raccoons, squirrels, lizards, snakes and coyotes.

Fish species include top smelt, stripped mullet, croaker, halibut, small sharks and round stingrays.

A variety of invertebrates inhabit the waters of the Bolsa Chica such as seahares, sea cucumbers, clams, mussels, worms and crabs.

Bolsa Chica Wildlife Preserve - From WikipediaSome of the plants you can spot are Pickleweed, Battis, Cord Grass, Saltbushes, Rushes and Sea Purslane. Upland areas and sand dunes support a variety of grasses, Goldenbush, Marsh Fleabane, Sand Verbena and Beach Primrose.

There are several hiking trails in the preserve. The main trail from the foot bridge takes you to the hills overlooking the preserve with great views of the ocean.

Free public tours are offered at Bolsa Chica and leave from the south parkingBolsa Chica Wildlife Preserve - bridge lot. The first Saturday of each month at 9:00 am, the tour is conducted by the Amigos de Bolsa Chica. The third Sunday of each month at 10am the tour is conducted by the Bolsa Chica Land Trust. See http://www.amigosdebolsachica.org/tours.htm for tour information.

Additional information at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolsa_Chica_Ecological_Reserve

Located along Pacific Coast Highway just south of Warner Avenue in Huntington Beach. Access from the north is from the parking lot on the south-east corner of PCH and Warner. Entrance to the reserve is just over the Warner Bridge. The south access is from the parking lot across from the entrance to Bolsa Chica State Beach on PCH about 1.5 miles south of Warner Avenue.

Closest address:

Huntington Beach, CA 92646

Buck Gully Hike

Buck Gully Hike - Newport BeachIf you feel like a nice easy hike close by, Buck Gully in Newport Beach is a very good choice. Just a few steps away from the beach in Orange County and in the middle of million-dollar homes, you can find this hidden oasis of lush wilderness and running water. 

Some people complained that it is difficult to find, but with today’s GPS, just look for 5th and Poppy intersection and you will be right at the trailhead. 

Buck Gully Hike - Newport BeachAnother trailhead is located close to the Newport Coast Community Center at Joaquin Hills Road.

Tip: The trail is bordered with poison oak. It is recommended to wear long pants.

The trail is mostly level with a few inclines here and there – nothing too difficult – and about 5.5 miles for a roundtrip. 

The trail is narrow and shared by bikers and hikers. The bikers are very careful and considerate.  

Tip: There is no separate parking for the trailhead. You will have to park on the streets close-by. 

Buck Gully Hike - Newport BeachMost of the trail is shaded with trees and brush and runs along a creek. You will be crossing the creek over three bridges.

This gully is full of birds, butterflies, frogs and lizards. Pause for a while, listen and watch the wildlife around you.

During a recent visit, we saw two adult birds crossing the trail and about 12 chicks following them around.

If you would like to know more about flora and fauna of Buck Gully you can join a ranger-led hike – it is free. To find the next hike and register, go here.

Buck Gully Hike - Newport BeachYou can also help protect and restore Buck Gully by volunteering your time. Visit the conservancy here.

Tip: Always bring lots of water, especially during warm weather.

You can find a good map of Buck Gully trails here.

The only drawback to this hike is that you will have to double back on the same trail to reach your starting point.

Camping at KOA San Diego

San Diego

We love visiting San Diego, so we end up going there several times a year. We like SeaWorld, the Zoo, Balboa Park, Old Town, Downtown, La Jolla and Seaport Village – to name a few.

We usually drive to San Diego and back the same day. Occasionally we stay overnight at a hotel. Some of our favorite hotels are the Manchester Grand Hyatt or Comfort Inn and Suites (kid’s room).

This year we decided to try something new: Camping at the KOA San Diego Metro, located in Chula Vista. The location is close to many area attractions and shopping which makes it ideal as our base camp.

The camp itself is beautifully landscaped with lots of trees and clean bathrooms and showers. Sites are available for tent or RV camping. The camp also offers 1 and 2 room cabins. We stayed at the 1 room cabin. The cabin was cramped with a twin bed and 1 set of bunks for the kids, a small table with one chair, hooks, windows, inside and outside lights. Outside the cabin, we had a small porch with a swing chair, a picnic table, barbeque and a large lawn. The best feature was lots of shade trees that hid the scorching sun in the afternoon. The office also delivers a fire ring and firewood on request. We definitely ordered ours for the traditional s'mores.

San Diego at night - from WikipediaTip: A big chain grocery store (Food for Less) is located right next to the KOA camp. To avoid carrying a lot of groceries with you on the road, you can plan on buying most of your needs at this store. I wish I knew that before I packed my SUV full of groceries.

To avoid the heat, we took advantage of the large refreshing swimming pool next to the office. The water temperature was just right for summer with lots of lounge chairs and some shade. Next to the pool there is a small park with a playground. This is usually the location for many of the camp activities.

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Some of the activities were: Make your own Tie-dye shirt; All you can eat pancake breakfast; Make your own iceSan Diego Koa camp cream sundae; Bingo nights; Movie nights with free popcorn; Family Games. My kids made great looking Tie-dye shirts that they can actually wear. The pancakes at the Sunday breakfast were delicious. We skipped the other activities in favor of running around town.

The camp also offers: Bike rental, coffee shop and barbeque stand. The kids took advantage of the 3 wheel bikes and had fun exploring the camp on their own.

Tip: As with most camping spots, we had to deal with a lot of bugs. Bring your favorite bug repellents and sprays. You will need them. Also if you are going in the summer, consider bringing a portable fan.

From this base camp we visited the following attractions:

Cabrillo National Monument: A monument to explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who was the first to set foot on the west coast of North America. This park offers museums, tide-pool exploration and a stunning view of San Diego from a high vantage point. If you are interested in the tide-pools, make sure to check the low tide schedule. See http://www.nps.gov/cabr/index.htm for more details.

San Diego - SeaWorldSeaWorld Summer Nights: SeaWorld has too many rides, shows and exhibits for one day. We usually buy the annual pass and enjoy it over many days. During summer nights the park is transformed into a rocking party of sights and sounds. The whales and Dolphins perform their tricks to great music and Pyrotechnics and acrobats perform their amazing feats to the beat of music near the main gate.
We also enjoyed a great view from the top of the sky cabin and a trip to the Wild Arctic on a Helicopter simulator. See more details about the rides in the SeaWorld article or go to http://www.seaworld.com for more details.

Mission Bay: We explored the Mission Bay park area. The kids liked the playground. We were also planning on renting bikes and riding around the long bike trails, but the weather was too warm for such activity. See http://www.sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/parks/missionbay for more details.

Balboa Park: It is located on 1000 acres of land and offers several great museums, Science center, San Diego Zoo, Carousel and Spanish Village Art Center, hiking and biking trails – to list a few. See http://www.balboapark.org for more details.

Old Town San Diego: This is a state park that is dedicated to capturing the history of the area. Old Town San Diego is considered the "birthplace" of California. San Diego is the site of the first permanent Spanish settlement in California. It contains several historic buildings, shops, trolley tours and museums. See http://www.oldtownsandiegoguide.com for more details.

111 Nnorth 2nd Ave
Chula Vista CA 91910
(800) 562-9877

Eaton Canyon Waterfall

IMG_5654Eaton Canyon is a nice shady canyon with a well-marked trail that leads to a 40-foot waterfall.Eaton Canyon WaterfallThe fall is active year round, but you will enjoy a better view in the spring months. You can find this hidden gem in the San Gabriel Mountains close to Pasadena and Arcadia, California.

The trail itself is considered an easy trail due to distance and elevation gain, but it does have some difficult areas that make this hike a little more adventurous than other easy hikes. Expect to climb some steep inclines, go rock hopping and cross the stream several times before you reach the beautiful waterfall.

Local Tip: What makes this hike more exciting also makes it more dangerous. If you are not careful you can slip on the loose gravel or slide on the wet rocks. Waterproof hiking shoes are recommended.

IMG_5670Most hikers start from the Eaton Canyon nature center where parking is abundant and free.

Local Tip: If the main parking lot is full, take a small side road to a dirt overflow parking area.

The round trip from the nature center is around 4 miles. It can take between 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours depending on your speed and breaks. We like to enjoy nature and take a lot of pictures, so the trip up the trail was slower than the return trip.

If you prefer a shorter hike to the falls you can enter from the Pinecrest gate which is further up Altadena drive. The distance from this gate to the falls is around .4 mile.

Local tip: The only bathrooms along the whole trail are 2 porta-potties at the trailhead.  

IMG_5696The first part of the hike is a wide and long dirt road that parallels a rocky wash that is dry most of the year. Once you cross the wash stay to the left on the main trail.

Soon you will come up to a fork in the road. There is a small sign indicating the waterfall trail to the left. If you ignore the sign and go to the right you will end up on a longer and more difficult trail that will eventually take you to Mount Wilson.

IMG_5725At the next junction, go left again under the big concrete bridge. This will take you to the main Eaton Canyon trail. From this point on you will be hiking under shady trees and enjoying the sights and sounds of the stream.

Local tip: Watch out for many small side trails that might confuse you and send you away from the fall trail. You can use some of those side trails to get closer to the stream, but always remember to go back to the main trail.

At the end of this trail (around the 1.9-mile point) you will see the waterfall cascading into a small shallow pool. You can wade into the pool to get closer to the fall. Grab a rock to sit and enjoy the view and maybe eat a snack.

Local tip: This is a very popular hike. On weekends expect to see a lot of people along the way and especially at the fall. For a better experience, try to make this hike during the week. If you have to go on the weekend, go very early.

IMG_5648The pool under the waterfall is deep enough to have a refreshing swim. But the water is very cold. Be ready with a change of clothes and a towel. 

Local tip: As you are enjoying the waterfall view you might see some hikers at the top of the fall. Be warned that there is no easy way to get to the top. There is a narrow and dangerous trail that goes to the top, but it is very risky. A lot of people are injured while attempting this side trail. 

Eaton Canyon Trail

1750 N Altadena Dr

Pasadena, CA 91107

or 

2266 Pinecrest Dr

Altadena Ca

Phone:(626) 398-5420

Video: 

Irvine Regional Park

Irvine Regional ParkIrvine Park is located in the city of Orange and is about 20 minutes from Anaheim. It is the largest park in Orange County (477 acres). This park has lakes, creeks, lagoon, Oak and Sycamore trees, waterfall, bridges, playgrounds, bike trails and paddle boats.

The park also has its own Zoo and train rides. The Zoo is limited, nothing like the San Diego Zoo, but good enough for young kids – entrance fee is much more affordable.

The train ride is a must for families with young kids. You can preview what the park has to offer before you settle in for the day. While you are in the train area you might as well take the kids to the Pony rides next door.

Pick an area under one of the big trees or under the shaded shelters. Best places are close to the main lake - where the rental store and snack bar are.

You can rent bikes to use along the bike trails or rent a paddle boat (aqua-cycle) for the lake.

OC Zoo

Rentals are available throughout the summer, weekends and holidays.

If you have a workout in mind you can use the bike trails as a nice long hiking trail, play horseshoes at one of the pits, catch a game of Volleyball or Baseball.

Irvine Regional Park

1 Irvine Park Road
Orange, CA 92862
(714)973-6835 or (714)973-3173

http://www.ocparks.com/irvinepark/

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Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach - Heisler Park

Laguna Beach is a seaside resort city that is much more than a beach town. The city is nestled amongst rolling hills and valleys overlooking the shoreline with great beaches, shops, restaurants and art galleries - giving it a distinct French Riviera allure.

Laguna Beach is a great destination for a family looking to escape the heat of the inland cities or for couples looking for a romantic stroll on the beach.

Along with great beaches, hiking trails and tide pool explorations, the city  is famous for its artist community with plenty of art galleries and festivals.

During the summer months, make sure to visit the “Festival of Arts” or the “Sawdust Art Festival” – or both.  The “Festival of Art” is an art show that gathers over 150 artists from Southern California to show off their handiwork.  The “Sawdust Art Festival” is an artist village that gets rebuilt every year from the ground up and features art exhibits, family entertainment, workshops and food.

When you are not visiting festivals and art galleries try walking along Cliff Drive, visiting Sunset Beach or going to the Top of the World.  See more details below.

Heisler Park, Main Beach to Arch Cove

375 Cliff Dr, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Laguna Beach - Heisler Park

One of the best ways to enjoy Laguna Beach is to walk through Heisler Park, down to Main Beach and on to Arch Cove. This is a long walk but you can always relax on the beach and enjoy the views.

This walk starts from the south end of “Heisler Park” on Cliff dr. around High dr. or Maple st. Once you park, make your way to the footpath along the cliffs overlooking the ocean.

Local Tip: Parking is very hard to find around this park. Try parking on one of the side streets leading to Cliff dr. You might need to go further away from the park. Another alternative is to park in one of the city parking areas around Broadway st (HWY 133) or Ocean then walk back to Cliff drive.

The Park itself is worth a visit. It is clean and well maintained with good restrooms, picnic tables and Barbeques. The park is also home to a large variety of shade trees, cactus, sage brush, palms and flowers.

Laguna Beach - Heisler Park

After enjoying the park, continue your stroll along the path that commands the best views of the ocean from any Southern California beach town.  It is perched high up the bluffs, with several pathways leading to small secluded coves and beaches. 

Towards the south end of Heisler Park, Cliff drive veers left into shops and residences and crosses PCH. You want to stay to the right where you can find a gazebo overlooking the ocean with a spectacular 360-degree view.

Right on that corner you will also find one of my favorite restaurants, Las Bresas, where you can enjoy Mexican cuisine with a great view. They also offer a great Sunday brunch.  

Laguna Beach - Heisler Park 

Between the Gazebo and the restaurant there is a footpath going down to the “Main Beach” area.  Once you reach the bottom of the path, you are at one of the most popular beaches in SoCal, which is called Main Beach. 

Continue your walk along the boardwalk and then take your shoes off and stroll on the sand as far as your feet can take you. I personally love to walk through the surf and get my feet wet. 

Local Tip: If you decide to visit Main Beach, keep in mind that it is one of the busiest beaches in OC. No parking at the beach, but you can park in town across Pacific Coast Highway.

On your right you can watch the waves and the surfers. On the left you will see a lot of hotels and restaurants. 

One of my favorites is the “Ocean View Bar & Grill”. The balcony is right on the sand with great views in every direction. Best time to visit is during breakfast hours when it is less crowded. If you visit at lunch or dinner reservations are recommended. 

Laguna-beach-surfer2

If you continue your walk south on the sand, you may come across some rocky formations. During high tides your path might be totally blocked. You can try to scale those obstacles, but be careful. They could be slippery and rough on your feet. If you prefer to play it safe, climb one of the stairways back to the street level and go down the next stairs. 

Toward the end of this walk you come to Arch Cove at Pearl Street beach. The beach is famous for its Arch, which you can walk through at low tide. If you prefer not to walk all the way this point, you can get to it from street level at 1791 Ocean Way. See Thousand Steps beach below.

On the way back you can retrace your steps or you can hike back on PCH to enjoy the shops. 

Thousand Steps Beach

Pearl Street, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Laguna Beach - Arch Rock 

Another secluded beach in Laguna, Thousand Steps beach, is named for the length of the beach. The beach is at the bottom of a long stairway with around 250 steps. Going back up the steps probably feels like a 1000 too. The official name is Pearl Beach because it is located at Pearl street. 

At the south end of this beach there is a natural formation Arch called Keyhole. You can actually walk through the arch during low tides which leads you to another nice beach called Woods Cove beach. At high tides you will have to wade or swim through it. 

The beach is also famous for its blow hole. Water rushes through the blow hole with every wave, then recedes. Adventurous swimmers dive into it and swim under the rocks through a little underwater cave. Watch these videos to get an idea: https://youtu.be/GmgVl31gRvk. or https://youtu.be/g0q5OHQEc9s. 

Sunset Beach at Montage Resort

Wesley dr. at PCH, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Laguna Beach - Sunset Beach

This beautiful and leisurely walk is located at the south end of Laguna Beach. It is famous for the tastefully landscaped walkways and great views of the sunset. 

This walk starts at the intersection of Wesley dr. and PCH. You can park at the free underground parking or at the Montage resort.  

Heading north along the path you will find beautiful flower gardens, palm trees and the occasional bench overlooking the beach below. On the right you will come across a great blue mural and some nicely maintained restrooms.

Towards the end of the concrete path you will reach a dirt path with several benches – a nice place to rest before you turn back. It is also the prime spot to relax and enjoy the sunset. 

Several paths along the way will lead you down to the beach where you can enjoy the sand and surf.   

Top of the World

W Ridge, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Laguna Beach - Top of the World

At the highest point in the Laguna Beach hills you will find this nicely appointed park with an amazing view. The park itself is a nice place to have a picnic or play tennis, but most people come for the views and the extensive hiking trails. 

Park your car in the free parking lot or on Alta Laguna road, then walk through a small wooden bridge and up a short trail to get to the beginning of the viewing area. From that vantage point you can feast your eyes on a panoramic view of the ocean. On a clear day you can see Catalina Island and the Santa Cruz Islands in the distance. Closer by you can gaze at the multi-million dollar homes of Laguna Beach.

top-of-the-world-hiking-PANOtop-of-the-world-hiking-PANO

If your goal is to hike, there are a lot of hiking trails starting at this point. A sign at the entrance shows a map of Aliso and Woods Canyon Wilderness trails. You can spend a couple of hours or a full day hiking in this area.

One of my favorite hikes is called Car Wreck trail. It is so called because there is a wrecked car at the bottom of the ravine. No one knows how the car ended so far down - away from any road.

The hike is strenuous due to the steep trail, rocky path and deep grooves from flash floods. You can make it a little easier by going down to the car wreck and looping around another trail for the climb back up. 

Local Tip: Please remember to take lots of water with you, especially on warm days.  

Laguna Beach - Top of the World Hiking

Start at West Ridge trail (off the viewing area). Turn right onto Mathis trail. Turn right again into Car Wreck trail. This is where it gets very difficult. Towards the bottom of that trail you will see the wrecked car nestled in the trees. 

As you descend beyond the car wreck the landscape changes around you into a wooded area with nice shade trees, a stream and some benches to rest your feet. 

You will be starting your return trip on “Oak Grove” trail. After a nice stroll you will turn left and start climbing back on Mathis trail. This climb is more gradual but it is long. Keep going until you hit the West Ridge trail again, then turn left to the main viewing area. You just completed a 7-mile hike. 

Monrovia Falls at Canyon Park

Monrovia Canyon ParkCanyon Park is another hidden gem in southern California where you can enjoy nature, have a picnic or go on a hike to a waterfall. Canyon Park is situated at the foothills of San Gabriel Mountains and is operated by the city of Monrovia.

The park offers several picnic areas, educational tours and a nature center. The picnic areas have tables and barbeques.  At the Nature Center you can enjoy displays of local flora and wildlife indigenous to Canyon Park. Learn about the early history of the Canyon residents, and the present day natural hazards in visiting a wilderness environment.

Monrovia Canyon ParkFor my family the best feature of the park is the hike to the year round Monrovia Falls. There are 3 different trailheads for this hike. You can start from near the entrance gate for a 1.7-mile moderate hike (one way).

You can also choose 2 other trailheads for a 1 mile and ¾ mile easy hikes to the falls. The hike is mostly shaded with a canopy of Oak, Maple, Sycamore and many other trees. You will be walking along a year-round stream and occasionally crossing it.

Along the way you will see a lot of squirrels climbing trees and you will hear birds making their mating calls.

The park is also home to Trask Boy Scout reservation. This a large facility for boy scout campouts. Another hiking trail climbs up a steep paved road to the reservation and then continues on above a dam. It is a difficult hike, but vert rewarding.

Monrovia Canyon ParkIf you choose to start at the first trailhead be aware that in the beginning, it goes through a narrow ledgeMonrovia Canyon Waterfall Trail that might be intimidating to young children.

Tip: The park allows dogs, so bring your best friend with you. You will both be happy.

There is a small fee to park ($5 cars), but you can avoid the fee by parking on streets outside the park. This will definitely add to your hike (about 0.6 mile), but that might be a good thing.

The Park is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. 

Monrovia Canyon ParkThe park is closed on Tuesdays.  Saturday and Sunday hours are from 7a.m. to 5p.m.  It also closes on Christmas Day and the Fourth of July.

Outside of normal business hours there is nothing stopping you from hiking the trails. You just need to park outside the park gates.

The park and waterfall trail can be enjoyed the whole year, but the best time to visit is during spring. The forest will be greener and the flowers are blooming. The waterfall will be especially plentiful after the rain.

1200 N Canyon Blvd. (Map)
Monrovia, CA 91016
(626) 256-8282
monroviacanyonpark.org

Video: 

Oak Canyon Nature Center

Oak Canyon nature center - AnaheimOak Canyon Nature Center is located in the Anaheim Hills area. It is a hidden nature sanctuary in the middle of urban development.

The center has many hiking trails with varying difficulty. They range from easy to moderate. A year-round stream meanders through the park and crosses many of the trails.

Check out more details and directions at www.anaheim.net/ocnc.

Oak Canyon Cactus

Look for "Outreach Programs". They are basically interpreted nature walks. A park ranger will guide you through some of the trails while providing useful information on various topics. Those walks are a hit with the kids, especially the "Insects and other Amazing Arthropods" program.

Start your excursion by visiting the museum (Interpretive Center) where you can find examples  of plant and animal life in the area, trail maps and other useful information. You can also start your "Outreach Programs" walk here.

Once you are done with the nature center and the organized walks, you can start on your own adventure.  Stoll along the stream, watch the fish swimming by and then try to locate the source of the stream.

Feel like a real workout? Then start exploring the various trails. If you get lost, just follow the downhill trails and you will find your way back.

Bring lunch or snacks and have a picnic next to your favorite spot.

Oak Canyon Cactus

Trail details:

MAIN ROAD: Goes through the center of the canyon, offering the easiest hike with open views. Accessible to both strollers and wheelchairs.

STREAM TRAIL: This is also an easy trail for families with small children. It runs along the creek with a lot of shade. Listen to the sounds of waterfalls and Jaybirds along the way.

HERITAGE TRAIL: A paved and easy trail with benches and Gazeboes for resting. Along the way, enjoy the large variety of cactus species.

ROADRUNNER RIDGE: This is probably the most difficult trail at the center, but only moderately difficult. It runs along the top north end of the canyon. Once you get to the top you are rewarded with great views of the whole canyon. You need about half an hour to make the full loop.

More trail information.

Oak Canyon Nature Center

6700 E. Walnut Canyon Rd.,
Anaheim, CA
Phone: (714) 998-8380

www.anaheim.net/ocnc

Related Books:

Orange County Great Park

OC Great Park - by Daniel MillerAfter the closing of El Toro Marine base in 1999 a great debate erupted in OC. What to do with the huge real estate vacated by the marines? Some wanted a new airport, others preferred more urban sprawl, but the forces of nature won. Now we have the Orange County Great Park.

The Orange County Great Park Plan will provide a wide array of activities, including a 2.5 mile canyon and lake, miles of hiking and biking trails, a cultural terrace, Orange County's largest sports park, a botanical garden, and a tethered helium observation balloon that will be an icon for the Great Park.

The park is still being built, but you can still enjoy some of its attractions right now.

The Great Park Balloon is open and it is free. Take a ride up to 400 feet (depending on wind speed) and watch the empty land around you being transformed into a great park.

While you are at the top, gaze down to see a World War II timeline that can only be viewed clearly from above.

Before or after your ride walk through the passage leading into the ride to view a gallery of photos showing future plans.

Finally, check the great park's website regularly at http://www.ocgp.org/. You will find announcements for special events like concerts and parties.

Completed sections:

South Lawn Sports + Fitness Complex:  30 Acers of soccer, basketball fields and fitness path.

North Lawn: 7 Acers of multi-purpose activities.

Palm Court Arts Complex: Hosts Galleries, artist studios and shaded outdoors theater.

Farmers Market and Picnic Area: A Farmers Market that offers fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables along with handcrafts and live entertainment. Runs every Sunday.

Kids Rock Playground: Kids have fun climbing rocks and running through tunnels while learning about environmental conservation.

Click here for map and directions
Irvine, CA

http://www.ocgp.org

Note: Balloon photo by Daniel Miller

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Paradise Falls Hike

Paradise Falls, caAt the end of August in Southern California you don’t expect to find running water and a beautiful cascading waterfall – but that is exactly what we found during our hike through Wildwood Regional Park in Thousand Oaks, California.

Thousand Oaks is situated at the southern end of Ventura County adjacent to Los Angeles County. The area in and around TO, as it is called by its residents, is full of parks and recreational facilities.

Our surprising waterfall was hidden within a deep valley at the park - near Avenida De Los Arboles and North Big Sky Drive intersection. Free parking is available off West Avenida De Los Arboles.

The park has many trails to choose from. Some of them are dirt access road – mainly used by bikers and others are foot trail of varying difficulty.

Tip: Get a map of the trails before you leave home. The parking lot doesn’t have any services.

Cactus forest at Wildwood ParkStart your hike by taking Moonridge trail heading east - away from the mountains. Follow the signs leading you to Teepee Overlook (a nice place to relax in the shade and enjoy the scenery).

From the Teepee Overlook hike down Wildwood Canyon trail to the waterfalls. The hike is steep at times – if you have small children, watch out for the narrow paths.

As you approach your destination you will start hearing the flowing water in the creek and the sound of the waterfall. After climbing down several wooden steps, you will be rewarded with a large pool and the 70 foot waterfall.  A few picnic tables are available close to the waterfall.

Tip: Although some websites mentioned restrooms at the bottom of the canyon, I didn’t see any. So be prepared.

Paradise Falls - Down streamThe return trip is through the Indian Creek trail. As soon as you leave the waterfall area turn right into the Wildwood Canyon trail. After a little climb you will be able to view the waterfall from the top. Pass another small waterfall and a picnic area, cross a wooden bridge then onto Indian Creek trail to the right.

Tip: Watch out for the Indian Creek trail sign. It is somewhat hidden from view when you are still on the Wildwood Canyon trail.

Indian Creek trail meanders along the banks of the creek and has lots of shade and several picnic areas. You can enjoy a snack or lunch among the trees, birds, critters and running water.

Paradise Falls hike - streamThis part of the trail crosses the creek at several points. When you reach the second crossing don't take it. Instead veer sharp to the left and take a small trail that will connect you back to Arboles ave.

Books

Day Hikes Around Ventura County

Links
Paradise Falls trail at LocalHikes
Paradise Falls trail at Youtube

Address

1000 Big Sky Drive

Thousand Oaks, CA

Ralph B. Clark Regional Park

Image

This park is located in the city of Buena Park, north of Anaheim. It is another large recreational area with lakes, streams, trees, hills, playgrounds, sports fields, bike trails and a very nice hiking trail.

The park lands range from large open grass areas, to gently rolling hills of native plants, to shear sandstone cliffs to the north.

For sports enthusiasts, the park offers sand volleyball courts, three softball fields and a baseball diamond and tennis courts.

TRalph B. Clark Parkhe park also has an interactive center that allows the visitor to explore the prehistoric history of Orange County through displays, programs and guided tours.

You can start your hike from behind the tennis courts. Follow the dirt path between the trees all the way around the park. Towards the end, the hike climbs up sandstone hills with a breathtaking view of Orange County from the top. Along the way, watch out for squirrels and birds.

For more information see http://www.ocparks.com/clarkpark/

Clark Regional Park

8800 Rosecrans Ave.
Buena Park, CA 90621
(714)973-3170

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Salt Creek Beach

Salt Creek

Salt Creek park is located in the city of Dana Point, about 40 minutes from Anaheim. This beach is unique for several reasons: It is a long stretch of beaches (around 18 acres); It borders one of the luxury resorts (Ritz Carlton); It has a beautifully landscaped hill overlooking the beach – with picnic areas; It has a very good food stand; And it has an easy hiking trail.

You can enjoy this beach in any season. During colder days, take your breakfast/lunch with you, stakeout a picnic area on the grass (or one of the marble tables) and enjoy your meal with amazing views of the Pacific Ocean and surfers. Once you are done with your meal, you can take a leisurely hike on the sand or on the paved trail.

Anaheimer Tip: You will have to walk down a long, steep, paved road to get to the sand. So remember that you have to climb back up the same steep road to get to your car. Pack lightly or bring one of those big wheeled carts to carry your stuff. But don’t get discouraged. This beach is worth the added trouble.

On warm days, bring your swim suite, surfing gear and/or sand toys and enjoy a day of fun in the surf and on the sand.

Some other activities: body surfing; tidepool exploration; sunbathing. During spring and summer seasons the concession stand offers beach gear rentals.

While you are in the area, stop by at Dana Point Harbor for great shopping, restaurants and Whale Watching cruises. See Dana Point harbor website at www.danapointharbor.com.

Dana Point

Beach details at: www.ocparks.com/Saltcreekbeach.

Salt Creek Beach

33333 S. Pacific Coast Hwy.
Dana Point, CA 92629
(949)923-2280


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San Clemente State Beach

It’s a park. It’s a beach. It’s a campground. It’s all of the above and much more.

an Clemente SB - Ocean View

San Clemente State Beach is one of the rare places where everything aligns perfectly to make your visit unforgettable. You will want to come back again and again.

The “State Beach” offers camp sites atop the bluffs with breathtaking views of the ocean. The camp has aroundSan Clemente State Beach160 campsites which are divided into group, RV and tent areas. The campground is beautifully laid out with paved roads connecting the various areas. Each campsite has a fire ring, picnic table, shade ramada and shade trees - with drinking and washing water nearby. Bathrooms – with hot showers - are never too far.

Tip: This park is extremely popular. You will need to make reservations many months ahead of time. Go to ReserveAmerica’s website and book your camp sites up to a year in advance.

If you are not planning to stay overnight, you can still enjoy this great beach/park for a day. A picnic area located in the day use section offers a great view of the beach.

Whether you are camping or just visiting for the day you can enjoy a lot of activities for all ages.

an Clemente SB - Beach

First and foremost you have to spend some time at the beach. To get to the beach, you have to climb down a steep paved ramp. But before you start down the ramp, pay a visit the life guard headquarters area. Behind the building you will step onto a terrace that offers an amazing view of the beach and the ocean. On clear days you can see Catalina Island in the distance. After taking in the view and snapping memorable photos, start down the ramp. Once you reach the bottom of the ramp, you will pass under the railroad bridge to enter the world of sand and surf. Experienced surfers can enjoy the large breakers while younger children can enjoy surfing and body surfing closer to the beach.

While enjoying what the beach has to offer, watch a few trains zip by going between Orange and San Diego counties.

Beyond the railroad tracks and hugging the bluffs you will see a long hiking trail. This trail actually starts from the San Clemente Metrolink station and heads south. But you can start you hike right from the state beach and head south to Trestle beach and San Mateo creek. The creek marks the border between Orange and San Diego counties. You can turn back at this point, or you can keep going until you reach San Onofre state beach.

Related Books:

Back at the campground, the family can ride bikes around the paved roads, play games, go on easy hikes around the camp (Butterfly Trail), play soccer, climb trees and pilot remote control cars. During the summer, park staff conduct campfire programs, junior ranger programs and interpretive hikes.

an Clemente SB - ramp

For the more adventurous, take a long bike ride from San Clemente state beach to San Onofre State Beach. Start by exiting the park from a pedestrian and bike entrance opposite to Avenida San Luis Rey street. This side gate is also close to the “Butterfly Trail” trailhead. Turn right on Avenida Del Presidente and keep going on the bike trail until you hit the end of the road – as it connects to Cristianitos Road. You will see a paved trail running parallel to the 5 freeway. This is the beginning of the old highway 101 – which is not in use. Before you reach the San Mateo Creek Bridge you have to make a choice. You can turn right and follow the side road to Trestle beach or you can continue on old highway 101. The Trestle beach route is more scenic, but the 101 route is faster. Either way you can keep going until you arrive at San Onofre State Beach. This was the end of the road for my family and me. We explored a little around San Onofre and then headed back to our campsite.

San Clemente State BeachTip: If you did not bring your bikes with you, you can rent from the “San Clemente Cyclery” at 2801 S. El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672 - (949) 492-8890.

If you like to take another hiking or biking trip, start from the bottom of the cliffs and head north this time. You walk or ride all the way to the Amtrak station passing through several great beaches and the San Clemente Pier. At the pier you can have a snack or lunch at the restaurants and buy souvenirs at the various shops.

Back at the campsite, if you discover that you forgot to bring some supplies, don’t panic. You can go to the camp store and buy firewood and other minor supplies. If you need more, stores and restaurants are not far away. Follow El Camino Real heading north to find places like 7-11, Ralphs and Rite-Aid.

Please remember that quite time is from 10 PM to 6 AM. Some camper, especially the young ones will be asleep by 10 PM. So avoid any source of noise. Rangers will enforce this rule.

For more information, see the office website at www.parks.ca.gov.

225 Avenida Califia

San Clemente, CA‎
(949) 492-3156‎

Sturtevant Falls

Sturtevant Falls Hiking Trail is located in the foothillsSturtuvent Falls - Arcadia above Arcadia and Pasadena in the heart of the Angeles National Forest.  This is only one of many hikes available in the Chantry Flats area, but it is my favorite hike because of the reward at the end of the hike – the waterfall.

Once you reach the Chantry Flats area, find a parking spot and purchase a parking tag (Wilderness pass) - they cost $10. There is a general store at the flats that sells snacks, gear, maps and the parking tags.

Now you have to make a decision: You can have your picnic lunch right at the flat in the nicely designed picnic area with marble tables and benches and barbeques- or you can pack your lunch in your backpacks and eat the waterfall. I personally prefer to eat next to the waterfall.

Start your hike at the bottom of the parking lot then descend down the paved road. On your way down observe the beautiful scenery of tree filled ridges to the distance and listen to the distant sound of running water.

At the bottom of the road you will cross the river over a bridge which takes you to the junctions of many trails. Follow the trail that continues along the river (you should see a marker pointing towards the falls.

Anaheimer Tip: The trail junction, right after the bridge, is your last chance for a bathroom break. There are no facilities from that point to the falls.

Along the trail you will be enjoying the lush greenery, jungle like trees, the sound of running water and mini man made falls (due to flood control dams).  You will also see old rustic cabins that were built from the late 19th century to early 20th century.

Arcadia: sturtevant fallsYou have to cross the river several times along the route – no bridges to help at this point. The trail narrows at times and you may have to dodge trees and boulders along the way.

You will start hearing the waterfall way before you see it. The nice soothing sounds will encourage you to keep going, even though you might be exhausted by then.

After crossing the river for the last time you will see the clear pool first then the waterfall. Depending on the season, it might be a trickle or it might be a torrent. But it is rewarding either way.

Take your lunch or snacks out, find a rock to sit on, and enjoy the view.

You do need a rest at the falls, because the trip back is actually more strenuous than the trip down. Do you remember the long steep road that you had to descend before you started your hike? Well, now you have to climb back up the same road to get to your car.

Anaheimer Tip: This might be obvious to professional hikers, but please remember to bring a lot of water with you – especially during the hot summer days. Hiking boots and sticks would be helpful but not mandatory. At the least wear boots or sneakers that you won’t mind getting wet.

Driving Directions

From the Foothill Freeway (I-210) take the Santa Anita Avenue exit north. Follow Santa Anita Ave. through the residential neighborhood until it ends at the foot of the mountains. Pass the yellow pipe gate and continue 3 miles (4.8 km) into the mountains to the end of Santa Anita Canyon Road.

Santa Anita Canyon Rd
Arcadia, CA 91006‎
(626) 574-5200‎

More information at: www.simpsoncity.com/hiking/sturtevant.html

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Whale and Dolphin Watching

Whale and Dolphin Watching - Ocean ExplorerEvery year the Whales make their journey between Alaska and Baja California. Along their migration route they pass by Southern California and thrill onlookers with their magnificent breaches and water spouts.

Several species of Whales pass by our shores but the two most common are the Giant Blue Whales and their relatives the Gray Whales.

The best way to admire those whales and their cousins the Dolphins is to take a boat cruise from one of the port towns along the coast. 

You can watch the Gray Whales during winter and early spring – or you can watch the Blue Whales and some Humpbacks during summer. You can always find lots of Dolphins. 

Tip: Whether you are going in winter or summer, dress warm or bring a jacket with you. The temperature seems to drop the further you go into the ocean. 

Related book: Whale Watcher: A Global Guide to Watching Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises in the Wild

There are many tour operators along the coast. It is hard to decide whom to go with – but after some research – we decided to go with Newport Landing. This tour operator departs from Newport Beach - right next to the Fun Zone. They have more than 20 years of experience and can locate Whales and Dolphins with ease. 

Whale and Dolphin Watching - Blue WhaleAlong with Whale watching cruises, Newport Landing offers other services like sunset cruises, evening cruises and deep sea fishing trips. See Whale watching Orange County for a full list of services.

We went on the Ocean Explorer and loved the boat and crew. The boat is medium sized with two levels so it is not overcrowded. The upper deck has a bigger open area with a large canopy. The lower deck has an enclosed observation, a mini bar and a snack bar. We decided to head to the upper deck to enjoy the views. 

The cruise starts on the calm waters of Newport Bay - dodging sail boats, speed boats and jet-skis and passing by beautiful houses and busy beaches. 

At the tip of the bay and behind the south barrier you can spot Big Corna Beach – one of the popular destinations in the area. Also right at the entrance of the bay you can see a large population of Sea Lions living on a navigation buoy. 

The cruise continues into the ocean paralleling the coast and passing by Newport Coast, CrystalWhale and Dolphin Watching - BeachesCove, Laguna Beach and Dana Point. When the captain, crew or passengers spot a whale or a pod of Dolphins the captain slows down the boat or comes to a complete stop.  

Tip: The waves in the ocean tend to be choppy, so if you are prone to motion sickness, take some precautions before you start.

On our trip we only saw one Minke Whale – which is smaller than the Gray Whale – but we saw a lot of Dolphins. We watched a large pod of the Common Dolphin feed and compete for the food with diving birds. We also watched Dolphins chase the boat, go under it and pass it – as if they were playing a game with us. We saw dolphins jump out of the water and heard some squeaking. 

Whale and Dolphin Watching - Sea LionsAlthough we did not see any of the great Whales on this trip we still enjoyed our time out on sea. We saw playful dolphins, watching flocks of flying and diving birds and visited a colony of Sea Lions. 

After the cruise it was time for lunch. We decided to try Harborside restaurant which is located in the same building because it had a high Zagat rating. It overlooks Newport Bay with an excellent view. The food and service were good  but the prices are a little on the high side.

Related picture book: Beautiful Whale

If you prefer not to take a boat trip, you can still watch Whales - during their migration - from the shore. There are several popular spots for viewing the whales. Here are a few: Dana Point, Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego, Point Dume, Big Sur, Morro Bay. At Cabrillo National Monument you can view from the glass-enclosed observatory. 

Newport Landing (Whale watching Orange County)

309 Palm St. #A
Newport Beach CA. 92661
(949) 675-0551

Yorba Regional Park

Yorba Regional ParkLocated in the east end of Anaheim, it is one of the largest parks in the area with acres of turf, trees, lakes and streams. It also has multiple playgrounds for kids of all ages, a very long bike trail, volleyball courts, horseshoe pit, two baseball diamonds and a physical fitness course.

Bike and paddle boat rentals are available at the park.

The lakes are stocked with fish – so you can do some fishing. A variety of duck and goose species make this park their home.  Bring some bird seed or bread to feed the ducks.

Over 400 picnic tables, 200 barbecue stoves and many permanent shade structures, make this park ideal for group events and family picnics.

The park is located along the Santa Ana River and extends about 1 mile along the west bank of the river. If you are riding a bike, you can exit the park towards the river and continue riding on the bike trail which goes for 20 miles towards the beach.

Yorba Regional ParkThis park is also great for hiking. You can just stroll along the endless paved/concrete walkways or you can go out to the dirt area along the Santa Ana River.

Go to www.ocparks.com for additional information.

Yorba Park

7600 E. La Palma
Anaheim, CA 92807
(714) 973-6615 or (714) 973-6838

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San Clemente Coastal Trail

The San Clemente Coastal Trail is a newly completed hiking and biking trail in the city of San Clemente. The trailSan Clemente coastal trail is a section of the planned California Coastal Trail which will parallel the beach throughout the state of California when complete.

The trail starts from North Beach next to the Metrolink train station and it runs under the bluffs, next to the train tracks with great views of the beach all along the way. The full hike is about 3 miles long (each way). The south end of the hike terminates at Trestle Beach or San Mateo San Clemente coastal trailCreek.

This hike is considered easy and it is great for families with small children.

Tip: No bathrooms on the trail. So make sure to stop at the north beach restrooms. Your next rest stop is the San Clemente Pier.

Start your hike from the train station and start enjoying the scenery along the way. You will be able to watch surfers wait for the right wave and then scramble to ride the wave. You can see body surfers closer to the beach. Try to catch the odd squirrel running along the tracks or trying to hide in the brush.

San Clemente - North Beach

Soon you will be climbing the wooden bridge that takes you above the tracks, a creek and a small brush forest. The view from the bridge is great. You can see the pier in the distance.
Although the train tracks are mostly fenced-in along the trail, you will find several exits that provide easy access to the beach.

About half way through your hike you will hit the Pier area. It is a great place to relax, have a meal and enjoy the scenery. Plan to spend some time on this pier either on the first leg of the hike or on your way back. Stroll on the pier and enjoy the view of the waves breaking on the beach. Watch the surfers trying to catch the perfect wave. Take in the view of the whole San Clemente coastline from the deep end of the pier.

San Clemente coastal trailAt the start of the pier you will find several restaurants to choose from. A very well rated restaurant is the “Fisherman's Restaurants”. We didn’t eat there this time but we are planning to return to it soon. We decided to eat at the Fisherman’s Gallery instead. Contrary to similar beach shacks, this place was surprisingly excellent. It has many healthy choices along with the expected Hamburgers and Hotdogs. We tried: A crispy fresh salad; a veggie burger, fish and chips and a cheese burger. We had regular fries and sweet potato fries. All were very delicious and the price was right. I will definitely go there for lunch again. Best of all is the location: Right on the main trail overlooking the pier and the beach. You can watch the throngs of people as they walk by and you can enjoy the surf lapping against the sand – from the outdoors seating area.

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Tip: An alternate trailhead is from Del Mar ave directly to the Pier. Then you can head south and extend your hike to San Onofre State beach or head north and extend your hike to Doheny State Beach.

San Clemente - Pier View

Although the pier is an important stop along the way, your hike is not done yet. Keep going south on the coastal trail. When you reach Calafia beach you will also be at the edge of the San Clemente State Beach. You have the option of climbing the steep ramp to the camping area. Overlooking the bluffs you will find the Life Guard headquarters building. In front of that building there is a terrace with a breathtaking view and some benches to enjoy the view and relax.
At this point, you can turn back and head north to the train station or you can keep going south to San Mateo Creek and Trestle Beach.

If you choose to continue, you will experience a more subdued hiking experience. Fewer crowds frequent this area. You will have a better chance of hearing the surf and calls of the seagulls. You might even catch a glimpse of frolicking dolphins and migrating whales.
Trestles beach itself is famous for great surfing. It is officially part of San Onofre State beach south of the Orange County / San Diego county line.

Once again you have to make a choice. Is this going to be an extended hike? Keep going to San Onofre State beach or hike up the San Mateo creek trail to the San Mateo campground. If you are getting tired, you better start heading back to the train station.

Additional Information:

Map of trail

The California Coastal Trail (Orange County Sections)

North Beach (trailhead)
1850 Avenida Estacion
San Clemente, CA 92672