Back to Nature in California

Back to Nature in California anaheimer

California, with its varied landscapes, offers a multitude of back-to-nature getaways that cater to every taste.

Nature: Panoramic view of Santa Cruz, CAWhether you're looking to hike through secluded areas for peace and tranquility, discover hidden waterfalls, or enjoy the state's diverse array of flora and fauna, there's something for everyone.

From the majestic Redwoods in the north to the sprawling deserts in the south, California's natural beauty is both varied and vast.

You can take the kids to the park for some fun and games or some light fishing, immersing them in the outdoors while still being close to urban conveniences.

You can go to the nearby beaches to stroll next to the waves or take the plunge and enjoy some swimming and surfing, benefiting from the state's extensive coastline.

You can go to the mountains to hike or play in the snow, exploring the heights of California's rugged terrain.

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

Hiking:

California's trails offer an invigorating blend of challenge and beauty, leading adventurers through diverse environments—from coastal paths to mountainous ascents.

Beaches:

California's beaches are as varied as they are picturesque, offering endless opportunities for sunbathing, surfing, and exploration along the Pacific Coastline.

Nature: Sunset at Huntington Beach

Parks:

Whether seeking serene green spaces or playgrounds bustling with activity, California's parks offer natural sanctuaries within its urban landscapes.

Back to nature articles:

Follow the links above or see the child pages below.

Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park

Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park anaheimer

Aliso Creek TrailThis sprawling 4,500 acres wilderness park is located in Aliso Viejo and offers many hiking and biking trails.

The park is not just a haven for outdoor enthusiasts but also serves as a gateway to the breathtaking beauty of Laguna Beach, a seaside resort city known for its stunning beaches, artist community, and vibrant art festivals.

Whether you're seeking a leisurely stroll or an adventurous hike, this area promises a delightful escape into nature.

The parking lot and trailheads are on Awma Road via Alicia Parkway. The parking fee is only $3, but there is no attendant. Make sure to get a ticket from the machine and display it on your dash. Parking closes at sunset, so plan your visit accordingly. This practical and affordable parking option makes accessing the trails convenient, allowing you to immerse yourself in the natural beauty without worrying about the logistics.

Book an Orange County Adventure here.

Aliso And Wood Canyons Wilderness 1 After you park, head south to a large sign showing several trailheads and pick your trail. Also, remember to grab a trail map at the edge of the parking lot. This initial step is crucial for a successful hiking experience, as it ensures you choose a trail that matches your interest and fitness level. The map serves as your guide through the wilderness, helping you navigate the diverse landscapes this park offers.

Tip: If you are planning to do a lot of hiking in OC Parks administered areas, consider getting an annual pass from the parking dispenser. This cost-effective option is perfect for frequent visitors, providing unlimited access to the park's extensive trail network and outdoor adventures throughout the year.

So many trails but so little time. Plan on coming back several times to explore all the trails.Aliso Creek Trail Each visit offers a new adventure and the opportunity to discover something new, from the serene beauty of the Aliso Creek trail to the challenging terrains of Wood Canyon Trail.

On our first visit, we took the Aliso Creek trail because it is an easy trail with a slight decline when going toward the ocean. But remember, this means a slight incline on the way back. This easy-to-navigate trail is perfect for families and casual hikers, offering stunning views and a peaceful experience alongside the running creek.

The trail is a mostly paved road but only accessible to official vehicles. As you descend, the creek is on your left, providing a soothing soundtrack to your hike with its gentle cascades. However, the lack of shade highlights the importance of being prepared with plenty of water, especially during warmer days, to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable journey.

Tip: The trails are heavily used by bikers. Keep an eye out for speeding bikes, especially on the dirt portions of the trails, to ensure a safe experience for everyone. This friendly reminder encourages hikers to stay alert and share the path courteously with bikers, enhancing the outdoor adventure for all users.

Aliso And Wood Canyons Wilderness 3The first branch you encounter – to the left - is Aliso Canyon East, which leads back to the parking lot or to Laguna Niguel Regional Park.

A second branch – to the right – takes you into Wood Canyon Trail, extending into the Laguna Beach hills and connecting to other significant hikes like Oak Grove, Car Wreck, and Top of the World.

This diversity in trail options caters to every level of hiker, from beginners to the more experienced, providing varied scenery and challenges.

We did not take any detours during this first hike. We continued next to the creek, admiring the brush, wildflowers, reeds, and bird songs. This immersive experience in nature was rejuvenating, allowing us to connect with the environment and observe the unique flora and fauna along the way. After an hour of hiking, we turned back, carrying with us the serene memories of the trail.

As you walk on the main trail, keep an eye out for the hills and rock formations on the right. The sloping rocks leading towards some caves offer an adventurous detour for those interested in exploring further. This natural attraction provides a unique opportunity to engage more directly with the landscape, adding an element of discovery to your hike.

An alternative to turning back is to continue along the creek towards Aliso Beach. This extension would add another hour of hiking downhill, and the return journey would take more than 2 hours due to the incline.

For those not up for the hike back, an Uber ride offers a convenient way to return to your starting point, making this a flexible option for exploring further without the worry of a strenuous return trip.

If you decide to take the Wood Canyon trail, you'll enjoy the added benefit of shade, but be prepared for a more challenging hike (moderate difficulty). This 7-mile out-and-back hike parallels Wood Creek, offering a forest setting that contrasts beautifully with the coastal views. It provides a refreshing change of scenery and a rewarding experience for those seeking a bit more adventure.

Aliso Creek at Aliso BeachExploring this area offers many trails and loops to choose from, each promising its unique set of sights and experiences.

The map is your key to uncovering these paths, inviting you to return and explore all this rich natural landscape offers.

At the end of your adventure, consider descending to Aliso Beach for a relaxing picnic or enjoying lunch at the Lost Pier Café—right on the sand. The café's cheeseburgers, cooked to order, offer a delicious conclusion to an active day. The outdoor seating provides the perfect backdrop to reflect on your journey and soak in the beauty of the surroundings one last time.

28373 Alicia Pkwy
Aliso Viejo, CA 92656

Badlands Park Hike

Badlands Park Hike anaheimer

Badlands Park Trail Laguna Niguel 5Embarking on a hiking adventure at “Badlands Park and South Laguna Coast trailhead” offers an exhilarating experience with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean that promise to captivate your heart and soul. 

Starting at 31671 Isle Vista in the picturesque city of Laguna Niguel, CA, this trail serves as a perfect escape into nature's embrace, blending the ocean's serenity with the Californian landscape's rustic charm.

Getting Started

Badlands Park Trail Laguna Niguel 4Your journey begins with convenient street parking just before the traffic circle. Follow the path to the wooden stairs, where a left turn leads you towards the entrance of Badlands Park. Here lies the trailhead that promises a 2.3-mile out-and-back hike. Despite its ease and mostly flat terrain, the hike offers a few gentle inclines and a memorable long stairway descent.

Tip: Due to these natural features, this experience is not fully accessible, yet it brings a unique charm to the adventure.

What to Expect

This trail is a hive of activity, popular among enthusiasts for birding, hiking, and running. The path you tread is shared with others, fostering a sense of community and appreciation for this locale's beauty. 

Badlands Park Trail Laguna Niguel 3It’s a journey that suits family outings, where laughter and conversation complement the sounds of nature. However, a note of caution: the steep ravines that flank parts of the trail lack railings, requiring extra vigilance when accompanying small children.

One of the trail's hallmark characteristics is its openness. The vast expanse lacks shade, urging hikers to don hats and apply sunscreen to shield against the sun's rays. 

This openness, however, offers unobstructed views of the ocean's vastness and the intricate beauty of the adjacent hillsides.

Additional Explorations

Badlands Park Trail Laguna Niguel 1Upon completing the trail and retracing your steps to the wooden stairs, a diverging path to the right beckons the curious and the adventurous. 

This route promises more breathtaking vistas, a reward for those willing to explore further. Along the main trail and these side paths, you're invited to discover panoramic views and the nuanced beauty of wildflowers adorning the hillsides. 

Contrast this natural splendor with the opulence of multimillion-dollar homes on the opposite side, and you have a hike that captures the essence of California’s diverse beauty.

Tips for Hikers

Before setting out, it's important to note that no facilities are available at the trailhead or along the path. Preparation is key; ensure you carry sufficient water, sunscreen, and perhaps a snack to enjoy along the way.

Given the trail's popularity, early morning or late afternoon hikes can offer a more serene experience, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the tranquility and beauty of your surroundings.

Conclusion

Badlands Park Trail Laguna Niguel 2The hike at “Badlands Park and South Laguna Coast trailhead” is more than just a walk; it’s an exploration of contrasts, from the rugged beauty of the Californian landscape to the luxurious homes dotting the coastline, from the vibrant hues of wildflowers to the serene blues of the Pacific Ocean.

It’s a journey that invites reflection, encourages exploration, and promises a memorable experience for the whole family. So lace up your hiking boots, gather your loved ones, and embark on a journey that will etch itself into your heart, one step at a time.

Big Corona Beach

Big Corona Beach anaheimer

nullAlso known as Corona Del Mar State Beach. it 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 park 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.

nullWhile enjoying the sand and the surf you can watch the sailboats 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.

nullIf you did not pack snacks or lunch and prefer not to buy food at the snack bar, 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

Bolsa Chica Wildlife Preserve anaheimer

Bolsa Chica Wildlife PreserveWildlife Preserve

This 1200-acre undeveloped wetlands area is a quick escape from urban sprawl. Here, you can take a leisurely stroll, a brisk hike, jog, bird watch, 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 two parking lots (south or north). If you 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 prominently bird species.

Bolsa Chica Wildlife PreserveAs 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, striped mullet, croaker, halibut, small sharks, and round stingrays.

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

Bolsa Chica Wildlife PreserveSome of the plants you can spot are Pickleweed, battis, Cord Grass, Saltbushes, Ruhes, and Sea Purslane. Upland areas and sand dunes support a variety of grasses, including Goldenbush, Marsh Fleabane, Sand Verbena, and Beach Primrose.

There are several hiking trails in the preserve. The main trail from the footbridge takes you to the hills overlooking the preserve, where you can enjoy great views of the ocean.

Free public tours are offered at Bolsa Chica and leave from the south parking lot. The first Saturday of each month at 9:00 am, the tour is conducted by the Amigos de Bolsa Chica. On the third Sunday of each month at 10 am, the tour is conducted by the Bolsa Chica Land Trust. See their website for tour information.

You can find more information about the Reserve on Wikipedia.  

Bolsa Chica Wildlife PreserveAccess 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 anaheimer

Buck Gully Hike in Newport BeachIf you're in the mood for an easy hike nearby, Buck Gully in Newport Beach is an excellent option. Located just a few steps from the beach in Orange County and amidst million-dollar homes, this hidden oasis offers lush wilderness and flowing water.

Finding it can be tricky for some, but with today's GPS technology, simply search for the intersection of 5th and Poppy, and you'll be at the trailhead.

Trail view at Buck Gully HikeAnother trailhead is near the Newport Coast Community Center on Joaquin Hills Road.

Tip: The trail has patches of poison oak, so wearing long pants is advisable.

The trail is mostly flat with occasional inclines, not too challenging, and stretches about 5.5 miles for a round trip.

It's a narrow path shared by bikers and hikers, with bikers being mindful and courteous.

Tip: There's no dedicated parking for the trailhead, so you'll need to find street parking nearby.

Shaded trail at Buck GullyThe trail is well-shaded by trees and brush, following along a creek with three bridge crossings.

This area teems with wildlife, including birds, butterflies, frogs, and lizards. Take a moment to listen and observe the nature around you.

During a recent visit, we spotted two adult birds crossing the trail with about 12 chicks in tow.

If you're interested in learning more about the area's flora and fauna, consider joining a ranger-led hike—it's free. For information on upcoming hikes and registration, click here.

Creek along Buck Gully TrailYou can also volunteer to help protect and restore Buck Gully. For more details, visit the Conservancy here.

Tip: Always carry plenty of water, especially in warmer weather.

A helpful map of Buck Gully trails can be found here.

The only downside is that you'll need to retrace your steps on the same trail to return to your starting point.

Chino Creek Wetlands

Chino Creek Wetlands anaheimer

Chino Creek Wetlands HighlightWe discovered this serene sanctuary unexpectedly when we found the trails at Chino Hills State Park closed. 

Prompted by a swift online search, we decided to explore this location. Our wandering through the Chino Creek Wetlands and Educational Park turned into an extraordinary journey for my wife and me, as we searched for a tranquil escape from the daily grind. 

Hidden from the usual paths, this treasure presented us with a harmonious mix of natural splendor, enlightening discoveries, and a peaceful space for contemplation and bonding with nature.

A Couple's Retreat into Nature  

Chino Creek Wetlands Highlight Our adventure began on a cloudy, cool day. We didn’t expect any rain, so we ventured out for outdoor exploration. 

As we stepped into the park, the immediate sense of calm and the lush surroundings welcomed us, promising a day filled with discovery and serenity.

Discovering the Hidden Oasis

Chino Creek Wetlands HighlightThis serene sanctuary is nestled at either 5899 Kimball Ave, Chino, CA, or 6075 Kimball Ave, Chino, CA 91710. Navigating through the park's extensive network of trails can be a bit tricky, so it's important to note these addresses to ensure you find the right starting point.

As you meander through the vast array of paths, the absence of trail markings might lead to some confusion. It's easy to find oneself at an unintended parking lot. To avoid this, keep an eye out for natural landmarks and the unique features of the park's landscape to guide your way. This approach not only helps in navigating but also enriches your exploration with delightful discoveries around every bend.

A Deep Dive into Nature's Wonders

Chino Creek Wetlands HighlightThe essence of the Chino Creek Wetlands is encapsulated in its commitment to educating visitors about the critical importance of wetland ecosystems. The park ingeniously employs displays and interactive exhibits to share knowledge about wetlands' roles in water purification, offering sanctuary for wildlife and aiding in flood control. 

A standout feature is the repurposed water tower, accessible by climbing its sturdy metal stairs. At its summit, a grille floor offers a peek into the tower's vacant heart.

This vantage point also provides an unparalleled view of the park's meandering trails and vibrant wetlands. This elevated perspective not only highlights the wetlands' beauty but also reinforces their significance in our natural world.

Encounters with Wildlife  

Chino Creek Wetlands HighlightThe park's paths led us through varied landscapes where we encountered the local wildlife. The air was filled with the calls of different bird species, making it an ideal spot for birdwatching enthusiasts.

We were delighted by sightings of rabbits, various waterfowl, and some serene turtles basking under the sun, each encounter adding to the day's magic.

A Moment of Reflection  

Perhaps the most poignant moment of our visit was finding a quiet pond, its still waters mirroring the sky above. Sitting there, in my wife's company, surrounded by the sounds of nature, offered a moment of profound peace and reflection. It was a reminder of the beauty that lies in simple, quiet moments and the deep connection we share with the natural world.

Tips for Future Visitors  

Chino Creek Wetlands HighlightFor those drawn to the charm of the Chino Creek Wetlands and Educational Park, consider these tips to make your visit even more enjoyable:

- Comfortable footwear is a must as you explore the meandering trails.

- Bringing binoculars can enrich your experience, offering a closer look at the avian life.

- A camera is essential to capture the picturesque beauty of the wetlands.

- Different seasons reveal the park's diverse facets, making every visit unique.

Get more information about the park here https://www.ieua.org/chino-creek-wetlands-educational-park/

 

Chino Hills State Park

Chino Hills State Park anaheimer

Many people are flocking to Chino Hills to admire the wildflower bloom after the wet California winter, but in May 2023, it is a little disappointing. 

Although wildflowers are everywhere, I couldn’t find the multicolored poppies in abundance. I could only see a lot of yellow mustard flowers on the hills and especially along the trails. 

Watching poppy super blooms is a matter of timing. I think people who visited in March had better luck.  

The park is still beautiful and always worth a visit for hiking, biking, jogging, or picnicking. 

That Park extends over 14,173 acres on the borders of Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties. 

It has about sixty miles of trails and fire roads that traverse hills and canyons with woodlands, sage scrub, grasslands, and wildflowers. 

Discovery Center

Chino Hills State Park Discovery Center

The Center sits at the west entrance of the Chino Hills State Park in Brea. 

The center is a great place to learn about the local trails, wildlife, and fauna. The staff here is helpful and friendly. 

Families with younger children will appreciate the hands-on exhibits, and you can spend a bit more than an hour here, depending upon how much your youngsters want to see. 

The center also has the only restrooms at this end of the expansive park. 

Telegraph Canyon Trail

Chino Hills sp - Telegraph cyn road by David Lofink - WikimediaThis 7.5-mile out-and-back trail starts near the discovery center in Brea. 

It is a mostly level trail, so it is considered easy and good for families with small children, but it is long. You can always turn back at any point for a shorter hike.

It is a popular trail for birding, hiking, and horseback riding, so expect a lot of traffic on weekends. 

Tip: You can park in Carbon Canyon Regional Park and walk the short, signed trail to Chino Hills Park. You get to visit another nice park and pay a lower entrance fee. 

The Telegraph Canyon trail takes you more than halfway through the park’s major east-west canyon. 

You will venture through some beautiful riparian areas, dense with oak, alder, and sycamore trees, but most of the trail is without shade. 

As you walk between the hills and canyons, you can easily forget about the multimillion homes nearby.

Bane Ridge Trail

Chino Hills State Park Bane Ridge TrailOne of the most popular hikes within Chino Hills State Park is the Bane Ridge Trail, which covers 4.8 miles (7.72 km) with just under 1000ft (0.3 km) of elevation gain.

To get to the trailhead, you will first pass through the entry gate at the east end of the park in Chino Hills, drive for about 12 minutes on Bane Canyon Rd. to the Horse Staging gravel parking lot. Here is a link to the exact location on Google Maps, https://goo.gl/maps/iCTxSE4araE2.

Driving along Bane Canyon is a treat for the eyes as it meanders between the hills, offering spectacular views of the wildflowers. Several lookout points allow the visitors to stop and admire the views. 

Chino Hills State Park Bane Ridge TrailPick up the trail at the north end of the horse staging area near the restrooms. Follow the signs for Bane Ridge Trail.

The trail is easy (2 out of 5) with alternating stretches of level terrain and steep climbs. 

The trail begins by climbing gently through a forest of oaks and pines. As you ascend, the views of the surrounding hills and mountains will begin to open. After about 1.5 miles (2.41 km), the trail reaches a junction. Continue straight to stay on Bane Ridge Trail.

The trail continues to climb, offering ever-improving views. After about 2.5 miles (4.02 km), the trail reaches the summit of Bane Ridge. The summit offers panoramic views of the surrounding area, including the San Gabriel Mountains, the Santa Ana Mountains, and the Inland Empire.

From the summit, you can either retrace your steps back to the trailhead or continue for a longer hike. If you choose to continue, the trail descends back down to Bane Canyon Road.

Expect to hike from 1 to 2 hours, depending on your pace and stops. 

Crystal Cove Trails

Crystal Cove Trails anaheimer

nullCrystal Cove state park is both a beach and a wilderness area with many hiking trails.

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.

nullTake 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. 

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 to the main ranger station/visitors center. I usually park at the campground because it also provides easy access to the beach area.

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.

nullYou 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.

If 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.

nullIf you prefer a bigger challenge, study the trail map and plan a longer loop. For example, you can 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, goldenbush, lemonade berry, deer weed, and oak. You can also find lots of birds, some rabbits, and some eagles. 

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

 

Related Books:

Crystal Cove State Park TrailsOnce 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 downstairs or ramps towards the beach, so be prepared. You can avoid those steep inclines if you are at the campground.

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

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 a distinct personality: Treasure Cove; Historic Crystal Cove; 3.5 Cove; Scotchman’s Cove; Muddy Creek.

nullAt 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

Fullerton Hikes @ Laguna Lake

Fullerton Hikes @ Laguna Lake anaheimer

Fullerton Laguna Lake Park FishingLaguna Lake Park in Fullerton is a serene destination, serving as the starting point for several scenic hikes.

Visitors can enjoy leisurely activities around the lake, such as admiring ducks and swans, fishing, or picnicking, creating a perfect backdrop for a family day out.

The lake is regularly stocked with fish, offering both adults and children the thrill of fishing. It's also a pet-friendly location, with dogs welcome as long as they are kept on a leash.

Fullerton Laguna Lake Park BikingThe park's trails cater to hiking, biking, and horse-riding enthusiasts.

For those seeking a brief, easy stroll, a loop around the lake covers approximately ¾ of a mile.

Meanwhile, the park also serves as a gateway to several other trails of varying lengths and difficulties.

Juanita Cooke Greenbelt Trail

Starting at the lake's northeast end, crossing Santa Rosa Place road leads you to the trail, which stretches south towards Laguna Road park near Bastanchury Road, covering about a mile and a half.

Further exploration beyond Bastanchury Road presents a fork: continue straight for the trail leading to Euclid, or take the right fork to find yourself on the Hiltscher Park Trail.

These trails are predominantly flat, incorporating special ramps designed for mountain biking challenges.

The journey concludes near Downtown Fullerton, where beautiful gardens and tall palms line the path, inviting hikers to explore the city's lunch or coffee options before returning.

Bud Turner Trail

Bud Turner TrailAnother engaging trail begins at the lake's southwest end, traversing the green expanses of Laguna Lake Park and the Equestrian Center, home to the "Fullerton Recreational Riders".

This trail offers both a low-level route near the park and a higher path that climbs before descending again, eventually paralleling a street to Valencia Mesa Drive, close to downtown.

Nora Kuttner Trail

Nora Kuttner Trail - FullertonContinuing the Bud Turner trail parallel to Euclid, a pedestrian walkway leads to the Nora Kuttner Trail. This trail, reaching the "Top of the World" viewpoint, overlooks the Robert E. Ward Nature Preserve, revealing a tapestry of native flora and offering panoramic views of surrounding mountains and downtown Los Angeles.

Though mostly easy, the trail includes a few steep sections and is shared with bicycles and horses.

Access to this trail is convenient from several points, but parking is unavailable at the official Castlewood Dr trailhead. Laguna Lake Park, which offers ample parking, is a preferable starting point.

West trailhead: Castlewood Dr, Fullerton, CA 92833
East trailhead: 3120 Lakeview Dr, Fullerton, CA 92835

Hiking to the Hollywood Sign

Hiking to the Hollywood Sign anaheimer

Hollywood Sign By Russell Mondy Nestled in the expansive Griffith Park, one of America's largest urban parks, my hike to the iconic Hollywood Sign was an adventure blending urban exploration with natural wonder. 

Starting from the end of Beachwood Drive, this trail through Griffith Park offered a unique combination of Los Angeles' urban backdrop and its wilder side.

Griffith Park: A Los Angeles Gem

Hollywood Sign Hike 4 Griffith Park, sprawling over 4,300 acres, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts in the heart of LA. It boasts a network of trails, picturesque viewpoints, and rich biodiversity. 

Interesting fact: The park is named after Griffith J. Griffith, who donated the land to the city in 1896.

The park's diverse landscape includes rugged hills, verdant canyons, and a mix of native California flora.
Before or after your hike, consider visiting the Griffith Observatory for more stunning views. Read more about this observatory later.

The park is also home to the LA Zoo home to more than 1,400 animals representing over 270 different species, many of which are rare or endangered.

The Starting Point: Beachwood Drive

Hollywood Sign Hike 2 My journey began at the end of Beachwood Drive, where the urban landscape gave way to the natural beauty of Griffith Park. 

Tip: Griffith Park's trails can be complex, so carrying a map or using a GPS app is recommended. I recommend using an app like All-Trails with excellent turn by turn navigation and a lot of useful information. 

This starting point is less crowded compared to other access points, allowing for a more tranquil ascent. It is also inside the park, so you don’t need to park on residential streets. 

You can park at the small parking lot at the end of Beachwood or at a bigger dirt parking lot earlier along this street. The bigger lot has porta-potties. 

As I embarked on the Brush Canyon trail, the bustling city life was quickly replaced by the tranquility of nature.

Ascending Brush Canyon Trail

Hollywood Sign Hike 3 The Brush Canyon trail, a part of Griffith Park's extensive trail system, offered a moderate challenge. As I hiked, I was surrounded by typical Californian chaparral and occasional wildlife sightings. 

Interesting fact: Griffith Park has been used as a filming location for numerous Hollywood movies and TV shows.

The trail, about 6.4 miles round trip with an elevation gain of approximately 1,175 feet, was both exhilarating and serene.

Tip: Even in cooler months, this hike can be dehydrating. Carry at least 2 liters of water per person.

The trail is mostly a continuous climb, with the last mile the steepest. 

The Fork: A Moment of Choice

Hollywood Sign Hike 5 A notable feature of the hike was the fork to the left leading to the front of the Hollywood Sign. 

Opting for this path, I found myself up close to the famous letters, a surreal experience contrasting with the distant views of downtown LA.

Interesting fact: The sign originally read "Hollywoodland" and was erected in 1923 as an advertisement for a local real estate development.

Reaching the Summit

Hollywood Sign Hike 8 Backtracking to the fork, the main trail led me toward Mount Lee's summit – the highest peak in the park. 

Here, the panoramic 360-degree view encompassed the entire city, from downtown skyscrapers to the distant ocean, a testament to Griffith Park's unique location within Los Angeles.

In conclusion, my hike to the Hollywood Sign via Brush Canyon Drive in Griffith Park was a memorable experience. 

This hike took around 3 hours round trip, including several stops along the way to admire the views. 

Hollywood Sign Hike 9 After completing your hike, consider driving or walking to the Observatory to enjoy its stunning Art Deco architecture, fascinating exhibits, and breathtaking views of the Los Angeles Basin. 

Griffith_Observatory_By_Downtowngal_Wikimedia The Samuel Oschin Planetarium inside offers captivating shows that are both educational and entertaining. Additionally, the Observatory provides some of the best views of the Hollywood Sign from a different perspective. 

Trailhead address: 3200 Canyon Dr, Los Angeles, CA, 90068, USA.

Other trails leading to the Hollywood Sign

Wonder View Trail

Description: A steep and challenging route, this trail takes you to Cahuenga Peak and then to the back of the Hollywood Sign. It's a rugged path less traveled for those seeking a workout with their views.

Trailhead Address: 3051 Wonder View Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90068

Hollyridge Trail

Description: An easier alternative, providing excellent front-facing views of the Hollywood Sign. It's popular for its accessibility and less strenuous path.

Trailhead Address: 3400 N Beachwood Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90068

Burbank Peak Trail

Description: Starting at the Wisdom Tree, this hike is on the shorter side but offers a steep climb to the peak, where you can see the sign from above.

Trailhead Address: 3052 Lake Hollywood Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90068

Innsdale Drive Trail

Description: A less-known starting point, this trail offers a quiet hike to the sign with excellent views of Los Angeles.

Trailhead Address: 6451 Innsdale Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90068

Each trail offers a unique hiking experience to the Hollywood Sign, ranging from easy to challenging. 
 

LA Arboretum

LA Arboretum anaheimer

LA Arboretum lush gardenWe landed at the LA Arboretum by mistake, and I am glad we did. I passed by this place many times on my way to hikes close by but never stopped to explore.

On this day, we were heading to Eaton Canyon for a great waterfall hike but were blocked by a roaring stream with a dangerous crossing. So, we decided to check out this botanic garden in Arcadia.

The 127-acre beautifully landscaped garden is nestled against the San Gabriel Mountains. It provides a sanctuary of nature, where flora and fauna thrive in harmony, and visitors can escape the urban chaos and immerse themselves in the beauty of the natural world.

LA Arboretum PeacockAs we entered the Arboretum, we were greeted by a lush landscape of blooming flowers, towering trees, and chirping birds. And everywhere we looked, we saw peacocks displaying their vibrant colors and calling for a mate.

The LA Arboretum has various plant collections, including South American, Mediterranean, South African, Australian, and North American plants. 

Other displays include the Aquatic Garden, Meadow Brook, Demonstration Home Gardens, Garden for All Seasons, Prehistoric and Jungle Garden, Native Oaks, Herb Garden, and the Palm and Bamboo collection. 

The gardens also serve as the home for summer concerts featuring the Pasadena POPS.

LA Arboretum Peacock and mountainsIt also offers various historical features, including the Santa Anita Train Depot, the Queen Anne Cottage, and the Baldwin Mansion with Baldwin Lake nearby.

Baldwin Lake is home to various fish, including bass, catfish, and bluegill. It is also a nesting ground for many birds, including pelicans, herons, and egrets. 

Various trees and plants surround the lake, including oaks, pines, and willows.

The LA Arboretum is a great place to learn about Southern California's natural and cultural heritage. It is also a great place to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature.

The Peacock Café is a great place to enjoy lunch or a snack while admiring the lush landscape. While we had lunch, several peacocks strutted around the tables. 

Other places we enjoyed at the Arboretum are:

The Rose Garden: Where you can find a selection of roses nestled under Mexican fan palms.

Perennials Garden: The garden offers design ideas and outstanding plants for Southern California Gardens.

Aquatic Garden: A serene landscape of gentle pools, water lilies, and shaded benches, with the Meyberg Waterfall below.

Baldwin Lake: A serene lake next to an enchanted forest with fish, waterfowl, and turtles. Benches offer a place to relax and enjoy the views. 

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park anaheimer

Laguna Coast Wilderness - WildflowersWe had driven past this wilderness park many times on our way to Laguna Beach, but it never crossed our minds to visit. On a friend's recommendation, we turned into the Nix Nature Center for a spontaneous adventure. The park's untamed beauty and its vast network of trails were a delightful surprise.

The Wilderness Park covers approximately 7000 acres of hills, canyons, and ridgelines, offering breathtaking views of the ocean. The well-maintained trails cater to various levels of hiking proficiency.

Home to Orange County's only natural lakes and a seasonal waterfall, the largest lake, Barber’s Lake, is just across from the Nix Nature Center. The waterfall manifests itself after significant rainfall.

This park is a segment of the larger South Coast Wilderness Area, including Crystal Cove and Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park.

Nix Nature Center

Laguna Coast Wilderness - Nix Nature CenterThe Nix Nature Center serves as an excellent starting point for exploration. Spend some time in the center, where you can view exhibits and seek advice from knowledgeable rangers.

The Laguna Canyon Foundation offers various activities through the Nix Nature Center, including fitness and geology hikes, family bike rides, and sessions on California native plants. Find upcoming events here.

The Trail System

The Wilderness Park boasts 42 miles of trails that stretch between Irvine and Laguna Beach, offering numerous loops for hiking and biking.

Important Note: At the center and at every other staging area, you'll find a check-in sheet. Please register before your hike, as rangers use this information to ensure all hikers return safely from the wilderness.

The trails range from moderate to challenging due to the terrain's natural features. You can pick up a trail ratings booklet at the Nix Center. Find a detailed trail map here.

Sycamore to Stagecoach Loop

This 5-mile loop, starting at the Nix Nature Center, links four trails. It begins at the Little Sycamore Canyon trailhead, but you can also tackle it in reverse from the Stagecoach trailhead.

Laguna Coast Wilderness - Trail rating chartThe route includes three foot-bridges and ascends quickly through areas dense with wildflowers and sagebrush, peaking at the Serrano Ridge intersection (Marker 48).

Turning left at Serrano Ridge offers a flatter hike along this fire road, showcasing views of the canyons on one side and the Santa Ana mountains on the other.

Important Note: There are no services on the trail, so use the restrooms or porta-potties at the trailheads before beginning your hike.

After a lengthy and gentle stretch, turn left onto Camarillo Canyon Road (marker 28), which leads through rough terrain into a grove of live oak trees and a grassy meadow. At marker 43, turn left at Stagecoach trail, making sure not to pass the gate on the right which marks the park's boundary.

The hike usually takes about 4 hours, though some may complete it in less. The duration will depend on your pace and the number of stops you make.

A detailed guide for the loop, starting from Stagecoach, is available here.

Laurel / Willow Loop

Laurel Canyon provides a close-up look at the untouched Californian wilderness, featuring live oaks, sycamores, sagebrush, and wildflowers. The trail is bustling with wildlife, including birds and rabbits.

The 3.5-mile loop, which can be accessed from either end, typically takes 2 to 3 hours to complete and is classified as moderate due to some steep climbs and rugged terrain.

Important Note: Carry ample water. I used three bottles over a 3-hour hike in mild weather. You might need more during hotter days.

Laurel Canyon to Willow trailWe started from the Laurel Canyon trailhead, passing near sandstone caves before descending into a shaded canyon. The trail runs alongside a stream and climbs around 650 feet.

Just before turning left into Laurel Spur Ridge, we reached a granite outcropping that drops 60 feet to the canyon floor, which is often adorned with a waterfall after rainy days. Sadly, it was dry during our June visit.

After turning into Laurel Spur, we enjoyed panoramic views of the hills and distant Santa Ana mountains.

We continued along Boomer Ridge for a breathtaking ocean view before turning back at Willow Canyon to return to the parking lot.

For an alternative starting point and more tips, refer to this detailed guide here.

Other Trails and Loops

There are many more trails to explore in this wilderness area, including Barbara’s Lake Trail and the Big Bend Loop, which offers ocean views. These trails also connect with the Crystal Cove trail system. Learn more about Crystal Cove State Park here.

Flora and Fauna

The Laguna Coast Wilderness teems with native vegetation and wildlife. On our hikes, we encountered rabbits, gophers, a roadrunner, numerous lizards, butterflies, bees, and even a few eagles. The area is a haven for a variety of bird species, thriving among the live oak, scrub oak, red gum, and sagebrush, complemented by a diverse array of wildflowers.

Oak Canyon Nature Center

Oak Canyon Nature Center anaheimer

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 difficulties. 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.

Look for "Outreach Programs" - Those 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.Oak Canyon Cactus

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.

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.

Oak Canyon CactusHERITAGE 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

Orange County Great Park anaheimer

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 Historic Timeline that can only be viewed in entirety from above. Once you are done with your ride, you can walk through this 2600 ft timeline and relive 162 significant events. 

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

Finally, check the OC Great Park Website regularly for updates and events.

Completed sections:

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

North Lawn: 7 Acers of multi-purpose activities: You can join a sports clinic or a family sports program here. 

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 handicrafts and live entertainment. Runs every Sunday.

FARM + FOOD LAB: A two-acre urban agriculture demonstration garden where you can do some hands-on gardening, learn about food ingredients or buy potted plants for your garden. 

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

OC Great Park Website

Related Books:

Ralph B. Clark Regional Park

Ralph B. Clark Regional Park anaheimer

Image

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

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

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

TheRalph B. Clark Park 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

Related Books:

San Clemente State Beach

San Clemente State Beach anaheimer
an Clemente SB - Ocean View

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

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 campsites atop the bluffs with breathtaking views of the ocean. The camp has around 160 campsites which are divided into groups, 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.

San Clemente State Beach

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 to the lifeguard 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 your 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.

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 conducts 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 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 quiet 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 the noise. The rangers will enforce this rule.

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

225 Avenida Califia

San Clemente, CA‎
(949) 492-3156‎

Cycling San Clemente to Oceanside

Cycling San Clemente to Oceanside anaheimer

San Clemente to Oceano Bike TrailThe San Clemente to Oceanside bike trail is a 22-mile path that runs along the coast of Southern California. Parts of this trail are paved, and others are packed dirt, offering a diverse biking experience.

Fun Fact: San Clemente, known for its Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, is often referred to as the "Spanish Village by the Sea."

It is a popular spot for cyclists, runners, and hikers of all levels. The trail starts in San Clemente, passes through San Onofre State Beach, and ends in Oceanside.

Starting in San Clemente

The trail begins at San Clemente State Beach, a perfect spot to park your car and start your ride. The initial stretch through the park is relatively flat, making it an easy start. For a longer ride, consider beginning further north, such as at the San Clemente Pier or the Metrolink Station.

Trestles Beach

Trestles Beach - by Andrewaronoshn - WikimediaApproximately 3 miles into the ride, you'll reach Trestles Beach, a renowned surfing spot. Here, you can take a break to watch surfers or explore the side trail leading to the historic Trestles Bridge.

San Mateo Creek

After Trestles Beach, the trail crosses San Mateo Creek. Pause at the small bridge to admire the lush vegetation and serene creek below.

California State Lifeguard Station

A few miles past the creek, you'll encounter the California State Lifeguard Station. A side trail here offers closer access to the beach.

San Onofre State Beach

San Onofre State Beach Bluffs - by Justin Meissen - WikimediaThe trail then leads into San Onofre State Beach, a beautiful stretch of coastline with multiple beaches. It's a great spot to swim, sunbathe, or enjoy a picnic.

Old Pacific Highway Bike Trail

Continuing from San Onofre State Beach, the trail connects to the Old Pacific Highway Bike Trail. This section is more challenging with some hills, but it rewards with stunning ocean views.

Traversing the Camp Pendleton Marine Base

Bike Trail map through Camp Pendleton

As the trail weaves through the Camp Pendleton Marine Base, it's important to note that this is a controlled military area.

Access to the base via the bike trail is restricted and requires either a military ID or a pre-obtained DBIDS Recreational Bicycle pass.

To secure this pass, visit the Camp Pendleton Visitor Center during regular business hours. The center is conveniently located in Building 20255T, right next to the Main Gate, close to Interstate 5.

For those who choose not to, or cannot gain access to Camp Pendleton, an alternative route exists, though it is less advised.

This route involves heading west on Las Pulgas Road, continuing to the Interstate 5 interchange. From there, you would head south along the shoulder of Interstate 5, cycling towards the Oceanside Harbor Drive exit. This stretch is roughly 8 miles long and, interestingly, bicycles are allowed on this segment of the interstate.

This detour will lead you through the Aliso Creek Rest Area, where you can find vending machines, water, and restroom facilities.

This freeway route is about 1.5 miles shorter than the path through Camp Pendleton and features more gradual inclines. However, it's worth noting that riding along the freeway, while legal in this instance, may not be suitable for all cyclists.

Along the Trail

Trestles Beach SurfingThroughout the trail, enjoy breathtaking ocean views, beach stops for swimming, and the beauty of trees and wildflowers. The sandstone bluffs at Onofre State Beach offer a unique hiking experience.

Tips

  • The trail is open year-round, but the best times to ride are during the spring or fall when the weather is milder.
  • In warmer months, ensure you have plenty of water.
  • There are several rest stops along the trail for breaks, meals, or restroom use.
  • Stay aware of your surroundings and be cautious of other trail users.
  • Most importantly, enjoy the journey!

Tuna Canyon Hike

Tuna Canyon Hike anaheimer

Tuna Canyon Park - Hike - Santa Monica Bay ViewLocated in the Santa Monica Mountains between Topanga and Malibu, Tuna Canyon Park covers an expansive 1,255 miles. The park is dotted with sagebrush, wildflowers, and oak trees, offering a picturesque landscape.

Tuna Canyon features numerous hidden trails, making it a less frequented destination perfect for those seeking solitude away from the bustling city life of Los Angeles.

Book your Los Angeles Adventure here.

Tuna Canyon Park - Hike - WildflowersOne of the most notable trails starts from Tuna Canyon Road at the Big Rock Motorway dirt road. With no signage at the trailhead and no official parking, it's easy to overlook; just pull over onto the dirt and follow the trail for about 790 ft.

Interesting Facts:  The park offers breathtaking 360-degree views ranging from the San Gabriel mountains to Santa Monica Bay. It's part of over 18,000 acres of contiguous protected open space, linking from Topanga State Park west to Las Flores Canyon​ (MRCA)​.

The drive from PCH through Hwy 27, Fernwood Pacific, and Tuna Canyon Road is itself a rewarding experience, filled with lush greenery and quaint mountain communities, complete with several scenic overlooks.

Tip: Prepare for your visit by using restroom facilities before embarking on the winding roads, as there are none available along the trails.

At a key junction, you can choose to turn left onto Hearst Tank Motorway Tuna Canyon Park - Hike - Malibu Viewand face a steep ascent to a viewpoint offering stunning vistas of the ocean and surrounding hills. Alternatively, turn right and follow Big Rock Motorway to another unmarked junction for a gentler route, enjoying the lush meadows en route.

Following Big Rock Motorway leads to Budwood Motorway, where you'll hike parallel to the coastline, enjoying magnificent views toward Malibu to the west and Santa Monica Bay to the east.

Tip: There are no signs or markings in the park, so be sure to take photos and make notes at each junction to ensure you can find your way back.

Tuna Canyon Park - Hike - Trail - WildflowersFor those looking for a challenge, continue down Big Rock Motorway to the Big Rock Lateral junction, then follow Big Rock Lateral until you reach a viewpoint overlooking Las Flores Canyon, with a breathtaking view of the winding Malibu coast below.

Direction to the main Trailhead

Starting from PCH, turn onto Topanga Canyon Rd (Hwy 27), then left onto Fernwood Pacific Dr. Follow the winding road, which eventually turns into Tuna Canyon Rd. Stop at Big Rick Motorway (dirt road) and begin your hike.

Interesting Facts: A unique feature of the park is a stone labyrinth at one of the trail's ends. Visitors' personal dedications enhance this spot, making it a memorable part of the hike.

Book your Los Angeles Adventure here.

Trailhead address: Tuna Canyon Trailhead, Topanga Canyon, CA 90290

Trailhead coordinates: 34.059538, -118.616345

As you leave, Tuna Canyon Road to the right becomes a one-way route leading down to PCH.

Walker Canyon - Poppy Flowers

Walker Canyon - Poppy Flowers anaheimer

Walker Canyon Poppy Flower Super Bloom - FlowersEach spring, the hills and canyons along California's highways burst into vibrant hues of orange, green, and violet thanks to the annual bloom of poppy flowers.

The phenomenon was especially pronounced in 2019 and 2024, following a season of heavy rains that led to a 'super bloom' across the state.

Places like Big Sur, Anza Burrigo, Antelope Valley, Merced Valley, and Lake Elsinore become canvases for this natural spectacle.

We had the pleasure of experiencing the superbloom at Walker Canyon, nestled between Corona and Lake Elsinore.

The event drew crowds from all over Southern California, leading to congested freeways and packed hillsides.

Despite the parking challenges, our visit was memorable, filled with leisurely trails and stunning floral vistas.

Walker Canyon Poppy Flower Super Bloom - HillsTip: Following the crowd towards Walker Canyon Road on Lake Street (north) can lead to long traffic delays. A smarter alternative is to head south, away from the trailhead, where parking is more accessible and departures are smoother.

The main trailhead offers an easy 3.5-mile round trip on packed dirt paths. The beauty of the superbloom can be appreciated without completing the entire hike, as vibrant wildflowers and fellow enthusiasts are visible throughout.

Exploring off the beaten path is also an option, as numerous unofficial trails lead into the hills.

While there's concern over harming the poppies, it's important to remember that these blooms are an annual cycle, with plants rejuvenating each year.

After exploring the main trail, we ventured to a nearby creek and ascended a more challenging path, which offered even more spectacular views.Walker Canyon Poppy Flower Super Bloom - Flowers

Tip: Early morning visitors might find the poppies' bulbs still closed. As the day warms up, they open up, completely transforming the landscape.

For those sticking to the main trail, expect a steep start, but it quickly levels out. The crowd tends to diminish further along the path.

For a longer hike, consider taking a right fork that loops back to Walker Canyon Road, extending the journey to about 5 miles.

Tip: Park away from the main parking lots - possibly at a shopping mall - and use ride-sharing apps to get to the trails. 

Discovering Alternate Wildflower Havens

While the super bloom at Walker Canyon is a sight to behold, Southern California is home to several other locations renowned for their wildflower displays. If you're looking to explore beyond Walker Canyon, consider these stunning alternatives:

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California's largest state park, offers a striking desert backdrop that bursts into vibrant color with the spring bloom.

Visitors can enjoy miles of hiking trails through diverse landscapes, including cactus fields, badlands, and palm oases.

The park's remote nature ensures a tranquil viewing experience, with wildflowers that include desert lilies, sand verbena, and ocotillo. Remember to visit the park's official website for bloom forecasts and guided tour information.

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve

Antelope Valley California Poppy ReserveAntelope Valley Poppy Reserve - by Vahe Martirosyan - Wikimedia is a protected area that showcases the state flower in all its glory. Situated in the Mojave Desert Grassland habitat, the reserve comes alive with rolling hills carpeted in orange poppies.

The site features over eight miles of trails, including a wheelchair-accessible trail, allowing everyone to partake in the beauty of the bloom.

The best times to visit are usually from mid-March to April, but the peak bloom varies each year, so checking the reserve's bloom updates is advisable.

Both locations offer unique experiences and breathtaking views of California's wildflowers. Whether you're trekking through the desert landscapes of Anza-Borrego or wandering the poppy-covered hills of Antelope Valley, these natural wonders provide a perfect backdrop for outdoor enthusiasts and photographers alike.

Before heading out, make sure to review each site's guidelines and recommendations to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit.

For other State Park locations, check this bloom report.

Whale and Dolphin Watching

Whale and Dolphin Watching anaheimer

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. 

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 (Davey's Locker). 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 minibar, 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 sailboats, 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 the 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 the 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.

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. 

Davey's Locker - Newport Beach

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

Yorba Regional Park

Yorba Regional Park anaheimer

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, a horseshoe pit, two baseball diamonds, and a physical fitness course.

Bike and paddleboat 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 birdseed 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

San Clemente Coastal Trail anaheimer

The San Clemente Coastal Trail is a newly completed hiking and biking trail in the city of San Clemente. The trail isSan Clemente coastal trail 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 splendid views of the beach all along the way. The full hike is about 3 miles (ca. 5 km) long (each way). The south end of the hike terminates at Trestle Beach or San Mateo Creek.

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.

San Clemente coastal trailStart 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 try to hide in the brush.

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.San Clemente - North Beach
Although the train tracks are mostly fenced-in along the trail, you will find several exits that provide easy access to the beach.

About halfway 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 many restaurants to choose from. A very well rated restaurant is “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 Galley 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 cheeseburger. We had regular fries and sweet potato fries. All were very delicious, and the price was right. I will definitely come back to this place for lunch. 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 waves lapping against the sand – from the outdoor 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 Lifeguard 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.

San Clemente - under the PierIf 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 the 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 must make a choice. Is this going to be an extended hike or bike ride? 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 had better start heading back to the train station.

If you get hungry along the way, there are many places where you can stop and have a picnic – or you can stop at on the pier restaurantsSan Clemente - Fishermen's Restaurant and Bar - on the Pier for a nice lunch and drinks. 

The Fishermen's Restaurant is right at the entrance of the Pier and hangs over the waves. The outdoor seating commands a magnificent view of the surfers below.

The food is also excellent. I tried both their Fish and Chips and the Clam Chowder. Both were delicious.

The service is a little slow due to the popularity of this place. When you walk in, you don't need to wait to be seated. Just find a table and enjoy your meal and the view.

Additional Information:

Map of trail

The California Coastal Trail (Orange County Sections)

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