Back to Nature in CaliforniaBack to Nature in California anaheimer
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 in the snow.
This section will provide information about some of those activities. See the sub-topics for more detailed descriptions.
- Oak Canyon Nature Center, Anaheim
- Crystal Cove - El-Moro Canyon
- Ralph B Clark Regional Park
- Griffith Observatory Trails
- Monrovia Falls
- Barbara's Lake
- Yosemite National Park
- Big Bear Lake
- Golden Gate Park
- Muir Woods
- Catalina Island
- Channel Islands National Park.
- Huntington Beach (Surf City)
- Newport Beach: Big Corona Beach
- Laguna Beach: Main beach
- Laguna Beach: Crystal Cove
- Laguna Beach: Salt Creek
- San Diego Beaches
- La Jolla
- Venice Beach
- Oceano Dunes
- Manhattan Beach.
- Yorba Regional Park
- Laguna Lake Park
- Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
- Ralph B. Clark Regional Park
- Irvine Regional Park
- Orange County Great Park
- Golden Gate Park
- Heisler Park, Laguna Beach
- Balboa Park
- Torrey Pines State Reserve
- Shoreline Park, Lon Beach.
Back to nature articles:
Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness ParkAliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park anaheimer
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.
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.
Tip: If you are planning to do a lot of hiking in OC Parks administered areas, you can get an annual pass from the parking dispenser.
On our first visit, we took the Aliso Creek trail because it is an easy trail with a slight decline when going towards the ocean. But do remember that this will turn into a slight include going back.
The trail is a mostly paved road but only accessible to official vehicles. As you are descending, the creek is on your left. You can hear the running water every once in a while with some small cascades along the way.
There is no shade to mention, so be aware and bring lots of water during warmer days. The trail branches along the way into several trails.
Tip: The trails are heavily used by bikers. Watch out for speeding bikes, especially on the dirt portion of the trails.
The first one you encounter – to the left - is Aliso Canyon East – which takes you back to the parking lot or to Lagina Niguel Regional Park.
A second branch – to the right – takes you into Wood Canyon Trail. This trail extends all the way into the Laguna Beach hills and connects to other great hikes like Oak Grove, Car Wreck, and Top of the World.
We did not take any detours during this first hike. We kept going next to the creek admiring the brush, wildflowers, reeds, and bird songs. We stopped after one hour of hiking then turned back.
As you walk on the main trail, watch out for the hills and rock formations on the right. You will see sloping rocks heading towards some caves. You can climb those rocks to get close to the caves.
An alternative to turning back was to keep going along the creek towards Also Beach. That would have taken another hour of hiking downhill. Hiking back would have taken more than 2-hours due to the incline, but you can always Uber back to your car.
If you decide to take Wood Canyon trail, you will enjoy a lot of shade but a more challenging hike (moderate). The out and back hike is about 7-miles paralleling Wood Creek with a forest setting.
At the end of the day, you can hike or drive down to Aliso Beach for a relaxing picnic on the beach or grab lunch at the Lost Pier Café – right on the sand. During our visit, we tried their cheeseburgers. They were cooked to order and tasty. The outdoor seats were a perfect end to our active day.28373 Alicia Pkwy Aliso Viejo, CA 92656
Big Corona BeachBig Corona Beach anaheimer
Also 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.
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 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.htmlMain entrance
Parking fee: $10
Newport Beach, CA, 92625 Alternate entrance Parking fee: Free Orchid Avenue Newport Beach, CA, 92625
Bolsa Chica Wildlife PreserveBolsa Chica Wildlife Preserve anaheimer
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.
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 inhabit the waters of the Bolsa Chica such as sea hares, sea cucumbers, clams, mussels, worms and crabs.
Some 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 footbridge 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 parking 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 10 am 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.
Buck Gully HikeBuck Gully Hike anaheimer
If 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.
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.
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.
You 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.
Chino Hills State ParkChino 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.
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
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
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.
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 TrailsCrystal Cove Trails anaheimer
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.
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.
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.
If 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.
- Sun, Sand & Surf: The Ultimate Guide To Orange County Beaches
- Afoot & Afield Orange County: A Comprehensive Hiking Guide
- 101 Hikes in Southern California: Exploring Mountains, Seashore and Desert
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.
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.
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Eaton Canyon WaterfallEaton Canyon Waterfall anaheimer
The 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. 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 slipery rocks. Waterproof hiking shoes are recommended.
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. If you do this shorter hike, you will miss out on the wildflowers, and the creek crossing.
Local tip: There are no bathrooms along the trail. Good facilities are available inside the nature center at the trailhead.
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.
At 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, but be warned, it is icy cold water.
You can 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.
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 Trail1750 N Altadena Dr Pasadena, CA 91107
or2266 Pinecrest Dr Altadena Ca Phone:(626) 398-5420
Fullerton Hikes @ Laguna LakeFullerton Hikes @ Laguna Lake anaheimer
The lake gets stocked with fish regularly and you can witness adults and kids actually catching some fish. Dogs are welcome here but must be on a leash.
Several trails with varying length and difficulty starting from the lake.
Juanita Cooke Greenbelt Trail
At the north-east end of the lake, cross Santa Rosa Place road and head down the trail in either direction. Going south you can keep going for about a mile and a half until you reach Laguna Road park close to Bastanchury Road.
If you decide to continue your hike or bike ride, after cross Bastanchury you will encounter a fork in the trail. Keeping straight, you can keep going until you reach Euclid – which will take you another mile or so.
If you take the right-side fork, you will on the Hitlscher Park Trail.
Both trails are mostly flat, with special ramps for mounting biking challenges.
As you approach the end of the main trail, you will notice that neighbors on both sides keep beautiful gardens with tall palms making it a very pleasant end to a long hike.
This end of the trail is also very close to Downtown Fullerton. You can keep walking to enjoy lunch or coffee before you head back.
Bud Turner Trail
The trail will take you through the green area of Laguna Lake Park and crossing through the Equestrian Center - which is home to the "Fullerton Recreational Riders". You can stay at the lower level close to the park or you can take the high trail which climbs for a while before dropping again.
The trail seems to end at Laguna road as it meets Euclid, but it actually continues paralleling the street until it reaches Valencia Mesa drive close to downtown.
Nora Kuttner Trail
If you follow this trail for 1/2 a mile you will get to the "Top of the World" - the highest point on t his trail with great views of the Robert E. Ward natural preserve.
Looking down at the protected Coyote Hills you can see Coyote brush, southern willow scrub, coast prickly pear, California sagebrush, purple phacelia, yellow sun cups, and orange monkeyflowers along with forests of cactus.
In the distance, you can gaze at the San Gabrial Mountains, San Bernardino Mountains and downtown Los Angeles.
The trail is mostly easy with a few steep inclines. It is shared with bicycles and horses, so watch out for those bikes. The bike trail splits from the hiking trails for a good portion of this hike making a little safer.
You can get to this hike from several points along the trail but beware, there is no parking at the official trailhead on Castlewood dr. Your better option is to start from Laguna Lake Park with plenty of parking.West trailhead: Castlewood Dr, Fullerton, CA 92833 East trailhead: 3120 Lakeview Dr, Fullerton, CA 92835
Irvine Regional ParkIrvine Regional Park anaheimer
Irvine 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-ride 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.
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 Park1 Irvine Park Road Orange, CA 92862 (714)973-6835 or (714)973-3173
LA ArboretumLA Arboretum anaheimer
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.
As 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.
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 ParkLaguna Coast Wilderness Park anaheimer
We passed by this wilderness park many times on the way to Laguna Beach and never thought to stop. At our friend's advice, we finally decided to turn into the Nix nature center and try it out. We were pleasantly surprised by its wild beauty and the abundance of trails.
The park is about 7000 Acres of hills, canyons, and ridgelines – some with commanding views of the ocean. The trail system is well-maintained with a variety of difficulty levels.
The park contains the only three natural lakes in Orange County and a seasonal waterfall. The biggest one is Barber’s Lake – across the street from the Nix Nature Center. The waterfall only happens after a major rainfall.
This park is part of a bigger system of parks called “South Coast Wilderness Area” and includes places like “Crystal Cove” and “Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park”.
Nix nature center
This nature center is a good launching point for your explorations. You can spend some time in the center, viewing the exhibits and talking to the rangers. They are very helpful and can provide valuable information for your hike.
The Laguna Canyon Foundation runs several programs from the Nix Nature Center. Look for fitness hikes, geology hikes, family bike rides, and California native plants hikes throughout the year. Find upcoming events here.
The trail system
The park has 42 miles of trails, spanning the area between Irvine and Laguna Beach. Hikers and bikers can explore a dozen loops.
Important Note: At the center and in every other staging area, you will find a check-in sheet. Make sure to add your info before your hike. The rangers use the sheets to make sure everyone made out of the wilderness.
The trail difficulty ranges from moderate to challenging due to the hills, canyons, and ridges. There are no easy trails here. You can pick up a booklet showing trail ratings at the Nix Center. Find a detailed trail map here.
Sycamore to Stagecoach Loop
This loop starts from Nix Nature Center and connects four trails for a total of 5-miles. We started at the Little Sycamore Canyon trailhead, but you can make the loop in the opposite direction by starting at Stagecoach trailhead.
Turn left at Serrano Ridge for a more flat hike on this fire-road. From this ridge, you can see the canyons on one side and a great view of the Santa Ana mountains on the other.
Important Note: There are no services on the trail. Make sure to use the restrooms or porta-potties at the trailheads before you start your hike.
After this long and easy stretch of trail, turn left again on Camarillo Canyon Road (marker 28). This trail passes through descends through some rough terrain into a grove of Live Oak Trees and a grassy meadow.
Stagecoach has a steep zigzagging climb before it drops back to the Nix parking lot. After you pass the highest point and start descending, you see Barbara’s Lake on the other side of Laguna Canyon Road.
The hike took us around 4 hours to complete, but some hikers were able to complete it in less than 3 hours. It depends on how fast you walk and how many stops you make.
You can find a detailed guide for the same loop but starting from Stagecoach here.
Laurel / Willow Loop
Laurel Canyon offers hikers a rare glimpse into untouched wild California. A few feet away from civilization, and you are immersed in live oak, sycamores, sagebrush, and wildflowers – with birds and rabbits running across the trail.
This loop goes through Laurel Canyon, Laurel Spur Ridge, and Willow Canyon. You can take this hike from either end. This makes for a 3.5-mile hike and can take from 2 to 3 hours to complete. It is considered moderate because of some steep climbs and some rough terrain.
Important Note: Bring plenty of water for your hike. I needed three bottles of water for a 3-hour hike with nice cool weather. You will need much more during hot summer days.
Just before turning left into Laurel Spur Ridge, we came across a granite outcropping that drops 60 feet to the canyon floor. I am told that a waterfall runs down this cliff after a rainy day. Unfortunately, it was totally dry when we visited in June.
After I turned into Laurel Spur, we had a great view of the hills and canyons – and the Santa Ana mountains in the distance.
This ridge connects with Crystal Cove State Park trails. You can keep going for a much longer hike, but we turned back into Willow Canyon and started descending back to the parking lot.
If you like to try the hike from the other direction, there is a good guide here. The advantage of starting from Laurel Canyon is that you will warm up while going on a level trail for a while - before starting your climb. On the opposite direction, you will start climbing almost right away.
Other trails and loops
This wilderness area has many more trail to explore. Some of the suggested trails are Barbara’s Lake Trail, and Big Bend Loop with an Ocean view. Some of those trails connect to Crystal Cove system of trails. Read more about Crystal Cove State Park here.
Flora and Fauna
The Laguna Coast Wilderness is rich with vegetation and wildlife. Some of it will cross your path on your hikes. we were lucky to see rabbits and gophers, a roadrunner, lots of lizards, butterflies, bees, and a few eagles. Many species of birds live in the abundant vegetation.
All this wildlife lives among Live Oak, Scrub Oak, Red Gum, and Sagebrush – with a large variety of wildflowers.
Oak Canyon Nature CenterOak Canyon Nature Center anaheimer
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.
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.
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.
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.
Oak Canyon Nature Center6700 E. Walnut Canyon Rd Anaheim, CA Phone: (714) 998-8380
Orange County Great ParkOrange County Great Park anaheimer
After 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.
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
Ralph B. Clark Regional ParkRalph B. Clark Regional Park anaheimer
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.
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 Park8800 Rosecrans Ave.
Buena Park, CA 90621
San Clemente State BeachSan Clemente State Beach anaheimer
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tip: 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.
Cycling from San Clemente to OceansideCycling from San Clemente to Oceanside anaheimer
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 starts at San Clemente State Beach, where you can park your car and start your ride. The first few miles of the trail are relatively flat as it winds through the park. You can extend your ride by starting from sports to the North, like the San Clemente Pier or the Metrolink Station.
After about 3 miles, you will reach Trestles Beach. This is a popular spot for surfing, so if you are interested, you can stop and watch the waves. There is also a side trail that leads to the historic Trestles Bridge.
San Mateo Creek
After Trestles Beach, the trail crosses over San Mateo Creek. There is a small bridge that you can stop at to admire the lush vegetation below.
California State Lifeguard Station
You will reach the California State Lifeguard Station a few miles after the creek. A side trail on the right takes you closer to the beach.
San Onofre State Beach
Old Pacific Highway Bike Trail
After San Onofre State Beach, the trail connects to the Old Pacific Highway Bike Trail. This trail is a bit more challenging, as it has some hills. However, the views of the ocean are amazing.
Camp Pendleton Marine Base
The trail ends at the Camp Pendleton Marine Base, which is a restricted area. You cannot enter the base on the bike trail unless you have a military ID.
If you are determined to reach Oceanside, you have two options:
- Obtain a Recreational Bicyclists license at the USMC visitor center (it is currently closed).
- Go west on Las Pulgas Road and follow it to the Interstate 5 interchange. Then, ride south on the shoulder of Interstate 5 to the Oceanside Harbor Drive exit, a distance of approximately 8 miles. Bicycles are permitted on this part of Interstate 5. The Interstate 5 route will take you through the Aliso Creek Rest Area, where food (from vending machines), water, and restrooms are available. It is about 1-1/2 miles shorter than the route through Camp Pendleton and has gentler grades. Although this sojourn into the freeway is permitted, it is not for everyone.
Along the Trail
- The trail is open year-round, but riding it during the spring or fall when the weather is mild is best.
- If you go in the warm months, make sure to bring a lot of water.
- There are several places to stop along the trail to rest, eat, or use the restroom.
- Be aware of your surroundings and watch out for other cyclists, runners, and walkers.
- Have fun!
Southern California WaterfallsSouthern California Waterfalls anaheimer
In the bustling urban sprawl of Southern California's major cities, one might not immediately think of nature's tranquil offerings like rivers, creeks, and waterfalls. Yet, the Southland is replete with these hidden natural treasures.
While we can't compete with the grandeur of Niagara Falls, Yosemite, or Oregon's Columbia Gorge, Southern California offers its own array of stunning cascading waters, all within a convenient drive.
The greater Los Angeles area is framed by the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains to the north, with additional mountain ranges weaving through the basin. These natural barriers offer a rich tapestry of snow-capped peaks, meandering rivers and streams, abundant hiking trails, and serene valleys adorned with waterfalls.
In the upcoming pages, join me on a journey exploring some of the most popular waterfall hikes in the region.
It is just one of many trails in the Chantry Flats area, but it stands out as my favorite for its breathtaking culmination at the waterfall.
Discover more about this enchanting hike here: Sturtevant Falls
Eaton Canyon, a serene and shaded haven, is home to a picturesque 40-foot waterfall. This cascading beauty is most vibrant during spring and is tucked away in the San Gabriel Mountains, near Pasadena and Arcadia.
Though easy in distance and elevation, the trail offers an adventurous twist with steep inclines, rock hopping, and multiple stream crossings leading to the stunning waterfall.
Learn more about this hidden gem here: Eaton Canyon Waterfall
Above Pasadena, the landscape is rife with canyons and waterfalls, among which Millard Canyon is a standout, offering a swift path to a beautifully flowing waterfall.
Depending on your starting point, the hike can span either 4 miles or a shorter 2.5 miles.
This trail, winding along a creek, requires multiple stream crossings and some rock scrambling, making it a challenging yet rewarding adventure for older children and the young at heart.
Discover more about this scenic hike here: Millard Canyon Falls
Canyon Park, another Southern California hidden gem, offers a serene escape into nature with opportunities for picnicking, hiking, and exploring a waterfall. Nestled in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and managed by the city of Monrovia, the park's highlight is the trek to the year-round Monrovia Falls.
Choose from three different trailheads, with the nearest one starting near the entrance gate for a moderate 1.7-mile hike.
Learn more about this tranquil spot here: Monrovia Falls
This unexpected cascade is nestled within a deep valley of the park, located near the intersection of Avenida De Los Arboles and North Big Sky Drive, with free parking available off West Avenida De Los Arboles.
The park offers a variety of trails, from dirt access roads favored by bikers to foot trails with varying levels of difficulty.
Discover more about this hidden oasis here: Paradise Falls
The Escondido Falls trail is a moderately challenging hike featuring lush trees, a meandering creek, and a stunning waterfall when in full flow.
The lower tier of the waterfall, easily accessible, stands at 50 feet, while the more challenging upper tier soars to 150 feet, offering a breathtaking view.
The hike to the base of the falls covers 3.8 miles with an elevation gain of about 400 feet, mostly shaded and alongside a creek, with several exhilarating creek crossings.
Learn more about this delightful trail here: Escondido Falls
Our exploration aimed to uncover all four sections of the falls. Guides Ian and Kyle commenced our adventure with comprehensive safety instructions and an overview of the essential equipment.
Key safety tips include staying hydrated, wearing sunscreen, adhering to guide instructions, being vigilant for rattlesnakes, and wearing water-friendly attire.
Discover the full details of this captivating expedition here: San Antonio Falls
The journey to Switzer Falls is accompanied by the soothing sounds of running water and birdsong, celebrating the area's vibrant natural beauty.
The trail begins at the Switzer picnic area in the Angeles National Forest, a mere half-hour drive from downtown Los Angeles.
Read more about this serene hike here: Switzer Falls
The Holy Jim Falls hike is a 2.9-mile out-and-back trail near Trabuco Canyon, California. It is generally considered a moderately challenging route, with an elevation gain of 600 feet (ca. 183 m).
The hike takes about 1.5 hours to complete, but I would allow more time to admire the views along the way.
For even more stunning waterfalls, head to Yosemite National Park and visit majestic falls like Yosemite Falls, Vernal Falls, Bridalveil Falls, and Nevada Falls.
Canyoneering San Antonio FallsCanyoneering San Antonio Falls anaheimer
Canyoneering (Canyoning) is a sport where you explore canyons by hiking, scrambling, rappelling, rafting, swimming, and waterfall jumping. See Wikipedia for more.
To accomplish the rappelling part, you must know about ropes, carabiners, and ASAPs. But if you are not a rock climber, you can still enjoy a canyoneering adventure by going with an experienced outfitter and letting them do the technical parts.
The San Antonio Falls are an excellent destination by themselves. There is running water year-round cascading down a 400 ft cliff, but most people only see the lower part of this waterfall. We were planning to explore all four sections of the falls.
Our guides, Ian and Kyle, started the trip by giving us detailed safety instructions and explaining the equipment we would be using.
Most notable safety tips: Bring lots of water, wear sunscreen, follow guide instructions, watch out for rattlesnakes, and wear clothes and shoes that can get wet.
After admiring the fall and taking some pictures, our group started on the more difficult portion of this hike. We had to climb up a steep dirt path and scramble over rocks to get to the top of the waterfalls – while carrying our backpacks and climbing equipment.
This part was exhausting, but we found a shaded area with many trees for some much-needed rest.
The view from the top is breathtaking. You can watch the water flowing over the cliff and cascading down to the canyon floor. In the distance, you can see Los Angeles and Orange counties and, on a clear day, all the way to Catalina Island.
They also explained how the ropes, hooks, and ASAPs can hold thousands of pounds. The ASAP is a second line of defense. If you lose control of your rope, it is an automatic brake that will stop you from falling.
I was the first to go down the cliff because I did not want to lose my nerves while watching others descend.
The best part is passing through the waterfall and getting wet. The weather was hot on that day, so getting wet was refreshing.
I just got a little wet during the first rappel, but on the second leg of this fall, I had to stay in the waterfall for a long time while rappelling. It was very cold, and I got drenched and loved it.
After every rappel, we had time to rest and eat snacks or lunch while the guides set up the next rappel. We repeated this process four times until we reached the canyon floor.
I really enjoyed my canyoneering experience with the SoCal Adventure company. The guides, Ian and Kyle, were experienced and really enjoyed what they did. They made canyoneering look easy. I definitely would go with them on another adventure.
This trip was for beginners, but they also have trips for intermediate and advanced climbers. Check out their website for more details.
Chantry Flat to Sturtevant FallsChantry Flat to Sturtevant Falls anaheimer
Sturtevant Falls Hiking Trail is located in the foothills 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 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 descends 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 that 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.
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 the early 20th century.
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.
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.
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
Escondido Falls, MalibuEscondido Falls, Malibu anaheimer
Escondido Falls trail is a moderately challenging hike, adorned with trees, a meandering creek, and a rewarding view at the end. The falls, when flowing, present a breathtaking spectacle.
The Waterfall: The lower tier of the waterfall is easily accessible and stands at 50 feet. For those seeking a bit more adventure, the upper tier, at a majestic 150 feet, offers stunning views but is more challenging to reach.
Hike Details: Prepare for a 3.8-mile hike to the base of the falls, which includes an elevation gain of about 400 feet. The trail is predominantly shaded and follows a creek, requiring multiple creek crossings. Some of these crossings can be tricky, adding a bit of excitement to the journey.
Trailhead and Parking: The trailhead is located at the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and Winding Way. Parking is available in a small lot. As of 2022, the parking fee is $12, payable via cash or credit at a new pay station. If the machine is out of order, use the iron post nearby to pay with checks or cash in an envelope, and display the receipt on your dashboard. Be mindful of parking regulations; rangers actively ticket violators.
Starting the Hike: From the parking area, the initial stretch is a .75-mile walk on a paved road, passing impressive Malibu homes. This takes about 15 minutes.
Entering the Trail: The actual hiking trail begins beside a sign marked “Edward Albert Escondido Canyon Trail and Waterfall.” The path descends through a field of fennel and mustard, leading to a creek. After crossing the creek, turn left to head upstream into Escondido Canyon. Remember this intersection for your return journey.
Trail Experience: The trail then widens and remains relatively level, meandering through trees and fields. In spring, wildflowers add vibrant colors to the landscape, and the waterfall tends to be more active.
Upper Falls Adventure: For the adventurous, a challenging trail to the right of the lower falls leads to the upper falls. This path is steep and requires careful navigation, often using roots for support. The reward is the mesmerizing Upper Escondido Falls, where water cascades over a moss-covered wall into a serene pool below.
Return Journey: Retrace your steps to return to the parking area. Keep an eye out for familiar landmarks to avoid missing turns.
I inadvertently took a wrong turn during my first visit, leading to a completely different street. This minor detour added an extra mile to my hike and necessitated an Uber ride to return to my parked car.
Additional Tips for Hikers:
- Wear appropriate footwear: The trail can be rocky and uneven, especially near the creek crossings.
- Bring water and snacks: There are no facilities along the trail.
- Check the weather: The waterfall is seasonal and best viewed after recent rains.
- Respect the environment: Stay on marked trails to protect the local flora and fauna.
- Start early: The trail can get crowded, especially on weekends.
Enjoy your hike at Escondido Falls, a hidden gem in Malibu that offers a delightful escape into nature's beauty.
Heart Rock Trail - CrestlineHeart Rock Trail - Crestline anaheimer
I thought I already discovered all the important waterfall hikes in my area, but I was pleasantly surprised by Heart Rock Trail. This is one of the benefits of joining a hiking group like “Hiking-With-Friends”. More about the group later.
The hike took us through the National Forest close to Cresline along a Seely Creek – with a lot of shade and beautiful rock formations.
Tip: As you keep going down towards the waterfall remember that you have to climb back up on the same trail. Be ready for a more strenuous hike.
The trail starts from “Camp Seely” – which is a property owned by the City Of Los Angeles. Parking is available and free, but on the day of our visit, it was closed. We had to park on highway 138.
The beginning of the hike is on a fire road. This fire road can take you on an alternate path to reach the waterfall, but the real trail branches to the right along the creek at the 0.3-mile mark from the trailhead.
Tip: During our hike, we encountered a falling tree blocking the main trail. Going around it was dangerous. Members of the group helped each other across this difficult area. Please tread carefully around this area.
Once you reach the trail stay to the left of the pool building then continue down the trail. About .5-mile later you will encounter a fork in the trail.
Going to the right will take you to an overlook where you can see the waterfall and the heart-shaped rock. Going a little further will take across the stream and right on top of the waterfall.
If you take the left on the fork, you will be going down to the bottom of the waterfall. You can’t see the heart rock from the bottom, but you will be rewarded with great views of the fall and the stream.
Whichever fork you take, you can make a full loop around the waterfall and come back to the main trail.
The rocks around the waterfall make for a very nice place for a picnic. Grab a spot and enjoy the sounds of rushing water and great views.
After the hike, head to Crestline for lunch or a stroll along Lake Gregory.
Crestline – Lake Gregory
Crestline is a small mountain village in the San Bernardino mountains. It is about 30-minutes away from the city of San Bernardino, but at an elevation of 4000 ft, it is in a totally different climate.
The temperature drops quickly as you drive up highway 18 and the scenery starts changing from desert to Alpine Forest. If you visit in winter, you are likely to see snow on the ground or the trees.
If you get hungry after the hike, you can find several good restaurants overlooking the lake. We had lunch at Toni's Kitchen with great authentic Mexican food and a nice lake view from the balcony.
We tried their Coconut Shrimp plate and Beef Chimichanga. Both were very tasty with large portions.
The Facebook group Hiking-With-Friends is a great way to discover new trails and enjoy the company of like-minded hikers. They post frequent hiking events on their Facebook page. All you have to do it reserve a spot through Eventbrite. It is free.
The guides are great and everyone in the group lends a helping hand when needed.
Distance: 1.4 miles (out and back)
Elevation change: 200 feet
Hiking time: 45 minutes to 1.5-hours (depending on stops)
Trailhead address:250 CA-138 Crestline, CA 92325
Holy Jim Falls HikeHoly Jim Falls Hike anaheimer
The Holy Jim Falls hike is a 2.9-mile out-and-back trail near Trabuco Canyon, California. It is generally considered a moderately challenging route, with an elevation gain of 600 feet (ca. 183 m).
Our trek to this trail started on the rough dirt road, Trabuco Canyon, with many bumps and potholes. I strongly recommend a high-clearance vehicle for this road.
But once we arrived at the parking lot, we forgot about the rough ride and enjoyed the hike.
Tip: The small parking area at the trailhead can fill up on weekends, so go early or try the weekdays.
The trail starts at the Holy Jim Trailhead and follows Holy Jim Creek. The first part of the hike is a gentle ascent through a shady forest.
Tip: An adventure pass ($5) or an annual pass decal is required for parking anywhere in the National Forest. You can get one at sports stores or nearby 7-11.
This hidden forest is full of trees like sycamores, oaks, pines, and cedars. You will also see poison oak, toyon, buckwheat, California poppies, lupines, and daisies. We could also hear the occasional bird song and see some squirrels scurry through the brush.
We were told that some peacocks roam around sometimes, but I didn’t see any on this hike.
After passing through some secluded cabins, we followed that trail that meanders along Holy Jim Creek.
Warning: The insects seem to thrive on the lush vegetation along the trail. If that bothers you, apply insect repellent before you start the hike.
We had fun crossing the creek and scrambling up some rocks, but some crossings were treacherous.
As we climbed higher, the trail became more exposed, with fewer trees and more shrubs and wildflowers.
Warning: Watch out for poison oak! Wear long pants and long sleeves to avoid the rash.
As we neared the waterfall, we could hear the cascading water and would see it through the bushes. It was a delightful scene and a great reward for our efforts.
Fun Fact: The trail and fall were named after a foul-mouthed beekeeper who used to live in the area nicknamed “Cussin’ Jim.” Later, the Fall was renamed Holy Jim.
The Holy Jim Falls hike is a popular trail, so it is best to go early in the morning or during the week to avoid the crowds.
Our latest hike was on a Friday morning. We encountered very few hikers and one biker, so we enjoyed the tranquility and were able to hear more birds singing.
Millard Canyon FallsMillard Canyon Falls anaheimer
Nestled above Pasadena, the region is a canyons and waterfalls treasure trove. Among these, the Millard Canyon Falls hike is a delightful and relatively easy way to experience the beauty of a Southern California waterfall.
Depending on your starting point, the hike to Millard Canyon Falls can either be a more extended 4-mile journey or a shorter, more direct 2.5-mile trek.
The trail, winding along a picturesque creek, involves multiple stream crossings. These crossings add an element of adventure to the hike, as you navigate the natural landscape.
Parts of the trail include some rock scrambling, which may be challenging for the elderly or very young children. However, older children (ages 5 and up) often find the stream crossings and the natural terrain exhilarating.
One unique feature of the trail is a section where hikers must slide down a slope to continue. This 'butt slide' adds a fun and unusual element to the adventure.
The waterfall, which is the highlight of the hike, is a stunning sight. It maintains a robust flow for most of the year, peaking after winter rains and during the spring months. The cascade falls gracefully over rocks, creating a serene and picturesque environment.
While crossing the stream can be enjoyable, wearing waterproof hiking shoes is advisable to keep your feet dry and comfortable.
Parking can be a challenge. The lower lot often fills up quickly, and the upper lot can be equally difficult to find space in. Patience is key when looking for a spot.
An Adventure Pass is required for parking in the Angeles National Forest. These can be purchased at local convenience stores like 7-Eleven or sporting goods stores. Visit the Forest Service website for more details.
For the full hiking experience, park at Brown Mountain Truck Trail, Altadena, CA 91001. Alternatively, for a shorter hike, park at Millard Trail Camp, 4041 Chaney Trail, Altadena, CA 91001.
For an in-depth guide and turn-by-turn directions, I highly recommend the trail guides from Hiking Guy. Click here for a detailed guide to Millard Falls.
Additional Tips for Hikers:
- Best Time to Visit: Late winter to early spring is ideal, as the waterfall is at its most vibrant following rainfall.
- Stay Prepared: Bring water, snacks, and a first-aid kit. The natural terrain can be unpredictable.
- Respect Nature: Stay on marked trails to protect the local ecosystem and avoid getting lost.
- Photography: The falls and the surrounding area offer excellent opportunities for photography, especially in the morning light.
Monrovia Falls at Canyon ParkMonrovia Falls at Canyon Park anaheimer
Canyon 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 the 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.
For 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 the Trask Boy Scout reservation. This is 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 very rewarding.
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 miles), but that might be a good thing.
The Park is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
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.
Paradise Falls HikeParadise Falls Hike anaheimer
At 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 roads – mainly used by bikers, and others are foot trails of varying difficulty.
Tip: Get a map of the trails before you leave home. The parking lot doesn’t have any services.
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.
The 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 many picnic areas. You can enjoy a snack or lunch among the trees, birds, critters and running water.
This part of the trail crosses the creek at various 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.
Address1000 Big Sky Drive Thousand Oaks, CA
Switzer FallsSwitzer Falls anaheimer
Right from the start of this hike to Switzer Falls, I can hear the sounds of running water and birds declaring their contentment with this hidden nature enclave.
The trail starts from the Switzer picnic area in the Angeles National Forest and is about half an hour's drive from downtown Los Angeles.
Tip: To park a car anywhere in the Angeles National Forest you will need an Adventure Pass. You can get one for a day or for a year. In most places there is no way to purchase a pass, so you need to get one ahead of time. See the website here.
Some reviewers called this hike easy, but I think we should call it moderate. The first stretch of trail slopes down very gently tricking the hiker into thinking it too easy, but soon you will start ascending to the top of a ridge then dropping down into another gulley with a steep incline.
Tip: Wear waterproof hiking shoes. You have to cross the stream multiple times and in some places, you have to wade through the water.
At the highest point of this hike, you are above the tree line and you can get glimpses of the waterfall way below in the ravine.
Tip: There is a parking lot at the entrance to the picnic area (on Hwy 2). Skip that one and go all the down for a better spot. If that one is full, try the other parking lots placed up higher on the drive. The top lot is your last resort.
Depending on the time of year, the waterfall itself may not very impressive. During Summer and Fall, It could be a short cascade down a rocky slope with a small shallow pool. After winter storms, expect a much more robust waterfall, with several pools and a strong stream.
Having said that, it is still worth a trip any time of the year and it is still a miracle that we have any waterfalls at all in Southern California.
Tip: There is a side trail that will take you to the upper fall with a larger pool. I did not attempt this hike myself and I don’t recommend to the casual hiker, but if you really want to try it read the details here.
At the waterfall, you can enjoy a picnic or just sit and relax before your journey back. If you are lucky, you will have the whole waterfall and gulley to yourself. Although this trail is popular, there are times when the waterfall area is totally empty and quiet.
Trailhead address: Switzer Truck Trail, Altadena, CA 91001
Length: 4 miles round trip
Time: 1.5 to 2.5 hours depending on your stops
Tuna Canyon HikeTuna Canyon Hike anaheimer
Tuna Canyon Park is a sprawling 1,255-miles preserve in the Santa Monica mountains – in between Topanga and Malibu. The hills and canyons in this park are covered with sagebrush, wildflowers and a sprinkle of Oak trees.
Many trails crisscross through the park, but most of them are hard to find – making them some of the least visited trails in Los Angeles. If you want to avoid the crowds, this is the trail for you.
One of the best trails to explore starts from Tuna Canyon Road at the Big Rock Motorway dirt road. There is no sign at the trailhead, so it is very easy to miss it and there is no official parking. Just pull over on the dirt and follow the dirt road for a short distance (about 790 ft).
The drive itself from PCH to Hwy 27, Fernwood Pacific and Tuna Canyon Road is worth the time. Lush greenery on both sides and a sleepy mountain community with a few viewpoints along the way.
Tip: There are no restrooms on those trails. Make sure to visit the facilities before you get on the winding roads. Otherwise, you will have to do your business among the brush.
You have a decision to make at this junction. You can turn left onto Hearst Tank Motorway following a steep incline to one of the viewpoints. Expect to climb about 1,550 feet for this stunning view of the ocean and the hills.
For an easier hike, turn right on that junction following Big Rock Motorway to another unmarked junction. Along the way, enjoy the meadows on either side of the trail.
Big Rock Motorway leads you to Budwood Motorway. Following this trail, you will be hiking parallel to the coastline with amazing views towards Malibu due west and Santa Monica Bay due east.
Tip: Since there are no signs or markings anywhere to be seen in this park, make sure to take photos and notes at every junction, so you can find your way back.
For a longer and more difficult hike, keep going down Big Rock Motorway to the Big Rock Lateral junction, then continue on Big Rock Lateral until you reach a viewpoint overlooking Las Flores Canyon with a commanding view of the winding Malibu coast below.
Direction to the main Trailhead
Coming from PCH, turn onto Topanga Canyon Rd (Hwy 27). Turn left into Fernwood Pacific Dr. Follow the winding road which will turn into Tuna Canyon Rd. Stop at Big Rick Motorway (dirt road) and start walking.
Trailhead address: Tuna Canyon Trailhead, Topanga Canyon, CA 90290
Trailhead coordinates: 34.059538, -118.616345
On the way out, you can continue on Tuna Canyon Road to the right, which becomes one-way down to PCH.
Walker Canyon - Poppy FlowersWalker Canyon - Poppy Flowers anaheimer
This amazing multi-colored panorama is caused by the poppy flowers bloom. In 2019 California experienced a super bloom due to the heavy rains.
You can witness this phenomenon in many places in the state like Big Sur, Antelope Valley, Merced Valley and Lake Elsinore.
We recently visited the super bloom at Walker Canyon, which lies in between the Cities of Corona and Lake Elsinore.
Apparently, everyone in Southern California decided to visit at the same time. The freeways were congested and the hills were overflowing with revelers. Parking was a major challenge, but once we arrived, we really enjoyed our time on the trail and among the flowers.
Tip: Most people followed the official directions and turned north on Lake Street heading to Walker Canyon road (towards the hills). This is a big mistake. You will end up stuck in traffic for a very long time. Instead, go south away from the trailhead and find parking in that direction. Much easier to get in and out.
Once you reach the trailhead it is an easy climb on packed dirt for a round trip of 3.5 miles. You don’t really need to go the full length of the hike to enjoy the scenery. Everywhere you look you can admire the wildflowers – and gaze at the droves of people doing the same thing.
You actually don’t have to go on this trail to get close to the poppies. Just find any accessible trail into the surrounding hills – or follow other hikers.
Some people worry about following those unofficial trails because some flowers might get trampled. Although this is true, please remember that this is a seasonal bloom. All the plants will die down later in the spring and get reborn next year.
After we enjoyed the main trail, we dropped down to a creek, crossed it and climbed onto a more challenging trail with a better view.
Tip: If you go early you might notice that the flower bulbs are closed. Later in the day with will open up and transform into a whole different view.
If you stick to the main trail, you will notice that the first quarter mile is a little steep but it will even out later. The crowds will also thin out the further you go. If you want a longer hike, take a fork to the right, which loops back into Walker Canyon Rd for a total of 5 miles.
Whale and Dolphin WatchingWhale and Dolphin Watching anaheimer
Every 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.
Along 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, CrystalCove, 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.
Although 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.
309 Palm St. #A
Newport Beach CA. 92661
Yorba Regional ParkYorba Regional Park anaheimer
Located 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.
Go to www.ocparks.com for additional information.
Yorba Park7600 E. La Palma
Anaheim, CA 92807
(714) 973-6615 or (714) 973-6838
San Clemente Coastal TrailSan 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 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 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.
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 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.
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.
At 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.
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.
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 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.
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:1850 Avenida Estacion San Clemente, CA 92672