Put the gym pass away, leave that yoga mat at home and grab those hiking shoes. The Wild Wild West is alive and thriving in Southern California and one of the best ways to experience it is by hiking. January’s milder winter temperatures are the perfect time to explore the trails and visit Mother Nature. Below is a list of some of the best places to hike in Southern California when the temperatures are mild.
Angeles National Forest
701 N. Santa Anita Ave.Arcadia, CA 91006
Sturtevant Falls located in the Big Anita Canyon in the foothills of the Angeles National Forest is a popular attraction for hikers. The breathtaking 50-foot waterfall is one of the more attractive in the Southern California area. The hike is between three to four miles roundtrip. It is considered an upside down hike since you start out going downhill and end the hike climbing back up. The winter months are perfect for visiting because of the rainy season the creeks are flowing and the falls are strong. The hike is fun as you cross over creek beds and rock-hop your way to the falls. It is a great way to get exercise, fresh air reenergize the mind body and soul without having to travel far from the city. Public Affairs Officer Nathan Judy with the Angeles Forest Department said the trails are open. It is advised to leave early to grab a great parking spot and enjoy the scenery along with the historical value of the area once part of the “The Great Hiking Era” which took place between 1880 – 1938.
From the Foothill Freeway (210) in Arcadia, exit on Santa Anita Avenue and drive six miles north to its end at Chantry Flat. The trail begins across the road from the parking lot.
Devil’s Chair in Devil’s Punchbowl, Straddling the San Andreas Fault
28000 Devil's Punchbowl RdPearblossom, CA 93543
(661) 944 2743
Jeff and Colleen Greene avid hikers and creators of the website Greene Adventures suggest the Devil’s Chair in Devil’s Punchbowl, along the San Andreas Fault as a great place to hike in the winter. Since the trail is near Palmdale it can get too hot to hike in summer months. However, in January or February it can snow. The big attraction on this hike isthe amazing geological features and the fault itself, but most of the hike is through a pine forest.
Bommer Canyon at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
1 Bommer Canyon RoadIrvine, CA 92603
Hikers seeking a great workout in Orange County should visit the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. Bommer Canyon has a trail that will raise the heart rate and spirits on a strenuous, 6.5-mile hike with steep and uneven terrain (700-ft. elevation gain).Visitors can see California as it has existed for thousands of years. In the winter after a rain the ephemeral streams are brought to life, the Coastal Sage Scrub will blanket hilltops and slopes, along with patches of Native Valley Grassland and Maritime Chaparral. As hikers wander through the canyon they will enjoy the trails lined by Willow, Oak, and Sycamore trees.
Avid hikers and creators of the website Brian and Ashley’s Hiking Blog, warn that this is not a hike for beginners. It is advised hikers carry a walking stick (highly suggested) and get ready to feel the burn in the glutes and calves while experiencing the beauty of Orange County’s wilderness
Shoestring Trail in Limestone Canyon, Orange County
Santiago Canyon Rd at Augustine Staging AreaEl Toro, CA 92676
This 4.5- mile hike will take visitors through some of the most pristine wildness areas left in Orange County. The Shoestring trail located in Limestone Canyon Wilderness Park opened in 2011 so it is new for many hikers.
The Shoestring Loop is a beautiful hike offering picturesque scenery. Visitors are encouraged to bring a camera on this hike because there will be plenty of opportunities to photograph plants and wildlife. The trail offers panoramic views of the Santa Ana Mountains and Irvine Lake including two bridges and a short boardwalk through an oak grove. Hikers will notice the trail has a number of motion sensor cameras that are used to document movements of wildlife who frequent the park like coyotes, bobcats, mule deer and a variety of native birds. There is no cost for parking at the trailhead, however guests must sign up for one of the docent lead hikes to hike here, or alternatively visit during a wilderness access day. A wilderness access day is offered once a month when hikers are not required to sign up for one of the docent lead hikes.
Santa Rosa Plateau Nature Preserve in Southwest Riverside County
39400 Clinton Keith RdMurrieta, CA 92562
At Santa Rosa Plateau located at the southern end of the Santa Ana Mountains have a number of trails to choose from. Hikers can pick from trails where bikes, horses and dogs are allowed or trails meant only for hiking. Visitors seeking a hiking only trail can enjoy a 6.5-mile loop starting at the visitor’s station. This trail changes in terrain from sand to dirt to rock and will keep hikers on their toes. The hike will meander up and down sometimes moderately steep terrain that will take hikers past vernal pools in the winter and spring, an historic adobe home, wooden bridges and creeks. Alert visitors may be able to see deer, birds, tarantulas, ground squirrels, and coyotes and snakes. Bobcats and mountain lions are sometimes in the area so it is advised to check in at the visitor’s station to learn about the latest siting and to grab map. Nature lovers will enjoy viewing the vernal pools in winter and spring because they are home to two species of fairy shrimp but only one is found here and nowhere else on Earth.
Bonita Falls in Lytle Creek
Lytle Creek Ranger Station
1209 Lytle Creek RoadLytle Creek, CA 92358
Families who would like to take their older children on a hike without hearing, “Are we there yet,” will love the Bonita Falls hike. The trail is a short two miles but it leads to the second largest waterfall in Southern California. The terrain is easy to manage and for families it is a great way to get the kids to enjoy nature without a fight. For those who would like to increase their mileage the hike can continue up Middle Fork Trail for additional two miles of streambed hiking. It is advised to follow the south canyon wall if you do not want to get lost bring a GPS and to wear good boots. The proper footwear is recommended for the creek crossings and boulder hopping and maybe some snow, weather permitting.
Michelle Mears-Gerst is a freelance writer in Orange County.