Best Hiking Trails Near Orange County

May 18, 2012 6:00 AM

Photo Credit:

Hikers in the know understand that Orange County’s biggest claim-to-fame isn’t Disneyland, it’s the county’s regional parks and wilderness reserves that make this the perfect place for outdoor lovers. From the national forest to the county’s compelling coastline, there’s no excuse to skip the trails this summer. With more than six mountain ranges, hundreds of parks, preserves and hiking trails, you won’t have to travel far to enjoy some of Orange County’s biggest perks. Head for the hills with this a snapshot of the county’s best hiking trails.

jessica blotter  hiking trails Best Hiking Trails Near Orange County

Holy Jim Falls
Cleveland National Forest

Live Oak Canyon Road
Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679
(909) 736-1811

Price: $5 parking

Holy Jim Falls boasts one of the best hikes in Orange County for hikers of all levels. The trail winds through Trabuco Canyon and rewards you with a sparkling 20-foot waterfall, Ortega Falls. There’s plenty of shade, but wear waterproof shoes as you will need to cross a small stream in several places. This is an easy to moderate trail. A Forest Adventure Pass is required for parking.

CBS Insider’s Tip: You will need to drive a few miles on a rough road to reach the trail head; trucks are recommended.

screen shot 2012 04 27 at 8 38 54 am Best Hiking Trails Near Orange County

Photo Credit:

El Moro Canyon
Crystal Cove State Park

8471 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(949) 494-3539

Price: $15 all-day park parking/park on the street for free at Coastal Peak Park on Ridge Park Road

With 3.2 miles of beach and 2,400 acres of undeveloped woodland, Crystal Cove makes for an idyllic refuge despite being near one of the biggest cities in the U.S. With 17 miles of hiking trails along with three environmental campgrounds, it’s impossible not to be awestruck by nature’s beauty here. Pass along endangered coastal sage scrub between glimpses of the Pacific. This is an easy to moderate trail.

thomasfrileyintro Best Hiking Trails Near Orange County

Photo Credit:

Wagon Wheel Canyon Trail
Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park

30952 Oso Pkwy.
Coto De Caza, CA 92679
(949) 923-2265 or (949) 923-2266

Price: $3 parking

Known as a wildlife sanctuary gem, Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park is home to native animals and plants including herds of deer and a resident bobcat. Its views include the Santa Ana Mountains and expansive open fields. While it’s a much smaller wilderness park at only 523 acres, the park offers seven trails for a total of 4.6 miles of easy to moderate hiking adventures.

Related: Best Fitness Hiking Trails

oc parks Best Hiking Trails Near Orange County

Photo Credit:

Dripping Cave Trail
Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park

28373 Alicia Parkway
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

Price: $3 parking

With 3,900 acres, 30 miles of official hiking trails and two year-round streams, Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park will not disappoint. Designated as a wildlife sanctuary by the Orange County Parks Department, the Dripping Cave hike is the highlight of the park. As a hike the whole family can enjoy, a historical point of interest unveils through shallow caves formed in Wood Canyon.  Stagecoach bandits used the caves as a hideout, leaving behind soot residue from their fires you can still see today from this easy to moderate trail.

barbaraslake10 4 08 192 w560h423 Best Hiking Trails Near Orange County

Photo Credit:

Barbara’s Lake Loop Trail
James Dilly Park/Laguna Coast Wilderness Park

18751 Laguna Canyon Rd.
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(949) 923-2235 or (949) 923-3702

Price: $3 parking

With views of the Santa Ana and San Gabriel Mountains, the 3.5-mile Barbara Lake Loop Trail sends you to one of only three natural lakes found in Orange County, Barbara’s Lake. Honoring conservation activist Barbara Stuart, the lake makes for a delightful place to visit as its only point of access is from this easy to moderate trail. The terrain allows for hikers of all levels as the elevation tops out at 300 feet.

Related: Great Places to Get and Stay Fit

Jessica Blotter, a Los Angeles Travel Examiner and contributor to popular travel and golf publication, Fairways + Greens Magazine, was a former associate publisher to national hip lifestyle publication, 944 Magazine, within both Los Angeles and San Diego markets. Her work can be found at

Watch & Listen LIVE