Orange County’s topography is as diverse as the people who call the region home. From dramatic sea cliffs to pine forested mountain tops to sprawling suburban landscapes, there is so much to see in OC! Wondering where the best places are to take it all in? Here are a few of our favorite viewpoints.
Dana Point Headlands
Nature lovers across Orange County let out a collective “boo!” when developer Sanford Edward started building mega-mansions on the bluffs above Strands beach but thanks to a tiny mouse, the endangered Pacific pocket mouse to be exact, 30 acres of the Headlands are permanently free of development. A trail from the interpretive center takes visitors through magnificent coastal sage scrub habitat and offers incredible views of the harbor, the southern Laguna Beach coastline, Catalina, and even the occasional whale passing through. If these amazing ocean views give you the sudden urge to head down to the water, take the funicular down to Stands beach, find a cozy spot on the white sand, and watch the surfers ride the waves.
Great Park Balloon
Soar 400 feet above the center of Orange County in the Great Park’s big orange balloon. Daytime and evening flights offer sprawling views from Saddleback Mountain during the day to the Disneyland fireworks lighting up the night. Make sure to leave time to take a ride on the carousel and check out the aviation timeline. Best of all, everything is free!
Orange Hill Restaurant
Those looking for a meal with a view should wind their way up the hill to Orange Hill Restaurant. This fine dining restaurant specializing in seafood and steaks offers incredible evening views of the twinkling city lights from nearly every table. Orange Hill is also a popular destination for Sunday brunch and on a clear day, diners can enjoy their mimosas with a Catalina view.
Chaparral Park in Turtle Rock
Known as “suicide hill” to some locals, the trail which begins at Chaparral Park makes an easy 3 mile loop with just 250 feet of elevation gain, offering nice views of Orange County from the mountains to the sea. The top of the hill is a romantic spot for a sunset picnic while you watch the city lights start to flicker on. If you visit during the day nearby Turtle Rock Nature is a fun side trip.
The best views in all of Orange County can be found atop Santiago Peak, or Saddleback Mountain as it is more commonly referred to. Reaching the top is no simple task. An 8 mile trail (16 miles round trip) starts in shady Holy Jim Canyon and climbs 4,000 feet to the 5,687ft summit. The views from the top include Catalina and San Clemente Islands, San Jacinto and San Gorgonio peaks, and the urban sprawl of five counties.
Sharlene Earnshaw is the Editor in Chief of Trekaroo.