(Credit: OC Parks)
(Credit: OC Parks)

Orange County is filled with great date spots, including trendy restaurants, high-end movie theaters, classy bars, bowling alleys with flashing lights, beachy water sports, and the list goes on. But, perhaps one of the most exciting ways to spend a day with your beloved is on one of OC’s best hikes. Breath in the fresh air, get some exercise and admire the nature hidden in the houses and storefronts of suburban life. It’s also an awesome way to get to know each other; keep the conversation flowing as you check out these places for the best local hikes.

(credit: VisitLagunaBeach.com)

(credit: VisitLagunaBeach.com)


Top Of The World
3299 Alta Laguna Boulevard
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(949) 497-0711
www.visitlagunabeach.com

This hiking spot is easily one of the best in Orange County — especially when it comes to romantic outings. Situated at the very top of a hill in Laguna, over 1,000 feet above sea level, it’s easy to feel like you’re actually on top of the world. There are miles and miles of hiking trails here that offer sweeping views of nearly the entire county on clear days. The trails continue into the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, offering even more options to keep your fitness journey moving forward. To make it extra special, pack a picnic and make sure you’re up top at sunset to watch the sun set over the water.

(Credit: OC Parks)

(Credit: OC Parks)


Peter’s Canyon Regional Park
8548 Canyon View Equestrian Trail
Orange, CA 92869
(714) 973-6611
www.ocparks.com

With plenty of hills that rise and fall throughout the park, Peter’s Canyon is a great way to get a workout with your significant other. Located smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood, this park is incredibly easy to reach — and makes for a great quick hike if you’re short on time. Soak up the sun together as you venture through the various ecosystems and habitats that are scattered throughout the park. Water birds can sometimes be found at the lake or down by the creek that winds through the canyon, though the drought has eliminated much of the water here for the time being. There is also a great variety of plant life—you’ll spot standard grasslands and sage shrubs, but cottonwood trees also wave in the wind.

(Credit: Bob Blunt)

(Credit: Bob Blunt)


Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve
18000 Pacific Coast Highway
Huntington Beach, CA 92647
(714) 846-1114
www.bolsachica.org

Huntington Beach has a lot to offer, but pass on surfing and shopping for now and head to the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. This is one of the easiest hikes on the list and is located right near the ocean. It is relatively flat as well, so it’s easy for those who aren’t in the greatest shape or haven’t built up their lungs and legs for more strenuous hikes. It’s also a wonderful place for conversation; no one will be winded! It’s a quiet but peaceful spot for some leisure time together and you can often catch a few glimpses of the wildlife living here. Plenty of birds are always present, but you can also spot fish, stingrays, rabbits, squirrels, lizards and the occasional snake.

(credit: Laura R./yelp)

(credit: Laura R./yelp)


Red Rock Canyon
26701 Portola Parkway
Foothill Ranch, CA 92610
(949) 923-2245
www.ocparks.com

Located within the Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park, the Red Rock Canyon Trail is unlike any other hike you’ll do in Orange County. Its main appeal is the red rocks (hence the name!) that will make you feel more like you’re in Arizona than California. The hike is especially romantic during sunset where the dusky blue of the twilight sky offsets the vibrant rocks. The rest of the hike meanders into Borrego Canyon, through small streams and creeks, underneath sycamore trees and along the Mustard Road Trail that is popular among mountain bikers. All of these spots combine to create the perfect hike—plenty of different environments in just under five miles.

(Credit: California State Parks)

(Credit: California State Parks)


Crystal Cove State Park
6803 East Coast Highway
Newport Beach, CA 92657
(949) 494-3539
www.crystalcovestatepark.org

Crystal Cove is another place filled with various trails to hike—plus it has amazing views of the pristine Newport coastline. Set a little further away from the main tourist beaches, the seaside is often less crowded, making for gorgeous views of the rolling waves and winding coastline. Those that are looking for an arduous hike will enjoy the Crystal Cove Perimeter Trail, an intense nine-mile trek that takes wanderers up and down steep, dusty hills. Another great date hike at the park is the El Moro Canyon Loop Trail. Although it’s only four miles long, visitors can go horseback riding on this trail, making it a option for an adventurous time with your honey.

(Credit: Ashley Ryan)

(Credit: Ashley Ryan)


Black Star Canyon
14587 Black Star Canyon Road
Silverado, CA 92676

Hiking at Black Star Canyon is always an adventure. Follow the road to the end and you’ll find a trailhead that leads to a dirt path and stay on the path until you come to a fork in the trail. One side continues on a dirt path that winds uphill and offers widespread views of the canyon area. The other heads down a short hillside into a tree-covered ravine, and this is the option to choose for an adventurous date in nature. Follow the ravine for a few miles along the creek. If there is water, you will get wet and there are massive rocks you must pull yourself over, but the ravine ends at a waterfall that makes the trek worth it. Overall, it’s a memorable, fun hike that is perfect for your first date or your hundredth.

(Credit: Matt Yurko)

(Credit: Matt Yurko)


Newport Back Bay
600 Shellmaker Road
Newport Beach, CA 92660

The Back Bay Loop in Newport Beach is easily one of the most fun-filled hikes in Orange County. Clocking in at over 10 miles, it winds all around the Back Bay and provides scenic views and plenty of chances to spot wildlife. The course is mostly flat, with parts of it on paved bike trails or city sidewalks, but much of it has waterfront views. Aside from the walking itself, you can stop at plenty of interesting spots along the way—something that can’t be said for most of the other hikes on this list. Combine your date hike with adventures at the Back Bay Science Center, Environmental Nature Center, Newport Beach Aquatic Center, the Back Bay Lookout and Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center.

(credit: Ron W./yelp)

(credit: Ron W./yelp)


Holy Jim Falls
Trabuco Creek Road
Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679
(909) 736-1811
www.fs.usda.gov

Hidden in the Cleveland National Forest on the east side of Orange County lies the Holy Jim Trail. This is one of Orange County’s most popular hikes as it ends in a small waterfall. Less than six miles there and back, it’s somewhere between a beginner and moderate trail, offering some difficult spots where hikers have to climb over logs, wade through shallow streams and pull themselves over boulders to reach the end. Similar to the Black Star Canyon hike, it’s shaded by tall trees, making it a great hike to do when the direct sunlight on more open paths is too much. Driving in to the parking lot can be a little bumpy, but it just adds to the excitement and adventure of the journey.

(Credit: Irvine Ranch Conservancy)

(Credit: Irvine Ranch Conservancy)


Black Star Canyon Wilderness Park
Irvine Ranch Open Space
Silverado, CA 92676
(714) 973-6865
www.letsgooutside.org

Another hike in Black Star Canyon, this one is an organized adventure on county land—part of the Irvine Ranch Open Space. The events, known as Twilight Trek on the Mesa, have all the makings of a romantic night hike. As the sun sets, twilight and nightfall lead to gorgeous nighttime views lit by the moon and the stars. What’s more romantic than that? The best part is that these events include a group of roughly 25 people, meaning you and your date won’t be hiking alone at night. Grab your date’s hand and explore this recently untouched area with an easy walk around a loop trail with beautiful nighttime vistas.

(Credit: OC Parks)

(Credit: OC Parks)


Laguna Niguel Regional Parkk
28241 La Paz Road
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
(949) 923-2240
www.ocparks.com

Laguna Niguel Regional Park offers plenty of beautiful scenery. With a pretty large lake, which happens to be stocked with fish to add to the park’s recreation factor, and colorful wildflowers, it makes the park a desirable spot for a stroll. The trails within Laguna Niguel Regional Park aren’t very strenuous either. The Inner Lake Loop is less than two miles, but offers fantastic views of the lake, making for a relaxing path on which to strike a conversation with your date. The Outer Lake Loop adds an extension of half a mile. There is also a small bridge that leads out of the park to the Sulphur Creek Park Extension Trail, which will take couples around, of course, Sulphur Creek Park before winding back to the picturesque regional park.

Ashley Ryan is an Orange County native that loves traveling, live music and photography. She blogs at Pure Wander and freelances for a variety of publications including Newport Beach Magazine and Laguna Beach Magazine.

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