Our Favorite Hiking Trails Right in Our Backyard

Step Into Nature

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”  – John Muir

I’ve always been somewhat of a free spirit and have felt an immense sense of joy whenever I’m amongst nature. Being outdoors helps increase your body’s consumption of vitamin D, which helps promote bone health. Spending time in nature also helps reduce stress, helps make us feel happier, and increases brain function. Check out more benefits of being outdoors here. Plus, hiking is a great way to get in your daily cardio without feeling like you’re really working out. Luckily, for us living in beautiful Southern California, we have access to some of the most gorgeous hiking trails around. Most of the locations listed below offer many hiking trails, each with varying degrees of difficulty and distance. It’s important to recognize what level hiker you are before advancing to more challenging trails.

Note: Before embarking on a hike of any kind, there are a few things you should never forget to bring along with you:

  • Plenty of water
  • Sturdy shoes
  • Snack(s)
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Map
  • First aid kit
  • Backpack
  • Cell phone
  • Identification
  • Medication

To find maps for all of the trails listed below (and more) check out All Trails.

Laguna Beach, CA

Difficulty Ratings – Courtesy of Let’s Go Outside

Level 1

Most abilities accommodated, little to no distance covered and little to no elevation gain experienced. Highly accessible, generally family-friendly in and around trailheads and staging areas.

Level 2

Distances up to two miles, with minimal elevation gain and low grades, done at a slow pace with numerous stops for resting, regrouping, and interpretation, a high likelihood of shaded areas along the trail, mainly traveling on wide, paved or fire road surfaces, mostly flat or gently rolling terrain.

Level 3

Distances up to six miles with expected elevation gain up to 1000 feet overall done at a moderate walking pace of no faster than 3.5 mph and some stops for resting, regrouping and interpretation, some shaded areas, mostly natural surface trails or roads and a few hills with moderate grades.

Level 4

Distances around 10 miles (occasionally longer) and significant elevation gain up to 2000 feet or slightly more including few steep climbs, generally at a quick walking pace, but not running or jogging, only a few stops for resting/regrouping over natural surface trails, including some singletrack, and could be slightly technical in nature with little chance for shade.

Level 5

Distances over 11 miles, and very high levels of elevation gain, well above 2000 feet accumulated, over steep, hilly, rugged terrain, covering a variety of natural surface trail types including much technical singletrack, few to no stops for resting/regrouping and at a quick pace potentially a jog or above and little to no shade along the trail. Due to the distances and elevation changes experienced on these routes, the time spent outside in the exposed environs is also generally expected to be very high.

Bommer Canyon Trail| Irvine Ranch

  • Park Hours: 7 a.m. to Sunset
  • Difficulty Level: 4
  • Distance: 12 miles
  • Duration: 5 hrs (approx.)

Bommer Canyon is a moderately trafficked trail that is kid friendly, with wide trails, making it a prime location for hikers, runners and mountain bikers alike. The trails are well marked, and offer something for every skill level. Restrooms and drinking fountain are located at entry. There is little shade along the trail, so make sure to bring plenty of water. For a full list of activities and programs coming up at Bommer Canyon, including group hikes, click here.

Buck Gully Reserve Loop Hike| Newport Beach

  • Park Hours: Dawn to Dusk
  • Difficulty Level: 3
  • Distance: 6 miles
  • Duration: 3 hrs (approx.)

Buck Gully Reserve is located in the City of Newport Beach. It is a light trafficked trail, accessible year-round and features views of a river. There are plenty of wildflowers to enjoy, and it’s a great trail for bird watching. No dogs are allowed.

Please note: Poison oak grows in abundance throughout the entire Buck Gully Reserve trail. Please take caution. To identify whether or not you’re in proximity to Poison oak look for leaves that are similar in appearance to oak leaves. They usually grow as a vine or a shrub and have three to seven leaflets per leaf group. 

Crystal Cove State Park Loop Trail to Moro Canyon | Laguna Beach

  • Park Hours: 6 a.m. to Sunset
  • Difficulty Level: Various
  • Distance:  Various
  • Duration:  n/a

Crystal Cove Loop Trail is a visually stunning trail which features a waterfall. There are various levels of trail intensities, making it great for all ages. Often runners are seen along the Crystal Cove Trails, and with the proximity to the beach, the cold air offers a refreshing feel. A beautiful spot for photo opportunities. Horses are permitted.

Irvine Regional Park Roadrunner Loop Trail| Orange

  • Park Hours: fall/winter 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., spring/summer 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Difficulty Level: 1
  • Distance:  1.5 miles
  • Duration: n/a

This is a great trail for nature lovers looking for a simple hike. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a leash. A trip to Irvine Regional Park is great for families, as they offer more than just great hiking trails. Irvine Park features train rides, pony rides, bike, paddle boat, and horse rentals. It’s even the home of the OC Zoo! For a full list of events and activities, click here.

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park | Laguna Beach

  • Park Hours: 7 a.m. to Sunset
  • Difficulty Level: Multiple
  • Distance:  Varies
  • Duration:  Varies

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park offers a fantastic selection of trails. There is a $3 parking fee, but parking is limited, so the earlier you get there, the better. There is a Nature Center available at the base of the trail heads known as the Nix Nature Center which showcases plenty of fun exhibits, perfect for the kids. Laguna Coast trails offer beautiful, nature-provided inspiration, for artists, photographers, and writers. For a list of scheduled hiking tours, click here.

Peters Canyon Regional Park Loop Trail| Orange

  • Park Hours: 7 a.m. to Sunset
  • Difficulty Level: 2
  • Distance:  6 miles
  • Duration:  n/a

Peters Canyon features a lake and sits in the heart of Orange County. There is a $3 parking fee, but with plenty of parking space available, you don’t have to worry about getting there early. Dogs are permitted but have to remain on leashes. Keep an eye out for plenty of local bird life. The trail is wide enough for runners, mountain bikers and equestrians to enjoy.

Quail Hill Loop Trail| Irvine

  • Park Hours: 7 a.m. to Sunset
  • Difficulty Level: 5
  • Distance:  14 miles
  • Duration:  6 hrs (approx.)

The Quail Hill Trail offers a pretty unique experience. If you bring along your cell phone, you can experience a self-guided audio tour – kind of cool! To take advantage of this free audio tour dial 949-743-5943. All you have to do is enter the number of the location you are interested in learning about. You can also leave anonymous comments at any time by pressing 0#.

Santiago Oaks Regional Park Trail | Orange

  • Park Hours: 7 a.m. to Sunset
  • Difficulty Level: 1
  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Duration:  n/a

Santiago Oaks Regional Park helps you step away from the local urban scenery. It’s full of interconnecting trails that offer serenity and help with relaxation. It’s perfect for equestrians, hikers, and mountain bikes. Some of the park trails provide access to the Anaheim Hills Trail System and offer amazing views of Orange County. For events and programs available at Santiago Oaks Regional Park, click here.

Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park Trail | Trabuco Canyon

  • Park Hours: 7 a.m. to Sunset
  • Difficulty Level: 3
  • Distance:  6 miles
  • Duration:  n/a

Whiting Ranch Trail offers parking at the trailhead for a fee of $3. With over 17 miles of potential hiking places, you’re sure to have plenty of gorgeous views of hills, sprawling canyons, and breathtaking rock formations. This is a personal favorite of mine thanks to the incredible views you’ll witness once you reach the peaks of the hilltops.

For more information on Irvine Park Natural Landmarks click here and while you’re at it, check out their helpful Trail Tips to make sure you’re fully prepared for your next adventure!

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