The 13 Best Hikes in Southern California –

When I was asked to write about the 13 best hikes in Southern California, I had a problem: how can I choose only 13? With an abundance of hiking trails, a variety of scenery, and hikes that can last from an hour to a day, Cal is a hiker’s paradise.

My editor warned me to stick to the 13 best hikes plan, but he didn’t differentiate between the 13 best hikes in Southern California and the 13 best hikes in California. Here are the 13 best hikes in Southern California, and feel free to submit your nominations in the comments section.

Lower Malibu Creek Loop, Malibu Creek State Park

The distance: 8 miles

Average time: 4 hours

The lower loop of Malibu Creek takes you on gentle, winding trails, wetlands with ecosystems and beautiful shaded trails along creeks. There is also a beautiful rock pool, a number of fishing spots and a number of side hikes if you want to extend your day.

About a quarter of the way you can stop at a picnic bench at the site where M*A*S*H was recorded. If you don’t want to see rusty old-timers, there is an offshoot of Goat Buttes in the opposite direction.

Find out before you go:

  • The park opens at 8am, but if the rangers come earlier, they’ll let you in.
  • Migratory birds fill the park in the spring.
  • The area near the first bridge is often used for weekend baptisms.

Woodson Mountain Road, Poway

The distance: 6.4 miles

Average duration: 3 to 4 hours

The drive from Lake Poway takes you through granite rock outcroppings to a chapel and to the base of a remote dead oak tree where you can rest and enjoy the beautiful view. On a clear day, you can even see downtown San Diego on the horizon.

At the top of Mount Woodson, you’ll not only find breathtaking views, but also the famous Potato Rock, where you can pose for photos – if you dare.

Find out before you go:

  • You will not find shade on this hike, so be prepared with plenty of water, sunscreen, and a hat.
  • The trail is demanding and only suitable for experienced hikers.
  • Start at 6am to avoid the crowds.

Nature trailSalt Creek, Death Valley National Park

The distance: 1 mile loop

Average time : Thirty minutes.

Gentle walking, not hiking, is a wheelchair accessible walk through a salt marsh 150 feet below sea level.

The water only flows to shore from November to May or so, and the best time to visit is between February and April, when Salt Creek’s young spawn.

Find out before you go:

  • Do not come from June to October, then it is dangerously hot.
  • Information boards along the route describe the flora and fauna.
  • It is a fragile ecosystem, so dogs are not allowed.

San Jacinto Peak, San Jacinto Mountain National Park

Sanctuary at the top of San Jacinto Mountain, San Bernardino National Forest, California.

The distance: 10.5 miles

Average time: 9 hours

There are several long and difficult walks to the San Jacinto summit, but the most popular way is to take the cable car to the tram stop. The floor of the tram makes two complete turns during the ascent, so you can see in all directions.

Between November and March, snow and ice can be expected, so make sure to bring microscopes. In summer you need at least 3 liters of water, because there are no facilities and little shade.

Find out before you go:

  • Please reserve a seat on the tram in advance, otherwise you will have to wait for a free seat.
  • Registration at the ranger station before the start of the walk is required.
  • Snow and ice are to be expected, so be prepared.

Smuggler’s Cove Trail, Channel Islands National Park

The distance: 8 miles

Average duration: 4 to 5 hours

Head to Santa Cruz Island for an exciting trip to Smugglers Cove. As soon as you leave the boat, you will see the windmill, and this is where the trail begins. You will see beautiful views and on a clear day you can go directly to the mainland.

If you are not a fast and experienced hiker, you will not be able to do the boat trip and the whole hike in one day. In that case, take the Oil Well Trail, which is shorter and allows you to explore an abandoned oil well that has been held in reserve.

Find out before you go:

  • There is a toilet on the beach.
  • There are many loose rocks on the way to the bay.
  • An ideal place for a beach walk.

Solstice Canyon Trail, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

Distance: 2.6 miles there and back

Average time: 1 ½ hours

Along this predominantly flat path you will walk between shady oaks, alders and plane trees, which are dotted with colourful flowers in the spring. You will see the ruins of the Keller House, a former hunting lodge that was destroyed by fire, and if you are lucky, you will see birds and wildlife.

At the end of the trail you will find Tropical Terrace, the ruins of Roberts House Ranch. Partially destroyed by forest fires in 1982, you can explore the ruins and learn more about the history of the house on information panels.

Find out before you go:

  • Carefully climb the steep path by the waterfall and discover the beautiful pools.
  • Walk clockwise for the best views of the ocean.
  • No cell phone reception.

Yucca Point Trail, Torrey Pines State Reserve

The distance: 4 miles there and back

Average time: 2 hours

The Yucca Point Trail is a gentle, well-marked hike that offers a beautiful beach at its farthest point. If you have a little more time, you can set aside a few hours to explore the ocean coast.

Not that the rest of the hike is uninteresting, on the contrary, the amazing rock formations and fragile ecosystems you’ll discover are so delicate that it’s severely punishing to think about the marked trails.

The Torrey pine, for example, is the rarest pine in the United States, occurring only here and in the Channel Islands.

Find out before you go:

  • Closing times vary and are posted daily on the park barrier.
  • Rock formations are fragile and can collapse – don’t go over the railing.
  • The reception centre, toilets and car park can be very busy.

Bridge to Nowhere, Angeles National Forest

Distance: 9.7 miles round trip

Average time: 6 hours

In 1938, a road was built to connect Azusa to Wrightwood. A severe flood washed the road away and construction never resumed, so the bridge was nowhere to be found.

With an elevation gain of only 900 feet, there are no long climbs, but there are many rough spots and unstable rocks, so it’s not a hike for unstable people.

You have to walk from the parking lot to the bridge and back, crossing several streams and rivers, so a pair of spare shoes is a good idea. The opportunity to spend time in the water is ideal on a hot summer day, but flooding is a concern. So check the forecast before you leave and avoid the area if thunderstorms are approaching. offers an excellent guide to the entire hike, as well as some valuable route-specific tips.

Find out before you go:

  • Bungee jumping from the bridge can be booked in advance.
  • The trail can be confusing in some places, so make sure you have a map.
  • The parking lot fills up quickly.

Brush Canyon Trail, Griffith Park

Distance: 6.5 miles there and back

Average time: 3 ½ hours + more for visits

The Brush Canyon Trail takes you to the iconic HOLLYWOOD sign on a constantly ascending but passable trail that allows you to stay in the sun the entire way.

There are many places to stay and explore, such as. B. the Bronson Caverns, made famous by its use in the 1960s television series Batman and in many other television shows and films.

Find out before you go:

  • You’re gonna need a lot of water.
  • It is likely that you will not have cell phone reception on the route.
  • When the sun goes down, the gate of the park is closed.

Skull Rock, Joshua Tree National Park

Rocky landscape in Joshua Tree National Park, California

The distance: 1.8 miles loop

Average time: 1 ½ hours

The Skull Rock Nature Trail is an easy trail for beginning hikers and fun for experienced hikers. It winds through a field of rocks and boulders, in front of the Jumbo Rocks campground and next to the amphitheater. There are slight climbs and descents, and a few splits if you want to spend a little more time exploring.

Find out before you go:

  • The path is close to the road and is constantly noisy.
  • Popular place, the track is very busy.
  • If you want to see Skull Rock without hiking, take the path in the opposite direction and you’ll be there in no time.

El Moro Canyon Loop Trail, Crystal Cove State Park

The distance: 5 miles loop

Average time: 3 ½ hours

This beautiful walk in light snow rewards you with stunning ocean views with a minimum of effort.  A small increase is enough to get your heart pumping, but not enough power.

Although the trail is dry and a bit dusty, it is wide and easily traversable. No need to worry about uneven surfaces or loose floors. However, it is better not to do this in the summer, as the road can be very hot and dusty then.

Find out before you go:

  • Parking costs $15 per car.
  • Dogs are not allowed.
  • It contains interpretive markers with QR codes.

Laurel Canyon Trail, Laguna Coast Wildlife Park

Distance: 3.8 miles there and back

Average time: 2 hours

At its highest point, the Laurel Canyon Trail rewards you with stunning views of the Santa Ana Mountains, and at its lowest point, you can cross the creek bed under the shady branches of century-old oaks. If you arrive in winter, after a heavy rain, you may be lucky enough to see a seasonal waterfall.

Poles along the trail are marked with phone numbers. If you call it, you will hear pre-recorded information about that part of the route.

Find out before you go:

  • Parking costs $3.
  • Very popular, so it can be crowded.
  • The park is open until sunset, but closes at 5pm.

Bald Loop, Angeles National Forest

The distance: 10.3 miles

Average time: 7 hours

It is considered one of the most challenging, if not the most challenging, hikes in Southern California and includes two routes – Devil’s Backbone and the Baldy Bowl Ski Hut route. Most people take one path up and one path down, and if you want to gain height, there’s an elevator on Devil’s Ridge to help you do that.

In winter, the slopes can be snowy and icy and crampons, ice axes, sturdy winter footwear and appropriate clothing are needed to navigate safely. Many people have died on Mount Baldy, so it should not be underestimated.

Find out before you go:

  • It can be cold there, so make sure you have plenty of layers, even in summer.
  • The topography causes microweather systems, so sudden thunderstorms are not uncommon.
  • The map is a must.

Safe walking

These are 13 of the best hikes in Southern California, with something for everyone, regardless of age, physical ability, hiking experience, or interests.

But never underestimate the potential dangers of camping. Anytime:

  • Take the time to research the trail before hiking, and if the hike requires knowledge or skills you don’t have, choose another location.
  • Check the time before you leave.
  • Wear suitable footwear and clothing.
  • Leave no trace for the investigation.
  • Bring more water and snacks than you think you’ll need.

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