Orange County A Day Hikerand39;s Guide  by John McKinney

Orange County: A Day Hiker's Guide Guide Book

by John McKinney (The Trailmaster)
Orange County A Day Hikerand39;s Guide  by John McKinney
The best day hikes in Orange County: safely discover the region’s most compelling parks, preserves and special places with easy-to-follow maps and clear directions. Hit the trail to improved health as you share a fun and uplifting activity in the natural world with your friends and family. Save time and money and reduce your fuel costs by learning about the wide range of hiking experiences available so surprisingly close to home. The author’s colorful stories and proven trail accounts will help you select – and take – a quality hike you are guaranteed to like.

© 2006 John McKinney/The Trailmaster. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Orange County: A Day Hiker's Guide" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 94.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 94.

Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, the largest park in the hills above Laguna Beach, preserves 3,400 acres of pastoral Orange County. Most locals and other hikers refer to the low hills that back the Orange County coast from Corona del Mar to Dana Point as the Laguna Hills or “the mountains behind Laguna Beach.” Actually, the northerly hills are the San Joaquin Hills—their cousins to the south are the Sheep Hills. Here’s how nature writer Joseph Smeaton Chase described an outing in the Sheep Hills in his classic 1913 book, California Coast Trails: “A few miles along a road that wound and dipped over the cliffs brought us by sundown to Aliso Canyon. The walls of the canyon are high hills sprinkled with lichened rock, sprinkled with brush whose prevailing gray is relieved here and there by bosses of olive sumac. Our camp was so attractive that we remained for several days.”
Laguna Beach, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 9
Some hikers claim that the scenic overlook perched on a promontory in Seaview Park offers Orange County’s best coastal view. Certainly the vistas from this obscure Laguna Niguel park are breathtaking, whether one is gazing down-slope to the hills back of Laguna Beach or down-coast all the way to San Clemente. The park’s overlook offers a particularly intriguing angle on Catalina Island, which appears so deceptively close on the horizon that you imagine you could hop in your kayak and in no time paddle right into Avalon Harbor. On clear nights, the isle’s lights are quite distinct, too.
Dana Point, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.2
Most park-goers use the Alicia Parkway entrance to Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park to begin their self-propelled adventures from the canyon bottoms. Another, less crowded way to go is by way of a second trailhead at Alta Laguna Park, perched atop a ridge on the big park’s west boundary. This handsome little park offers every hiker amenity including water, restrooms, picnic area, play area for the kids and plenty of parking. Hikers should be forewarned that Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park is extremely popular with mountain bicyclists. Beginning riders cruise the nearly flat canyon bottoms in the main part of the park while advanced riders careen down the steep ridgelines and along the rocky single tracks.
Laguna Beach, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 8
Housing developments often take the name of the natural features around them, but in one OC locale the naming process is reversed. Geologists and mapmakers have long referred to the long, low ridge extending west from the Santa Ana Mountains and rising above Santa Ana Canyon as the Peralta Hills, but almost no one uses that name anymore. Today the hills are known as the Anaheim Hills. The hills honor, or did honor, Juan Pablo Peralta and his family, original owners of the huge Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana. Peralta is an excellent name, historic and euphonious. It recalls the Latin expression per alta, “through the high things.” Sounds like a university motto—or a hiker’s motto—doesn’t it?
Anaheim, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.75
One way or another the hike through Arroyo Trabuco Wilderness is an engaging experience. In fact, one-way may be the best way to walk this wildland corridor from O’Neill Park to Oso Parkway across southern Orange County. With the help of a car shuttle, the hiker can enjoy a mostly downhill ramble from a nature center to a mini-mall, a journey from the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains to trail’s end near a Taco Bell. On a recent down-canyon jaunt, I experienced a collage, indeed collision, of images that included a murmuring creek, grand old oaks and sycamores, a doe and fawn browsing a flower-sprinkled meadow, as well as traffic rushing over my head on the Foothill Transportation Corridor (toll road). In places, all traces of the suburbia that sandwiches Arroyo Trabuco recedes to a respectful distance, and the hiker is left only in the company of chirping crickets, croaking frogs and twittering birds.
Trabuco Canyon, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 6
Laguna Beach has been a pioneer in preserving open space in south Orange County. More than a thousand acres of hillsides and canyonlands have been set aside. The city has been very proactive in expanding its greenbelt and its blue belt (6.3 miles of shoreline). Badlands Park, named for its eroded sandstone cliffs, is located between the greenbelt and the blue belt on tall ocean bluffs that rise 700 feet above the beach. From Badlands, trails lead across the clifftops and around the gated communities of South Laguna. The cliff-edge paths and overlooks give the hiker great views of the Laguna coast, Catalina Island and the wide blue Pacific. Hikers can follow trails from the Badlands to Aliso Peak trails.
Dana Point, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3
Miles of sandy beach, one of California’s largest pleasure craft harbors, and some colorful coastal history are attractions of a walk along Balboa Beach. Balboa—the town, beach and island—was long ago (1906) incorporated into the city of Newport Beach, but has managed to hold onto a different look, feel, vibe than chic Newport. Local boosters and real estate promoters built the Balboa Pier and Balboa Pavilion in 1905 with hopes of luring both tourists and well-heeled settlers. They succeeded on both counts. Today, Balboa’s sand strand hosts huge crowds of surfers and sun-worshipers and as one harbor cruise company boasts, “You’ll see some of the most expensive coastal real estate in the world.”
Newport Beach, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3
Bear Canyon Trail offers a pleasant introduction to the Santa Ana Mountains. The trail climbs through gentle brush and meadow country, visits Pigeon Springs, and arrives at Four Corners, the intersection of several major hiking trails through the southern Santa Anas. One of these trails takes you to Sitton Peak for splendid, far-reaching views. Along the trail, refreshing Pigeon Springs welcomes hot and dusty hikers to a handsome glen. Bear Ridge Trail offers an alternate return route and a way to make a loop trip out of this jaunt around Bear Canyon.
Lake Elsinore, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 9.5
Crisscrossing Caspers Wilderness Park are thirty miles of trail that explore grassy valleys, chaparral-cloaked ridges and native groves of coastal live oak and sycamore. Visitors have a good chance of sighting wildlife: Deer, rabbits and coyote, as well as more furtive animals such as foxes and bobcats. Bird-watchers will want to consult the park’s bird list and test their skill by identifying the many species found in the park. Centerpiece of the park is oak-lined Bell Canyon. Acorns from the oaks were an important food source for the Juaneno Indians who lived in the canyon. As the legend goes, the Indians would strike a large granite boulder with a small rock to make it ring. The sound could be heard for a mile through what is now known as Bell Canyon. “Bell Rock” is now housed in Bowers Museum in Santa Ana.
Ladera Ranch, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4
Black Star might seem like the title of a sci-fi novel, but the name comes from the Black Star Coal Mining Company that began operations in the canyon in 1878. Known first as Cañon del los Indios (Indian Canyon), the canyon was renamed during the silver/coal exploration days when the Silverado Canyon area hosted extensive mining operations. Observant hikers will note seams of (rather low-quality as it turns out) coal exposed in the road cuts as they tramp Black Star Canyon Road. The road (closed to public vehicle traffic) passes through both private and public land (Cleveland National Forest) but is open to foot traffic. Oaks and sycamores, as well as willows and other riparian flora offer shade and greenery en route. Eucalyptus, planed in rows, add to the green scene.
Silverado, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 6
During the 1920s, oil was discovered at Bolsa Chica. Dikes were built, water drained, wells drilled, roads spread across the marsh. In fact, oil production is scheduled to continue through the year 2020. Portions of the marsh bordering Pacific Coast Highway have been restored by the state and are now part of an ecological reserve under Department of Fish and Game management. This loop trail takes you on a tour of the most attractive section. Bring your binoculars. Birdwatching is often quite good here.
Huntington Beach, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3
The path traversing Newport Beach’s Bonita Canyon is very much a “neighborhood trail.” While it’s likely to appeal to those who live nearby and are looking for an after-dinner stroll, it’s unlikely to draw hikers from other OC locales. Still, there are two sights-to-see: A small waterfall tumbling into a grotto, and the many mud swallow nests stuck high up on the underside of the Bonita Canyon Road overpass.
Newport Coast, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.5
Far too steep for suburban housing developments, the Box Springs Mountains in Riverside County remain a place to get away from it all. “It” in this instance is the hustle and bustle of the Inland Empire which surrounds this little-known mountain range. Little-known the mountains may be, but remote they are not. Four freeways— the San Bernardino, Riverside, Pomona and Escondido—surround the Box Springs Mountains. Their location might remind football fans of a quarterback barking signals: “10-91-60-215-Hike!” The peaks of the range rise sharply from the floor of the Moreno Valley to 3,000 feet and offer commanding clear-day views of the city of Riverside, the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains, as well as a great portion of the Inland Empire.
Riverside, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 6
Park visitors are greeted by a replica of an orange juice stand, located on the corner of Van Buren Boulevard and Dufferin Avenue. In the days before interstate highways and reliable auto air conditioners, stands offering fresh squeezed orange juice and lemonade were a common sight and popular with thirsty motorists. The brightly colored stand is an appropriate welcome to California Citrus State Historic Park, which tells the story of how “Citriculture” influenced the landscape—and culture—of Southern California, as well as how it helped shape public perception of the region.
Riverside, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.25
Carbon Canyon Regional Park offers some much-needed “breathing room” for fast-growing northeastern Orange County. The park has both a natural area with trails that connect to nearby Chino Hills State Park, and a more developed part with wide lawns, tennis courts, ball fields, picnic grounds and a lake. The park spreads up-canyon behind Carbon Canyon dam. As Orange County grew, so did the need for flood control, and in 1959, a dam was built at the mouth of the canyon. If, as a result of winter storms, the Santa Ana River rises too high, the dam’s floodgates will be closed, thus sparing communities downstream of the dam, but flooding the park.
Yorba Linda, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2
For many years, the Coal Canyon interchange off the Riverside Freeway was the exit to nowhere. Developers intended to construct 1,500 homes and an industrial park in the canyon, but their plans were thwarted by the Hills for Everyone, the conservation group that spearheaded an epic two-decade long preservation effort. Activists worked so diligently to preserve the canyon because it was considered one of the most environmentally valuable, yet unprotected, open spaces in Southern California. Additionally, the canyon is a critical wildlife corridor between the Chino Hills and Santa Ana Mountains.
Yorba Linda, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5
In 1904, George Hart purchased 700 acres of land on the cliffs east of the entrance to Newport Bay and laid out a subdivision he called Corona del Mar (“Crown of the Sea”). The only way to reach the townsite was by way of a long muddy road that circled around the head of Upper Newport Bay. Later a ferry carried tourists and residents from Balboa to Corona del Mar. Little civic improvement occurred until Highway 101 bridged the bay and the community was annexed to Newport Beach. This hike explores the beaches and marine refuges of “Big” and Little Corona del Mar beaches and continues to the beaches and headlands of Crystal Cove State Park. Snorkeling is good beneath the cliffs of “Big” and Little Corona beaches. Both areas are protected from boat traffic by kelp beds and marine refuge status. Consult a tide table. Best beach-walking is at low tide.
Corona Del Mar, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 7
An oil boom began in Brea and Fullerton at the beginning of the 20th century, for decades oil derricks and tanks dotted what is now 124-acre Craig Park. Floods of the 1930s prompted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct Fullerton Dam, as well as a flood basin, to guard against future flooding of the flatlands below. Such flood basins are often transformed into parks—which happened in the case of Craig Park in 1974. In later years, a small waterfowl refuge was created in an area swollen with water by winter storms. While the park does have a “Natural Area” at the south end of the park by the Fullerton Reservoir dam, most of the park is green grass, shaded with trees. A little lake offers fishing for bluegill and catfish. Craig also has plenty of ball fields and a sports complex for volleyball, basketball and racquetball.
Brea, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.5
Between the Pacific Coast Highway and the wide blue Pacific, and between Laguna Beach and Newport Beach, lie the beautiful blufftops of Crystal Cove State Park. A paved, multi-use path extends along most of the 3.2-mile length of the bluffs. (This is the rare bike path used by far more pedestrians than cyclists, most of whom opt for traveling the bike lane alongside PCH.) Eight connector trails— dirt and paved ones as well as a boardwalk—invite the hiker to leave the main route and explore tide pools, rocky coves and sand strands and check such intriguingly named topography as Pelican Point and Little Treasure Cove. Be sure to detour from Bluff Trail through Los Trancos Canyon to the Crystal Cove Historical District. The funky wood-frame beach houses are in marked contrast to Newport Coast, the upscale community of luxury villas and custom homes arising on the inland side of the highway.
Newport Coast, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4
This walk’s destination is a bronze statue of a hide drogher, captured in mid-toss. Very old dictionaries define “drogher” as the small vessel transporting goods from ship to shore and vice versa. Apparently a sailor who transported hides by tossing them from cliff to shore was referred to a drogher in those bygone days. As you walk atop the tall bluffs, you’ll observe that Dana Point is more than a point: it includes seven miles of bluffs, a city, located about halfway between L.A. and San Diego, with more than 35,000 residents, and a harbor with slips and moorings for 2,500 boats.
Dana Point, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1