Southern California offers hiking on all sorts of terrain, from the low hills of Griffith Park in Los Angeles (home of the famous Hollywood sign) to the more mountainous inland terrain east of Los Angeles and San Diego. On-the-spot camping is available for hikers on longer treks in most of California's state and national parks.
Explore the Desert
The stark Mojave Desert extends from Southern California into Nevada, and typifies the American Southwest. Desert excursions can be made from any of the nearby cities and towns, such as Barstow. When exploring the desert, be sure to plan for the high heat and dry conditions by bringing along sun protection and plenty of water.
The Angeles National Forest, just northeast of the greater Los Angeles area, is a great site for camping and day recreation. The park's higher elevation gives it a cooler climate. Pine trees abound instead of desert succulents, and hiking, rock climbing and swimming can all be part of a camping trip.
Exploring California's coast is one of the truly unique activities in Southern California. The shore itself varies from sandy beaches populated by tourists to rocky outcroppings and tide pools. Much of the coast is parkland and can be accessed for free. The Pacific Coast Highway runs the length of the shoreline, making exploring the California coast fast and easy.
Southern California is home to America's surfing culture, and there are numerous beaches where surfing is frequently available. In Venice Beach, just south of Los Angeles, surf shops offer lessons for beginners and special surfer-only beaches are partitioned from swimming areas for a safe surfing experience. Huntington Beach, located 40 miles south of Los Angeles, is one of surfing's meccas--its nickname is "Surf City."