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Paths Less Traveled: Best Hiking in the OC

Paths Less Traveled: Best Hiking in the Orange CountyIt’s easy to think that outdoor activity in Orange County centers on beaches and organized sports – but in reality, dozens of hiking trails spread gloriously through Mother Nature just minutes away. Here are some of the best ways to shirk the urban asphalt and tromp through wilderness parks, canyon loops and family-friendly beach trails.

Easy Beach Trails

A day at the beach can be more than sand-lounging when you mix it up with easy hiking on nearby beach trails. Huntington Beach State Park has a flat sandy trail winding along the oceanfront to the Least Tern Preserve, where you can cross a small creek to watch the tiny protected least tern birds. The dog- and cycle-friendly San Clemente Beach Trail is covered in smooth crushed granite and boardwalks, running all the way to Calafia State Beach. At San Onofre State Beach, you’ll find the Panhe Nature Trail, a one-mile loop with trail markers identifying native plants and bird habitats.

Wilderness Parks

Most wilderness trails offer moderate-level hikes, including the Ridgeline Loop in the James Dilley Preserve, which is part of Laguna Canyon Wilderness. Several trails traverse the preserve, including the gentle Canyon Trail and the Lake Trail around Barbara Lake, the largest natural lake in Orange County. The more challenging Blackjack Trail traverses the elevated ridgeline.

Limestone Canyon Wilderness Park harbors a rare pocket of land in Orange County containing “The Sinks,” which are dubbed the “Mini Grand Canyon.” Hiking trails here are only open to the public on designated days of the month, but it’s well worth the wait. The Shoestring and Loma Ridge trails in the park offer slow climbs with spectacular scenery, while the Shoestring-Hick’s Haul loop gets the heart pumping with an elevation gain of 1,000 feet.

Crystal Cove

Hiking at Crystal Cove is a deep-dive into wild nature, regardless of ability or preference. Crystal Cove State Park divides into color-coded hiking sections so you’ll know what to expect, starting with the relatively tame three-mile loop on the Green Route leading through Lower Moro Canyon. The Red Route spans 5.5 miles with a vertical gain of 800 feet, although there are options for how to tackle it. The nicknames speak for themselves: “Big Fat Incline” and “I Think I Can.”

Finally, there’s the strenuous Blue Route, also known as the Perimeter of the Park route. It covers about nine inland miles forming a loop around the backcountry of Crystal Cove State Park. You can camp overnight just off the Deer Canyon Trail or near Moro Ridge, which offers sweeping views of Moro and Emerald Canyons.

Living in an Orange County apartment provides access to both nature and urban energy. Call today for more information on our friendly apartment communities and to set up a free tour!