Top 10 best hikes in Orange County

This beautiful region of Southern California is most well-known as the home of Disney’s Anaheim Resort. However, it is also home to some stunning scenery that is best explored on foot.

From challenging treks reserved for the seasoned hiker to relaxing scenic strolls that suit everyone. These are the ten best hikes in Orange County.

Home to various landscapes, from stunning coastal stretches to rocky mountain regions, a hike in Orange County is a great way to reconnect with nature.

If you’re desperate to get outdoors and breathe in the Southern Californian air, here are some of the best hikes on offer.

10. Top of the World Trail – a short, steep, and worthwhile hike

The Top of the World trail is short and steep.
Credit: Instagram / @r0syr0ses

First up on our list of the best hikes in Orange County is the stunning Top of the World Trail at Laguna Beach.

This 4 km (2.5 miles) hike in the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park offers some of the most incredible views in Southern California.

From the summit, you can enjoy panoramic views of Catalina Island to the west and the San Gabriel Mountains to the north.

9. Las Ramblas Trail – for a breathtaking sunset

The Las Ramblas Trail is one of the best hikes in Orange County.
Credit: Facebook / Ruxin Zheng

The Las Ramblas Trail in San Juan Capistrano is a 7.2 km (4.5 miles) hike that becomes even more magical at sunset.

You won’t believe your eyes as you watch the sun go down over Dana Point Harbor and Catalina Island. You may also have the chance to see some of Orange County’s wildlife, including deer and bobcats, along the way.

8. Quail Hill Loop – perfect for walkers of all ages and abilities

The Quail Hill Loop is perfect for walkers of all abilities.
Credit: Instagram / @jbot747

This 2.9 km (1.8 miles) loop in Irvine’s Open Space Preserve boasts an array of beautiful wildflowers.

Perfect for all abilities, this relatively easy walk is an ideal way to explore nature with the whole family. Parking, bathrooms, interpretive displays, and wildlife viewing opportunities are also available on this trail.

7. Chiquito Falls Trail – discover a hidden waterfall

Chiquito Falls Trail is one of the best hikes in Orange County.
Credit: Instagram / @nicknatureman

This 14.5 km (9 miles) trail is nestled deep in the vast Cleveland National Forest. Discover Chiquito Falls, a hidden waterfall from which the trail takes its name, in a secluded canyon in the hills.

The moderate climb, which reaches an elevation of 2,900 ft (884 m), is worth it for the views at the end.

6. Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve Hike – a family-friendly hike

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is a family friendly hike.
Credit: Instagram / @carriejane_14

Perfect for the whole family, the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve Hike passes over mostly flat ground.

With plenty of opportunities for wildlife spotting – over 200 species of bird have been spotted here – a walk through the fantastic 1,300+ acres of protected wetlands here will provide a perfect day out with the kids.

5. Sitton Peak – for some of the best views in California

Sitton Peak is one of the best hikes in Orange County.
Credit: Instagram / @ivy.lynnphotography

A trek up Sitton Peak is not only one of the best hikes in Orange County. In fact, it is up there with the best in the U.S.A.

This 16 km (10 miles) trek offers unrivalled views over Cleveland National Forest, Santa Ana Mountains, San Diego County, Orange County, and Catalina Island.

4. Laguna Coast Wilderness Park – step back in time

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is like stepping back in time.
Credit: Instagram / @lindsey_donner

Take a step back in time to California of yonder years on a hike at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.

Home to some of the last untouched canyons in California, a trek here is an experience like no other. The 5.8 km (3.6 miles) hike allows you to get close to an array of wildlife, including over 40 endangered species.

3. Saddleback Mountain (Santiago Peak) – reach the highest point in Orange County

Saddleback Mountain is one of the best hikes in Orange County.
Credit: Instagram / @montenegro_lives

An absolute must for seasoned hikers, a trip up Saddleback Mountain’s Santiago Peak will take you to the highest point in Orange County.

At 25.75 km (16 miles) in length, this is not a walk for the fainthearted. However, it is well worth it for the views at the end. On a clear day, you will be able to see out to the ocean and Catalina Island, as well as the San Jacinto mountains.

2. Whiting Ranch Hiking – Red Rock Canyon and Dreaded Hill

Whiting Ranch Hiking is home to challenging treks.
Credit: Instagram / @steph.starek

This popular wilderness park offers some of the best hiking trails in all of Southern California.

At 16 km (10 miles) in total, trekking Red Rock Canyon and Dreaded Hill is a challenging feat. However, there is plenty to be enjoyed along the way.

Take in the fantastic views out over Orange County from the top of Dreaded Hill and marvel at the unique geology of Red Rock Canyon.

1. Crystal Cove State Park – for an authentic taste of Californian wilderness

Crystal Cove State Park is one of the best hikes in Orange County.
Credit: Instagram / @breezebranding

Topping our list of the best hikes in Orange County is, without a doubt, Crystal Cove State Park.

Whether you choose the manageable Moro Canyon Loop or opt for the challenging Crystal Cove Red Loop, you’re sure to reap the rewards for your efforts.

With a vast array of pristine coastal nature, ocean views, and native plant wilderness, you’ll never want to leave.

If Canada is more your style, check out our list of the best hikes in Jasper National Park.

Siân McQuillan
Siân McQuillan is a writer and travel lover from County Down, Northern Ireland. While she enjoys travelling to other countries and exploring new places, she loves nothing more than discovering all the wonders her home country of Ireland has to offer. When not writing about her travel experiences, Siân can be found exploring the great outdoors and will more than likely be somewhere near the Mourne Mountains or the Causeway Coast.

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