Top 10 Coastal Hikes in Orange County Everyone Can Enjoy

Top 10 Coastal Hikes in Orange County Everyone Can Enjoy

A hiking area in Laguna Niguel, Calif., on Sept. 20, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Anne Mount
Anne Mount

6/25/2024

Updated: 6/26/2024

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Who can resist those fresh ocean breezes, sunshine, and views of blue waves out where a soul can breathe?
Orange County-based Heritage Hiking Club president, Bill Furey, offers a list of hiking locations that can create lasting memories, better health, and a desire for more outdoor saunters. To check on specific hikes and obtain more information, he suggests looking up alltrails.com as a good source for directions and maps.
Crystal Cove State Park, 8471 N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, (949) 494-3539, is open Monday through Sunday, 6:00 a.m. until dusk. Day use parking is $15 per vehicle, $14 for seniors, and $7.50 for those with disabled discount passes. No dogs are allowed, except on the three-mile paved, multi-use bluff trail on the coastal side of Pacific Coast Highway, or other paved surfaces. There are three easy hikes, such as the Blufftop Multiuse trail, which is four miles and takes about 1 hour and 25 minutes. More moderate and challenging hikes include the Crystal Cove Perimeter Loop trail that is 9.4 miles and takes about four hours.
Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, 18751 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, (949) 923-2235, is open from 7:00 a.m. to sunset. Parking lot hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and there is a parking entrance fee of $3 daily. Dogs are not allowed. This park boasts dozens of trails for viewing meadows, creeks, and a variety of endangered species like the Orange-Throated Whiptail. Hikers can experience some of the last remaining coastal canyons in Southern California, according to the park. Moderate level trails include Laurel Canyon Laurel Spur Willow Trail Loop, 3.4 miles and 1 hour, 36 minutes, and Barbara’s Lake Loop Trail that is 2.8 miles and is 1 hour and 9 minutes.
Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area, 34558 Scenic Drive, Dana Point, (949) 248-3527, is open from 7:00 a.m. to sunset, Monday through Sunday. There is limited street parking or in the parking lot of the Nature Interpretive Center. This area offers two great hikes. There is the Dana Point Headlands Loop, 2.8 miles and 1 hour and 16 minutes long, and the Dana Point Beach trail that is 1.2 miles and takes 25 minutes, offering great ocean views, beaches, and tide pools.
The Dana Point Headlands hiking area in Dana Point, Calif., on Nov. 16, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The Dana Point Headlands hiking area in Dana Point, Calif., on Nov. 16, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The Dana Point Headlands hiking area reopens to 7 days per week in Dana Point, Calif., on Nov. 16, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The Dana Point Headlands hiking area reopens to 7 days per week in Dana Point, Calif., on Nov. 16, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, 18000 CA-1, Huntington Beach, (714) 846-1114, is open daily from sunrise to sunset. There is no entrance fee. Parking is free in the north lot at Warner Avenue near Pacific Coast Highway and the south lot on Pacific Coast Highway across from the state beach. No dogs are allowed. As a coastal wetlands park, visitors can see egrets, herons, and a variety of exhibits at the Bolsa Chica Conservancy Center, such as warty sea cucumbers and striped shore crabs. Hikes include the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve Trail that is 2.9 miles and takes 54 minutes, and the Brightwater Trail to Pocket Loop Trail that is 4.4 miles and takes 1 hour and 23 minutes.
Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, 28373 Alicia Parkway, Laguna Niguel, (949) 923-2200, is open Sunday to Saturday, from 7:00 a.m. to sunset. Enter and exit through the Awma Road parking lot via Alicia Parkway only, $3 daily parking fee. No dogs are allowed. Some trails are wheelchair friendly. Hikes range from Top of the World via Canyon Acres Trail, 2.5 miles and 1 hour and 38 minutes, to longer trails, such as the Wood Canyon trail that is 6.9 miles and takes 2 hours and 27 minutes.
A runner jogs around the back bay of Newport Beach District 3 in Newport Beach, Calif., on Sept. 8, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A runner jogs around the back bay of Newport Beach District 3 in Newport Beach, Calif., on Sept. 8, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Hikers enjoy a new flower bloom in the back bay of Newport Beach, Calif., on March 27, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Hikers enjoy a new flower bloom in the back bay of Newport Beach, Calif., on March 27, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Newport Beach Back Bay and Back Bay Science Center, 600 Shellmaker Road, Newport Beach, (949) 640-9959. Hikers can begin the Back Bay Loop Trail at the Back Bay Science Center. The trail is open from 7:00 a.m. until sunset. The Science Center is open on Sunday, from 10:00 to 2:00. Admission is free. The Back Bay Loop Trail is 2.8 miles long and takes 58 minutes. It is mostly flat with some slight hills. Dogs are allowed, but must be on a leash. Visitors will be delighted with these beautiful coastal wetlands, home to egrets, herons, ducks, shorebirds as well as gophers, red foxes, and white-tailed deer.
Harbor View Nature Park, 1666 San Miguel Drive, Corona Del Mar, (949) 644-3151, is open from 7:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. There is street parking. This is an easy paved loop trail that offers great fun for kids. They can look for crawdads in the creek, cross some bridges, and play at the Buffalo Hills playground. This park is only 10 minutes from Corona Del Mar State Beach, or 3.0 miles.
Salt Creek Trail, 31535-31543 Street of the Golden Lantern, Laguna Niguel. The trail is open Monday through Sunday, from 6:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Street parking is on Camino Del Avion between Niguel Road and Crown Valley Parkway. Dogs are allowed on the paved trail but not on the beach. Wheelchairs and strollers may need assistance along the route. This is a 10-mile hike out and back and takes around 3 hours and 53 minutes, from inland Laguna Niguel to the beach in Dana Point. This is a popular trail for seeing wild artichoke plants, lizards, rabbits, and birds like red-tailed hawks.
Palm Trees move with the afternoon wind at Calafia Beach in San Clemente, Calif., on Dec. 8, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Palm Trees move with the afternoon wind at Calafia Beach in San Clemente, Calif., on Dec. 8, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Calafia Beach in San Clemente, Calif., on Dec. 8, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Calafia Beach in San Clemente, Calif., on Dec. 8, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

San Clemente Beach Trail, San Clemente State Beach, 225 West Calafia Avenue, San Clemente, (949) 492-3156, is open Monday through Sunday, 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. There is a state park entrance fee of $15. No dogs allowed. This is a point-to-point trail, meaning it is 5.5 miles one-way to San Onofre parking lot, which takes 1 hour and 47 minutes. Hikers would need a ride back or walk back to the starting point, making the trail 11 miles total. This is a shoreline trail that calls for walking on sand most of the route. Climbing on rocks and railroad tracks (watch out for trains) is part of the route. Check tidal charts as water can get knee-deep in places.
Huntington Beach Bicycle Trail, for biking and hiking, 21601 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, (714) 536-1454. This path starts where Warner Avenue runs into Pacific Coast Highway, just north of Bolsa Chica State Beach and the dog beach. Open from Monday through Sunday, 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Gates close at 9:00 p.m. Parking fees are $1.50 per hour; $15 for standard vehicles, $30 for oversized vehicles for all day. This is a 15.7-mile out and back trail, which runs along the Pacific Ocean waterfront and takes about 4 hours and 35 minutes. However, visitors can choose to hike only part of the trail to make it shorter.
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Anne Mount is an award-winning journalist, author, and screenwriter. Her articles have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Marin Independent Journal, Reader's Digest, Harper's Bazaar, Ladies' Home Journal, and other publications. Her column, "Life As Is," appears in the Sunday Lifestyle section of The Dayton Daily News. She has lived in California since 2006.

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