Orange County is known for its beautiful coastline, restaurants, shopping malls, and theme parks. But it’s also got some of the best hiking spots in California, being conveniently situated between the mountains and the ocean. You’re not short of trails, whether you like a rugged canyon walk, a coastline walk, or a leisurely stroll through a suburban park. There’s a lot of ground to cover, so here are seven of the best walks in Orange County.
Best Walks in Orange County
1. Peters Canyon Loop Trail
Length: 5.9 miles
For an Orange County walk that’s accessible for all levels without being too easy and has beautiful views, we highly recommend the Peters Canyon Loop. This walk loops you around the Peters Canyon Regional Park, an oasis within suburban Orange County. Traverse over steep hills, which are just high enough to get your heart racing, and well-maintained, flat paths to get it back steady. There’s plenty of opportunity for wildlife viewing too, with sightings of mule deer, bobcats, coyotes, raccoons and even the occasional mountain lion. Bear in mind that there’s little to no shade, so wearing a hat and bringing lots of sun cream and water with you is advised.
2. Borrego Canyon Trail to Red Rock
Length: 4 miles
Borrego Canyon is one of the most popular walks in Orange County, taking you through Lake Forest, the desert lands of Borrego Canyon until reaching the famous Red Rock Canyon. If you’re looking for an escape from city life, this is it. It’s also accessible to walkers of any level, offering beautiful mountain vistas before ending at the unique rock formations of Red Rock Canyon. This is one of the few trails in the area that has a good amount of shade, but we still recommend getting there early when the heat isn’t as intense. When it comes to wildlife sightings, there’s plenty to see in the Borrego Desert. That includes bighorn sheep, coyotes, bobcats, desert foxes, mountain lions, and kangaroo rats. Depending on the wildlife, the trail is subject to closures, so be sure to check the website for heading out there.
3. Black Bay Loop Trail
Length: Up to 10.5 miles
This Newport Beach walk is a local gem, perfect for any level of hiker. It’s a relatively flat trail, winding through the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve. It’s a lovely landscape of marshy wetlands with scenic lookout points and canyon-like settings. This is a relatively easy trail but there are some declines and inclines, so appropriate walking shoes are recommended. There’s lots of opportunity for wildlife viewing, particularly bird watching. And please note that there is no shade on this trail, make sure you wear a hat!
4. Niguel Botanical Preserve Trail
Length: 0.8 miles
This one’s for the nature and plant lovers out there. The Niguel Botanical Preserve boasts over 2000 plant species and there are 4 miles of walking trails, all of them relatively easy and flat but with beautiful surroundings. It’s very family-friendly – a great way to spend a family-filled Sunday. Leisurely stroll through the ever-changing landscapes, which adapt to the seasons.
5. Dana Point Headlands Loop
Length: 2.8 miles
This walk loops you over varying terrains, from steep inclines uphill to heading downhill towards the ocean. Unlike the other walks on this list, the Dana Point Headlands Loop is a coastal walk with beautiful ocean views throughout – if you need to cool off from the Californian heat, you’re never far from the beach! Bear in mind that this trail isn’t dog friendly due to the endangered bird and mammal species that call this area home.
6. Buck Gully Trail
Length: 4.5 miles
This beautiful nature trail takes you through the hills of Corona del Mar. In comparison to the usual desert or coastal walks that you find in the area, this one offers something different. The hills are carpeted with wildflowers in the spring and offer luscious green scenery throughout the whole year, so it’s always a good time to take this hike. The trail is partially shaded, with the path winding through pretty trees and dirt paths. But as you break out the other side, you get an expansive hillside view. Just remember to wear a hat because this portion isn’t shaded at all. We encourage hikers of all levels to take this walk, but keep in mind that there is some elevation gain. However, it is suitable for everyone if you’re up for the challenge.
7. Top of the World Trail
Length: 2.4 miles
Walkers get one of the most beautiful views in all of Orange County on this trail. You can probably tell from the name, but this walk does feature steep elevation gains in order to reach that beautiful view. There’s no reward without a bit of work! You’ll get sweeping views of the canyon below, across the city, stretching all the way out to the ocean. You’ll also find a park at the top, so we recommend you pack a picnic to stop for a while and enjoy the view. Along the way, you’ll spot some interesting rock formations too.