What springs to your mind when you think of Orange County, CA? A majority of people picture sprawling and breathtaking beaches dotted with volleyball players, the popular TV Show the OC, tons of amazing restaurants and shopping malls, and people tanning on the sand. Although there is no doubt that our stunning coastal paradise has all these things, what you may find surprising is that there are plenty of exhilarating hikes in Orange County, CA.
Orange County features an extensive variety of different hiking trails. This diversity means that one day you will be hiking along the beach and the next day in the gorgeous mountains. The best thing is that the landscapes are picturesque and never cease to amaze. Also, note that the weather is almost always ideal for a trek.
Summer is the best season to stretch your legs and explore the many beautiful sights of Southern California. Regardless of what you are seeking in a hiking trail, these Orange County paths provide something for everyone. So, what are you waiting for! Lace-up those hiking boots, because it is time to hit the fantastic trails!
Roadrunner Loop Trail
To reach the Roadrunner Loop Trail, you can park your car in the Parking Area 3 off of Irvine Road. Then cross Irvine Road, and you will see the Roadrunner Loop Trail as well as the Santiago Creek Trail. Note that the Roadrunner Loop Trail is a long 1.5-mile sandy trail in the famous Irvine Park. The trail starts near the end of the Horseshoe Loop Trail.
You will be pleased to know that the Roadrunner Loop circles 1.5 miles, and because it is usually not heavily trafficked, you will likely find it a peaceful trek. The Roadrunner Loop also provides a good and serene area for exercise; however, as the incline is not too dramatic, it is an excellent choice for all levels!
Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park
Did you know that there are 23 trails and 17 miles in this park? Also, streams and the Red Rock Canyon offer plenty of picturesque views that you will love. Whiting Ranch is also extremely popular with mountain bikers. And it is an excellent and easy-to-moderate trail that can be as short as just twenty minutes or a couple of hours long; so, it is up to you.
The sprawling and scenic Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park also encompasses some of the creeks and trails of the surrounding areas within its boundaries. You will find a whopping 2,500 acres of lush forests, lovely grassy hills, and plunging canyons with great hiking, riding, and biking opportunities. Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park is certainly the best hiking ground for you, whether you would like to traipse through the trees or walk near the water.
Sitton Peak Trail
Do you want to get a wonderful view of the whole Cleveland National Forest? Then you should go to Sitton Peak. Sitton Peak is located on the border of Orange County and Riverside County and travels through the sprawling San Mateo Canyon Wilderness. Keep in mind that this hike is about 9.8 miles long and is an ideal hike because it is just challenging enough for most people, but not too difficult.
The trail will give you a nice and rigorous workout with an elevation gain of about 2,150 feet. At about 3,273 feet above sea level, the Sitton Peak Trail offers 360-degree views of the nearby Cleveland National Forest, Catalina Island, and the expanse of the beautiful ocean on a bright and clear day.
Chiquito Falls is an elegant and seasonal waterfall, and you can best view it soon after a decent rainfall. Note that the trailhead starts across the street from the famous Ortega Oaks Candy Store on Ortega Highway. Also, keep in mind that this trail is one of the more demanding and strenuous hikes in Orange County. So, this one is not for the children (or your grandma).
You will gain about 3,000 feet in elevation, and you will see not only Chiquito Falls but also the smaller and quaint San Juan Falls on your way, which is a popular destination because of its proximity to the trailhead. You can start your adventure at the San Juan Loop Trailhead. It will lead to a brief climb over the nearby ridge and a modest descent toward San Juan Creek. You will get an excellent view of San Juan Falls, but you should continue on the trail, which follows the creek downstream.
Black Star Canyon Trail
Most people agree that Black Star Canyon provides one of the best and most exciting hikes in Orange Country, CA, with waterfalls. This gorgeous 7.5-mile roundtrip trek is one of the hidden gems in Southern California.
You can easily access the trailhead from Santiago Canyon Road. Note that it is deceivingly easy at first, because of a minimal incline, but then it quickly becomes rocky, rugged, and tricky to navigate. The waterfall at the end is a sight to behold.