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5 Best Hiking Trails in Orange County, CA

Our List of the Best Hiking Trails in the OC

With the beach town and amusement park reputation that Orange County carries, it can be easy to see how certain tourist attractions tend to overshadow aspects of the County that take you closer to nature like hiking. Hidden as they might seem, Orange County is in fact home to plenty of fantastic spots where you can get a nice, deep breath of fresh air. Here are our 4 best hiking trails in Orange County, both for beginners and seasoned hikers.

Carbon Canyon Regional Park

The Carbon Canyon Regional Park has a lovely 2-mile hiking loop that is considered in the easy range from a difficulty standpoint – which is often just right if you ask us. What makes this trail so special is the fact that it is the only place in Orange County (and possibly Southern California) where there are actual redwood trees. The ‘Coastal Redwoods’ (Sequoia sempervirens) tower nearly 100 feet tall and provide a great balcony of shade while you hike. To make things even more interesting, the trees are marked by signs that clue you in to the extensive lives they’ve lived, as well as the great efforts that have gone into preserving them.

The park also includes picnic areas, a lake with piers for fishing, BBQs, a nature center, and tennis courts, among other things. Dogs are welcome, and entry costs $3 Monday through Friday, and $5 on the weekend, with modified pricing during holidays.

For more details check out their great website here.

Redwood trees like you would find in Carbon Regional Park in Orange County
Redwood trees, like in Carbon Canyon Regional Park

Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park

If you’re ready to turn it up a notch, the 11-mile loop at Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park will take you through the wide variety of natural wonders that Orange County has to offer. From native vegetation to sandstone cavities and stunning views from high-up peaks, this trail is one that’ll leave you in awe every step of the way.

It’s not a short path and, luckily, the peaks of Mt. Baldy and Santiago make for a good spot to stop and grab a bite midway through. Both mountain bikers and equestrians are welcome, and make sure to pack your picnic, plenty of water, and a bowl for your pup—this trail is dog-friendly! Parking costs $3.

A small dog with its tongue sticking out, like you might find in the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park.
A cute dog, like you’ll find in Aliso and Wood Canyons Regional Park.

Niguel Botanical Preserve

If the native vegetation part of the last park is what caught your eye, this one is definitely the one for you. The 4 miles out and back at the Niguel Botanical Preserve is home to some beautiful flora, native and otherwise, that fare well in the Mediterranean California climate. This trail is a gem for gardening enthusiasts.

Vegetation from Australia to Chile, South Africa to Baja, and certainly Orange County as well, will give you a variety of shapes and colors to explore while you wander through the sculptures and labyrinth. As noted in the picture below, the flora and fauna are organized by region, and there is both a children’s garden and an amphitheater. As with the Aliso and Woods Canyon Wilderness Park, dogs are welcome, but please clean up after them, if you know what I mean.

The Preserve is open 365 days a year, has a ton of great events and even a top notch website where you can learn more. To check it out just click here.

A map of the Niguel Botanical Reserve, one of the best parks in Orange County.
Map of the Niguel Botanical Reserve.

Peters Canyon Regional Park

If you love nature but your vibe is more wildlife than botanical, this is the path you’ll want to take. The 6-mile loop at Peters Canyon Regional Park is home to plenty of wildlife within the multiple natural habitats and man-made reservoirs. Waterfowl and Cooper’s hawks are sure to accompany you throughout your trek, and there are some nice hills where you can gaze towards the coast with Catalina Island visible on clear days.

The total hike can take up about two hours, dogs are welcome here as well, and parking at the official North entrance costs $3.

The sign at the entrance of Peters Canyon Regional Park.
The entrance at Peters Canyon Regional Park.

The Top of the World

No list of the best hikes in Orange County would be complete without the famous Top of the World hike stretching out high above Laguna Beach. The hike is a bit more on the difficult side, and can be quite steep at times, but there are fabulous views of the coast. The trail winds through the Aliso and Wood Canyon Wilderness Park until reaching the hike’s namesake where there are striking views reaching all the way from the San Gabriel Mountains to Catalina Island.

To make a trip to the Top of the World even more memorable, enjoy a drive through the hills above Laguna before or after. There is no shortage of beautiful views, and plenty of impressive architecture to match. (Actually, the final thing you’ll need for a perfect day is a great place to eat. Check out our list of the five best restaurants in Laguna for some great options.

Parking is free but the lot at the trailhead can fill up on busy weekends, so you may have park in the nearby residential area and walk – just be sure to be respectful of the locals!

Coastal Laguna Beach, CA

As great as the beach and all of the manmade attractions in Orange County are, it’s also important to take some time to enjoy the beautiful natural environments only found on hiking trails. These are some of the best hiking trails in orange county to us – let us know what your favorites are in the comments.

But before we go, if you are looking to get more involved in OC hiking opportunities, check out the Hiking OC and the OC Hiking Club Meetup groups, where you can find some great local hikers to spend time with. Or, check out the SoCal Hiker website for a great breakdown of twenty-eight local hikes by factors such as mileage, difficulty, and whether you can take dogs. That’s a wrap for our guide of great hiking trails in Orange County, see you on the trails!

Orange County is full of entrepreneurs that run businesses of all sizes – check out My OC Bookkeeper if you are interested in bookkeeping, accounting, or outsourced CFO services. We have years of experience and understand a wide range of industries. (Not to mention love hiking.) Make sure to contact us here.

And if you want to see some great footage of the Aliso Peak Trail (in the OC of course) enjoy the video below. Happy hiking! (And bookkeeping!)

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