Staying Fit in Orange County: The Best Hiking Trails

Last month, we focused on locating some great indoor exercise locations to survive the winter season in our blog: Stay Fit This Winter with These Orange County Exercise Locations. Now that spring is here, there’s no way you’d want to confine all of your exercise routines to indoor spaces. It’s time to step outside and feel the warm rays of the sun, and the cool breeze of the morning air. It’s time to be adventurous and walk through beautiful landscapes while gazing upon a gorgeous view of Orange County.

That’s right, it’s time to take a hike!

Spring and summer are the seasons to stretch those legs and explore the many sights of Southern California. No matter what you’re looking for in a hiking trail, the following Orange County paths offer something for everyone who wants to stay fit and healthy.


Flag Hill

Location: San Juan Capistrano

+ Amazing views

+ Wildlife

+ Challenging

Take the 5 and get off at the Camino Capistrano exit to reach this beautiful trail. In 2006, Ryan Pickell erected a flag pole on top of what has become known as Flag Hill. The flag was placed in memory of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The flag was toppled by strong thunderstorms, but a group of community members erected a new 35-foot pole, much taller than the original, on Memorial Day of 2010. Visit this trail to get a wonderful piece of history along with a gorgeous view.

Special thanks: Scott Cunningham, Sea Glass Soap


Sam Clemente Beach Trail

Location: San Clemente

+ Gorgeous beach-side view

+ Great daylight scenery

+ Plenty of benches

This trail hugs one of the most beautiful shorelines in Southern California: the San Clemente Beach Trail, which sits beside an Amtrak line, with service between L.A. and San Diego. Find this trail just off of Cristianitos Rd.


Top of the World Trail

Location: Laguna Beach

+ Moderately Challenging

+ Caves and scenery

+ Breathtaking view

Find this trail at the intersection of the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. Parking is free in the surrounding neighborhood and the challenge of this trail is moderate. Don’t forget your camera (and selfie stick) if you’re coming with a group of friends.

Special thanks: Hilary Reiter, Redhead Marketing & PR


Crystal Cove

Location: Laguna Beach

+ Kid-friendly

+ Beach, sea cliffs, and tide pools

+ Gorgeous scenery and wildlife

For backpackers, there are three environmental campgrounds: one in a canyon and two at the higher elevations. Those trails offer gorgeous views of the mountainous backcountry, geological formations, and the blue Pacific Ocean. Find this just off of the Pacific Coast Highway by Laguna Beach.


Santiago Oaks Regional Park

Location: Orange

+ Pet-friendly

+ Intimate trail through the oaks

+ Options to climb into the hills

The park is secluded and peaceful, offering plenty of interlinking trails that are suitable for all hiking and mountain-biking needs. The calm serenity is coupled with adventure, as hikers are able to climb the local hills. Find this park on Windes Dr. in Orange.


Oak Canyon Nature Center

Location: Anaheim

+ Kid-friendly

+ Short walks in the oaks

+ Wildlife and a trickling creek

This national park is located in the Anaheim Hills, where a year-round stream runs peacefully through the park. With four miles of hiking trails, canyons, and wildlife, you’ll always find something to do here.


West Horsethief

Location: Trabuco Canyon

+ Views of the Santa Ana Mountains

+ Challenging

+ Great workout

A beautiful stream travels through this very difficult yet rewarding trail. The walking path is parallel to a biking path, allowing safe and comfortable travels for all adventurers. The trail has been commended for providing a great workout for hikers. Find this trail near Silverado between the 15 and 241 freeway.


Talbert Nature Preserve

Location: Costa Mesa

+ Nature-watching

+ Close up encounters with waterfowl

+ Wilderness settings

Our fellow

Black Star Canyon Trail

Location: Orange

+ Adventurous

+ Cross-country scramble to a spectacular fall

+ Ghost stories

This trail features a beautiful waterfall, and is definitely suitable for the more adventurous sort. The trail is supposedly haunted! You can find this trail by Silverado, off the 241 freeway.


Limestone Canyon Wilderness Park (The Sinks)

Location: Orange

+ Adventurous

+ Docent-led trips to a wildly eroded sandstone canyon

+ Miniature Grand Canyon of Orange County

There’s an iconic geological formation found here that is often referred to as the “Miniature Grand Canyon of Orange County.” This coupled with gorgeous plant and wildlife make this trail a sight that you have to behold.


Whiting Ranch Loop

Location: Trabuco Canyon

+ Mountain-biking

+ Great easy ride through the oaks

+ Wildlife

Oak woodland canyons, rolling grassland hills, steep slopes of coastal sage scrub and chaparral, scenic rock formations (including the beautiful Red Rock Canyon), and three streams (Borrego, Serrano and Aliso Creek), make this trail a must-see.


Aliso and Wood Canyon Trail

Location: Laguna Niguel

+ Mountain-biking

+ Immensely popular area with cyclists

+ Easy access

Miles of wilderness and open land space make this trail a varied and scenic route for mountain bikers and hikers alike. Find this trail directly west of Laguna Niguel National Park. Special thanks: David Money Harris, author of Afoot & Afield: Orange County: A Comprehensive Hiking Guide

Image of the Bosque trail in Irvine Image Source: Greater Irvine Chamber

[Update] The Bosque Trail, Irvine

Location: Orange County Great Park

A new hiking trail in the heart of Irvine is opening on June 15, 2019. The 1.5 mile Bosque trail at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine is a great delight for nature lovers and fitness enthusiasts. More details about the trail soon.

Whether you’re looking for big adventure or scenic views, there’s always a trail for you in Orange County. Be sure to save this list for the next time you include a hike in your fitness routine!

Just be sure to go prepared and stay safe. Pack a lot of water and snacks, and wear comfortable clothes with proper hiking shoes. Consider bringing a trekking pole for the more steep hikes. Also be sure that your cell phone is at full battery during the hike and don’t drain it! You’ll want to be looking at the sights rather than your phone screen anyway.

Remember to come to us for any of your urgent care needs, including aches and pains, allergies and asthma, and other minor medical emergencies if anything happens to you during your hike.


Peter Kim, MD

Dr. Kim,  is the Medical Director of Family Care Centers, Former Chair of the Department of Family Medicine at Hoag Hospital, and a recipient of the Physicians of Excellence award from the Orange County Medical Association. He is Board Certified in Family Medicine, and has been practicing in our community for over 20 years. He is an excellent, caring, and well­qualified physician who is dedicated to providing you with superior health care. A native of Los Angeles, he graduated from UCLA and received his medical training at the LAC­USC Medical Center. After completing his residency in Family Medicine, he accepted a sports medicine fellowship at San Jose Medical Center, an affiliate of Stanford University. He enjoys working with patients and families who are training or want to get back into an active lifestyle. Review Dr. Kim on: Facebook Google+ Yelp WebMD