Best Hikes in Southern California

 Source: Flickr

Initially, most people probably associate southern California with sprawling cities, traffic, and Hollywood. However, once taking a closer look, you'll find that this megalopolis also hosts a variety of ecosystems, making it an area full of rich natural wonders to explore. From sandy beaches to imposing mountains, desertland to waterfall oases, SoCal is an outdoor lover's playground. In fact, this is one of the main reasons Featherstone Outdoor has made its home here! Whether you're looking for something quick and easy or a more strenuous hike, read on for some of our favorite hikes in the area.


Solstice Canyon Loop

  • Location: Santa Monica Mountains west of Malibu
  • Mileage: 3.2
  • Elevation gain: 200ft
  • Highlights: Small waterfall, ruins
  • Pet friendly: Yes

This wide, easy-to-follow trail is a great choice for a quick walk or picnic. You will find plenty of picnic tables along the beginning of the route as you meander alongside a creek. After crossing over it, enjoy the sporadic shade of the sycamore and oak trees before reaching the Roberts Ranch House ruins at the end of the trail. An interpretive sign awaits to learn about its history as well as a small waterfall nearby to enjoy before heading back the way you came.

Skull Rock Nature Trail

  • Location: Joshua Tree National Park near Twentynine Palms
  • Mileage: 1.7
  • Elevation gain: 160ft
  • Highlights: Unique rock features
  • Pet friendly: No

No trip to SoCal would be complete without a trip to the infamous Joshua Tree NP. This particular loop hike is the perfect choice for families with kids or those interested in unique geological features. The boulder field will be tempting for children to climb on and explore. Although it's usually at its busiest, spring is a great time to visit to avoid extreme temperatures and to view the lovely wildflower displays along the trail. The highlight of the trail, a large rock that has eroded over the years to look like a skull, is the perfect photo op. Don't expect a lot of solitude on this trail, though. It's a pretty popular spot within the park. 


Source: Flickr


Escondido Falls

  • Location: Malibu coast
  • Mileage: 3.7
  • Elevation gain: 300ft
  • Highlights: Waterfall
  • Pet friendly: Yes

If you're in the Solstice Canyon area and looking for something a bit more challenging, the trail to Escondido Falls is a short distance to the east. This is arguably one of the most popular waterfalls in southern California so again, don't expect much solitude. The journey is completely worth it, though, especially after a good rainfall. Once past the residential area, the trail provides a shady forest before reaching the bottom of the falls, which is actually a 3-tiered cascade. A very narrow, precipitous trail continues to the second and first tier, with the top one being the most scenic.

Smuggler's Cove Trail

  • Location: Santa Cruz Island/Channel Islands NP
  • Mileage: 7.7
  • Elevation gain: 1,400ft
  • Highlights: Ocean views, cypress tree grove
  • Pet friendly: No

If you're looking for a good workout, solitude, and ocean views, the Smuggler's Cove Trail is just for you. You'll be hiking uphill a good portion of the trail, but this also means the views of the Pacific get better and better. Two short side trip options await at Scorpion Rock and the cypress tree grove. Once you reach the cove, spend some time exploring the beach after eating lunch. You can also check out a small, old ranch in the vicinity that is leftover from when the island was still inhabited.


The Bridge to Nowhere

  • Location: San Gabriel Mountains, northeast of LA
  • Mileage: 10
  • Elevation gain: 1,200ft
  • Highlights: Abandoned bridge, swimming holes
  • Pet friendly: Yes

Be sure to get an early start for this taxing out-and-back trail as you'll want to spend some extra time exploring the bridge area. You'll encounter many stream crossings along the way, which may be welcome on a hot day! However, if you continue a short way up the trail past the bridge, once you've taken some pictures of the canyon and watched the bungee jumpers, of course, you'll find a side trail down to a great swimming hole to cool off in. Note: This trail can be easy to lose, so downloading a map in advance may be wise.

Source: Flickr


Mt.Baldy Loop

  • Location: San Gabriel Mountains
  • Mileage: 11
  • Elevation gain: 4,000ft
  • Highlights: Panoramic views, waterfall 
  • Pet friendly: Yes

Located directly to the east of our previous destination, you can find a strenuous trek to the highest point in the San Gabriel Mountains: Mount San Antonio or, more commonly known by, Mount Baldy. At 10,000ft, the final ascent up is grueling and has some precipitous drop-offs, but the views from the top are well worth the effort. As if that's not enough, you'll also pass by San Antonio Falls tumbling down the rock face on the return trip. Don't take this trek lightly. Only experienced hikers should attempt it.

From geological wonders in the desert to sweeping mountaintop views, there are plenty of excellent opportunities for hiking in SoCal. What are some of your favorite hiking trails in this part of California?

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.