Southern California is basically a mecca for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts – it’s one of my favorite places to visit because of the wide variety of hikes available for the picking! Since I’ve written quite a number of articles on specific trails in SoCal, I figured that I might as well give you a list of some of the best hikes in Southern California that you should definitely experience.
I’ve listed 9 here, and hopefully, you will get the chance to visit at least one or two of them just to make your SoCal trip that extra bit magical – which, by the way, these hikes truly are.
1. Hollywood Sign
Not a lot of people know that you can actually hike to the iconic Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles. You’ve probably seen it in movies or on TV, but you have the chance to get up close and personal. The best part is that it’s an easy hike so anyone can do it – even your kids.
The hike takes you through Hollywood Hills, past the “Batcave” from the 60’s TV show, and then 30 feet behind the Hollywood Sign. You can’t get any closer than that, but it’s still really awesome to see up close along with amazing views of Los Angeles. You can read about it on California Through My Lens.
2. Bridge To Nowhere
This is a popular hike in Southern California that will take you to the very famous bridge. In this hike, you get to cross multiple rivers to reach the bridge, which you can actually bungee jump from!
The terrain is easy but with a lot of rocks you have to go over. You’ll even find a small waterfall and tons of wildlife. Another thing you can do is take a dip in the river if you want to cool down a bit. It’s kind of a long hike – it might take around 6 to 8 hours, so be well prepared!
3. Barker Dam In Joshua Tree
You can find Barker Dam in the stunning desert that is Joshua Tree National Park. This is an easy one-mile loop hike that anyone can do.
What’s great about this hike is that you’ll be in one of the most scenic deserts in Southern California that’s filled with hundreds of rocks that you can climb on – make it a favorite of rock climbers. You’ll even find some old Indian petroglyphs towards the end of the trail, which can be pretty great to look at and super interesting.
After your hike, you can find a campsite in Joshua Tree National Park and stay the night because it is one of the best places you can go stargazing!
4. San Bernardino
The hike to San Bernardino Peak is a tough one but it is highly rewarding. The peak is 10,649 feet (3,246 meters) and takes anywhere between 8 to 10 hours to complete, so you really should be ready for a challenge.
San Bernardino Peak is also the first summit of the “Nine Peaks Challenge” that leads up to the summit of Mt. San Gorgonio. I have an article about San Bernardino Peak that you can read about as well.
5. Potato Chip Rock
This is one of the not-so-known hikes in Southern California, but is a really cool one because of the unique shape of the rock. The hike is an 8 mile loop to the summit of Mount Woodson and back, but people take the hike for the big rock that is there and not really to reach the summit.
What’s funny is that it looks small in pictures, but it’s actually quite big. You can walk out on the ledge to capture a fun looking photo. It can get full of people sometimes so you may have to wait in line.
6. Kelso Dunes
The Kelso Dunes is one of the largest sand dunes that you can find in Southern California. It’s a difficult hike because the sand is hard to stand on, but completing the hike will definitely give you a great sense of accomplishment. Not to mention a bunch of really beautiful photos.
The Kelso Dunes is found in the Mojave National Preserve, and there are some other hikes you can take there. The Kelso Dunes is 4 miles with an elevation of 700 feet. Beware though; your shoes will end up being filled with sand!
7. Murphy Ranch
You can find this hike 20 minutes away from downtown Los Angeles. What makes this hike so interesting and so popular is that the ranch is an old, abandoned Nazi Camp filled with lots of history. The camp was designed to be Hitler’s hideaway in California after they won World War II.
One of the other things that make it really unique is the long set of stairs with over 500 steps that head straight down the side of the mountain. The hike itself is 4 miles round trip and full of shade, making it perfect for the summer.
8. Solstice Canyon
What makes Solstice Canyon really beautiful is the trail that leads to the ruins of the Tropical Terrace House, the oldest stone building in Malibu. The trail is a 6-mile round trip path that’s shaded and follows a creek bed that would take around 2 hours to complete.
9. Switzer Falls
Switzer Falls is a favorite hike among locals because it is short and simple, but still incredible. Most of the trail is shaded and has a lot of barbecue pits that you can use for family picnics. The end of the hike brings you to the base of Switzer Falls where you can cool off and take a dip.
Visit Southern California
If you’re like me and you love to spend time hiking or being outdoors, Southern California is one of those places that you can go that will offer you a wide range of different hiking trails. There are tons to choose from, that range from easy to difficult, long to short, shaded to open; no matter what you are looking for, chances are you’ll find something in SoCal.