Hiking is good for the body, mind and soul. It helps lower the risk of heart disease, improve balance and enhance bone density. Additionally, hiking has been shown to help alleviate stress and anxiety. Let’s not forget about the captivating sights, sounds and smells of nature you may experience during an outdoor hike, either.
There are lots of great reasons to go hiking, especially for those who live in or visit Southern California. In fact, SoCal is home to several hiking gems unlike any other.
Now, let’s take a look at six of the best “hidden” hiking gems in Southern California.
- Broken Hill Loop
Located at the Torrey Pines State Reserve near San Diego, Broken Hill Loop offers approximately 3.5 miles of land for hiking, birding and other outdoor activities. Broken Hill Loop is rated as a moderate hiking trail, and it is accessible year-round. Plus, Broken Hill Loop provides beautiful beach views, and most people can accomplish the hike in a single day, travel expert Tava Hoag says. Of course, no discussion of Broken Hill Loop would be complete without mentioning the fact that the trail is home to the Torrey pine, an endangered pine species.
- Potato Chip Rock
Potato Chip Rock is an 8-mile hiking trail located near Poway Lake in Poway. It is simple to access from the freeway, and once you arrive, you may be floored by the awe-inspiring rock formations across the trail. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that most of Potato Chip Rock is an uphill climb, according to travel and lifestyle blogger Gennifer Rose. As such, Rose recommends hikers pack plenty of water and wear comfortable footwear any time they visit Potato Chip Rock.
- Top of the World
Lifestyle blogger Jennifer Le says Top of the World in Laguna Beach is a terrific option for hikers of all skill levels. On one side of the trail, hikers can enjoy wonderful views of the ocean. And on the other side, hikers can check out spectacular views of the mountains. Top of the World is also a great trail for hikers who prioritize mindfulness. It is a quiet, serene hiking trail, and as a result, makes it easy for a hiker to get in touch with nature.
- Cistern Trail
In addition to Broken Hill Loop, Hoag recommends Cistern Trail at Malibu Creek State Park, which offers a short hiking trail that both kids and adults can appreciate. The trail is only 1.3 miles long and can usually be completed in about an hour. Cistern Trail features stunning valley and creek views, and hikers can see old Jeeps from the film South Pacific on the trail, too. Meanwhile, Cistern Trail boasts many swimming spots, so it is typically a good idea to bring a swimsuit and towel whenever you visit.
- Lost Palms Oasis
Lost Palms Oasis at Joshua Tree National Park is located near Desert Center. It is best-known for its broad array of beautiful flowers and scenery, even in some of Joshua Tree’s remote areas, Hoag says. Lost Palms Oasis is rated as a strenuous trail and generally requires about six to eight hours to complete. Fortunately, hikers can choose between Lost Palms Oasis’ full 7.2-mile hiking trail or a shorter loop.
- Idyllwild Park
Idyllwild Park offers five hiking trails and 202 acres of open space. It often provides a superb spot for camping excursions, as hikers can spend the day on different trails and sleep under the stars at night. For those who enjoy rock climbing, Idyllwild Park boasts giant granite boulders that anyone can try to scale. Lastly, the Mile High Café at Idyllwild Park is a must-visit, according to several SoCal hikers. This family-owned restaurant serves exceptional meals that visitors can enjoy before or after a hike.
Safety Tips for Southern California Hikers
The aforementioned trails are excellent choices for people who want to get outdoors and hike to their heart’s delight. Yet hiking emergencies sometimes occur without notice. And hikers who fail to prepare accordingly risk getting lost or suffering accidents or injuries.
There are many things that hikers can do to stay safe as they explore the hidden hiking gems of Southern California and other trails, such as:
- Pick up the right gear. Hiking essentials include water, rain gear, a map, a compass and food. Pack your hiking gear and double-check your inventory before you go hiking; that way, you can ensure that you have the right items with you at all times during a hiking trip.
- Hike during the day. No one wants to get lost in the dark while hiking. To avoid this problem, hike during the day whenever possible. You should also set a turnaround time, regardless of how far you plan to hike.
- Learn the trail. No two hiking trails are identical, and you should spend some time learning about a trail before you visit it. Then, you can learn about local wild animals, poisonous plants and other dangers you may encounter and prepare for these risks.
- Check the weather. Take a look at the forecast right before you visit a hiking trail. If the forecast calls for rain or other inclement weather, ensure that a hiking trail is still passable in harsh weather conditions.
- Hike in a group. Hike with a group of family members and friends – you will be happy you did. In addition to enjoying a fun hiking experience with loved ones, hiking in a group is much safer than hiking alone.
- Tell loved ones where you are going. Provide family members, friends and other loved ones with full details about where you plan to hike and how long you expect to be gone. If a loved one does not hear back from you by a certain time after your hiking trip, he or she can then pursue emergency assistance.
- Enroll in wilderness CPR training. Wilderness cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training may prove to be the difference between life and death in a hiking emergency. This training only takes a few hours to complete and will empower you with the skills to perform basic first aid, CPR and other life-saving techniques.
When it comes to hiking, there is no need to leave your safety to chance. By using these safety tips, you can get ready for any hiking trip. Best of all, you will be better equipped than ever before to enjoy a fun, exciting and safe hiking experience.