Best Hiking Trails in Southern California

The state of California offers some of the most exciting outdoor adventures that anyone can enjoy. You do not have to look far to find activities to fill your day with outdoor fun here! One of the most rewarding activities to do here is check out one of the many hiking trails in Southern California.

Between the deserts and mountains, you can find many rewarding views and trails to satisfy your taste for adventure. So, come along with Shannon from FitLifeTravel as she shares the California hiking experience by taking you to the best hiking trails in southern California.

Hiking through history and stunning hiking trails in Southern California

Indulge yourself in these best hiking trails in southern California with plenty of amazing adventure, historical sites, and beautiful nature!

The most rare feature that you may encounter at some of these southern California hiking trails is waterfalls. You may also notice some of the waterfalls on the trails may be dry during certain times of the year. During winter and spring seasons, the falls usually have more water flowing.

Of course, however, the climate in southern California is perfect for any type of outdoor adventures throughout the entire year.  

See also: Gear Guide: Must Haves for Camping and Hiking

Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve Trail

Located near the middle of the city of San Diego is an interestingly diverse little trail. At first it gives the impression that there is not much to it. As you proceed into the trail, the path begins to change from dirt and mud to gravel rocks then you will find yourself climbing up large boulders.

Along the trail, there is a historical burial grave. The late Prince John Joseph Eichar, one of the areas early pioneers; is said to be buried here. 

Historical Feature in Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve Trail

Although several folks lived in this canyon during the late 1800s, Eichar is the only known person to have been buried and lived in this canyon. This hiking trail consists of a distance of 6.8 miles round trip with a mostly flat and scenic route. The ending of the trail will take you to a higher elevation and here is where you will see a few small waterfalls. Surrounding these small waterfalls are large boulders projecting from the earth.

Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve Trail. Best Hiking Trails in Southern California
Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve Trail. Best Hiking Trails in Southern California

Exploring Three Sisters Falls Trail

The best time to enjoy this awesome trail in Southern California is during the winter and spring rainy seasons. It consists of a beautiful trek with lots of trail variation and lovely rolling hills along the way. You will find this trail in the eastern part of San Diego County, in the Cleveland National Forest in California, Pine Valley. There are no facilities out here, so remember to come prepared with the essentials like water, sunscreen, and snacks.

Three Sisters Falls Trail in Southern California
Three Sisters Falls Trail

Tahquitz Canyon Trail

Palm Springs is probably more known as a second Hollywood hangout for actors, actresses and other artistic enthusiasts. But you would be surprised to know that it is home to one of the most pretty hiking trails in the area. Although the trail is quite short at a distance of two miles, the Tahquitz Canyon trail offers pretty landscapes and a rare 40 plus foot waterfall.  

Many outdoor enthusiasts discover and know the Tahquitz Canyon as a pleasant hiking spot. But it is actually the ancestral home of the Aqua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians of which they stewarded for many years.    

Tahquitz Canyon waterfall
Tahquitz Canyon waterfall

Hiking through Annie’s Canyon

A short trail offering beautiful geological features is located in the heart of the San Diego area. This narrow hiking trail is quite unique and offers some pretty views. But it can also be very challenging for some people. It has extremely interesting earthly characteristics surrounding it and is, essentially, a unique steep slot canyon.

The trail is so narrow that you must go through them only one way because there is no room to pass another person in the slot zone. You will also find yourself climbing on a steel ladder to pull yourself up near the highest part of the trail. The views will be worth the efforts on this hiking trail.

Enjoying Boucher Hill Summit

If you are looking for a trail to see some of the best colors in the fall season, then this is a sensational outdoor path to enjoy. This trail is located at Palomar Mountain State Park. You will find the smell of autumn, colorful leaves and shrubs with a little similarity to the Sierra Nevada landscapes.

Potato Chip Rock at Mount Woodson

You will find plenty of fitness training on the hiking trails at Mt. Woodson near Poway, California. This one will get your heart pumping. There are two different trailhead locations. One is longer and the other is shorter but steeper.

The trail starting at the highway 67 location has a distance of about 4.1 miles round trip. Whereas the other trailhead location at Lake Poway and is 7.3 miles round trip. The popular feature of this hike is Potato Chip Rock, a thin rock layer that looks like a potato chip. 

See also: The Best Sunglasses for Hiking & Outdoor Activities

Potato Chip Rock at Mount Woodson hiking trail
Potato Chip Rock at Mount Woodson

The Perfect Moonlight Hike at Iron Mountain

Hiking at night can be an exhilarating experience. Iron Mountain is located just down the road from the Potato Chip Rock trail. There is quite a bit of elevation and switchbacks on this trail, so you must take caution when hiking this trail. It is recommended to wear a headlamp or use a flashlight when exploring in the dark.

The daytime hiking experience here will offer you lovely views from the top. The evening hike consists of peaceful serenity by the light of the moon. The distance on this trail is approximately 5.2 miles round trip and 1,102 elevation gain.

Trekking on the Beautiful Bernardo Mountain Summit Trail

On this trail you must always be listening and watching for bikers. When you reach the summit, you will enjoy pretty views of Lake Hodges. Be aware there are some residential homes along some parts of the trail. The trail distance here is 7.2 miles round trip. There are bountiful nature settings, defined trail paths, and a picnic area to enjoy lunch.

Black Mountain Nighthawk Trail

The 5.3 mile trail at Black Mountain has an elevation of 1,210 feet and is located nearby the Hilltop Community Park. This is where you can park in a paved parking lot and you will find restrooms here as well. This hike is quite scenic but is somewhat noisier.

Once you have hiked about a mile into the trail, the sounds from the freeway and the recreational park become further in the distance. I consider it a moderate hike with gradual switchbacks leading to the summit. However, much of the trail is comprised of lose rocks and intersecting routes.

Archeological trails in Southern California | Santa Fe Valley and Del Dios

The following two hiking trails are located very close to one another. These beautiful trails offer more than just adventure and views. The entire area has a historical significance. The flood of 1927 apparently exposed numerous artifacts of those early inhabitants who resided here.

The Santa Fe Valley and Del Dios Gorge hiking trails are both segments of the Coast to Crest Trail, which expands 55 miles from the ocean to the Pacific Crest.

Santa Fe Valley Trail

In the early sections of the trail, you will be walking along a chain linked fence. As you continue on, you will be walking along the beautiful Crosby Golf Course and will possibly find a few balls on the way. The Santa Fe Valley trail is not only great for hikers but you can also bring your bikes on the trail.

Biker tip: There is a bicycle repair station along this trail.

Del Dios Gorge Trail

Three pre-historic cultural periods describe this region and it portrays a peek into how Native Americans traveled throughout this valley.

Hiker tip: Be sure to take some time to enjoy the unique trail feature here at Rattlesnake Viewpoint.

The spectacular views of the rolling hills and landscapes are not the only interesting features here. As you trek along this trail, you will encounter the Rattlesnake Viewpoint area. While looking out upon Lake Hodges, you can also look into the center of the viewpoint sculpture. This is the apex of the snake’s tail (on the sculpture). The idea is to line up your view with another spot. You can match the items on the scope to the line up with point A, B or C. The purpose of these marked spots is to help you identity the spillway, the bulwarks of the dam, and the river below.

Rattlesnake Viewpoint. Best Hiking Trails in Southern California
Rattlesnake Viewpoint. Best Hiking Trails in Southern California

Slot Canyon Trail Anza Borrego

Anza Borrego is full of dramatic colorful canyons, big horn sheep, and stunning desert landscapes. And Anza Borrego Desert State Park is a Paleontologists’ dream! But the petro glyphs and fossils are not the only extraordinary thing here.

Slot trail is an amazing trek that takes you through some of the most earthly tall and narrow pathways. Once you’ve slithered through the narrow wash, there is a large open area. In front of you is the result of water and erosion of earth faults that caused hardened sediments to rise up and tilt. This natural activity occurred over millions of years causing mountains to shift and become higher.

The Slot Trail in Anza Borrego. Best Hiking Trails in Southern California
The Slot Trail in Anza Borrego. Best Hiking Trails in Southern California

Ryan Mountain Trail at Joshua Tree National Park

The California desert consists of some of the most diverse and stunning landscapes in the west. The popular Joshua Tree National Park offers endless outdoor recreation. Ryan Mountain Trail is short in distance and includes some truly amazing open desert viewpoints.

As you begin hiking on the rock steps you will slowly begin to breathe a little heavier the further you go. It is one of the highest peaks in the park. This trail includes a vast diversity of foliage and desert shrubs that accompany you along the route.

Hiking trails in Joshua Tree National Park
Hiking trails in Joshua Tree National Park

The Southern California best hiking trails experience

Describing the hiking experience in California is not difficult to explain. Although its trails can be some of the most diverse, unique and spectacular to explore, they all do have a few features in common.

These characteristics include the following: leaves fluttering in the wind, birds singing from above, and the smell of eucalyptus in the air. Together with its pleasant climate, rolling hills, and stunning mountains; California is the perfect place to experience amazing outdoor hiking! 

Make sure to also check out our post on Hiking Along the San Andreas Fault in Southern California


Tsitsikamma National Park Hiking Trails

The Tsitsikamma National Park is situated in the heart of the famous Garden Route in South Africa. The park offers some fine coastal scenery and sometimes the option of whale-watching.

There are some pretty amazing Tsitsikamma hikes that allow you to explore this beautiful national park on foot.

Tsitsikamma is a Khoisan (early inhabitants of the area) word meaning, “place of much water.” They probably referred to the average annual rainfall of 1200mm.

Check out our gear guide to hiking.

Tsitsikamma hikes, South Africa
Tsitsikamma National Park hikes

Tsitsikamma hikes: The most popular hiking trails

Nature – Storms River suspension bridge

The forest walkway to the bridge has recently been upgraded and the development of a circular route with some more suspension bridges is underway.

Short Tsitsikamma hikes

Here’s two short trails (no fees or permits needed):

  • Mouth Trail. 1km, a linear route. Walk from the Park’s Restaurant to the Suspension Bridge, the key feature of the Tsitsikamma National Park, a long free-hanging bridge. It can often be seen on photographs, advertising the Tsitsikamma.
  • Viewpoint Trail. Walk past the Suspension Bridge, 2km, linear route. The first part is a pretty steep climb, towards the viewpoint it becomes a more gentle slope. You get a nice view of the Indian Ocean, the mouth, the bridge and the restcamp.
  • Waterfall Trail. First half day hike of the famous Otter trail, starting at the Oceannettes on the eastern side of the restcamp. 6,4km to the waterfall and back, just over 3 hours (a linear route). The latest starting time in summer 2:30PM and in winter 1:30PM. The hike is marked as difficult, due to uneven and slippery terrain. Take along your swimming gear for a refreshing dive under the waterfall, which marks the half way point. 
  • Loerie Trail. Starts a little bit east of the restaurant, a small walk past a viewpoint, offering only ocean views. 1,5km and circular. 
  • Blue Duiker Trail. 5,5km and circular. It starts along the Loerie Trail, later turns towards the coastline, following the Waterfall Trail back to the Oceannettes.

Multi day Tsitsikamma hikes

  • Otter Trail. 42km, 5 days and 4 nights with good overnight huts. You have to book ahead. Bookings can be taken a year in advance, which means that there are often last minute cancellations, so it’s always worth seeing if you can get in at the last minute. Bring your own food and sleeping bags. You do not need tents. You need to be fairly fit as the trail follows the cliffs and hills along the coastline, dipping down to the rivers. What goes down must come up… It’s beautiful and only 12 people are allowed on any one part of the hike, so it really is unspoilt and worth doing. Be prepared for a difficult river crossing on day three. Please check with the parks officials when low tide is and ask for advice on getting over the river.
  • Tsitsikamma Trail. Hike from Nature’s Valley through the Tsitsikamma Mountains to Storms River. You can choose to walk 2 to 6 days, with or without porterage. If you want to walk just a section, just a day it appears to be possible as well. Visit their website.

Visiting The Garden Route? Check out these posts:


Hiking in Hong Kong: Easy & Beautiful Trails

Despite being a large, bustling city, Hong Kong is an excellent place to get outdoors in nature!

Since ~70% of Hong Kong’s land is covered in greenery and country parks, hiking is a popular activity for locals and expats. Often the trails have gorgeous views and lead to some spectacular destinations.

On your next Hong Kong trip, I highly recommend trying a hike to experience Hong Kong’s outdoors and see some beautiful nature.

 

Here are three easy, yet beautiful trails to get you started!

1. Quarry Bay Tree Walk

Distance: 3.2 km / 2 miles

The Quarry Bay Tree Walk is an easy trail through the forests behind the Quarry Bay neighborhood on eastern Hong Kong Island. Start at the Taikoo MTR station (exit B) then walk west on King’s Road. Turn onto Greig Road and walk up until you reach the Tree Walk.

The trail is mostly paved and has a slight elevation gain (124 m/406 ft). Along the way, you’ll encounter remnants of the Wartime Communal Kitchens (listed as Wartime Stoves on Google). These kitchens were used during the second world war in Hong Kong as an influx of refugees after the fall of Canton led to increase of food demands.

Continue along the Quarry Bay Tree Walk until you reach Mount Parker Road. At this point, you can turn and head back down towards Quarry Bay or choose another trail for a longer hike.

 

2. Dragon’s Back Hike

Distance: 5.4 km / 3.4 miles

The Dragon’s Back hike is a meandering ridge trail located in Shek O Country Park in southeastern Hong Kong Island. Because the trail is on a ridge, you’ll have spectacular views of the sea and Hong Kong’s south side as you hike.

To get there, ride the MTR to Shau Kei Wan station (exit A3) then take the number 9 bus to the trailhead. The first part of the hike is a gradual climb up to the ridge. Once you reach the ridge, you’ll be able to see Shek O Beach off to the right and Tai Tam Bay on the left. The trail undulates across the “dragon’s back” for ~2 km (1.25 mi) and offers amazing views. Some days you’ll find paragliders setting up for flight on the hillside.

Once you’re finished the ridge, you’ll descend into a forest and have a flat and shady walk for the remainder of the trail. At the end of the trail, turn left to head back to the road to catch the bus.

If you’d like a longer hike, turn right and continue on to Big Wave Bay (~2 km extra). The descent to Big Wave Bay is rather steep and consists mostly of stairs.

 

3. Sai Wan Pavilion to Ham Tin Beach in Sai Kung

Distance: 5.1 km / 3.2 miles

Although it’s a bit difficult to get to this hike, the views and secluded beaches along this hike make it worth the effort!

The hike from Sai Wan Pavilion to Ham Tin Beach is located in Sai Kung East Country Park in New Territories. To get there, you’ll need to take a combination of MTR and bus to Sai Kung town. Once you arrive in town, you can take a taxi to the Sai Wan Pavilion.

The trail begins along the stunningly turquoise High Island Reservoir. Even on a cloudy day, the color of this water never ceases to amaze me. Most of the first part of the trail is flat or downhill until you reach Sai Wan Beach – the first of four gorgeous beaches in Sai Kung East Country Park.

At this point, you could stop your hike. I prefer to continue to Ham Tin Beach – the second beach – which is larger and even more beautiful. Both beaches have restaurants, toilet facilities, beach equipment for rent, and places to purchase boat tickets to return to Sai Kung town.

 

Any Questions?

Do you have any questions about hiking in Hong Kong or these three beautiful hikes? Please let me know in the comments below!

If you’re looking for other Hong Kong hikes or tips on traveling to Hong Kong, be sure to check out the Becky Exploring blog.