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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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