Top 5 Rated Hiking Trails in SoCal

With the nice spirts of sunny days coming about, hiking can be an easy way to go out for some sun to enjoy yourself while getting in that light exercise you need! Here are 5 top spots you might want to check out if you’ve been craving some fun light adventure:


1. Solstice Canyon Trail, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

Solstice Canyon Trail

An hour’s drive from Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, Solstice Canyon provides a vibrant sagebrush environment with views of the ocean. The multi-use Solstice Canyon Trail stretches for a mile to explore the riparian habitat from the parking area near the Pacific Coast Highway, including notable trail markers like a perennial waterfall and the Robert Ranch House ruins. For a more difficult hike, the Rising Sun Trail can be connected to the Solstice Canyon Trail for a steep four-mile loop.

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2. Bridge to Nowhere, Angeles National Forest

Bridge to Nowhere

Following the banks of the East Fork of the San Gabriel River, this 10-mile round trip is a quintessential hike of Southern California. Traversing a scenic canyon and the attempted path of a highway connecting the San Gabriel Valley with Wrightwood, all that remains of this washed-away road is the impressive bridge spanning the “Narrows” part of the canyon. To beat the summer heat, hikers can enjoy the refreshing waters of the San Gabriel River much of the way to the bridge and back.

Flash flooding occurs along the route, and the trail crosses the San Gabriel River at least a dozen times. Hikers will want to avoid trekking to the Bridge to Nowhere when water levels are high, or any speculation of a storm is in the forecast. For a unique capstone experience of visiting the Bridge to Nowhere, one of the few bungee jumping companies in California offers their breath-taking services on the side of the bridge on the weekends.

3. San Jacinto Peak, Mount San Jacinto State Park

Mount San Jacinto

Located east of Los Angeles near Palm Springs, the 10,834-foot Mount San Jacinto is one of the tallest mountains in Southern California. The state park surrounding San Jacinto offers many trails to explore, and for those looking to hike to the top, one of the most popular routes includes starting with a ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Delivering hikers within 2,400-feet of the summit, the Round Valley Trail is the most frequented summit trail from the Upper Terminal of the mountain station.

Other ways to reach the summit of Mount San Jacinto include trekking on the country-spanning Pacific Crest Trail from the mountain town of Idyllwild. One of the best small towns in California, Idyllwild is a great base camp for exploring Mount San Jacinto State Park and the surrounding San Bernardino National Forest.

For a very strenuous hike to the top, the formidable Cactus to Clouds Trail, also known as the Skyline Ridge Route, spans 14 miles from the desert floor to the top of the mountain. One of the more challenging hikes of Southern California, the Cactus to Clouds Trail should be attempted by experienced and prepared hikers only.

4. Switzer Falls, Angeles National Forest

Switzer Falls

In the San Gabriel Mountains, Switzer Falls is one of the most popular waterfall hikes in Southern California. Beginning at the Switzer Falls Picnic Area, hikers hop on the Gabrielino Trail to reach the two-tier Switzer Falls. Opportunities to soak in the Arroyo Seco line the entire route. The lower section of the falls is two miles down the trail, and the upper section of the falls requires a challenging quarter-mile scramble with exposed rock ledges.

Address: 701 Angeles Crest Highway, Tujunga, Calfironia

Official site:

5. Skull Rock, Joshua Tree National Park Editor’s Pick

Skull Rock | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Departing from the Jumbo Rocks Campground within Joshua Tree National Park—one of the best campgrounds in Southern California—the trail to Skull Rock immediately plunges visitors into a boulder-strewn desert environment. An assortment of desert flowers and cactus line the route to Skull Rock, with interpretive information about the various flora along the way. While the 1.7-mile loop from the campground is all about the journey itself, the actual Skull Rock formation offers a fun photo opportunity.

If the time and heat of the day allows, more eye-catching boulder formations can be found by navigating the Split Rock Trail from Skull Rock. The rest of the Joshua Tree National Park encompasses weeks and months of other hiking trails, including routes that lead to spring-fed oases, Hidden Valleys, and other high points like Ryan Mountain. To spend the night near Skull Rock, reservations are recommended for the Jumbo Rocks Campground during fall and spring peak seasons.

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