Guide to the Best Hiking Trails & Beach Hikes in Orange County

A view of the ocean from a hiking trail in Orange County, CA.

If you’re looking for a change of pace from the usual Orange County hustle and bustle, then take a hike! We mean that in the nicest, most literal way possible.

Orange County offers an extensive selection of amazing hiking trails and beach hikes, some of the best in the state of California. There are hiking trails that range from family-friendly easy hikes to more advanced level ones. But they all share one thing in common, and that is you simply can’t beat the views.

Many trails in Orange County (especially near the beach) are also surrounded by million-dollar homes for you to feast your eyes on as you trek down these paths. 

So if you’re worried about not being able to enjoy the views while you get your exercise in, no need!

Since Orange County is so big, the list is almost endless when trying to narrow down what can be considered the best trails. However, we’re here to present you with five of our favorite beach hikes and trails of varying difficulties. 


Peter’s Canyon Trail

Level: Moderate 


Located in the city of Orange, Peter’s Canyon is enveloped by 340 acres of various habitats and terrains. One thing this trail is known for is the sheer amount of beautiful scenery and amazing wildlife that lives in this area.

While hiking on foot is the main form of transporting oneself, you can also ride your bike and even bring your horse!


Park Hours: 7 am to sunset


Parking Fee: $3 daily



Harding Falls Trail

Level: Advanced


Although this nearly 7-mile hiking trail near the Cleveland National Forest is gorgeous, it’s definitely not the easiest trail in the world. This trek includes a number of elements you need to be able to navigate including a harder than usual to navigate path, scattered boulders, and streams.

This hike is said to take a few hours from start to finish so be sure to block out at least the first half of your day. Next to hiking, you can participate in some fantastic bird watching. There have also been reports of poison oak so be sure to carry some anti-histamine.

This is one trail that might be challenging for the family, but for able bodied adventurers, it’s worth the journey to end.

Hint. There’s a waterfall at the end of the hike.


Parking: Free


Crystal Cove State Park

Level: Moderate


Located between Laguna Beach and Corona Del Mar, this moderate level hike is a perfect way to spend your afternoon. There are a total of 31 trails at this park, so being able to find one at your level won’t be a problem. The park is also complete with a total of 18 majestic miles of trails and 2,400 acres of stunning wilderness (you don’t have to walk that entire distance, of course.)

There are both high and low trails for you to explore, with their own distinct attributes. Some trails have steep ascents and descents so be sure to come prepared with hiking shoes. 

Soak up the sun and get some great views of the ocean and Catalina Island as you make your trek across this beautiful and serene part of Orange County.


Parking: $15 


Hourly Parking Rate? 

  • $5 per hour ($15 max)



Salt Creek Trail

Level: Easy


This 7.6-mile trek in Dana Point/Laguna Niguel is an easy, family-friendly hike and also comes with some stellar scenery, including views of the ocean. People have even said that this trail is more of a nature walk because it’s surrounded by some amazing wildlife and wilderness.

This trail is well paved for low impact walking or running. People are also able to bring their dogs but they must be on a leash.

While some say that the trail may be a bit of a challenge in the beginning due to the uphill terrain, it tapers off afterward and becomes flatter.


Parking: Free


Casper’s Wilderness Park

Difficulty: Moderate


This 8,000-acre wilderness preserve and hiking area is located in San Juan Capistrano, CA. What makes this park special is the fact that you can actually camp here and feel like you’re in another world, even when you’re just a few miles from the city.

While you can hike here, there are also many trails fit for bikers and horseback riding. Casper’s also offers guided nature walks for an even better experience.


Parking: $3 per day


Day Use: 7 am to sunset


Staying in Orange County and looking the perfect way to spend your day or weekend? The Hotel ATRIUM is conveniently located directly across the street from John Wayne Airport and just a short distance from Orange County hiking trails. If you’re looking for even more things to do around Orange County during your stay, check out our attractions page. Book your Orange County stay with Hotel Atrium today!


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irvine, ca 92612

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