A couple weeks back I was just sitting at the base of Bonita Falls relaxing and thinking about how much awesome stuff we have here in Southern California that nobody knows about. While I was sitting there I was struck by how many awesome bloggers there are in our little area of the country trying to get people outside and trying to show why the next generation should be experiencing the summit of Mt Baldy or the waterfalls of San Diego instead of playing Call of Duty. So I thought it may be cool to create one big interview with as many as I could connect with. I was blown away by how many responded and in turn have created this epic post with 11 outdoor lovers that answer everything from the best places in Southern California to tips for new hikers. Dig into this post and be sure to share it with your friends. I have a couple new ideas on my list just from reading through the comments. Lastly, we would all love to hear your ideas if you leave a comment at the bottom of the post. Thanks, and enjoy the Big SoCal Hiking Bloggers Interview!
- Pete - East West Hike / /
- Casey – Modern Hiker / /
- Derek - 100 Peaks / /
- Jeff H - SoCal Hiker / /
- Jeff G – Greene Adventures / /
- David - Nobody Hikes in LA
- Kam – Campfire Chic / /
- Seth – Hikespeak / /
- Traci – WalkSimply / /
- Chris – LastAdventurer /
- Josh (author) – OPAdventureTeam and CaliforniaThroughMyLens /
- Zac- OPAdventureTeam /
- When did you start hiking or develop a love for the outdoors?
- What is the one thing that draws you back to the outdoors?
- What is your favorite outdoor place you have ever visited? (doesn’t have to be California)
- What is the best tip you can give to a first time hiker?
- What is your one piece of essential gear?
- What is the least essential piece of gear you own?
- What is the best hike in Southern California and why?
- Any crazy hiking stories you would like to share?
When did you start hiking or develop a love for the outdoors?
Pete - My love of hiking really started later in life. My dad tried to get me into hiking as a teenager and as we all know, if your parents try to get you into ANYTHING when you are a teenager, you aren’t going to do it. However, as I aged, I got closer to my father and started getting into the things he was into (the Adirondacks, hiking, mini hot dogs, etc.) and started hiking for realz about 4 years ago. My mania for it has only been increasing over the years.
Casey – I’d always appreciated the outdoors, but I was definitely not an outdoorsy kid growing up. I actually didn’t even start hiking until after I moved out to Southern California back in 2003. I remember being really struck by the beauty of the Santa Monica Mountains, but there was one day in particular that really got me going. I moved here during the summer and it was pretty smoggy out most of the time – visibility was extremely low. On one winter afternoon after a rain storm, I was driving east from West L.A. on the 10 and saw, for the first time, the snow-covered San Gabriels. That weekend, I drove up to the Angeles Crest Highway and my jaw dropped. I started hiking every weekend pretty much right after that.
David – I enjoyed hiking as a kid growing up in New England, but never really did it much as an adult. I moved to California in 1999 and got pretty busy with my work. Then my mother died from cancer in November of 2007, and to compound matters, I was going through a divorce. Spending the holidays for myself for the first time in close to a decade caused me to realize that I needed to plan a fun activity to take my mind off everything. That fun activity was the San Juan Loop Trail, a short hike in the Cleveland National Forest. I had a great time, and started trying to find more hikes. Before I knew it, I was obsessed with hiking.
Jeff G- As a kid growing up in Indiana, our family used to go camping every summer. I don’t know if it is because we couldn’t afford “real” vacations, or because my parents loved to camp, but I always loved our camping trips, and my kids now love it, too. I also grew up fishing and hunting with my dad, which helped me learn to develop an eye for the outdoors, rivers, lakes, and terrain. Later in life, my wife convinced me that there was nothing wrong with hiking for the sake of hiking, without having to pretend I was merely unsuccessfully fishing or hunting.
Chris – I started hiking when I was about 5 or 6. I can’t say that it was an immediate love, but it grew on me really fast.
Seth – Growing up in rural Upstade New York, I spent a lot of my childhood in the woods, swimming in ponds, and playing in creeks. My family took annual summer trips to the Adirondack Mountains, where I would hike, camp, and canoe. It was in the amazing Adirondacks that my love of the outdoors really took root.
Derek – My family went on trips to Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park when I was a kid. We’d stay in a cabin and go on hikes every day. That planted the seed. Then I joined the Scouts and went on backpacking trips. Even though these trips were very difficult and I’d sometimes wonder why I chose to do it, I would always come back from them a changed person. I would instantly long to get back into the outdoors.
Jeff H- I first started hiking with the Boy Scouts. I was living in Indiana at the time, and loved being outdoors. The idea of exploring the wilderness piqued my sense of adventure. My family moved to Irvine when I was sixteen, and the youth group at our local church planned a number of backpacking trips. After the often-flat terrain of the midwest, I was thrilled for the opportunity to hike in real mountains. I was forever hooked.
Kam - I developed a love for the outdoors from a young age. There are photos of me as a baby in one of those backpack carriers on my dad’s back as he fished in Owen’s Valley, video of me carrying my teddy bear around the campsite as I “helped” set up the tent, and I remember being so excited to use some ski poles while hiking to Rainbow Falls while my brother rode in the backpack carrier. Needless to say, I’ve been hiking for a very, very long time.
Josh – When I was younger I used to travel a lot with my family. One of the first hikes I went on was to the top of San Gorgonio with my pops; however, I would say my love for hiking developed more within the last 4 years when I started getting back into it and couldn’t get enough. Shout out to Casey on this one for providing all the great spots on ModernHiker and helping me get back into it.
Traci - Growing up in a beach town I have spent my entire life outdoors swimming and playing sports. Being outdoors is a way of life in Southern California. My parents took us camping and on MANY road trips across the country often to National Parks. I have hiked here and there my entire life, but it became a serious hobby in my adult years. My sister really got me back into it and now she’s my favorite hiking partner.
Zac – I have always loved the outdoors but Hiking has more recently become a hobby as of the last few years. Our location in Southern California and ease of simply getting up, jumping in your car to head into the mountains/beaches/deserts and hitting the trail is a fantastic and easy way to spend a day.
What is the one thing that draws you back to the outdoors?
Pete - For me what is drawing me more and more into the outdoors is simply the counterpoint to my everyday work life. My work has 3 and 1/2 walls (don’t ask) but the mountains put up no barriers. The air is stuffy in the office, in the Angeles it is crisp and pine scented. Finally, I sit all day and we all have heard about the studies that have come out about THAT. Hiking gets me moving in a wall-less environment that is pine scented, that is what draws me into the outdoors.
Jeff G -I’m a country boy at heart. I’m easily annoyed by crowds, traffic congestion, and the urban jungle, so getting out into the wilderness where you can enjoy the sounds and smells of God’s creation rather than the 91 Freeway makes me very, very, happy.
Casey – Over time, I realized people go into the outdoors for many reasons. Some go to hunt or fish. Others go for a fitness challenge or adrenaline rush. I’m a huge geography and history nerd, so I definitely love exploring all the strange things SoCal’s tectonic nature do to the terrain. The San Gabriels are some of the fastest rising AND eroding mountains in the world, so we’re surrounded by really fascinating landscapes. One of the generic sales-pitches for L.A is the old saying “I can go skiing in the morning and be at the beach for sunset,” but it’s really true – there are so many different things we can get to on a day-trip that it never gets old. We have coastal canyons, mountain ranges, high and low deserts, and several National Parks all within striking distance. But beyond the variety, for the most part I keep going back for the meditative aspects of hiking – that’s why I usually go alone and almost never listen to music when I’m hiking. We’re so surrounded by stimuli during the rest of our lives that it’s refreshing to just be enveloped by the natural world instead. I really like cities, but it’s really important for me to get some alone-time with nature to reset my mental health, and there’s nothing like a good, long walk in the woods for that.
David – The solitude, the beauty and variety of nature, wanting to remind myself that there’s more to life than day to day annoyances and stress.
Seth – When I moved to Los Angeles, I found that while I enjoyed living in the city, I needed to get out of the concrete jungle from time to time to go for a hiking or camping trip. Once I started hiking around LA, I discovered that there were great trails all around the city and outdoor destinations to explore all over Southern California. California is an amazing state for outdoor lovers. You don’t need to travel far from your front door to be in a beautiful natural setting.
Chris – The one thing that draws me back to the outdoors is the adventure. There is always something new to see and to experience.
Derek – Citing one thing is hard. Silence would be up there. Or, rather, the lack of industrialized noise. Recently, I climbed a mile or so up a trail away from the highway, just north of Ojai, and I was blessed with silence so complete, that a bird’s chirp startled me. Other runners-up would be the smell of sage and other SoCal vegetation. Since I am addicted to getting to the peaks of mountains, I’d say the thrill of summiting is another lure of the outdoors.
Jeff H- This may sound a little granola-ish, but being outdoors really energizes me. When I am outdoors, I am reminded who I am, what I am capable of, and my place in the universe.
Kam - Honestly? I’m sitting here, in my cubicle right now thinking about this…and it’s the sound of my boots on the trail. You can’t replicate that in the office, in the commute home, or even as I walk to my apartment. It’s a sound I only hear when I’m outdoors. That satisfying crunch. That hollow sound as my boots hit rocks while I scramble across a water crossing…all of it.
Josh – For me it is the peacefulness. Southern California life leads to a super fast paced and stressful toll and being able to escape that an breathe the fresh air helps me clear my head.
Traci – First, the scenery. Second, I’m not a fan of crowded spaces. The outdoors tends to be the least crowded places in Orange County, CA.
Zac – The overall beauty and complexity of our world. I can find rest, wonder, awe all by stepping out my door.
What is your favorite outdoor place you have ever visited? (doesn’t have to be California)
Pete - I could say Yosemite but that is boring because a lot of people say Yosemite. I could say Joshua Tree but you know that is a lie (it is). My favorite outdoor place is stepped in sentimentality but it is sitting on some Adirondack chairs looking out over Long Lake near the Adirondack Hotel (if you know Long Lake, you know what I be talking about). It is not a trail, it is not a peak but it is particular view in a particular place. You overlook a beautiful and long lake. There are float planes to your right. You are probably snacking on an ice cream cone from the aptly named Colonel Custard. To your left, a bridge and road going into the woods filled with cabins and a cool restaurant. Sure cell service is terrible but that is the point of a place like that. My favorite outdoor place I have ever visited.
Jeff G- Tough question! I love the Mammoth Lakes area year-round, and we have really enjoyed our trips to the Canadian and American Rockies, and the Smokies, but the place I go back every year with my buddies is a place in the High Sierras between Yosemite and King’s Canyon National Parks. I always say it has 90% of the scenery of Yosemite and a fraction of one percent of the crowds. My write-up is here
Casey – Wow, talk about Sophie’s Choice! I really can’t answer that question – to me, every region, every park, every trail has its own unique personality – its own strengths and weaknesses. I DID just come back from a three week road / camping trip of the parks around southern Utah and northern Arizona, though, and I can say there are some pretty amazing places out there. When I saw Delicate Arch in person for the first time, I was so struck by it I literally had to sit down for about 20 minutes.
Seth – My favorite place is usually wherever I went last. Overall through, Yosemite National Park is hard to beat. I am constantly amazed by the High Sierra. Outside of California, Mount Rainier National Park and Glacier National Park are two of my favorites.
David – In California, the San Bernardino National Forest, the Laguna Mountains of San Diego and Yosemite are probably my favorites, although there are so many great places it’s hard to pick. Outside California, I love Crater Lake in Oregon and the Bitterroots in Montana. The most unusual place I’ve been is probably Churchill, Manitoba, a town on the Hudson Bay in Canada.
Chris – The favorite outdoor place I’ve ever visited is the South Island, New Zealand. There is so much mind-blowing scenery there it is out of control.
Derek – My most-visited place is Joshua Tree National Park. I’ve been visiting it since it was a National Monument. However, the place that left the most impact on me was Miter Basin. Even though I was only in it for a day, hiking through the basin, being towered over by granite giants with no other humans for miles, was a truly incredible experience. I am considering visiting Miter Basin again this Summer.
Jeff H – My favorite place is still Yosemite. I remember the first time I entered Yosemite Valley, emerging from the tunnel and being completely awestruck by the grandeur and beauty. Every time I return, it still amazes me.
Kam - Mammoth Lakes, California. I only like going during the summer because there is so much to do! My family camped there every year from when I was able to walk through high school. My outdoor adventures slowed down while I was an undergrad, and then full steam ahead once I graduated. Mammoth with always have a special place in my heart, I have very fond memories of pulling over on the trail for a quick snack of Vienna sausage and trail mix, having way too many bear encounters, sharing the area with my cross-country friends while we trained up there during the summer, and bringing my boyfriend there now to share my love for the town and the trails.
Josh – I would have to say Yosemite is my favorite place that I keep visiting over and over again. For me it is my thin place (place where I feel closest to heaven on Earth) and there is something about that first view when you exit the tunnel and see Half Dome that no place on Earth can compare to for me. It was even more amazing to be able to snowshoe there this winter.
Traci – This is a hard question for me to answer. I tend to love each place I visit for one reason or another. My top three in the last few years are Crater Lake National Park, the redwoods in northern California, and Lake Tahoe area.
Zac – I will simply call it The Ranch, its a ranch in Northern California, one of the best places ever.
What is the best tip you can give to a first time hiker?
Pete - For a hiker here in SoCal all I can say is wear sunblock and long sleeves. The sun is different here then where I came from in Upstate New York and you are going to suffer through a lot of sunburns until you learn about protecting yourself. For a beginning hiker in general I would say don’t bite off more than you can chew, start small and local and see if you like it. No reason to get all this gear and go on trips so massive they have to be called “expeditions” in order to enjoy the outdoors, it really can be experienced at your local nature walk.
Jeff G – I’m going to cheat and give two– 1) Decent footwear, and 2) Plenty of fluids. I can’t believe how many people we see hiking in Southern California in flip flops, Vans, or (God forbid) Crocs without even a single water bottle to be seen! You don’t need $200 Vasques, but even a $30 pair of Hi-Tecs will give you enough ankle support, traction, and cushion to hike all but the most severe trails, and in Southern California, if you don’t have more water/gatorade/sports drink than you think you need, you can get in trouble very quickly. There are lots of exposed, hot, and dry trails in Southern California that are great to hike, but only if you’re prepared.
Casey – Don’t be intimidated by it! If you just start Googling information about hikes, you’ll be convinced you’re going to get bitten by a rattlesnake, mauled by a bear, then dragged off to a mountain lion den the first time you stray from a crowded path in Griffith Park. Sure, there are some precautions you have to take, but remember – hiking is basically just walking around for a long time outside! Here’s a little piece of info I offer up to anyone who asks me if I’m worried about any of those outdoor hazards – you’re statistically MUCH more likely to get injured driving on L.A. streets to the trailhead than you are while actually hiking.
Seth – Stop waiting. Take a friend and plenty of water. Have fun. Hopefully it won’t be too long until your second hike.
Chris – The best tip I can give to a first time hiker is to be prepared. Have the 10 essentials, and be ready to have a good time.
Derek – Do some research before you go. The more comfortable and reasonable your first hike is, the more likely you will return for more. Read some books and get used to some of the terminology, and also choose a trail that matches your current fitness level. Be honest with yourself and take small steps as you get used to hiking. For Southern California, the late great ‘s books know no equal. If you are getting into the Santa Barbara area, there is no better resource than the relatively new by Craig Carey.
Jeff H – Remember to “hike your own hike.” When I was thru-hiking the John Muir Trail in 2010, I met Reinhold Metzger. It was late in the day, and the sun had just dipped below the mountains. We had just come over the 12,100′ Mather Pass, heading south and looking for a good spot to camp for the night. Reinhold was headed north. We stopped and chatted, and it turns out Reinhold used to hold the speed record for an unsupported thru-hike of the JMT (5 days, 10 hours) — something he set at the age of 61. Some of my friends would argue that my own 22-day pace was sedentary by comparison. Others would suggest that Metzger was going much too fast to enjoy the trail. The truth was, we were each hiking our own hike.
David – The single biggest piece of advice I’d give hikers is to put it on the calendar, or else it won’t happen. Block off a morning, an afternoon or a whole day, even if you don’t know where you’re going. If you don’t, other things will get in the way – calls, emails, errands, high maintenance friends. Even if you don’t live near any trails, or are intimidated about getting out into the wilderness, take a walk at a local park. The air and exercise will do you good. And for every Mt. Baldy or San Jacinto, there are tons of local neighborhood trails that are easy and accessible, and are great places to shake the dust off and forget your day to day worries.
Kam - Bring water. The biggest mistake I see is when new hikers think that bringing a water bottle is a “amateur” thing to do, especially on shorter hikes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve handed over an extra bottle to a newer hiker because they left their bottle in the car or didn’t bring any with them at all. Don’t think you’ll look dumb carrying your bottle of Aquafina, you’ll look dumb as you pass out from dehydration.
Traci – Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drink lots of water the day before the hike, the day of the hike, and after the hike.
Zac – Variety, mix it up, hike in the mountains, in the valleys, at the beaches and in the desserts, don’t stay in the same place too long.
Josh – I would say hike to somewhere with a destination. While hikes just through the forest or desert are great, having a destination like a waterfall or peak makes you really excited about what you have accomplished and will help to develop the love. Bring more water then you need as well. I guess that is two tips!
What is your one piece of essential gear?
Pete - I could say this technical thing or this old thing I have had forever but if I have to have one thing, it is my bandanna. Cheap, cotton (oh noes, will I dies if I use it?) but provides coverage of my neck from the sun, a sweatband for my head and a towel if I need it. It does it “all” (well at least those 3 things) and I never hike without it. I switch up shirts, switch up pants, try out different sunglasses but the bandanna stays.
Jeff G- Since I cheated above, I won’t cheat again and claim my daypack (loaded with first aid gear, survival kit, snacks, Gatorade, etc) as a single piece of essential gear, and because I just said decent footwear above as well, I’m going to go with my breathable straw cowboy hat, to protect my head, neck, face, and eyes from the sun. Unless it’s going to rain (in which case I wear my boonie hat), I always wear my straw cowboy hat when hiking.
Casey – The right pair of boots definitely make a HUGE difference on the trail. I have a few different pairs depending on where the trail is, what kinds of obstacles I’m going to face, and what time of the year it is. I have my favorite brands and styles, but it’s really about finding out whatever works and feels best for you. Other than that, having some sort of hydration system in your backpack is probably the next best thing to spend money on.
Chris – Water. No matter if it is hot or cold, you need water. It is the ultimate essential.
Seth – I have a Camelbak day pack with a big 100oz reservoir that I take everywhere I go. It has big pouches for all the other essential (and unessential) things I carry.
Derek – A bladder hydration pack. I used to think everyone had one, but the more I hike in popular places, the more I see people hiking with water bottles buried (or falling out of) their packs. Water is most effective if you are actually drinking it, and I see so many people not stop for a sip of water because they don’t want to remove their backpacks to get to their bottles. With a bladder hydration pack, you’ll drink much more water and be much stronger on the trail, especially in the Southern California Summers. I’ve hiked miles in 90F weather and, with the proper clothing and enough water, I was pretty comfortable.
Jeff H- This isn’t one of the Ten Essentials, but the one thing that I never hike without is a camera — usually my iPhone. Whether it’s a short hike on a suburban trail like the Roller Coaster Ridge in south Orange County, or bagging the tallest mountain in Southern California, I always take photos. Photos are a great way to remember your hikes, but for me, I love to share the experience. It’s my hope that my photos help inspire someone to put on a pair of hiking shoes and hit the trail.
David – My single most valuable piece of equipment isn’t actually gear, per se; it’s a Smartphone app called EveryTrail. There’s a free version that I use on my Droid and it can also be used on the iPhone. It tracks the route of your hike with GPS technology, including your elevation and miles per hour. You can see the map as a satellite view, road view or topographic view. A lot of pre-existing trails are already recognized by its mapping software, so it’s a great navigational tool, and it also works as a compass. You can upload your hikes to their website, and download other peoples’ hikes, and its also used for biking, walking, rock climbing, boating and more. It’s not perfect, but considering that it’s free, it’s hard to complain.
Kam - It isn’t too hi-tech, or even that fancy, to be honest…my essential piece of hiking gear is my Flash Pack 18 from REI. It is a simple sheath backpack with almost no bells and whistles, but that thing has been super reliable for me. There are just enough pockets inside for my car keys, water reservoir, and some snacks, plenty of room to stow a small first aid kit, lunch, and my layers as the day goes on. The daisy chains down the front aren’t super strong, but I can hook my paracord bracelet and compass to them without worrying. Heck, I can even turn the back inside out, stuff it with a sweater, and turn it into a pillow if I bring it backpacking.
Traci – My trail runners.
Zac – Some decent sports underwear, don’t go hiking without them.
Josh – For me it’s my camera. I hate not having it with me when I experience something awesome. I love being able to capture beautiful pictures and share them with others to help develop there love for the outdoors as well, so I never hike without it.
What is the least essential piece of gear you own?
Pete - Bungee cords. Why I ever bought them is anyone’s guess but I have used them exactly zero times. I may use them at some point to hang up my gear to dry out but I have no place to hang up the gear at my apartment so I would dare say this falls under “least essential”.
David – Because of EveryTrail, I hardly use my compass at all. Most of the hikes I do are day hikes on well marked trails, so even before I started using EveryTrail, I rarely used my compass. I realize there are some people out there who would probably disagree, and if I did more wilderness trekking and overnighters I’d use the compass more.
Jeff G – Probably my fire starter set, which I always have in my survival kit. It is hard even for me to come up with a scenario where I would need to use it on a day hike in Southern California, even if I got stuck somewhere overnight (especially since I also have a double wide survival blanket in my kit).
Chris – Hmmm least essential. Can’t think of one. I use pretty much everything I have. Wait wait, I’ve got it. Camping plates and bowls. I always end up eating out of a container.
Derek – My gaiters. The only times I’ve been tempted to use them have been on serious bushwhacking excursions, but they remain sparkling new in my hiking container that I take in and out of my car, completely unused.
Jeff H – Snowshoes! I bought snowshoes a while back, but here in Southern California, unless you live in the mountains, the stars need to align for a chance to use them. You have to travel to an area that gets snow, but you also have to make sure there is adequate snow, as conditions change quickly. And all of that has to work with your schedule. So most of the time they aren’t really essential. This year, the stars aligned and we finally went snowshoeing for the first time. It was a blast. Ask me this question next year and my answer might be very different!
Kam - The geocaching app for iphone. Geocaching is like high-tech treasure hunting and having an app for it is perfect when I don’t plan ahead and bring a list of coordinates with me. Many trails in Southern California are full of these hidden caches and it helps entertain my non-hiker friends while we’re on a long trail. The app acts as my GPS and points me in the direction of whatever is hidden in the wilderness. Sometimes it’s the geocaches I remember than the actual hike!
Traci – My spork. If I lose it or forget it I can eat with my fingers.
Zac – I am a chronic over packer so the lest essential piece of gear is the second knife I typically pack haha.
Josh – I love to buy and try new gear so I have a lot of random things. I would say that I bought these towels you dip in water and they expand to cool you down. It is an awesome idea but I never remember to put them in my pack.
What is the most underrated outdoor area in Southern California?
Pete - I found out about this place about 6 months ago and everyone I talk to likes to use the words “undiscovered gem” for this place and I echo that sentiment in spades. What is this “most underrated” place? It is Monrovia Canyon Park in, you guessed it, Monrovia. The Overturff trail is great (it gets you into the hiking pioneer spirit), the Waterfall trail is great (rugged but accessible and the waterfall is top notch), apparently there are a few other trails and each season offers something new. Wildflowers are probably in bloom now and if you miss the East Coast which I sometimes do for a crazy reason, I can go get my fill of Fall with the awesome colors there. If you haven’t gone, go, if you have gone go again. One thing I will say, park all the way in at the park and pay the $5. You have an option to park on the street and hike a half mile in but don’t do that, give em the fiver, they need it.
Casey – I think MOST of Southern California is underrated by the outdoor community and even Californians in general. Unless you’re talking about a National Park, most people aren’t even aware that you can hike here at all, let alone on some of the most beautiful and tough trails I’ve seen. That was one of the main reasons I started Modern Hiker in the first place. Our city is surrounded by National Forests, within driving distance of five National Parks, and is almost bisected by a National Recreation Area – and that’s not even including Griffith Park, which has some seriously fun and rugged trails crossing its peaks and valleys, too.
David – There are many great outdoor areas in Southern California that get overlooked. One of them is the Channel Islands National Park. It’s hard to get to; you have to take the ferry from Ventura or Santa Barbara, so extra planning is required. The islands are also pretty rugged – there are virtually no facilities, and trash has to be packed out. The smaller islands have no shade trees, and they can get pretty hot during the summer. But if you do a little research and plan your trip well—from extra sunblock to Dramamine for the boat to extra plastic bags for your trash—it can be a great experience. Many people are surprised at how isolated these islands are, considering they’re not that far from the mainland or from L.A.
Chris – Mt. San Jacinto Wilderness. It’s close to two major cities, yet people don’t realize how big it is, and how many opportunities there are for outdoor experiences.
Seth – I think Los Angeles is a very underrated outdoor area in Southern California. While most wouldn’t immediately associate hiking with Los Angeles, the area is filled with great trails. I have written up over 100 hikes in Los Angeles on hikespeak.com and am still finding new corners of Los Angeles County to explore. If you live in Los Angeles and think you need to take a long trip to spend a little time outdoors, you’re missing out!
Derek – There is an area in San Diego, near the infamous Cedar Creek Falls, just Southwest of Julian, that is rarely ever hiked. I’ve had wonderful experiences of solitude whenever I’ve gone out there. So many people try to visit and party at the waterfall, but the rest of the area is undisturbed and beautiful. In spring, the area is so green it will take your breath away. There are views into the San Diego River Gorge that will make you doubt you are in San Diego, especially from Sunshine Mountain.
Jeff H – Anza Borrego State Park. I have always loved the mountains, but the desert never really excited me. I know many people love the desert, so I figured I’d give it a try. Turns out, it’s beautiful and diverse, with mountains, rock formations, slot canyons, mud caves and much more. There’s a lot to enjoy, appreciate and experience in Anza Borrego. And it’s the largest state park in California.
Jeff G -Really, both the Angeles and Cleveland National Forests. Even as a guy who enjoys camping and the outdoors, for the first couple of decades I lived in Southern California, all I knew of the two National Forests was what you could see driving by on the I-5 and the I-15, where my thought was “what the hell kind of forest has no trees???” After marrying Colleen and investigating some of the local hikes, I was shocked to see the trees, canyons, wildlife, waterfalls, streams and rivers that were right there outside of town! The vast majority of the fifteen million people in our region have no idea what kind of amazing natural resources we have right outside of town, and I can’t decide if that is a tremendous tragedy or a beautiful blessing–because they’d probably kill it they did.
Traci – Hmmm. Not sure about this one. There is so much I still haven’t hiked and I’m really not into ratings since I can find reasons to like all hikes, but the San Mateo Wilderness area of the Cleveland National Forest has some fun diverse trails.
Zac – Its underrated because its not open to the public and that’s Lake Mathews, I really hope that open that area up some day.
Josh – I would have to say all of the waterfalls. There are so many in Southern California that I never knew existed and they provide a beautiful way to experience something different in our area. My favorites would be Bonita Falls and Escondido Falls probably but I also made a list of them here.
What is the best hike in Southern California and why?
Here is an infographic I made from the answers. You can see the full answers below it.
Jeff G – I have two favorites. First is Bridge to Nowhere above Azusa, for the multiple river crossings, great canyon geology, interesting history (the surprisingly beautiful arched bridge at the end), the weird LA scene at the end where people are bungee jumping off the bridge, and even the chance to spot a bighorn sheep along the trail. Second would be Devil’s Punchbowl out near Palmdale, which, because of it’s location along the San Andreas Fault, has amazingly scenic geology that is visible almost nowhere else in America–as long as you do it in one of those months that isn’t incredibly hot in the desert.
Pete – The mountain range that keeps calling me back, year after year are the Verdugos. Smack dab in the middle of Glendale, these mountains rise to less than Everest heights but every hike up will test you like Everest and the mountains will give you a range of options to hike. I pride myself on trying not to hike the same trail twice (at least twice in quick succession) but the Verdugos are the glorious exception to that rule.
Casey – There are two local trails that I do over and over again – the Mishe Mokwa Trail to Sandstone Peak and the East Fork to the Bridge to Nowhere. They’re both just great hikes – In the cooler months, the views from Sandstone can stretch out from the Channel Islands to Palos Verdes and the trail gives you a little taste of everything hiking in southern California has to offer: canyons, peaks, riparian canyons, and chaparral. Every summer I lead a much more adventurous hike to the Bridge to Nowhere. It’s full of fun river crossings, there are some great swimming holes at the end, and you’re literally surrounded by history the entire time. Plus, I don’t know anyplace else you can hike five miles in a riverbed, cross a huge concrete arch bridge left over from the late ’30s, then scramble down for a swim and picnic while you watch people bungee jump above you.
Chris – Southern California…hmmm. I’m going to stick with the Goat Canyon Trestle. Amazing adventure/traverse.
Seth – It is impossible to pick the best hike in Southern California (although I’ve tried to put a list together of the best hikes in Los Angeles). Anytime someone comes to visit, I always seem to end up taking them up Cahuenga Peak to the Hollywood Sign. It’s a great hike for anyone new to LA.
Derek – Most people don’t think of the desert when they think of hiking, and since Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the second largest in the country and 1/5th of San Diego County, I recommend a visit. The best hike that I’ve done there is an overnight trip to Villager and Rabbit Peaks. This trip requires some stamina and route-finding, but it is truly magnificent, and offers some of the best desert views that you can get in California.
Jeff H – One of my local areas to hike and backpack is around Mt. San Jacinto. It’s a fantastic way to introduce someone to the outdoors. You can do some great day hikes from Idyllwild, or take the tram up the mountain from Palm Springs. It’s the fastest way to enter a different world, and it reminds me of the alpine forests of the Sierras. I took my daughter on her first backpacking trip there when she was still in diapers (that was fun). The views from atop Mt. San Jacinto are rewarding. And the Marion Mountain trail up Mt. San Jacinto had dozens of rivulets, waterfalls, and even snow up at the top. It is one of the highlights of the Six Pack of Peaks.
David – It’s hard to say what the best hike in Southern California is – there are so many great ones, and with all of the variety, between the mountains, deserts and ocean, it’s like comparing apples to oranges. But the one trip that I consider a “must-do” for anyone even remotely interested in hiking is Sandstone Peak, the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains. It’s a challenging hike to be sure – six miles, about 1,300 feet of elevation gain and some rough terrain – but anyone who’s reasonably fit can do it, and if you’re out of shape, it’s a good goal to shoot for. It’s only an hour or so from L.A., and doesn’t require any special equipment. Unlike Mt. Baldy, it can be done almost any time of year, except during hot summer days, and people sensitive to high altitude shouldn’t have a problem. The scenery is awesome – the ocean, the city, mountains, streams, trees, geology – so get out there and do it!
Kam - I don’t know if it’s the best hike, but the one I can’t stop thinking about and hope to do again this year is the Bridge to Nowhere hike in the Angeles National Forest. For those who are not familiar, it is about 10 miles round trip and the “end point” is literally a bridge that doesn’t go anywhere. You can bungee jump off said bridge, or if you’re like me- watch people jump off the bridge. You follow a river to the bridge and spend a fair amount of the time in the water, which is really nice when you do this hike during the summer. I like a good, long hike that doesn’t gain much elevation and I really enjoy water crossings, no matter how cold and miserable I am later. This is a great hike to take your more active friends who haven’t done much hiking…and bring a lunch! It’s a long way back to the trailhead.
Josh – My favorite summit hike would probably be Mt Baldy, it has so much rich scenery, a tram that you can take to make it a shorter hike and a ridiculous summit view when you reach the top. For everyday hikes though I really love sitting on top of Mt Rubidoux under the cross. Here is the my top ten hikes list I created for more ideas.
Traci – My answer will probably be fairly tame to others, but I enjoyed hiking Sitton Peak. The hike offers a little bit of everything, trees, views, water, distance, and challenge.
Zac – Best hike in SoCal has to be Mt San Jacinto, simply an amazing hike, area and views.
Any crazy hiking stories you would like to share?
Pete - For crazy hiking stories, it begins and ends with my trip to Whale Peak with two other SoCal Bloggers. It is a trip I am sure not to forget any time soon!
David – My craziest hiking story, fortunately, has a happy ending. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the wedding ring, so I decided to bury it on the summit of Garnet Peak, a remote mountain in southeastern San Diego County. From the summit, the terrain drops off to the Anza-Borrego Desert, almost a mile below. I’d heard that sunrises there were amazing, so I planned a trip for my birthday. At the trailhead, I saw a mountain lion cross the street maybe thirty feet from me – the only time I’ve ever seen one up close. On the summit, I watched the sunrise and buried my ring. Later that night, a woman I’d met online and had been chatting with offered to take me out to dinner to celebrate my birthday. We became a couple soon after, and three years later, I took her to watch the sun rise on Garnet Peak, and proposed to her. She said yes, and the rest is history. That’s no lie.
Jeff – Not necessarily crazy, but probably closest to that description was when we decided to hike up to Mount Baldy by taking the lift up to the Notch on the way up, but hike all the way back down via the ski hut. Unfortunately, the steepness of the descent and the looseness of the gravel on the trail caused several slips, including one where Colleen wrenched her knee pretty badly, causing us to limp down most of the last 3,000 feet of elevation at a painfully slow clip, causing us to not make it back to the truck until after dark. To make matters worse, we’d had pricey tickets to Spamalot at the theater that night, but because there was zero cell signal in the area, we couldn’t even call any friends to give them free access to our e-tickets to go to the show themselves, to prevent their being wasted entirely. In the end, we wasted the tickets and Colleen’s knee kept us off the trails for a month or so.
Josh – I have a lot, such as Zac trying to kill me on a winter Mt Baldy attempt (didn’t actually try to kill me but we set out to summit in the snow with no gear and one friend tripped and slide over 40 feet and hit a tree, not one of our strongest moments), but I would say our trip up Mt Whitney last year was full of stories. It was so windy when we were at trail camp that we kept getting woken up during the night to the tent collapsing on us and smacking us in the face. Then when we were eating dinner a marmot sneak attacked our trail mix and ate into the bag. We completed the summit though so it was worth it.
Derek – On my trip to Chicago Basin in Colorado, the mountain goats would follow us around, especially when our body language would indicate that we needed to empty our bladders. Since they are attracted to any salt at all, they could be pretty agressive to access our urine. Therefore, my hiking partner and I would run interference for each other. One would get up and walk from the campsite, pretending to unzip their fly while the other person would sneak away and actually relieve themselves. Deceiving goats into thinking I was peeing was not something I’d ever thought I’d ever have to do.
Jeff H- A friend of mine named Richard organizing a day hike up San Gorgonio, and I’d been meaning to join him but passed. I had already made plans for a backpack trip with four other people on that same weekend. As it turned out three of the four bailed a few days before the trip, so the gal who organized it suggested we just turn it into a day hike. We were going up the Fish Creek trail to the Saddle Junction. We got up there early, and she was content with that. I was feeling good and wanted to bag San Gorgonio for the first time. We agreed to meet back at the trailhead, and I headed on up the trail. As I got to the summit, I could hear my friend Richard’s booming voice. I popped up and said “Richard!” and he turned white as a ghost. For a moment he thought that he had left me at the carpool meeting point, and I had tracked him down. In reality, it was a lucky coincidence. It’s a small world.
Traci – One of my children, who was too big to carry, had a complete meltdown on the trail once several miles from our car. Let’s just say things got “CRAZY.” Or maybe it was me just going crazy. I had to switch into awesome parent mode to get us off the trail safely.
Zac – One time I soloed Mt Baldy during the winter after a massive storm… One of the craziest hikes I have ever done and really did test me to my limits. There were times where I could see no indication of the trail whatsoever but I just kept pushing and made it to the summit safely.
So there it is the big SoCal Hiker interview. I hope you enjoyed it as much as me and make sure to subscribe to all of the awesome blogs the contributors to this interview run (links at the beginning of the article). Also, if we left off a hike that you love make sure to leave it in the comments!