One of the best things about living in Southern California is having so many great beginner hikes to enjoy. From the beaches and mountains, to the valleys and canyons – there is so much beauty to explore in SoCal. The weather here is always superb and the conditions are perfect for hiking.
I have completed 40 different hikes in SoCal since January, 2021. I have a full-time job, so the only free time I have is on the weekends. Occasionally, if time permits, I will catch a sunset hike somewhere close to my location.
A favorite hike of mine, which I highly recommend, is Mount Lowe via Eaton Saddle. It’s a bit of a drive into the Angeles Forest to get to the trailhead, however that is where the trees are! This trailhead is the start to many trails, so you can decide to hike two miles or ten. The summit has unique swings to enjoy beautiful views. It’s one of my go-to hikes!
Top 5 Beginner Hikes in Southern California
Firstly, I recommend Mount Lowe since it’s one of my favorite beginner hikes (as just mentioned). Also, in no particular order, here are four more trails to kickstart your hiking adventures throughout Southern California:
- San Gabriel Peak Trail: The incline is challenging for a three mile hike. This trail is filled with trees and shade, so it’s a nice hike all the way up.
- Echo Mountain: This trail is a bit longer at five miles out and back. But once you get to the top, it’s filled with historic ruins of what used to be the Mount Lowe Railway and Resort. You can learn about the machinery that was used in the 1890’s and explore the ruins of the resort grounds. It’s a wonderful trail for beginner hikers!
- Stoddard Peak: Five miles out and back. The incline is steady on a trail with tons of trees and shade until you get to the last mile. The last mile is a bit of a climb up loose dirt, but it has epic views from the summit.
- Sunset Peak Trail: A fantastic hike that is seven miles out and back. Again, this trail is filled with trees and has a nice steady incline to the summit. In fact, one of my favorite hiking adventures ever was when I first saw cloud inversions at the summit of Sunset Peak. I had never experienced such a beautiful sight in person and since then I have been trying to chase those clouds on my hikes around Southern California.
How to Start Hiking as a Hobby
For those looking to get into hiking, I would recommend starting out with hikes that are one or two miles long at high elevation. I have friends that could walk ten miles at sea level and then have trouble breathing at high elevation. Testing yourself on easy trails and working your way up is always the best strategy. Improving your cardio at the gym isn’t a bad idea either.
Essential Gear Needed for Hiking
Some of the gear I have invested in are good hiking boots and an SOS device. Other items such as my backpack, first aid kit and knife/Firestarter were purchased off Amazon and serve their purpose well. For my shoes, I wear highly recommend Salomon Women’s OUTline Mid GTX Hiking Boots.
These are lightweight and have not given me any blisters on any of my hikes. They are snug and protect my feet very well. I have also invested in the Garmin Inreach Explorer+ for my SOS two-way satellite device.
This was an important investment for me since I often hike alone or with my dog, and it gives me peace of mind knowing that I can call for help. It’s also a great way for friends and family to keep up with your progress on the hike, since it shares your location no matter where you are on the trail.
Tips for Southern California Beginner Hikes
The thing that stopped me from hiking before was myself. I was scared to go alone and kept waiting for something or someone to say “yes”. After New Years, I made the decision to stop waiting on others and go try it out.
I learned how much it helped me mentally and physically. It’s not as scary as it looks. I suggest just going out there and trying one of these hikes as you might fall in love with it. Also, remember to let someone know where you are going or what trail you are tackling since the majority of the time you won’t have cell service. Apart from that, just enjoy the nature of SoCal!