It’s several weeks into the semester and I’ve already found myself chest deep in rushing cars, buzzing electricity and a light-polluted night sky that never seems to be pitch black. I needed out. I’d been craving some TLC with nature: a good hike with fresh air and natural views. Intuitively, I called a friend to go on a hike. Problem is: where to? I was stuck on a misconception that Orange County had no opportunity for real I am in the wild nature. I thought I would have to drive two hours inland to Joshua Tree National Park just to get away from the craziness of suburban life. I wanted to prove my thoughts wrong. So, I went on a mission to find the best hikes in Orange County that didn’t include a view of the city, because let’s be honest… that’s not the real deal. I came out successful. Here is what I found:
Black Star Canyon
If you like crossing water by jumping on rocks, this 13.2 mile round-trip hike is a good one. With all the rain we’ve had (bless), the stream has filled with water. The trail switches back and forth from each side of the stream, meaning that crossing is necessary to stay on the beaten path. It begins on a wide trail with the hillside on your right and a valley with running water, green grass and Eucalyptus trees on your left. Deeper into the canyon, the trail narrows and becomes less obvious. This is where stream-crossing starts. At the end of the hike is a waterfall. Enough said.
Difficulty Level: Medium-Difficult (not due to incline, but for the stream-crossing and overall length)
Directions (about 30 minutes from Chapman): straight up the hill on Chapman Avenue, left onto E Santiago Canyon Road, left onto Silverado Canyon Road
Holy Jim Falls
The name of the 2.8 mile round-trip hike is very accurate. Holy Jim, man, this one is good! To get to the trailhead parking, you have to drive about 30 minutes in on a dirt road (perfect for those interested in off-roading due to turn-outs with holes). I recommend having an able vehicle; however, it is not entirely necessary (you won’t get stuck, even if you’re driving a Prius, like me). The trail is pretty straightforward and easy to follow. If you’re lucky, you’ll meet the male peacock and see wild turkey that like to hang out at the beginning of the trail. At the end is a beautiful waterfall that forms a small pool. I went before the rain and, even then, the water was falling.
Difficulty Level: Easy-Light Medium
Directions (about 60 minutes from Chapman): Take the 55 South Freeway to the 5 South Freeway to the 133 North Freeway to the 241 South Freeway. Take Exit 19 for Santa Margarita Parkway. Turn right on Santa Margarita Parkway, left onto Plano Trabuco Road, right onto Trabuco Creek Road
Borrego Trail/Red Rock Trail
Disclaimer! I have not yet been on this hike, but it is at the top of my list. From several online sources I have found: The 8-mile round-trip hike starts in South Orange County suburbia; however, once you are on the Red Rock Trail, beautiful sandstone cliffs will surround you. The trail heads towards Red Rock Canyon.
Directions (about 25 minutes from Chapman): 55 South Freeway to the 5 South Freeway to the 133 North Freeway to the 241 South Freeway. Take Exit 23 for Alton Parkway. Continue straight onto Alton Parkway. Turn right onto Towne Centre Drive, left onto Market Place, left onto Portola Parkway.
Let’s get out there together.