If you’re going on a hike, you’re climbing a mountain, right? Not necessarily, according to a survey of a major Southern California hiking blog’s readers. People who are interested in getting out into nature – but don’t necessarily want to climb steep slopes and struggle through thin air at high altitudes – might be interested to know about the many great Los Angeles area hikes that don’t lead to mountain summits. According to Southern California hikers, here are the five most popular types of hiking trips that DON’T involve summits.
#5) Historic hikes. Southern California has more history than many people realize. The movie industry has long made use of the huge variety of natural landscapes around L.A., and former film and TV filming locations such as the former M*A*S*H site in Malibu Creek State Park and Bronson Cave in Griffith Park are popular hiking destinations. But Tinseltown doesn’t have the monopoly on historical sites in So Cal; the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve in Riverside County is home to mid 19th century adobes, and Orange County hikers can visit the harbor at Dana Point, where the Pilgrim stopped on its historic journey.
#4) Fall foliage hikes. The grove of quaking aspens in the San Bernardino National Forest is an autumn favorite among So Cal hikers. At Oak Glen Nature Preserve, in the foothills of the San Gorgonio Wilderness, hikers are treated not only to foliage, but home-made apple pie in the adjacent café. Fall colors can also be seen at Placerita Canyon Park, Point Mugu State Park and many other places throughout the L.A. area.
#3) Beach hikes. Whether it’s the sea caves of Corona Del Mar in Orange County, the secluded beaches of the Palos Verdes Peninsula or the sandy expanses of Malibu, California’s coastline makes for some dramatic hiking destinations.
#2) Geology hikes. Colliding earthquake faults, coastal winds and mountain streams have created some great geology in Southern California. The outlandish sandstone formations at Vasquez Rocks are a popular destination, and have in fact been used in “Star Trek” and many other productions (see #4!)
And the most popular hiking type of hiking destination at all – beating all others, including mountains, by a lot:
#1) Waterfalls. Many people think of waterfalls as being exclusive to the northern half of the state, but So Cal has its share, if you know where to look. Waterfalls such as Holy Jim, Sturtevant, Switzer and Heart Rock are among the favorites of L.A. hikers, but there are others – Bonita Canyon, Lewis Falls and Upper Newton Canyon – that are not as well known but worth a visit. Even those that require notoriously difficult hikes, such as Fish Canyon Falls and Black Star Canyon Falls, are among L.A.’s most popular hiking trips.
If there’s any doubt about the huge variety of natural landscapes that can be seen in the L.A. area, this list should lay it to rest. And of course, if you like mountains, there are plenty of great ones here too.