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Finally got the walking shoes, but nowhere to walk them in? There is never any shortage of hiking to be done in Southern California, that’s for sure.
Whether you’re from the area, or visiting, there’s plenty of interesting walking trails to explore. We almost got analysis paralysis trying to pick only 5 that are which we could call the “best” of them all, but we pressed on and finally made some choices.
Truthfully, our top five barely scrapes the surface of all the great trails that this state has to offer in the summer – and any time – of the year!
THE BRIDGE TO NOWHERE
- LOCATION: San Gabriel Mountains, Azusa, Los Angeles, California.
- DISTANCE: Ten miles.
- TIME: 4.45 hours to 6 hours.
- ELEVATION: 900 ft.
- LEVEL: Moderately difficult.
- DANGERS: Crossing the river can be dangerous and there have been fatalities.
- OPEN TO: Hikers, both human and canine.
- TERRAIN: Gradual and rocky terrain. Four rivers must be crossed (physically).
- ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Hot and lacking shade. Requires a (free) permit to complete.
You don’t have to be a lemming to cross the Bridge to Nowhere, in the San Gabriel mountains, but it helps.
The bridge is a principal attraction for bungee jumpers across the state.
But if flinging yourself off a bridge isn’t really your cup of tea, you can still enjoy this breath-taking view and satisfying walk up to one of the great pieces of abandoned engineering in State.
This is not particularly easy walking and you will need to pass through more than one river on the way.
Take care, whilst doing so, because sometimes swift rising water levels have taken walkers by surprise and sadly, there have been fatalities.
The Bridge To Nowhere was erected in 1936, ahead of the highway connecting to it. Before it was ever finished, floods washed the unfinished roads away.
The Bridge To Nowhere has stood there as a monolith ever since.
Be warned. It gets hot up there and there is zero shade! Come prepared.
Here’s a cool video showing off some great shots of the bridge thanks to Oddity Odysseys.
Read reviews of the Bridge to Nowhere on Yelp, where 100’s of people weigh in on the trail
- LOCATION: Switzer Falls, San Gabriel Mountains, Tujunga, California
- DISTANCE: 4.5-6.8+ miles
- TIME: 2.15 -3.5 hours or more depending.
- ELEVATION: 650 ft -689 ft.
- LEVEL: Not too difficult.
- DANGERS: Don’t try and climb up the larger canyon.
- OPEN TO: Hikers, both human and canine, bikers, families.
- ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Suitable for families. Picnic opportunities. Parking pass needed.
Because the start of this trail is on asphalt, it might lull you into a false sense of security. Don’t let it!
Although this is a relatively easy hike, it does get harder as it goes on.
This trail is open to both wheels and paws, as cyclists and their dogs can traverse it.
It may also be a destination for a family day out, although exactly how much of the trail you decide to complete depends on you.
This is fairly easy walking, with relaxing views of the fifty foot waterfall, forests and other views.
Definitely a one for nature lovers, there is also the opportunity to see plenty of birds and even a bobcat or two!
Here’s a great video from Hike-Losangeles.com to give you a closer look at Switzer Falls.
Read reviews of Switzer Falls on Yelp here, where 100’s of people weigh in on the trail
MURPHY RANCH RUINS
- LOCATION: Pacific Palisades, CA
- DISTANCE: 4.85 miles
- TIME: 1.45 hours.
- ELEVATION 325 ft.
- LEVEL: Easy.
- OPEN TO: Hikers.
- ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Lots of history!
Nestling in the middle of the Santa Monica Mountains is what could be described as a blast from the past.
This is an abandoned ranch, built in the thirties, as a bolt hole for American Nazis, after the supposed German victory in World War Two.
And curiously, the gate of this monument to white supremacy was designed by renowned African American architect Paul Williams.
Although thankfully the ranch never fulfilled its destiny as a stronghold for the impending Nazi rule of America, it has still seen more than its fair share of oddballs.
It is estimated that between 15000-50000 people were members of the Hitler loving Silver Shirts in the thirties. The ranch was sold in 1948 and became an artist’s retreat.
With more than 500 concrete steps, this is certainly a workout for your feet – and the rest of you – but is more of a history lesson and curiosity trip, than Full Metal Jacket style adventure.
Here’s a video of the place from adamthewoo. You be the judge if you want to check this place out or not.
Once again, head to Yelp to read reviews of Murphy’s Ranch to get a better idea of how people like the trail
PALOMAR MOUNTAIN LOOP
- LOCATION: Palomar Mountain Range, San Diego County, CA
- DISTANCE: 9 miles (this trail)
- TIME: 4 hours.
- ELEVATION 1300 ft.
- LEVEL: Moderate.
- OPEN TO: Hikers.
- DANGERS: Beware the Poodle Dog Bush – it bites!
- ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Camping and fishing also possible. Look out for the Boucher Hill Fire Tower.
Situated in the Palomar Mountain State Park, is this nine mile trail.
This is a stunning hike, which might get slightly chilly in the evenings, at 5000 ft above sea level.
The nine mile suggested route starts at Silvercrest Picnic site and visits Boucher Hill to the Fire Tower. It goes downhill from there, through a burn and past some pretty obnoxious plantation (Poodle Dog Bush) which may not be quite Triffids, but can give you a nasty blister all the same – do take care.
The trail goes around in a loop and visits Adams Trail and the Cedar Grove camp site. You might decide to camp in this beautiful mountain area or you could go straight up the Baptist Trail. This leads to the Weir Trail via a meadow.
After that, the trail veers off to the Upper French Valley Trail (more grassy meadowland) and comes to another campsite, this time the Doane Valley.
There are several more stop off points before the trail loops back on itself and you end up back at the Silvercrest picnic spot.
This isn’t an especially challenging trek, for an experienced hiker, but do watch out for the noxious plants.
Here’s a video of Palomar showing you the terrain from SwitchbacksandBottlecaps.
MOUNT BALDY LOOP
- LOCATION: Mount Baldy (Mt San Antonio), San Gabriel Mts, CA
- DISTANCE: 11.3 miles depending on start place.
- TIME: 7 hours.
- ELEVATION 3900 ft.
- LEVEL: Fairly difficult passages.
- OPEN TO: Hikers, dogs
- DANGERS: Avoid during winter.
- ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: You can cheat and get the ski lift up to Baldy Notch if you like.
There are many different starting points for this hike around Mount Baldy.
This mountain (known formally as Mount San Antonio) gives miles of views in all directions.
This trail is great for its vista of Mount San Jacinto and Santiago Peak. It does require some work, however.
If you want to cut it down a bit, then we suggest taking the ski lift up to Baldy Notch. This gets you there a lot faster and shaves some of the mileage off the trek.
Otherwise, the trail commences at the Manker Flats campsite and then goes to the San Antonio Falls. It then turns up to the Sierra Club ski hut, goes across the Baldy Bowl and then up to the summit.
It turns east down through the Devil’s Backbone Trail, which is the crossing to Baldy Notch. Then it passes the rough track to the ski lift and go by the San Antonio Falls once more, to get back to the start.
Here’s a video from the Adventures of Brandon & Jess for a closer look.
Check out hikespeak for reviews from other people who have gone on the trail
Any one of our five treks should break your brand new trail shoes in nicely!!