July 17, 2024
best hiking places in southern california

8 Best hikes in Southern California

One of my favorite things about Southern California is that if you wanted to, you could go to the mountains, the desert, and the beach all on the same day.

Most hikes are located within easy day hiking distance of a major city so it makes the hikes great for a one-day escape or a weekend getaway. 

Here is a list of eight best day hikes taking you through terrain that ranges from the desert to mountain peaks in Southern California. 

Eight best day hikes with incredible views in Southern California 

Mosaic Canyon, Death Valley National Park 

southern california best hikes
  • 4 miles total 
  • Out and back hike 
  • Rated Easy 
  • Elevation gain-958 ft 
  • No dogs 

Mosaic Canyon located in Death Valley National Park is about 4 miles round trip that unveils some of the most fascinating geology.

Walking into this canyon feels like walking into a museum. Along the way, you will encounter beautiful marbleized rocks as the canyon narrows, with an end at a unique dry fall.  

Golden Canyon/ Gower Gulch Loop, Death Valley National Park

best hiking places in southern california
  • 4.4 miles total 
  • Loop trail 
  • Rated Easy/Moderate 
  • Elevation gain 721 ft. 
  • No dogs 

The Golden Canyon, Gower Gulch loop located in Death Valley National Park is a 4.4-mile loop trail that meanders through sandstone canyons and golden mudstone hills.

This popular route offers stunning views and features tons of geologic history. 

Recommended: Best hiking trips in the USA

Recommended: Best waterfall hikes in Oregon

Crystal Cove Perimeter Loop

best hiking places in southern california
  • 9.4 miles total 
  • Out and back hike 
  • Elevation gain- 1,354 ft 
  • Rated Moderate 
  • No dogs 

The Crystal Cove perimeter loop near Laguna Beach California is a 9.4-mile loop taking you up and down beautiful ridges and valleys, passing 3 backcountry campgrounds.

This hike offers expansive views of the Pacific Ocean as well as the Modjeska and Santiago peaks. After the trek, you can head down to the coastline to explore the sea caves and tide pools. 

Sitton Peak, San Mateo Canyon Wilderness 

Sitton Peak hike
  • 9.5 miles total 
  • Out and back hike
  • Rated Moderate/Difficult 
  • Total elevation- 3,273 ft. 
  • Elevation gain 2037 ft 
  • Dogs welcome 

Sitton Peak is a beautiful 9.5-mile out and back hike located near Lake Elsinore.

This hike will take you through the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness starting at the Bear Canyon trailhead.

Along the way, you will pass through a variety of different scenery, chaparral, and oak woodland, ending with incredible 360° views of the Cleveland National Forest. 

Grays Peak, Big Bear California 

Grays Peak hike california
  • 6.4 miles total 
  • Out and back hike 
  • Rated moderate 
  • Elevation gain 1174 ft 
  • Dogs welcome 

This 6.4 miles out and back hike near Fawnskin California has gorgeous views of
surrounding peaks and Big Bear Lake. 

Cougar Crest Trail, Big Bear California 

best day hikes in southern california
  • 5.6 miles total 
  • Out and back hike
  • Rated moderate 
  • Elevation gain 1290 ft 
  • Dogs welcome 

The Cougar Crest Trail is a 5.6-mile out and back hike located in Big Bear, California offers a fun trek through lush alpine forests and majestic views of Big Bear Lake and stretches on the iconic Pacific Crest Trail. 

Mt. San Gorgonio 

best day hikes in southern california
  • 19.2 miles total 
  • Out and back hike 
  • Rated Difficult 
  • Total Elevation 11,503’ 
  • Elevation Gain 5,531’
  • Recommend camping at High Creek for those wanting to stay overnight. 
  • Wilderness Permit Required  

San Gorgonio Peak located near Forest Falls is the tallest mountain in Southern California and is one of my favorite mountain hikes in the area.

It is a gorgeous hike through pines, cedars, and streams beginning at Vivian Creek. 

At 11,503 ft, Mt San Gorgonio, also known as “Old Grayback” provides great high-altitude training for those prepping to summit Mt. Whitney. 

Mt. San Jacinto 

ca hikes
  • Out and back hike 
  • Rated Difficult 
  • 13.7 miles total 
  • Total Elevation- 10,834 ft.
  • Elevation gain- 4,587ft. 
  • No dogs

San Jacinto Peak is a 10,384 ft peak located in the San Jacinto Mountains near Idyllwild-Pine Cove CA. 

Starting at Marion Mountain, this hike is a 12.8-mile out and back hike with towering pine trees and spectacular views at the top. 

Kimberly Welsh

Kimberly Welsh Wellness/Fitness coach from Southern California. Outdoor/Hiking enthusiast helping people better their lives through fitness and outdoors. If you need anything else, please let me know. My email: wanderin2wellness@gmail.com

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