With the end of 2015, the time has come to set new goals and resolutions for the New Year. One of the most common goals I hear about is people wanting to get fit through a combination of diet and exercise. Usually, the person making the resolution vows to “eat healthier” and “go to the gym regularly”. Unfortunately, many people find themselves breaking these resolutions shortly after making them. One great way to stay on track this year is to keep your workouts diverse and goal oriented. Last year I embarked on the 52 Hike Challenge which gave me the motivation to get out, exercise, and enjoy the outdoors every weekend. When Expedia.com heard about my adventures they asked me to put together a list of Southern California hikes that will help you keep your fitness goals this year.
Hiking is a great way to maintain and improve fitness, so make sure to add it to your New Year’s resolution fitness plan. Hiking burns fat, while helping your body improve its overall strength and endurance. My favorite part of hiking is that it gets me out of the gym and provides the luxury of breathing in fresh air while exercising on mountain trails. Hiking is also a great way to spend time with friends and family, and for those hiking solo, it can be a great way to meet new people and develop friendships. Hiking has also motivated me to travel and explore parts of my home state that I may have otherwise never visited.
I’m lucky to live in Southern California where there really is no “off season” for hiking. Here in SoCal, we’re blessed to have access to the beach, desert, and ocean within a very short driving distance. If you’re a SoCal resident, don’t let this incredible playground go unexplored! Below you’ll find 11 great hikes in SoCal to help you achieve your fitness goals in 2016.
Mt Woodson and Potato Chip Rock– Potato Chip Rock is located in San Diego County, with the trailhead at Lake Poway. This is a great 6.6 mile roundtrip hike to get your year off to an incredible start. The trail on this hike is smooth and easy to follow, gaining 2000ft to the 2736ft summit of Mt. Woodson. Just below the summit of Mt. Woodson, you’ll find the iconic Potato Chip Rock. Make sure to get there early, or you’ll be standing in line to take a photo. This hike can be enjoyed year round. No permit required.
Potato Mountain via Evey Canyon– Potato Mountain via Evey Canyon is one of my favorite short hikes in the Inland Empire. The summit of Potato Mountain can also be reached via Claremont Wilderness Park, but in my opinion, starting from Mt. Baldy Road and Evey Canyon is the better option. This hike is just under 5 miles roundtrip, with a 1200ft gain to the 3,422 summit of Potato Mountain. This hike can be enjoyed year round. No permit required.
Mt Wilson– Mt Wilson is best known for the telescopes and astronomical observatory at its summit. A Los Angeles icon, many Angelinos are unaware that you can visit the 5712 ft peak of Mt. Wilson via a 14 mile hike. Come prepared, as this is no easy hike. Starting at the Chantry Flat trail head just north of Arcadia, you’ll climb 4200ft of elevation before reaching the top. This hike can be enjoyed year round. No permit required.
Mt. Baden Powell– Mt Baden Powell is a 9406ft peak that can be reached via a 9 mile hike with 3000ft of elevation gain starting at Vincent Gap. Vincent gap is located on HWY 2 a few miles west of Wrightwood. This is a great hike to start acclimatizing for some of the harder hikes on this list. Although Baden Powell sits tall at 9406ft, the trail is mostly smooth and well graded. This hike is best enjoyed from May to October. No permit required.
San Jacinto Peak– San Jacinto Peak hovers over Palm Springs at 10,834 ft, and is one of the most prominent summits in the United States. My favorite hike is to start from the Palm Springs Art museum and climb over 10,000 ft to San Jacinto Peak to complete what is known as a “Cactus to Clouds” hike. I definitely don’t recommend that trail for beginners though. Luckily, Palm Springs has a shuttle that drops you off at 8,516 feet and only leaves a manageable 4 mile hike to the summit of San Jacinto. John Muir wrote “The view from San Jacinto is the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth!”, and I’d definitely have to agree. This hike is best enjoyed from May to November. Permit required.
Tahquitz Peak– Starting in the beautiful mountain town of Idyllwild, the hike on Devils Slide Trail to Tahquitz Peak covers 9 miles roundtrip with 2800ft of elevation gain. What I love most about this hike is that there is a fire lookout at the top. The lookout is manned by volunteers throughout the summer and offers some pretty spectacular views of the Inland Empire. The name Tahquitz comes from the Soboba Indian tribe, as they named the peak after a spirit demon. This hike is best enjoyed from April to November. Permit required.
Ryan Mountain– Ryan Mountain is located within Joshua Tree National Park. This 3 mile roundtrip hike gains 1000ft to the 5456ft summit. This is a hike that can be enjoyed year round, but I would avoid it during the hottest stretches of summer. No permit required. National parks offer some of the best hiking trails in California and beyond! Luckily there are so many to choose from. 2016 is the 100th Anniversary of the National Park service, make sure to get out and enjoy these national treasures. Here are 8 more national park hikes worth checking out.
Cucamonga Peak– Cucamonga Peak via Icehouse Canyon is my favorite hike in all of Southern California. At 12 miles roundtrip with 4000ft of elevation gain, it’s also one of the most difficult. Starting out from Icehouse Canyon parking lot in Mt. Baldy, this trail follows a creek to cover some of the most beautiful ground in the San Gabriel Mountains. The summit is the real prize though, as you get to look down on the Inland Empire and Los Angeles County from 8858ft. This hike is best enjoyed from May to November. No permit required.
Mt Baldy- Mt. Baldy is probably the most popular and most well known mountain hike in Southern California. Standing tall at 10,064ft, Mt. Baldy towers over all the other nearby peaks in the area to claim the title of highest peak in Los Angeles County. There are a few trails that will take you to the summit of Mt. Baldy, and my recommendation is that you do it in a loop. Start by taking the Ski Hut Trail to the summit, and then descend via Devil’s Backbone. The great part about hiking down Devil’s Backbone is that you’ll pass by the Baldy Ski Lift Notch Restaurant where you can grab some well-earned food and refreshments. This hike is best enjoyed from April to November. No permit required.
San Gorgonio– Mount San Gorgonio is the highest peak in Southern California at 11,503ft. The shortest trail to the summit is the Vivian Creek Trail, a direct route that gains nearly 6000ft over 17.5 miles. One of the great things about hiking in Southern California is the way you’ll gain a geographic awareness. The summit of San Gorgonio is the perfect place to put your knowledge to the test as you look down on all of Southern California.
Trans-Catalina Trail– After you’ve taken on some of the mountain hikes I’ve recommended, your body may be aching for some rest and relaxation on the beach. Make sure to give Catalina Island a visit if you’re looking to spend a short weekend away from home. The great thing about Catalina Island is that it can be reached with a short 1 hour boat ride from Long Beach, San Pedro, or Dana Point. Many SoCal residents know about the fun that can be had in Catalina’s main city, Avalon. Very few know about the great hiking opportunities on the island. My favorite is the Trans-Catalina Trail, a trail that starts in Avalon and cuts across the island to Two Harbors before ending at Starlight Beach. The full trail is just shy of 40 miles, but it’s easy to just do sections of it while visiting the island of Catalina. This hike can be enjoyed year round. Permit required.