Orange County is lucky to have a bunch of amazing hikes…and such a wide variety too. From super easy ocean view hikes to difficult hikes that take you to the top of the mountain, we have them here.
In this post, I am sharing some of the best easy hikes in Orange County that have an amazing view. No, you don’t have to be an avid hiker or prepare for a super intense workout to enjoy them. Most of these hikes are easy enough that even someone without any hiking experience at all can do!
Most of these are ocean view hikes, but a couple of them have views of some really pretty (and unexpected) landscape.
We are definitely spoiled living in Orange County.
Here are 11 Easy Hikes in Orange County with an Amazing View!
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1. West Ridge Trail to Top of the World
This popular hike in Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park will take you to an amazing 360 view of Orange County. You will have an ocean view of Laguna Beach on one side, and a great view of Saddleback Mountain on the other.
West Ridge Trail begins at the end of Hollyleaf Road, where free residential parking is available. This out & back trail is 4.5 miles and has just enough hills to get your heart pumping a little bit, but not enough to rate this as a difficult hike. The trail is extra wide so hikers and bikers can easily share, plus leashed doggies are allowed to hike!
The reason I like this trail so much is not only because of the views but also because of the rest area at Top of the World. There are benches you can use as well as a full park with restrooms. It’s a great place to relax halfway through the hike and take it all in. The only downside of this hike is that there is no shade, so going in the middle of the day in summer is going to be a little uncomfortable.
2. The Sinks at Limestone Canyon
What some might consider a hidden gem in Orange County, “The Sinks” are a must-see! The Sinks are an amazing geological formation that appears to be sort of a mini Grand Canyon. That’s why this area is sometimes called “The Grand Canyon of Orange County”.
There are two ways to see The Sinks, from the East viewing platform and from the West. The hike to the west viewing platform is 7.8 miles, but it doesn’t have any technical or difficult sections. It is mostly flat and does have a few shaded areas here and there. If you also want to see the view from the East viewing platform, you’ll just need to add an extra mile or so to your hike.
Hiking to The Sinks is extra special and is only available during scheduled activities or open-access days with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. The public cannot freely access this park. The IRC does have plenty of guided hikes and bike rides to The Sinks, or you can explore on your own during the open-access day. Open-access days typically happen once every three months.
3. Dana Point Headlands Trail
One of the most beautiful, and definitely one of the easiest hikes in Orange County is the Dana Point Headlands Trail. On this hike, you will have views of the ocean, the Dana Point Marina, and lots of wildflowers if you go during spring.
You can park for free at Strand Vista Park. Walk up the residential hill which is Dana Strand Road and find the trailhead on the right. The entire loop is about 3 miles and includes dirt and paved pathways as well as a couple of stairways. The Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center is about halfway through the hike if you want to stop in. There is no shade on this hike, but the temperature is typically cooler this close to the ocean.
For a little bonus, take a hike to the Dana Point Sea Cave! This easy 1.5-mile hike will take you underneath the Headlands Trail to a sea cave so large that several people can sit inside of it. You should only visit the Dana Point Sea Cave during low tide.
Read more: How to Get to the Dana Point Sea Cave
4. Red Rock Canyon Trail in Whiting Ranch
You probably won’t even believe that you are in the middle of Southern California when you reach the end of this trail. The name pretty much says it all.
This easy out & back hike begins at the Borrego Staging Area in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park, where you will pay $3 for parking. The hike is about 4 miles and has shaded areas near the beginning. After about the halfway point, there is no shade, unfortunately. I would avoid this hike during summer days, but you can definitely go early morning.
At the end of the trail, you will see the red rock canyon area. This section used to be open but since the stone was getting damaged, barriers were put up to keep it protected. But you can still get some really pretty photos.
Read more: Hiking Guide to Red Rock Canyon Trail
5. Spur Ridge Lookout in Laguna Coast
If you are looking for hiking trails with ocean views over Laguna Beach, Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is the way to go. This park is huge and has lots of different trails including a few that lead to the hilltops directly above Laguna Beach.
Most of the trails in this park are rated as moderate or difficult, but I have one easier option for you. Spur Ridge to Boat Road Trail isn’t too bad and there is an awesome lookout point. After the lookout point, you can decide if you want to continue hiking Boat Road Trail for a total of 4 miles or not. If not, just turn back!
There is free residential parking on Dartmoor Street, where you can find the start of the trail called Spur Ridge. Parking in Laguna Beach can be somewhat of a challenge at times, so get there early and pay attention to the street signs. At the intersection of Spur Ridge and Boat Road trails, head left to stay on Spur Ridge for the lookout point.
Read more: Where to Park in Laguna Beach
6. Bolsa Chica Wetlands
The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is a coastal estuary in Huntington Beach and a very popular birding area. If you are a wildlife photographer you will be in heaven here. This 1,400-acre wetland reserve is home to many wildlife species, wildflowers in the spring, and ocean views. It’s the perfect place to connect with nature.
There are a few trails to hike and all of them are easy and have no elevation gain. If you hike all of them it will be around 5 miles. You can even bring a stroller or wheelchair on these trails, but sorry no doggies! Bring your sunhat because there is no shade on these trails. For the best chance at seeing wildlife, visit in the early morning hours of winter or summer.
There are a couple of places to park, but the preferred parking lot for Bolsa Chica is at the Interpretive Center, which has free parking. You can also take free tours of the Bolsa Chica wetlands with Amigos de Bolsa Chica or the Bolsa Chica Land Trust.
7. San Clemente Beach Trail
This trail in San Clemente might be one of the most unique hiking trails in Orange County. For the entire length of the trail, you are not only walking next to the ocean but also next to train tracks, so you get to watch the trains go by. Plus, the trail brings you through a good surf spot and the San Clemente Pier. So much action!
This 4.6-mile out & back trail is flat and unshaded. Bikers and doggies are welcome, and I don’t see any issues with bringing a stroller or a wheelchair either.
You can start your hike by parking at the San Clemente Metrolink Station or at Calafia State Park. Stop at the San Clemente Pier, grab some gelato, and enjoy the views mid-hike. For even more action, watch the surfers at T-Street Beach, just south of the pier.
For an extended hike, you can add in the Sea Summit Trail, number 11 on this list. You’ll have panoramic ocean views from the hills above!
8. Hicks Haul Road
If you are up for it, this 3.5-mile paved trail is an awesome place for a cardio hike. What’s cool about Hicks Haul Road is that it’s not open to the public, so the trail won’t be busy. You have to sign up for a scheduled activity through the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. It also pretty cool that on a clear day you can see all the way out to Catalina Island!
The IRC offers a lot of fitness hikes at Hicks Haul Road which typically take place during the week. This is also one of the few trails in OC where Full Moon Hikes are offered, which I highly recommend!
To sign up for an activity, visit the IRC website. The activities are free and are always led by trained volunteers and docents. The best time to visit is during the springtime when you can see some pretty wildflowers.
9. Moro Canyon in Crystal Cove
Although the park rates this as a difficult hike, I personally didn’t find it that difficult. If you are a regular hiker this will be easy for you, if not, don’t attempt this one. This beautiful hike in Crystal Cove State Park will take you on a loop with an ocean view at the end. For an extra bonus, you can walk to the beach afterward!
Park at the Moro Kiosk/Day Use Area or at the Visitor Center/Ranger Station and pay the $15 fee. The loop that you want to follow is the “difficult loop trail” on this map. Come prepared with plenty of water and a sun hat since there is no shade.
10. Newport’s Back Bay Loop
This super popular hike in Newport Beach loops around the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve and Ecological Reserve, or better known as the Back Bay. Here you have 10.5 miles of trail to explore on foot, bike, or even on the water. The Back Bay is a great birding area too, and several endangered species make it their home.
There are several entrance points to the Back Bay Loop, but I prefer starting at the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center. This is a great point to begin because you can stop into the center and learn more about the area. Make your way to Vista Point, which is about 2 miles in, then you can decide if you want to continue or turn back.
The trail itself is easy and there are no technical sections, but it is a long trail. Hike as little or as much as you would like. Doggies are allowed on this one too! Bring a sunhat since there is no shade available. Best time to visit? All year long, but I love seeing the wildflowers in the spring!
11. Sea Summit Trail
This trail system with a total of 4 miles takes you through the hills above San Clemente. From the start of the trail you can see the beautiful turquoise water (it really looks like this!). As you get closer you will be able to hear the waves and watch the surfers. Benches are scattered throughout the trail so you can hang out for a while and take it all in.
There are several areas to enter the trail system and the city directs people to park at Jim Johnson Memorial Sports Park or North Beach. I parked at The Outlets at San Clemente and walked across the street to the Sea Summit Trailhead. The trail is dog friendly and some of it is wheelchair and stroller friendly until you get to the stairs near the ocean.
If you are looking for an extended hike you can walk from the Sea Summit Trail to the San Clemente Beach Trail (number 7 on this list).
That sums up my favorite easy hikes in Orange County! Which of these hikes looks the most appealing to you?