Some people reading this might like the idea of getting out into nature, but not necessarily the idea of climbing steep slopes or dealing with high altitude and thin air. A hike that gains a vertical mile of elevation might not be everyone’s cup of tea. While the L.A. basin may be ringed by some dramatic, scenic mountain ranges, there are many great trails in So Cal that don’t require a climb at all. You can leave your hiking poles and altimeter behind for these trails. They might be flat in terms of elevation, but not in scenery.
Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. Located across from Huntington State Beach, this is one of the best places for bird-watching in all of Southern California, with egrets, seagulls, hawks and many other species. Sunsets here are not to be missed either.
Dana Point Sea Caves. While this climb is flat in elevation, it does require some climbing up and over rocks. The famous and fascinating sea caves are accessible during low tide, but families with small kids might want to take extra care.
El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach. While many might not think of Long Beach as a mecca for nature, the mile long and 2-mile long trails in the El Dorado Nature Center take people away from the hustle and bustle of the city. There is also a quarter-mile, wheelchair-accessible trail here.
Hollywood Reservoir. Surprisingly peaceful and quiet for being in the middle of Hollywood, the walk around the Hollywood Reservoir provides a lot of nice scenery. Unfortunately, most of the walk is fenced off from the reservoir, but the Mulholland Dam allows hikers to take in some great views.
Laguna Niguel Regional Park. This is a hot spot for outdoor activity in south Orange County, offering fishing, boating and a good variety of hiking trails. True wilderness it’s not, but it allows people to sample some of Orange County’s scenery, and will undoubtedly inspire visitors to get out and explore some more remote areas.
Lake Fulmor. This, admittedly, is out of the way for most residents of the greater Los Angeles area, but anyone traveling to Palm Springs would be well served to drive into the mountains. As small as it is, Lake Fulmor is a beautiful place with alpine scenery that is very rare in So Cal.
Madrona Marsh. It may seem hard to believe that there’s a tranquil nature preserve right in the middle of Torrance, but the 10-acre Madrona Marsh is just that. It’s at its best in the spring, when rains fill the pools, but it can be a nice urban oasis any time of year.
Point Vicente. At the very edge of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Point Vicente Park gives hikers some stunning ocean views, and also displays the area’s unique marine geology.
San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary. Commuters on busy Interstate 405 in Orange County might be well served to take a break from their daily grind at this small park, where trees block out much of the sights and sounds of civilization.
Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve. If not for some dedicated conservationists, this natural harbor in Orange County might have become condominiums, but it has been preserved as a wetland area where hikers can explore miles of trails.
These ten hikes are examples of great excursions into nature. They will undoubtedly inspire novice hikers to start exploring more, and will also be pleasant surprises to veterans, well worth visiting between trips. Hiking trails don’t have to reach the top of a mountain to be memorable.