Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday for several reasons. I love that it calls upon us to be grateful for what we have been given and that it focuses on spending time with family and friends. In addition, it starts the lead up to Christmas, which really gets me in the festive spirit. Overall, Thanksgiving is a great time to slow down and take stock of all the good things that have come your way this year.
One of my favorite ways to practice gratitude and appreciation for life is hiking. What better way to connect with loved ones and work off those extra calories than sweating it out in the outdoors? Below are some of the best family friendly hikes in the Orange County area. If you want to start a new tradition by getting out in nature this long weekend and have a brood of varying ages and abilities, check out one of these great trails to celebrate the season!
Thomas F. Riley Wilderness is a small, mostly flat park located at the end of Oso Parkway outside of Coto de Caza. Once you park, there is a quaint, butterfly sanctuary to the left and on your way to the head of Oak Canyon Trail. If you hike Oak Canyon Trail and follow it along the whole perimeter of the park, including the off shoot trails of Sycamore, Horned Toad, Pheasant Run, and Wagon Wheel, to where it brings you back to the parking lot along Mule Deer Trail, the whole loop is 4 miles. When we hiked it we also cut through the loop up Skink Vista Point, but if you have kiddos with you, I would stick to the flat trails.
Red Rock Canyon Trail is a rare gem in the heart of South Orange County. Hiking to the canyon via Borrego Canyon Trail in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park is an easy out and back journey that totals 4.5 miles. Borrego Canyon is thick with trees so offers plenty of shade and is usually highly trafficked, so just watch out for bikers if you are hiking with little ones. The red rock that makes up the canyon at the end of his hike will impress hikers of any age and is a great place to stop for family or group pictures.
Aliso and Wood Canyon Wilderness is an expansive park with a variety of trail option for hikers and bikers alike. Aliso Creek Trail starts at the entrance of the park and stretches 1.5 miles before it connects to Wood Canyon Trail. If you take Wood Canyon Trail to Dripping Cave Trail, the end of dripping cave actually leads you to a cave! It is a great spot for kids to hang out and, and out and back, the whole hike is an easy 4 miles.
Barbara’s Lake Loop is a 3- mile loop in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park off of Laguna Canyon. James Dilly Preserve, and all the other parking lots off of Laguna Canyon, fill up quickly so make sure to get there before 10am. The path is not very covered, so getting this hike done in the morning is ideal anyways, plus it frees up the rest of the day to get lunch in Laguna Beach and play in the sand and tide pools! The perfect post-Thanksgiving family day in my opinion :).
Aliso Summit Trail is an accessible and wide path that runs alongside a residential area in Laguna Niguel on one side and a canyon with rolling hills on the other. There isn’t a divider between the edge of the trail and where it drops off to the canyon, so just keep an eye out if you have little ones running around. If you are with an ambitious group, you can hike my favorite route on this trail ends at a 180 degree view of the Pacific Ocean. Keep in mind, that way does have a good amount of hills, so if you are in a group of beginner hikers, stick to just hiking Aliso Summit Trail, which you can start here.
The view from Top of the World Park is one of my favorite hiking look out points in Orange County. West Ridge Trail lies at the edge of Top of the World Park and, while it does have some hills, most of it is flat. I would not recommend hiking down any of the trails that off shoot from West Ridge Trail if you are with beginning hikers because the hike back up can be brutal, especially since there is no shade once you hike out of Aliso and Wood Canyon Wilderness Park. If you stick to an out and back route along West Ridge Trail, you’ll get in a decent 4 mile hike that includes some incline.
Peter’s Canyon Trail is located in Tustin, CA and the whole park actually connects with a few other Orange County cities, including Irvine and Orange. Peter’s Canyon Trail loop is a moderate hike with a pretty big hill, but if you just hike Peter’s Canyon Trail to the end and back, the whole 4-mile journey is easy and flat. A great family friendly option that is accessible for all levels!
If you are not in the mood to strap on hiking shoes, my favorite place to walk and run with family and friend is San Clemente Beach Trail. If you walk the whole length of this trail and back, including the whole length of the pier, it totals 5 miles. However, you may want to cut your journey short to stop for some group pictures or stick your feet in the ocean. We do have beautiful weather in Orange County well past Thanksgiving!
Did you go on one of the above family friend hikes over Thanksgiving weekend? If so, I would love to hear your thoughts below!
In Love, Peace, and Family Hiking ~ xo