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South Orange County's Best Outdoor Adventures

Having grown up in South Orange County I'll give you the ins and the outs of every step you take on finding the best adventures in the area! From beautiful rocky and sandy beaches to lengthy mountain hikes, there is something for every person.

By: Douglas Hall + Save to a List

Being able to explore areas from Saddleback Mountain to Laguna Beach there is always something for everyone. From hanging out on the beach to riding your mountain bike up to the peak on Saddleback Mountain there are endless opportunities to explore the beautiful area that seems only populated with infrastructure. South Orange County is known for being an awesome summer vacation spot due to its beautiful beaches but don't let only hose beaches occupy your time, there are plenty of other hidden gems within the hills. There are constantly new adventures to be found so this list may grow, if you have your own additions or think I left something out comment below so that we can all experience the beauty! Below is a list of the top adventures in Southern Orange County!

Hike to Blackstar Canyon Falls

With a gorgeous waterfall several stories tall during winter you won't be let down when you reach the turn around point. This is an out and back style hike with an ascent on the way out and a good amount of downhill on the way back which allows for an easier finish. It's also tucked away at the bottom of Saddleback Mountain to give you a feel of being in a remote destination while being a short drive away from much of Orange County. Whether you complete this adventure during summer or winter it's a beautiful must do hike, the best time to do it is in the winter. You'll get an awesome amount of water coming through.

Exploring Pearl Street Beach's Arch Rock

Not only known for it's arch, there is a beautiful sandy beach awaiting your towel as well. This beach is rarely crowded due to it being relatively undiscovered. Head here for the entire day and be within walking distance of downtown Laguna Beach or come just for sunset and sit on the arch. Not only is there a rad arch to sit upon, there are also plenty of other rocks to climb on and explore, not to mention the blow hole! There is a feature where you can jump inside when the tide is in and it'll suck you out into the ocean when the water retracts. I've loved this beach since I was in high school, it never disappoints when it comes to a beautiful Southern Orange County beaches.

Hike to Holy Jim Falls

This hike is short yet overly pleasing. With only a couple mile hike you get to see a waterfall worth seeing on a 10+ mile hike. I have never heard any complaints about Holy Jim Falls, only a couple miles and a waterfall located underneath Saddleback Mountain you won't feel suffocated by the regularly smoggy skies. There is plenty of tree coverage and tons of photo ops so be sure to bring that camera, it's gonna be an awesome time back there getting connected to nature while not having to branch out too far. The next adventure is a continuation of this hike, it'll add some mileage to pair the next one with Holy Jim Falls but it's worth it as you can see the ocean from this peak.

Hike to Santiago Peak via Holy Jim

Adding some mileage to the previous adventure the first mile and a half almost completes the hike to Holy Jim Falls. It's a great hike that'll challenge you with over 4000 feet of elevation gain in just the first direction as you are going up a mountain. The view is amazing from the top, you can see as far as the ocean to Palomar Mountain and even downtown LA. There are some awesome little observation guided tubes that point out what each spot is. This hike will surely do you in as it takes a majority of the day due to it's strenuous amount of uphill battling but is surely  rewarding with a killer view. I would recommend this hike as one of the best in all of Southern Orange County.

Swim at the Thousand Steps Pools

This may be one of the most poplar adventures in Southern Orange County. With a gorgeous seascape I can't argue with the locals love for these pools. There are plenty of rocks to climb on and space enough for multiple groups of people to enjoy. You'll find that the water happens to break right on the edge of the pools so be prepared with the camera as you can get some awesome shots. Pair this up with exploring Pearl Street Beach as they can be reached on the same bus schedule that Laguna Beach has to allow to access to their coastline via their free public busses. It is also within bus distance to downtown Laguna Beach when you decide it's time for food or drinks!

With so many beautiful places to see in South Orange County these are my favorites, they have never disappointed me and I hope they give you something out of the ordinary to remember. Please remember that the areas that these all reside in are often hot and will dehydrate you if you do not go prepared. Adventure safely friends and make sure you keep me updated on your favorite adventures, maybe I'll add them to my favorite Southern Orange County adventures!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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