It’s always a good day for a family hike in Orange County. Whether you want to glimpse some whales swimming by or you are looking for unique rock formations, this list of kid-friendly hikes in Orange County has it all. Get ready to explore!

Editor’s note: We’re making every effort to provide you with the most up-to-date information. However, sometimes closures occur at the last minute due to circumstances beyond our control, such as the spread of Covid-19. We highly recommend that you call ahead before you pack your kids (and all those snacks, and diapers…) and haul them across town. Stay safe! 

Dana Point Headlands Trail

Start at the Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center on Scenic Drive and head out on this three-mile loop hike with stunning ocean views. The system is a mix of natural-surface hiking trails and paved shared-use paths. Several overlooks offer an opportunity to take in the gorgeous ocean vistas and breathe in the salty air. Uniquely, the trail also connects to a funicular on Strands Beach. Free to ride, the inclined elevator transports visitors from the bluff to the beach and vice versa.

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Moro Canyon Trail at Crystal Cove State Park

The backcountry and wilderness areas of Crystal Cove State Park offer you 18 miles of hiking trails through 2,400 acres of native wilderness mostly the endangered coastal sage scrub plant community. The Moro Trail is a three-mile out and back hike with very little elevation gain. 

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Ralph B. Clark Perimeter Trail

This Buena Park trail will take you on a 1.4-mile loop around the park. Bikes are not allowed but dogs on leash may join the fun. Make a stop at the Interpretive Center to check out their massive fossil collection. 

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Turtle Rock Nature Trail

The Turtle Rock Nature Center is located in Irvine. This five-acre nature preserve is both a home for wildlife and an outdoor classroom where visitors and program participants learn to protect the natural environment. Winding through the nature preserve is a paved trail that displays native Southern Californian habitats, including riparian, desert and woodlands. Frequent visitors to the nature preserve trail include local birds who enjoy swimming in our pond, lizards who bask in the sun on our rocks and rabbits who disappear into the desert brush. 

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Laurel Canyon Loop

This Laguna Beach spot has tons to offer for kids: seasonal creek crossings, a super-cool cave and event fossils! In the spring after a good rainfall you may even get to see the waterfall. Park at the Willow Staging Area parking lot and head out on Laurel Canyon Trail. This 3.5-mile hike is a little more strenuous and not great for strollers. 

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Red Rock Canyon at Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park

Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park encompasses approximately 2,500 acres of riparian and oak woodland canyons, rolling grassland hills and steep slopes of coastal sage scrub and chaparral. The park is highlighted by scenic rock formations, including the beautiful Red Rock Canyon. This trail is reserved for hikers only (no bikes). 

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—Kate Loweth


Featured photo: Jon West via flickr


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