My husband and I are avid hikers, and we usually take the kids with us when we hit the trails. About once a month, we find a local kid friendly hike to enjoy. Sometimes our hikes are more like nature walks with fun stops along the way, and sometimes the trails can be several miles of climbing up and down dry hills with sagebrush.
I recommend the following Orange County hikes for kids in California the whole family will enjoy.
Refer to our Hiking Gear List of items to help the kids stay fueled up, safe and having fun!
Orange County Hikes for Kids in Southern California
Bommer Canyon – Irvine
Bommer Canyon offers something in a hike that I especially like when hiking with kids – a loop. Hiking a loop trail allows you to not worry about turning back – and keeps the kids from whining about turning around. You’re always hiking towards the goal!
Address: 6400 Shady Canyon Drive, Irvine, CA
Parking and Access: Parking at the Bommer Canyon trailhead is limited – the main drawback if you come at a popular time. Overflow parking is available at the nearby Turtle Rock Community Center.
Hike: The nature loop on Bommer Canyon is 1 mile. When the trail splits, we like to take the roadside trail up, then turn at the cattle ranch to complete the loop, with views of the meadow on the way back. The nature loop sign will direct you the other direction around the loop.
Great for Kids: We like to hike around Bommer Meadow in January when the hills are the most green. We also frequently come across hoards of fuzzy caterpillars at this time of year. Definitely a fun thing for the kids to spot. There are also several bridges and the old cattle ranch to interest the kids.
Note: Because parking at the Turtle Rock Community Center doubles your walk, if the trailhead lot is full, consider the Turtle Rock Nature Center (same parking lot as the community center). It’s a very short walk in an enclosed nature area, but there is a lot to see, and fun activities for kids like a sundial and labyrinth. Also, the community center has a playground.
Laurel Canyon – Laguna Beach
Laurel Canyon offers many great hikes for all abilities. We’ve done a lot of the hikes of all degrees of difficulty. Laurel Canyon is one of the most interesting for our kids.
Address: 133 Highway, South of El Toro on the right, Laguna Beach, CA.
Parking and Access: This hike is at the first trailhead on the right of the 133 Highway after El Toro road. As with all trail heads in Laurel Canyon, parking is $3. We’ve never had trouble finding a spot in this lot, but parking is allowed along 133 in some locations.
Hike: Take the Laurel Canyon trail on the right. Despite the initial steepness of the hike, the first mile is mostly a walk through meadows and light woods. When the trail crosses a creek bed, it turns and steepens. We usually rest and climb on the rocks in the creek bed and then turn around.
Great for Kids: The Laurel Canyon trail is a favorite because of the rock formations that can be seen from the hike. You will see rock caves, an exposed earthquake fault, and Ghost Rock (across the highway). We also usually see a lot of wildlife on this hike, including blue jays, hawks, rabbits and lizards.
Top of the World – Laguna Beach
Another great hike in the Laguna Coast Wilderness is the Top of the World hike. The drive to access the hike is nearly as long as the hike itself, but just as beautiful.
Address: 3300 Alta Laguna Blvd, Laguna Beach, CA.
Parking and Access: There is a free parking lot at the park, or plenty of street parking if you’re willing to walk. The hike to the top isn’t far, so it’s not a big deal to add a bit of a walk if the lot is full. Head straight up the hill from the end of the street.
Hike: The Top of the World hike goes up and around to the top of the hill. At the top of the hill there are benches for viewing.
Great for Kids: Depending in the weather, you can see as far as Long Beach and Catalina. There are great views of sailboats, people parasailing, the ocean, palm trees, or whatever else you can spot down below. Alta Laguna Park is also a favorite. Any hike that begins at a playground is tops for my kids.
Ramakrishna Monastery – Trabuco Canyon
This hidden Hindu monastery in Trabuco Canyon offers a short but interesting hike, and stunning views of the surrounding cities.
Address: 19961 Live Oak Canyon Road, Trabuco Canyon, CA.
Parking and Access: Take El Toro Road East and turn right on Live Oak Canyon Road. You will wind around Trabuco Canyon until reaching Monastery Road. The drive along Live Oak Canyon is one of my favorite parts of this hike, a peaceful drive for a Sunday afternoon. Access to the Monastery, shrines, and trail are restricted to visiting hours: Daily 9-11 and 3-5.
Hike: The monastery is hidden in a forested, hilly area above Mission Viejo and Lake Forest. The trail is about a mile and takes 30-60 minutes, depending on how slow your kids are, and how much fun they have exploring each shrine. Turn right behind the lily pond inside the monastery to follow the trail around counter-clockwise.
Fun for Kids: There is plenty of wildlife along the trail (we saw a snake on our last visit!), and there are 6 shrines to world religions along the way. Each shrine is a chance to stop and explore the surrounding areas and enjoy the woods. Just don’t be too loud – remember this is a place of worship.
Oso Creek Trail – Mission Viejo
Urban hiking was basically defined by the Oso Creek Trail. A lot of it is paved, and you could easily take a stroller on the paved sections. There is a lot to see and do along the trail, including a maze, local art, and of course, a playground.
Address: 24932 Veterans Way, Mission Viejo, CA.
Parking and Access: Park on the East side of the community center. The easiest way to find the Oso Creek Trail loop is to head right from the parking lot along the sidewalk. Pass the green field, and head down a short flight of stairs. Continue in the same direction, then turn left at the tunnel to make the loop.
Hike: Follow the loop around, through a wooded area, butterfly garden, manicured maze, and cross the stream on the bridge to turn back. You’ll climb up a steep, paved hill and end at the playground on the west side of the community center. For a shorter walk for younger kids, you can start at the playground, head down the hill and across the bridge to find the maze, and then head back the way you came.
Fun for Kids: The maze was definitely the highlight of this park for my kids. We were there in the spring and saw lots of wildflowers, which they also loved. The playground has a few very long slides, which were a hit with my older kids. Also, outside the community center are some bear statues that they all loved climbing on.
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