In less than two weeks, you will have to remember to write “2016” on your checks. You also may have embarked on a New Years’ Resolution and if so, there’s a good chance that will involve getting more exercise, spending time with friends and family, traveling to new places, enjoying nature or spending time with yourself. Exploring the many great hiking trails in and around Los Angeles can be a great way to accomplish several of those things at once. The good news is that there are tons of great hiking trails in the L.A. area for all seasons, helping you stay on track with your goals all year. Here are twelve hikes – one for each month – to help inspire you to get outside, get exercise and enjoy the world around you, in 2016 and beyond.
Slide Mountain is located on the northwestern edge of the Santa Clarita Valley, making it convenient not only for residents of that area but for the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys. A historic fire lookout sits on top of the mountain, which also offers excellent views, especially during the clear visibility days of winter. The 11-mile round trip is sure to burn off some of those Egg Nog calories, but the hike is easy to follow and not too steep, making it a good choice for those who are intimidated about going farther into the wilderness.
Cedar Creek Falls is one of San Diego’s most popular–and controversial–hikes. Much of the controversy stems from the risks of this “reverse” (down first then back up) hike. Its exposed terrain and high spring and summer temperatures have caused a lot of problems for unprepared hikers. Fortunately in February, temperatures are cooler and even if there’s not much water, the views on the way down are worth the visit–and the effort required to climb back up.
The sprawling Wind Wolves Preserve is located in the southern San Joaquin Valley–an area not known as a hiking destination. In the cool spring months, the huge park is a perfect place to lose yourself in nature.
Strawberry Peak is the tallest summit in the front country of the Angeles National Forest. Despite the notoriously steep last mile to the top, the hike has long been a favorite of L.A. outdoor enthusiasts and has finally re-opened following the Station Fire of 2009.
If your trip to Cedar Creek Falls inspired you to get out and explore more of San Diego’s wild side, consider a trip to Palomar Mountain State Park, a mile-high destination that supports year-round hiking. The Thunder Creek/Chimney Flats loop shows off some of the park’s best plant life, mountain views and even some history.
Wildhorse Trail Camp is an overlooked gem in the San Gorgoino Mountains. The 8-mile round trip hike features panoramic mountain views en route to a secluded trail camp, making it a perfect way to escape the notorious summer heat of the Inland Empire.
Mt. Waterman may be best known as a skiing destination, but during the summer, it offers hikers to experience cool mountain air and panoramic views. If you went a little heavy on the bratwursts at the 4th of July barbecue, this is an excellent place to burn off some calories.
Gold Mountain is located on the north shore of Big Bear Lake. From the top you will enjoy not only panoramic views of the lake but of the high desert and the rest of the San Bernardino Mountains.
The San Emigdio Mountains which straddle the boundaries of L.A., Ventura and Kern Counties are surprisingly unknown to many hikers, but with elevations ranging from 4,000 to almost 9,000 feet, they provide a great variety of scenery as well as a good break from summer heat. Lilly Meadows Campground can be reached with a 7-mile round trip hike that shows off the transitional climate from high desert to mountains.
Cuyamaca Peak is San Diego County’s second highest summit. In October, changing leaves add color on the way up and the views from the top are hard to beat. It’s also one of the few dog-friendly hikes in any of San Diego County’s state parks.
Southern California isn’t known for its waterfalls, but those in the know always appreciate the chance to visit one. Third Stream Falls, on the eastern slope of the San Gabriel Mountains, is tough to reach, requiring a four-wheel drive vehicle for the three mile dirt road to the trail head and somewhat tricky to find, not being officially marked, but those who make the effort get to enjoy the secluded 30-footer.
End your year on a strong note with Chaparrosa Peak near Pioneertown. Like the peaks of Joshua Tree National Park, this summit features outstanding desert and mountain views–snow-capped San Gorgonio and San Jacinto in particular – but lacks the crowds, allowing you to enjoy it all in peace and quiet and perhaps contemplate where you want to explore in 2017.