It’s that time again: just when you’ve finally worked off all of the calories from the end-of-year holidays, you get your Super Bowl Party invite. Even if you don’t care about the game, odds are decent you’ll be watching it with friends while drinking and eating heavily. Fortunately, not only can L.A. football fans look forward to the return of the Rams, but they also have plenty of great outdoor options for burning calories. Whether you live in Santa Barbara, L.A., Orange County or San Diego, odds are there’s a scenic and challenging hiking trail near you that you can knock out in the morning and still make it back home in time for kickoff. In order of difficulty, here are ten hikes to make you feel a little less guilty about those brats, beers and corn chips.
#10) Twin Peaks (Poway)
San Diego football fans may be bummed about the possibility of the Chargers moving, but the good news is that there are still plenty of great hiking trails. Conveniently located to Poway, the short but steep climb to Twin Peaks is sure to help work off at least some of the dietary damage of the Super Bowl while treating hikers to a panoramic view of the area.
#9) Morrison Open Space
Though it was built as a service road to access nearby power lines, this 4-mile round trip hike offers good views of the western San Fernando Valley and packs in 700 feet of elevation gain, counterbalancing at least a couple of beers.
#8) Buzzard’s Roost
This little known spot in the western Santa Monica Mountains can be reached with a climb on the northern section of the Zuma Ridge Fire Road. Highlights include terrific ocean and mountain views. Hikers who have REALLY over-done the calories can continue all the way down to Pacific Coast Highway…and then, of course, hike right back up the five mile road.
#7) Hot Springs/McMenemy Loop
Where is there a gym that provides ocean views, sandstone geology and walks along the walls of steep canyons? On the outskirts of Santa Barbara, this loop offers all of the above and with 1,000 feet of elevation gain, you’re sure to break a sweat.
#6) Olive Hill
This short, steep hike is a favorite of local Inland Empire hikers, offering a great view of Moreno Valley and, when visibility is good, several major So Cal mountain ranges including the Santa Anas, San Jacintos and San Gabriels.
#5) Las Flores Motorway to Mt. Tom
In the south end of the Verdugo Mountains, the hike to Mt. Tom is convenient to the San Fernando Valley and downtown L.A., offering excellent views of both.
#4) Western Plateau, Outlaw Loop and Elliott Mountain
One of the newest–less than a year old–trails in So Cal leads to Elliott Mountain on the western end of Thousand Oaks. This enjoyable hike features wide-ranging city views, secluded canyons and more.
#3) South Fortuna Mountain
One of five major summits in San Diego’s Mission Trails Regional Park, South Fortuna features an infamous stair climb that ascends 400 feet. The good news is that the views from the top are great, justifying the burn in your calves.
#2) Santa Barbara Inspiration Point (west approach)
Back to Santa Barbara for this one. While Inspiration Point is one of the area’s most popular hiking spots, many people use the eastern approach via the Tunnel Trail to get there. The longer, more challenging and more varied western approach will help offset more of the nachos and hot wings: the 7-mile round trip features an elevation gain of 1,300 feet.
#1) Nordhoff Peak
Ventura County offers many great hiking opportunities and this popular peak near Ojai offers a little of everything. The 14-mile round trip to the historic lookout tower is challenging but simply requires endurance and persistence: never is the grade too steep, the trail is in good condition and navigation couldn’t be easier. If you DON’T plan on watching the Super Bowl, you’ll want to spend the whole day enjoying this hike and you’ll probably have far less company.
Have you already done some of these hikes? All ten? Check out some of the other lists linked below.