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LA & SoCal Hiking  🔥 Hotspots 💎 Hidden Gems

Cliff diving off Cliff Island in Newport Beach! 🌊 This "island" is located about a half-mile south of Little Corona Beach in Orange County, and the smaller Arch Rock acts as the halfway marker between the beach and the large rock. The beach entrance is on Poppy Ave across Ocean Blvd, and there's plenty of free street parking in the surrounding neighborhood. This short hike can be very strenuous and unsafe when there are rough ocean conditions, so it's important to review the surf report and tidal changes before you visit. It's easiest to hike the area during low tide since there's a bit of scrambling along the slippery and jagged shoreline rocks. ⚠ Jumping at the large arch on Cliff Island can be risky when there's big surf and during low tide, so I'd recommend jumping off the south end (~20ft) into open water. Unfortunately this can result in a ticket if OC lifeguards or park rangers catch you. 🌟 Check out my last Corona del Mar post for a view of the rocky arch, and be sure to turn on post notifications so you don’t miss my next photo adventure. #cali #socal #westcoast #orangecounty

The secret rock pools near Thousands Steps Beach collect saltwater during high tide and stay warm under the hot sun. This rock outcropping that rises and stretches behind a cave at the south end of the beach has been well known by Laguna Beach residents for years. While the cave alone is appealing to visitors, these man-made pools with sand bottoms carved in rock just north of Lighthouse Cove are even more tempting. ⚠ The way to the pools is treacherous because the rocks are jagged, slippery and moss-covered. Locals will even avoid an area where deaths have occurred called the “blow-hole,” which separates the small pool from the two larger ones. Lifeguards make several rescues there each year. 🚫 The high-tide area above the swimming pools, and the pools themselves, are private property and marked with no-trespassing signs. OC Lifeguards are overwhelmed by the flocks of visitors, and have posted a sign near the cave entrance this summer to warn anyone going to the pools of the dangers and criminal consequence involved. 📍 Beachgoers can park on Coast Hwy or in the neighborhoods above on 8th, 9th, and 10th Avenues. Follow 9th Ave towards the beach to find the string of 200+ steps leading down. Once on the beach go to your left (south) until you come across the sea cave. Head through the cave, which is easiest during low tide, and continue along the sea-side rocks. After ~1/4 mile, you'll get to the highest point of the hike where the pools are visible. At this point getting down to the base of the pools will require some rock climbing. 🌟 If you're adamant about finding the secret pools I highly recommend researching the area thoroughly, and being aware of tidal changes as well as current ocean swells.

The Horsethief Canyon Powerhouse is situated within the Horsethief Canyon Park in San Dimas, and it’s original purpose is still somewhat of a mystery. 📍 The trailhead starts at the end of Horsethief Canyon Park Road right next to the San Dimas Dog Park, and the location tag will bring you there. Follow the main fire road north from the free parking area, and then use the steep trail that heads up the canyonside. There’s very little shade on the Horsethief Canyon Trail and it’s almost entirely uphill with numerous switchbacks. Once you reach the top you can enjoy the panoramic view and relax on benches that overlook the city. 🚫 The abandoned powerhouse is just ahead behind a barbed wire fence. I didn’t see any signs opposing entry, but I am fairly certain the powerhouse is off limits. ⚠ Exploring the abandoned structure is extremely dangerous. The building is about 100ft long and has a wooden bridge that runs across the top, plus you’ll have to climb a ladder down 15ft to reach the base floor. After you’ve discovered the area you can either hike back down the same way or complete the loop using the Poison Oak Trail, which continues past the powerhouse and wraps towards Sycamore Canyon Road. It’s ~1 mile to reach the neglected building and 2.5 miles to complete the loop. The second half the trek is partially shaded with oak trees and features a lone chimney near the designated picnic area.

The Lizard Cave is located within the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and has remained relatively unknown to the public. It's located at the northern end of the park on the Lizard Trail, which was originally off limits to visitors because of “potential environmental harm.” Orange County Parks only recently made Lizard the first trail to be added to the authorized trail system since the park opened in 93'. Updated trail maps are on the OC Parks website. There’s a combination of free neighborhood parking and paid parking lots ($3 daily), and trails are open from 7 a.m. to sunset. 📍 I parked on Ridge Park Rd & E. Coastal Peak at Coastal Peak Park for free, and then hiked the Bommer Ridge Trail (east). The Lizard Trail will be on your left towards Route 73. ⚠ Be aware, the narrow trail is extremely popular with bikers and you won’t have much time to get out of the way. This beautiful place is completely free of graffiti and trash, and I would hate for that to change. Please respect the South Coast Wilderness area and its delicate wind caves.

The Griffith Park Zoo, also known as the “Old L.A. Zoo,” opened in 1912 and was on the verge of shutting down for a majority of its life. Its fate was sealed in 1966 when the Los Angeles Zoo opened about 1 mile up Crystal Springs Road. As a result, thousands of animals were transferred to the new location, the site of the old zoo was left abandoned, and you can now hike the Old Zoo Trail through animal cages and even picnic inside empty exhibits (~1 mile round-trip). Further up the shaded path is a run-down house and more animal cages to be explored. 📍 There’s free parking near the trailhead, and the location tag will guide the way through Griffith Park. 🚫 Be aware, hiking on certain sections of the abandoned site is considered trespassing; nevertheless you’ll often find many visitors exploring the restricted areas.

Ortega Falls is a 25ft seasonal waterfall in the Santa Ana Mountains within the Cleveland National Forest, about 15 minutes from Lake Elsinore. In addition to the main falls, the hike also contains a series of cascades located further downstream. 📍 Take Ortega Highway (Route 74) to a dirt pullout on the west side of the road, 1.5 miles north of Ortega Oaks Candy Store and Goods, and the tagged location will bring you to the candy store. It's free to park at the trailhead, and there are several trails to choose from that lead to the creek below. I took the trail on the far left of the lot, followed the steep and narrow path downhill, and then went upstream (north). ⚠ I don’t recommend coming here when it’s raining because the steep trails turn into slippery mudslides. There are a few strenuous bouldering spots along the way, and watch out for poison oak. Overall, it wasn't too bad of a 1/4-mile scramble. Once you’ve explored the area and reach Ortega Falls, you can to take the shortest trail back to the parking lot by hiking straight up the hillside. The vicinity around the falls is seeing an increasing amount of graffiti because of its easy accessibility, so please respect and help protect the trails if you ever visit. ✌

I explored two unique attractions in the Santa Monica Mountains within Malibu Creek State Park (~4 miles round-trip). The "Lava Rock Pools" are popular for cliff diving because of the high-rising volcanic rock protruding from the water, but doing so is against state law. Injuries that occur at the volcanic swimming hole are due in part to murky water and partially submerged, hidden rocks. ⚠ A recent test found the pool and dam area teeming with “fecal indicator bacteria,” and as a result the water has been determined a possible public health risk. From the parking lot, start on the Crags Rd trail (west of Waycross Dr) and switch over to High Rd on your right. At the end of High Rd, continue straight along Rock Pool Trail until you reach the pools. (2) Century Lake Dam was constructed around 1903, creating the seven-acre lake that would later be named by 20th Century Fox Studios after purchasing the land. From the High Rd trail, make a right on Crags Rd and start the uphilll trek to Century Lake. 🚫 If you want to explore the dam, climb through a gap on the barbed wire fence and take the steal bridge past restriction signs that read, “structure unsafe – keep off.” There's a minimum $200 citation if your caught cliff jumping or trespassing. 📍 Malibu Creek State Park is located ~30 miles from Downtown L.A., south of Highway 101 on Las Virgenes Rd. Park at the bottom lot using Park Entrance Rd and the location tag will lead the way ($3 per hour or $12 for a day pass, per vehicle).

Bonita Falls Trail is a 1.8 mile out and back hike located in the San Gabriel Mountains, within the San Bernardino National Forest. This magnificent waterfall is over 100ft tall, which is enormous by SoCal standards. A majority of the trek requires strong ankles, a lot of rock hopping, and maybe a river crossing or two depending on your route. Park along Lytle Creek Rd, and then use Green Mountain Rd to avoid crossing Lytle Creek by foot. Once you’ve crossed the river, follow South Fork Lytle Creek upstream (east) into the canyon and make your way towards the south canyon wall. Unfortunately, a trail of graffiti follows the canyonside all the way to the falls. After hiking ~1/2 mile, there’s a trail sign defaced with spray paint that will be on your left; this marks the beginning of the dirt trail that ascends into the forest towards Bonita Falls. Remember to stop at the Front Country Ranger Station if you need a daily parking pass ($5) or a map of the area. 📍 Luckily, the location tag shows the exact spot of the waterfall, so you wont get lost if you bring your phone! Every time I visit this waterfall I notice an increasing amount of graffiti and trash, so please help keep the trail clean if you ever visit. ✌

⚠ The treacherous route leading to Upper Eaton Canyon Falls is sheer rock face with a 250ft drop on either side. Since 2011, L.A. County Search and Rescue Teams have saved more than 60 injured and stranded hikers due to the dangerous climb, and five have fallen to their deaths. Cliff jumping at the upper falls was an additional risk; another steep and unsafe dirt path leads to the top of the second waterfall, and the smooth granite waterslide makes it appealing to daredevils. As you trek deeper into the canyon the trail becomes less hazardous and there are several smaller falls to be discovered. 🚫 The U.S. Forest Service closed access beyond the first waterfall in August 2014, and Sheriff’s Department deputies and Forest Service officers began issuing citations accordingly. Anyone trespassing beyond the first waterfall could face a fine “up to $5,000 and/or face 6 months imprisonment.” Please do not underestimate the difficulty of this hike. I’d recommend signing up with a SoCal canyoneering guide if you wish to explore the upper canyon. Canyoneers who use ropes, helmets and other safety equipment are still allowed to hike the area. As of January 2015 a permit is required for Upper Eaton Canyon and must be applied for 4 days prior to your planned descent of the canyon. 📍 The trail leading to the canyon’s lower falls is extremely popular and directions can be found on my last post.

Eaton Canyon trail and waterfall sits within a 190-acre zoological, botanical, and geological nature preserve at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. 📍 For free parking, the tagged location will bring you to the Eaton Canyon Nature Center; my first Eaton Canyon post shows the falls during the drought, and its geotag is the exact site of the waterfall. The nature center was rebuilt in 1998 after the Altadena fire of October 27, 1993 burned the original building to the ground. 📌 You can also park further north on N. Altadena Drive if you want to take the less hiked route through the wash zone, or to access the gated Pinecrest entrance near the bridge (turn right on Crescent, then right again on Pinecrest). Using the bridge route will take ~1 mile off of the trek, and I'd recommend going bright and early to avoid the midday crowds.

💙 Happy New Year everyone! L.A. and SoCal have seen a large amount of rainfall recently, so I've decided to hike local waterfall trails; for the first Waterfall Wednesday of 2017 I visited Heart Rock Falls in Crestline, San Bernardino. The trailhead starts in a small dirt parking lot at the end of a narrow road off the CA-138, just past Camp Seely. 📍 After you’ve parked, use the dirt trail and follow Seeley Creek less than a mile downstream (north) to the falls, and the tagged location will help lead the way. This hike is great for beginners because the trail has little incline and it’s almost completely shaded. Heading down to the waterfall was the hardest part of the trail, and it may require a little bit of rock scrambling.

Merry Christmas everyone! 🎄 This 200ft tunnel can be found under Big Tujunga Canyon Rd in the Angeles National Forest. The trailhead starts where Doske Rd and Stoneyvale Rd meet, and the overgrown trail follows Big Tujunga Creek (west) into the canyon. 📍 It's a short 1/4-mile from the trailhead and the tagged location will bring you to Stoneyvale Rd for parking. Keep an eye out for the tunnel on your right, and then climb the steep hillside. Once inside, you'll find remnants of a minecart railway leading through the tunnel toward Ybarra Canyon.

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