My father is an avid hiker and I inherited the bug in earlier years. We lived in Fresno, California, which sported seemingly infinite hiking opportunities, short drives in all directions. Once in Orange County, I encountered difficulties locating suitable hikes. What local guides referred to as hikes wound up being stretches of pavement inside suburban developments, often right next to noisy highways. After weeks of searching and finding modest hikes here and there–most notably in Anaheim Hills and along the Santiago River trail–I came across Crystal Cove, the most pleasing hiking experience in the area.
Houses will still be visible from these trails, for the most part. It is not uncommon, in fact, that you will come across them several yards from the trail while you are enjoying your solitude. Personally, it took me many hikes to adjust to what I previously considered a constant nuisance to my communion with nature, but us folks from the Central Valley tend to be spoiled in that respect. Once I accepted that no trail would ever compare to what I so enjoyed in Fresno or Kern county, I began to appreciate these trails for what they were–the best attempt the local communities could afford at hiking. That taken into consideration, the Crystal Cove trail series is especially appealing.
What the trails–there are several, organized by degrees of difficulty–lack in quietude, they make up for in surprisingly attractive scenery. High enough on the hills, the oceanside is visible. Areas marked “challenging” do offer a respite from human traffic, and one can nearly escape the constant whisper of traffic endemic to the entire county. The local flora is by no means scarce, and if you’re looking for an impressive array of wildflowers, you could do worse than to visit these trails at the beginning of spring. Just be prepared to encounter colder weather in the morning. The trails are meticulously maintained, and I must admit I have fallen out of the habit of watching where I step as a result. Located off Pacific Highway in Southern Orange County, the Crystal Cove trail series represents the finest hiking experience in the area, just opposite from the beach. Such parks are perhaps typical of Northern California, but such a hiking Gem in Southern California is definitely worthwhile for experienced hikers who find themselves in the area, or beginners who have just gotten the bug.