Hiking and California fit together just as tightly as surfing and the Golden State do – it’s just you probably think of the latter first if you don’t live there! I was privileged to spend a month exploring Southern California and getting to know a little of its huge hiking terrain although we barely scratched the surface of what California has on offer. From world famous outdoor playgrounds such as Yosemite, to desert landscapes, giant forests, spectacular coastline and the miles and miles of mountainous hiking trails that surround sprawling Los Angeles, there is simply too much choice.
Below this post you will find a list of the hikes we took whilst in California. Please note that all these hikes were undertaken in October/November time, with a just-turned-four and one year old girls. Conditions will vary at different times of year so do take local advice before setting out or choosing a hike. Visiting a waterfall in early autumn / fall for instance is likely to be disappointing!
Southern California is famed for its fantastic weather. This means lovely views and few rain days out on the hiking trails but it does also mean carrying plenty of water, hats and sun-cream, starting early to avoid the mid-day sun and seeking out shady routes in the worst of the summer sun. I also found that given the hilly and mountainous terrain and more challenging walking weather, unless a walk is entirely on flat ground, you need to take off 1/3 -1/2 the normal distance you would hike with your children in average UK terrain. Remember too that hiking trails marked out in the USA will be in miles not kilometres!
Finally a word of caution when walking with little children (but please don’t let this put you off). California is home to plenty of wildlife and plants, some of which you need to be wary of. The chief things to consider in Southern California are possible encounters with rattlesnakes, mountain lions, coyotes and poison oak. Most of these can be avoided by sticking to the main trails, keeping little children close by and avoiding wandering off into any undergrowth. It helps to know what to do if you do come across them though – the general idea is give snakes plenty of space to get wherever they are going and check before climbing down steps or over logs and rocks, stand your ground, pick up little children and make loud noise, throw sticks/stones and make yourself as big as possible with the middle two and learn to identify and avoid touching poison oak. Covered footwear and long loose trousers will also help and guard against ticks – another thing to keep an eye out for. Don’t get too hung up – in reality millions of people including those with kids hike every day in California without any issue and the hiking is far too good to miss out on.
As well as the Baby Routes tried and tested walks below here are a few useful walking and hiking website in California. Happy hiking in this beautiful state!
- Modern Hiker: a brilliant resource for those hiking around Los Angeles as well as further afield. The walks are mainly aimed at adults and particularly keen hikers seeking to cover some decent distance. All walks are graded though and even if some of the green ones are still too long for your family, they give a good idea of the more accessible areas to head to in search of some family friendly hiking. The blog also offers some valuable advice and information on hiking in the region as well as some fun lists of different hikes to try out.
- SoCal Hiker: another hiking site for Southern California with walks grade by difficulty. A lot more choice of short walks available and some are labelled specifically as family friendly.
- Mommy Poppins: this is a useful page for families visiting Los Angeles anyway, regardless of your hiking ambitions. It does also have a couple of pages dedicated to hiking suggestions in the LA and surrounding area that are suitable for families though. There aren’t lots of details but it’s a good guide to get you started.
- National Parks: A great place to start if you’re looking for the nearest large managed set of trails. Once you’ve tracked down where you’re going each park will have usually have more info on hiking trails available online.
- BAHiker: This is for those based around the San Francisco Bay area. It offers lots of hiking routes as well as a page specifically listing family friendly hiking destinations in the region.