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California Walks & Hikes

Malibu Creek State Park

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.

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Alpine Pedal Path Circular Hike, Big Bear Lake, California USA

Alpine Pedal Path Circular Hike, Big Bear

Walk Distance: 1.6 miles / 2.5 km

Walk Duration: 1 hour at steady, kid-friendly pace.

Suitable for: All the family. Strollers and scooters/bikes etc. can be used on the first half of the walk as a there-and-back-again route, as this section is on smooth, paved cycle track. The second section is on rough, …

Chantry Flat Helipad Hike, Los Angeles, California, USA

Chantry Flat Heliport Hike

Walk Distance: 2.2 km / 1.4 miles

Walk Duration:  1hr 15 at toddler pace, with plenty of time for admiring the llamas! 

Map: Tom Harrison Maps – Mt. Wilson

Suitable for: Babies in carriers, all-terrain strollers (for those ready for an uphill push), good little walkers and older children. 

Walk Features: Great mountain and city …

Hollywood Sign, Hollywood Lake & Sign Loop Hike, Los Angeles, California

Hollywood Lake & Sign Circular Hike

Walk Distance: 5.3km / 3.3 miles

Walk Duration: 2 hours at preschool pace, allowing for plenty of time for taking photos of the iconic Hollywood Sign!

Suitable for:  Babies in carriers, strollers, little walkers, scooters / balance bikes and all the family.

Walk Features: Beautiful views of the Hollywood Sign, lakeside walking, paved, level terrain …

Lightening Ridge Nature Trail Hike

Walk Distance: 0.9 km / 0.6 miles

Walk Duration: 50 minutes at preschooler pace and time for enjoying the views from the top.

Map: Tom Harrison Maps – Angeles High Country

Suitable for: Kids in carriers, good little hikers, older kids. There is a deal of uphill but it is gradual enough and a …

Millard Falls Hike


Walk Distance: 1.9km / 1.2 miles

Walk Duration: 2hrs at preschool pace with picnic/paddling time. 

Map: Tom Harrison Maps – Mt. Wilson

Suitable for: Kids in carriers (but note there are creek crossings and some trail areas that require a mild amount of balancing/climbing), good little walkers, older kids. Not suitable for strollers and allow …

National Children's Forest Circular Stroll, Running Springs, California, USA

National Children’s Forest Circular Stroll

Walk Distance: 0.7 miles / 1.1 km

Walk Distance: 0.7 miles / 1.1 km

Walk Duration: 35 minutes at preschooler pace. 

Map: Trail information and maps are available at the National Children’s Forest Visitor Information Center.
Suitable for: Kids in carriers, strollers, little legs and all the family. 

Walk Features: Lovely view of Snow Valley Lake, …

Santa Fe Dam Circular Hike

Walk Distance: 3.2 miles / 5 km

Walk Duration: 2hrs 30 with plenty of time for spotting ducks, testing out the play parks and picnic stops.

Suitable for: Kids in carriers, strollers (all-terrain stroller best as half on dirt track), good little walkers, all the family.

Walk Features: Lovely lake and mountain views, …

Malibu Creek State Park Rock Pool Loop Hike Walk, Los Angeles, California

Malibu Creek State Park Rock Pool Loop

Walk Distance: 3.44km including the diversion to the rock pool, 2.7km for just the main loop.

Walk Duration: 1hr 50 at pre-schooler pace (the toddler was in the backpack for most of it). Included a short time at  the rock pool. Warm autumn conditions.


Tom Harrison Maps – Malibu Creek State Park 1:31,680 ; …

Hollywood Sign & Mt. Lee Walk, California

Mt. Lee & the Hollywood Sign Walk

Walk Distance: 5.8km walk to the Hollywood sign and back

Walk Duration: Allow around 3 hours with mini hikers.

Maps: There are various paper maps available including some basic ones from the Griffith Park Visitor Centre but none I’d recommend particularly over another. You can find …

Bronson Caves Batman Walk

Bronson Caves Batman Walk


Walk Distance: 1km there and back

Walk Duration: 20 mins at toddler pace but you’ll need closer to 50 mins if you want to let the kids explore and play in the caves and to a take in the scenery.

Map: This is such a short walk that so long as you stick …

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