The Best Hiking Trails to Explore this Fall in SoCal

“There are no seasons in Southern California” is a stereotype given to the region, but we are here to prove these pessimists wrong. Below we have curated some of the best hiking trails to explore during the fall season in the Southland that proves—even to the most seasonal skeptics—that SoCal has fall vibes. From trails that boast fall foliage to a path that provides the L.A. experience, here are the best hiking trails to visit during the fall season in Southern California. 

Aspen Grove Trail, San Bernardino National Forest

San Gorgonio Wilderness, San Bernardino National Forest. Image by Forest NationalService.

Experience some fall foliage in Southern California on the Aspen Grove Trail. Located a short drive from Big Bear in the San Bernardino National Forest, the Aspen Grove Trail gives autumn leaf seekers a rare opportunity to see yellow and orange trees in the Southland, as well as the soothing effects of “quaking” or the whistling of trees. This trail is deemed moderate, and visitors will hike around 5 miles roundtrip. If you have time, head down to Big Bear for a delicious post-hike meal or some drinks. Day permits required. Address: Aspen Grove Trail 2E05, Angelus Oaks, CA 92305.

Observatory Trail, Cleveland National Forest

Palomar Observatory, Cleveland National Forest. Image by Forest National Service.

For those searching for some fall colors in San Diego County, there’s the lesser-known Observatory Trail. Hidden in the pine and black oak-filled Cleveland National Forest, this trail is excellent for less advanced hikers and astronomy fans. The black oak trees turn orange during the fall season, providing Southern Californians with that fall experience. Towards the trail’s end, visitors will see CalTech’s Palomar Observatory, which features the Hale Telescope. Address: South Grade Road, Cleveland National Forest, Palomar Mountain, CA 92060

Red Rocks Canyon Trail, Whiting Ranch Wilderness

Whiting Ranch Wilderness. Image courtesy of OC Parks. (Public)

Colorado is not the only place in the West with some Red Rock beauty. Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park, located in Lake Forest, CA, has multiple hiking trail options, but the most popular is Red Rock Canyon. Surrounded by suburbia, this trail is on the easy level making it perfect for families. Hikers will traverse about four miles roundtrip through an oak woodland canyon setting and end at the Instagram-worthy red rocks. Where to park: For $3, visitors can park in a lot by the Red Rock Canyon Trail. Address: 26701 Portola Parkway, Foothill Ranch, CA 92610.  

Indian Canyons, Palm Springs

Photo by Zach Vessels. Unsplash.

Not into the whole “changing of the leaves” cliché? Then head to Southern Californian’s favorite desert oasis—Palm Springs, where you will find the beautiful trails of Indian Canyons, the home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. There are over 60 miles of hiking and walking trails for outdoor lovers of all levels to choose from, ranging from easy to strenuous. When you’re done getting your nature on, head to Palm Springs for some good grub and chill vibes. Admission tickets are available for purchase at the Agua Caliente Visitor’s Center at Palm Springs Visitor Center. Address: 38520 S. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs. 

Brush Canyon Trail, Griffith Park

The Jon B. Lovelace Collection of California Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

If you want to get the real L.A. hiking experience during the fall, then Brush Canyon Trail is the perfect place. One of the most popular hiking trails in Southern California, Brush Canyon Trail, takes you through L.A.’s famous Griffith Park and behind the iconic Hollywood Sign. Even though Griffith Park has numerous trails that lead to the Hollywood Sign, Brush Canyon is the best option because it is a more moderate, steady climb to the back of the sign on Mount Lee. Once at the top, hikers will get marvelous views of Los Angeles and many of the city’s other landmarks for their Instagram feed. There is a small parking lot near the bottom of the trailhead. Address: 3200 Canyon Drive, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA 90068  

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