Travels to Southern California

Planning to Visit

The Hollywood Sign

Nothing says California like a trip up to its quintessential landmark, the Hollywood Sign. This hike will take you through the Hollywood Hills, past the old Batcave from 60’s TV and up behind the Hollywood Sign. You can’t get any closer than 30 feet to the sign but it is really amazing to see a part of history like this close up and to get views of Los Angeles with the sign in front of the city instead of behind it.

Devils Punchbowl

On the other side of Mt Baldy, in a little town known as Pearblossum, there is a park that was rocked by the movement of the Earth thousands of years ago called Devils Punchbowl. The landscape has rocks that seem to jut up from something pushing them from underneath and provide a rare beauty that looks out-of-place next to the surrounding desert. The rocks can be climbed or just enjoyed, depending on your preference, but it makes for a unique place to spend an afternoon with plenty of additional hiking trails.

Mt Baldy

There truly are some great summits in Southern California like San Gorgonio and Cucamonga Peak, but for me it doesn’t get better then Mt Baldy. For the people only wanting the experience, you can take the tram to the top and walk the 8 miles round trip to the summit; however, for the hardcore you can take the Ski Hut Trail, that while only 8 miles, will take you up and back over 4000 feet of elevation, a true grind. The view from the summit is second to none as well. A must hike in Southern California.

Sturtevant Falls

I love this hike because it is as easy or as hard as you make it. You can hike it attached to the Mt Wilson Summit Trail and make it a 15 mile loop or you can just hike to Sturtevant falls and back to make it a casual three mile walk. The trail to the falls is one of the more beautiful in the LA area as well, as there is a pristine stream that runs along side the trail and lots of little cabins along the way. The waterfall at the end is amazing and really is icing on the cake of a beautiful hike.

The Slot in Anza Borrego

This is one of the stranger hikes in California, which makes it one of the more memorable. Located in the often overlooked beauty of Anza Borrego State Park, the slot hike brings you down into a slot canyon and lets you walk along it for about a mile. At some points the canyon get so small you have to go sideways to get through, as the ceiling continues to rise until you are at about 75 feet below the canyon wall. At the end there is even a small arch connecting the two sides (as seen in the above photo). It is a must do for the adventure seeker, but is only accessible via a hard to find dirt road.

Barker Dam in Joshua Tree

Barker Dam is one of the easier on the list, it is about a mile and a half loop. The beauty of this hike is not to be underestimated though. There are hundreds of rocks you can climb on, a dry creek bed, old history from cattle ranchers and even Indian petroglyphs at the end.  In a National Park that has many attractions this has to be one of my favorites.

Bridge to Nowhere

One of the most popular hikes in Southern California, this hike to the famous bridge will take you 5 miles back and across multiple river crossings, to reach a bridge that was seemingly built-in the middle of nowhere. This bridge was actually part of a road at one point in time, but now since the road has washed away it is just a bridge all by itself. Oh yea, and you can bungee jump off of it! A great hike for the summer as you are bound to get wet.

Escondido Falls

This hike is located right off Pacific Coast Highway, near the beautiful Point Dume. Escondido Falls Hike is a four mile trek that takes you to the three tiers of Escondido Falls. The first tier is beautiful, but if you can make it to the third you are in for a treat. The third tier drops over 100 feet and has a moss-covered exterior that is truly beautiful and almost impossible to full take a picture of. Be warned it requires some risky climbing to get to the third tier so do not attempt if you think you cannot make it.

San Jacinto from the Tram

Located only miles from Palm Springs, San Jacinto tops out at over 10,000 feet like Mt Baldy. What makes this hike epic is that you get to ride the Palm Springs Tram up 8,000 feet before you hike from the drop off point to the summit 6 miles away. You may think this hike is easy because of the tram but it is still a difficult hike at high elevation so make sure you bring a lot of water. If you are not up to push to the summit there are also a lot of beautiful things to see just walking around the many loop trails that start from the tram drop off.

Cowles Mountain

Cowles Mountain in San Diego is not a super unique hike compared to other hikes on this list but it is one of the local favorites and a great way to get a work out and see some beautiful views. What makes it so intriguing to hikers is that it gives you unparrelled views of downtown San Diego, Coronado and even Tiajuana, Mexico if it is a clear day. It is also the tallest point in San Diego. All of this makes it a great hikes that fits on the list.

Potato Chip Rock

One of the lesser know hikes in San Diego, this hike goes all the way to the top of Mt Woodson; however, the summit is not why people hike here. The main attraction is this massive rock right below the summit that has a potato chip like curve that you can walk out of even jump on. It is fun to get a picture here and to just sit on the potato chip and check out the beautiful views. Even though it looks small in the picture it is not in real life. Check it out for yourself and read about Potato Chip Rock here.

Murphy Ranch

Murphys Ranch 3

Does it get crazier then a hike, only 20 minutes from downtown LA that takes you to an old abandoned Nazi Camp in Pacific Palisades? This hike has a lot of urban decay, which is usually not something I like seeing on a hike but for the fact that it has so much crazy history it is unique here. There is also a crazy set of stairs that go straight down the side of a mountain. Read my massive post on Murphy Ranch here.

Big Horn Mine

Big Horn Mine from above

I love this hike nestled in the mountains above Wrightwood, mostly because it is an easy hike for people who havent hiked much but has such a cool payout at the end with this 80 year old abandoned mine. The mine is in various levels of disregard but it is still a great place to photograph or explore. Read more about Big Horn Mine here.

Cave of Munits This hike proves yet again that Southern California really does have everything as you hike up through a chimney cave and out the top on this hike. Nestled in the town of Tarzana, what starts out as a slow walk quickly takes you into a chimney cave, out the top and across a ridge line that is overgrown before ending at the top of Castle Peak with a beautiful view of the city below. Read about Cave of Munits here.

Mishe Mokwa Trail to Sandstone Peak This hike, situated along the beautiful coast in Malibu, is both a challenging hike and a amazing example of the SoCal coastal scenery. It has some many fun things to see from the balancing rock to Inspiration Point. I cannot recommend it more, read my full post here.

Kelso Dunes One of the largest sand dunes in California, the Kelso Dunes are a must hike for every adventurer. This hike is not easy as the sand can be brutal to stand on, but how often do you get to see the above view and feel that massive sense of accomplishment. There are a lot of hikes in the Mojave National Preserve but this is my favorite. Read more about the Kelso Dunes here.

The Rings Trail My favorite trail in the Mojave National Preserve, while not difficult, this short hike is stunning. It starts out slow but once you pass the hill side and go back into the Mojave you will be wowed by the crazy scenery that it entails. Then as you climb your way out with the old rings, I am sure you will enjoy this hike as much as I did.

Ranchos Palos Verdes Shipwreck Hike Hiking to the wreck of the Greek Dominator in Ranchos Palos Verdes is a very unique hike. It is coastal, so it is over rocks then entire time, but it ends with a lot of ruins from the shipwreck that you can see right on the beach. Some people do not like it since it is over rocks and slow going but I found the payoff and history to be super unique.

Echo Mountain Ruins While the hike itself is mostly just a long uphill climb, the payoff at the top is pretty awesome. When you get there you will be immersed in history as you explore the ruins of a once great mansion built on the hill side. It also serves as a beautiful vista over the city below.

big list of Southern California waterfalls  

best California day hikes f


The Adventure: Final Stats

Total Miles Driven: 5437

States Visited: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin

Books on Tape Listened to:
David Sedaris – When You Are Engulfed in Flames
Jack Kerouac – On the Road
James McBride – Color of Water
Jon Stewart – America the Book
Joseph Campbell – Power of Myth/Sukhavti
Michael Pollan-Omnivore’s Dilemma
Mitch Hedberg- Mitch All Together
Steven Wright – I Still Have a Pony
The Patti Smith Interviews
Amy Sedaris-I Like You
Stephen Colbert – I Am America
Fred Alan Wolf – Dr. Quantum

Wild Animals Seen: Buffalo/Bison. Ponghorn, Moose, Elk, Mule Deer, Mountain Goats, Prairie Dogs, Eagle, Hawk

Badlands National Park – South Dakota

Custer State Park South Dakota

Mt. Rushmore South Dakota

Seattle Day 1 Pictures

Here are the picture highlights from our first day in Seattle.

Days 14-15: Hitting the home stretch

We had a lovely walk around Albert Lea MN this morning. The town is ringed by multipurpose trails and connect several lakes and ponds. We drove to Madison, WI and had a lovely dinner with our old friends Patrick and Amy, and their three sweet kids, and Amy’s parents. Unfortunately we do not see P and A often since they live in Limerick, and it is always tremendous to catch up with them. Hopefully we will see them again before too long. Tomorrow we will see if we can make it all the way back home.