Sobriety doesn’t have to be boring. There are a number of activities you can do while in recovery, but you need to make sure that the activities you participate in are focused around sobriety. Hiking is a fantastic sober adventure. A trek outdoors is a great way to refresh your mind, energize your body, and explore the world around you. California has some of the most diverse hiking landscapes in the United States. You can find treks with alpine lakes, desert sands, or coastal views across Southern California. Whatever mood you’re in, there’s a hiking adventure that you can enjoy and benefit from.
Benefits of Hiking
The most obvious benefit of hiking is physical health, but going for a nice trek can help the health of your mind and relationships, as well.
When you hike, you take in the world’s physical beauty. But wandering around outdoors is also a great form of exercise that can improve your physical health. While outcomes range from person to person, hiking’s physical benefits can include:
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Stronger muscles
- Healthier heart
- Lower body fat
- Improved bone density
- Increased flexibility and coordination
Spending time in nature can help you unplug from the world. A good trek can also encourage you to slow down and be mindful of the present. In fact, more and more doctors are starting to recommend “ecotherapy” as a way to disconnect from everyday stress. The term, which is also known as “nature therapy” or “green therapy,” comes from the belief that people are deeply connected to nature. In other words, because of our connection to nature, when we walk through a serene outdoors landscape, we may also feel calm. Watching a relaxing body of water may make us feel less stressed. These nature prescriptions are said to have regenerative powers which can help:
- Improve your mood
- Ease anxiety
- Lower stress levels
- Reduce your risk of depression
- Inspire positive thinking
- Boost creativity and problem solving
When you invite a family member or friend to walk through nature with you, you’re building a bond and creating a memory with them. When the trail gets difficult, you have each other for encouragement. When the trail is easy, it’s a great opportunity to talk to and listen to each other. You might also enjoy hiking with a group, as well. Studies show that exposure to nature can help enhance your relational health by:
- Making you more empathetic
- Encouraging you to be helpful
- Teaching you to be generous
Now that we’ve discussed the health benefits of hiking, we’ve put together a guide of some of Southern California’s best hiking adventures.
Best Hiking Adventures in Southern California
If you’re new to hiking, you might enjoy starting off with a scenic hike. Some of our favorites include:
- Lake Calavera Trailhead in Carlsbad: This is a fun and easy trail in the city that’s full of surprises. On this 3.2-mile trek, you’ll find breathtaking views of wetlands, a charming wood bridge, a creek, a lake, and a wide range of wildlife.
- El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach: This hidden gem is made up of 105 acres and is a sanctuary for plant and animal life. The nature center also has two miles of dirt trails and a paved trail that surrounds two lakes, a stream, and forested areas. You can also visit El Dorado’s small island, where you’ll find the visitor center and an art gallery.
- Carbon Canyon Regional Park Redwood Grove in Orange County: You don’t have to head to Northern California to see redwood trees! In addition to a grove of redwoods, Carbon Canyon Park has a 2.5-mile hiking trail, two fishing piers, and a 4-acre lake.
- Bayside Trail at Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego: This 2.5-mile trail is an easy trek that has great views. During your hike, you can see the ocean, Ballast Point, downtown San Diego, Coronado Island, sandstone cliffs, ships, and mountains.
If you prefer to reward your physical activity with an amazing view of a waterfall, try one the following hikes:
- Switzer Falls in Los Angeles County: This is one of the best-known waterfall hikes in Los Angeles County! You can reach this 50-foot waterfall after the 4.5-mile trek on Gabrielino Trail. As you hike, you’ll follow a creek down into a wooded canyon. A mile into the trail, you can enjoy wild blackberries in the summer and plenty of sunshine as the trail continues along the wall of Bear Canyon.
- Paradise Falls at Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks: There are several routes you can take to get to Paradise Falls, which drops 40 feet into a large pool along the Arroyo Conejo. You can take a 2.5-mile hike or travel through a 2.55-mile loop that visits a small cave.
- Escondido Falls in the Santa Monica Mountains: This 3-tier 150-foot waterfall is well worth the 3.8-mile round trip hike. But there’s also “Lower Escondido Falls,” an easier-to-reach, lower-tier waterfall that’s 50 feet tall and surrounded by beautiful views, as well. You can also walk through Escondido Canyon Park or the Edward Albert Escondido Canyon Trail. You may even run into a fennel and mustard field where a small creek flows.
If you’re looking to strengthen bonds with some of your family, consider one of these family-friendly hikes:
- Dixie Canyon Trail in Sherman Oaks: This short half-mile trail is like something out of a fairytale. Located inside a 20-acre wooded preserve, this trail has plenty of shade to keep you cool on a scorching summer day.
- Pumpkin Rock Trail in Norco: This hike is 1.7 miles long but rewards you with a pumpkin-shaped rock that’s painted like a jack-o-lantern at the end of the trail. This isn’t the easiest hike for little ones, but the treat at the end makes it worth it. This hike also includes horseback riding, bird watching, and wildlife for you and your family to enjoy.
- Oso Creek Trail in Mission Viejo: This trail is perfect for kids and grown-ups. This family-friendly trek has a total of 5.5 miles of trails but all of them are less than a mile long. One of the most loved parts of the trail is a hedge maze that’s about 3 feet high.
- Ferndell Trail in Griffith Park: You can find this short trail in Los Angeles but it feels like another world! The paved trail borders a stream that keeps the park’s tropical plants and sycamore trees nourished and vibrant green. Even though the trail is only a quarter of a mile long, it glides through Ferndell Nature Museum. You can also stop by Trails Cafe for a quick pick-me-up at the beginning or end of your journey.
If you’re an experienced hiker or an adventure seeker, you might enjoy the intense thrill of one of these treks:
- Cooper Canyon in Angeles National Forest: You can hike this 5-mile round trip trail in one sitting or you can make it a mini getaway and stay overnight at Buckhorn Campground. Whatever you decide to do, this trek is sure to leave you in awe of nature as you hike into a mountain canyon through an enchanting forest. When you arrive at Cooper Canyon, you can relax for a bit while you enjoy watching Cooper Canyon Falls.
- Sandstone Peak in Santa Monica Mountains: This 6-mile round trip trek will take you about 3 hours to complete! But if you make it to the top, you’ll see stunning views of the Oxnard Plain from the tallest point in the Santa Monica Mountains. On top of that, looking down on Yerba Buena Road is an amazing sight to see.
Physical activity can be one of the most effective ways to manage your ongoing recovery. If you’re lucky enough to be recovering in Southern California, you can enjoy some stunning scenery while experiencing a world-class workout at hundreds of local hikes. Try our recommendations or break out the trail map and find your own way forward!
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