For many of us, our dogs are our family. We love them like our children — and treat them as such. And we want to include them in the activities we do. So for many dog owners, it’s quite disappointing when we can’t take them everywhere. Fortunately, Orange County is home to plenty of areas where we can go to spend the day with our pups while also getting some fresh air.

Prepare your pup
First things first, prepare your pup for a day of hiking. REI has put together an excellent guide outlining all the information you will need. You can read it here: Hiking with Your Dog.

Pick a trail
We’ve put together a list of great options for all hikers. From easy, paved trails that aren’t very far from the city’s amenities to long, strenuous hiking adventures where you’ll feel like you’ve earned a medal afterward, there’s something for everyone.

Aliso Summit Trail
More along the lines of a walk than a hike, this easy trail goes along the southern ridge of the Aliso and Wood Canyons Regional Park. At the end of the trail, enjoy wonderful views of the ocean and Aliso Beach County Park.
Length: ~7 miles
Difficulty: easy
Leash required: yes

Las Ramblas Trail
Sweeping mountain and coastline views characterize this moderate hiking trail, with several gradual inclines and one steep hill. The best times for this trail are early morning and early evening, mainly because there is no shade and the views are all the more spectacular at sunrise and sunset.
Length: ~3.4 miles
Difficulty: moderate
Leash required: yes

Ridgeline Trail
Though it’s not a wilderness trail, San Clemente’s Ridgeline Trail has a fair amount of roller-coaster hills. Because it follows the ridgeline, you get gorgeous views in every direction. You can see Dana Point marina, Santiago and Modjeska peaks, and on clear days, Catalina and San Clemente islands. Plus the trail is paved, making it a great choice for all hikers and trail-goers.
Length: ~4.7 miles
Difficulty: easy-to-moderate
Leash required: yes

San Clemente Beach Trail
This easy, beachside trail is a great choice if you’d like to stay close to town and amenities. The trail stretches all the way from the North Beach Metro Station parking lot down to Calafia State Beach. The San Clemente Beach Trail is an essentially flat, fairly smooth crushed granite trail that is shared by everyone from walkers and runners to bikers, dogs, and strollers. As a flat out-and-back trail, you are free to make this one as easy or challenging as you like. This makes it particularly beginner-friendly because you can turn around and go back if anyone in your party starts getting too tired.
Length: ~4.6 miles
Difficulty: easy
Leash required: yes

Colinas Bluff Trail
This trail is a great double-track trail following the Colinas ridge between Laguna Niguel and San Juan Capistrano. Its suburban setting makes it a nice option for those who want terrific 360-degree views from Santiago peak to the ocean and Catalina Island, but also would like the comfort of knowing that there's a Starbucks with a nice patio right by the trailhead. As with the San Clemente Beach Trail, this one is an out-and-back, allowing you to adapt it to any length or difficulty. And though it can be adjusted to any length, the geography of this particular trail offers two great almost-preset lengths: the full 6.7-mile hike or a 4.6-mile appreciated version.
Length: ~6.7 miles (full hike); ~4.6 miles (abbreviated hike)
Difficulty: easy-to-moderate
Leash required: yes

Chiquito Falls
You will want to go on several easy-to-moderate hikes before embarking on this difficult, beautiful hike to the lovely Chiquito Falls. Make sure to visit San Juan Falls either on the way out or back. If you see shade, we would recommend taking advantage of it and resting for a few minutes, because much of the hike is uncovered. Some might say this trail is not technically located in Orange County; it’s on the OC/Riverside border off of Ortega Highway. But as a beautiful double-waterfall out-and-back trail, we thought it would be a shame not to include.
Length: ~6.8 miles
Difficulty: difficult
Leash required: yes

Sitton Peak Trail
This trail is a moderate 10-mile hike that leads to sweeping views of the ocean and, when the weather is clear enough, Catalina Island. There’s no drinking water along this trail, so bring enough for yourself and your pup, taking into consideration that it’s a round trip. This area has a tendency to get pretty hot during the summer months, and while it’s definitely still doable, you will likely enjoy it in the fall through spring seasons most. And if possible, pick a clear day to hike this trail so you can really appreciate the sweeping views all the way to Catalina. Also, consider bringing a map, because some trail junctions are not well-marked. This is another trail that falls on the OC/Riverside border off of Ortega Highway, so again, not strictly in OC proper.
Length: ~10 miles
Difficulty: moderate
Leash required: yes

We hope you and your dog have a blast hiking the various trails in Orange County, both those mentioned here and beyond.

Do you have any favorite hiking trails? Share them in the comments below!