The sizzle of the grill. The crack of a beer can opening. The crunch of potato chips. These are the sounds of Memorial Day, but another sound might not be as welcome – that little voice inside your head reminding you of the exercise you’ll need to work off the goodies of your Memorial Day barbecue. Fortunately, there are hundreds of great hiking trails throughout the L.A., Orange County and San Diego areas that are perfect ways to burn off some of that bratwurst. Here, in order of difficulty, are ten challenging, scenic hiking trails – all of which are convenient to L.A., Ventura, San Diego or Orange County – none of which require any special passes, permits or parking fees. Knock off one, maybe two of these trails on Memorial Day, or if you want more ideas, look at the links below. However you spend your holiday weekend, it’s good to know that there are many great, fun places around L.A. to get some exercise and air.
#10) Horse Trail
Eaton Canyon Natural Area is best known for its waterfall but the Horse Trail, which offers excellent views of downtown and the San Gabriel Valley, is also worth a visit. Short but steep, it provides a good workout. Hikers who want more of a challenge can continue on to Henninger Flats and those who have been REALLY bad about calories can atone by climbing all the way to Mt. Wilson.
#9) Lower Canyonback Trail
This popular hike in the Santa Monica Mountains has plenty of ups and downs to keep your calves burning. Ocean and mountain views are among the highlights.
#8) Upper Altadena Crest Trail
Similar to the Horse Trail, but more challenging, this one climbs rapidly from a residential Altadena neighborhood to the Mt. Lowe Fire Road, providing excellent views of the San Gabriel Mountains and the San Gabriel Valley. Ambitious hikers can extend the trip on the fire road.
#7) Coquina Mine
Just beyond the residential fringes of Simi Valley, this trail offers not only good exercise, secluded canyon and panoramic mountain views but a glimpse into the area’s past. Abandoned mining gear still sits on the hillside, adding a touch of history.
#6) Agua Caliente
Though it’s a bit of a drive, this scenic, secluded stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail in northeastern San Diego County is worth a visit. There are no major ascents or descents, but the distance (9+ miles round trip) is sure to help you work off at least one hot dog.
#5) Bell Peak
This short but steep hike in the Orange County foothills offers terrific views of the Santa Ana Mountains, Trabuco Canyon and the O.C. coastal plain. While Bell Peak is really just a bump on the ridge, the convenient location and challenging elevation gain make it a popular spot for hikers and mountain bikers alike.
#4) Middle Peak
Back in San Diego County, Middle Peak in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park provides an excellent workout with good views. While the route doesn’t actually reach the summit, it provides a nice panorama of the area, offering seclusion and fresh mountain air barely an hour from San Diego.
#3) Devil Canyon
This perennial favorite among San Fernando Valley hikers offers a moderately graded but long (10 mile) trip through canyons featuring some interesting marine geology and impressive oak groves.
#2) Horn Canyon Trail
Ventura hikers – those near Ojai in particular – can atone for Memorial Day indulgences in style on this excellent trail which climbs steeply from the valley to the serene Pines Camp. Got some extra calories to burn? The trail continues another 2.5 miles past the camp to Nordhoff Ridge Road.
#1) Doc Larsen Loop
More than eight miles of ups and downs make this loop an excellent place for calorie burning. Panoramic views of the San Fernando Valley, the Verdugo Mountains, the San Gabriels and Little Tujunga Canyon explain its popularity with hikers, equestrians and cyclists. There are far worse places to spend a Memorial Day weekend–whether to burn off the calories from festivities or just to enjoy nature–than the Doc Larsen Loop, or any of the other hikes on this list, or any hikes, period!