Recently outdoor supplier REI made headlines with their “OptOutside” hashtag, encouraging consumers to spend Black Friday in nature, not battling crowds at big box stores. In addition to peace and quiet, another advantage of spending Black Friday outdoors is the opportunity to burn off some of the calories that were consumed on Thanksgiving. Of course, turkey, potatoes and casseroles, not to mention the beverages that wash them down, are delicious, but if you do the crime, you have to do the time. Fortunately, residents of Southern California not only have November weather that allows outdoor activity, but they also have plenty of variety of places to explore nature and get exercise. Here are ten scenic but challenging hiking trips in So Cal, all guaranteed to burn a calorie or two. Listed in order of difficulty, these hikes all have free parking, are mostly dog friendly and require no special permits–all you have to do is show up and do it!
#10) Owl Canyon is known for its unusual geology. It offers a chance to experience narrow, twisted canyons that seem to belong more in Utah or Arizona than just a few miles off of Interstate 15. A few challenging rock scrambles add to the sense of adventure. Keep an eye out for the caves as well. This hike is only a couple of hours from the Inland Empire and it also makes a good stop for people coming back from Las Vegas who want to delay reality just a little more.
#9) Though it may be past Halloween, the hike to Haunted Table 29 in Griffith Park offers a challenging workout with many steep ascents. On the way to the infamous table, you’ll enjoy excellent views of the San Fernando Valley and the San Gabriel Mountains.
#8) Cowles Mountain in San Diego’s Mission Trails Park is the highest point in the city and one of the area’s most popular hiking spots. A nearly relentless climb of almost 1,000 feet gets you to the top, where your efforts will be rewarded with a 360-degree view.
#7) North Ranch Open Space in Thousand Oaks offers a conveniently located workout with a lot of scenery including sandstone geology and panoramic mountain views. This loop, plus a spur to a lookout point, clocks in at almost 5 miles.
#6) The little-known Chumash Indian Trail near Malibu offers some good coastal and mountain views. To get there, one must first climb a steady mile and a half on the Zuma Ridge Motorway, by which point they will have likely burned off at least some of that cranberry sauce.
#5) Ocean and mountain views are also the order of the day on the Wiman/Old Pueblo/Buena Vista, a steep-climbing route in the foothills above Montecito. Santa Barbara and Ventura hikers who make the effort are rewarded with a great variety of scenery, including secluded canyons, sandstone caves and coastal panoramas.
#4) The Conover Loop is another example of how hiking trails can often hide in plain sight. This figure-8 shaped hike uses city streets and abandoned fire roads to reach a secluded single-track trail, barely a stone’s throw from the 210 Freeway. Great views of Mt. Lukens and the San Fernando Valley also abound.
#3) Another hidden gem of the San Fernando Valley is Lopez Canyon. Hikers can climb from the back of this rural enclave up to Kagel Divide in the Angeles National Forest.
#2) Like Cowles, Mt. Woodson is one of San Diego’s most popular hiking spots. Noted in particular for “Potato Chip Rock” (which gets its name for an obvious reason), Woodson is challenging however you approach it–even via the “easy” way, with 1,300 feet of elevation gain.
#1) The most challenging and arguably most scenic hike on this list is a bit of a drive from most of L.A. but worth it. Lilly Meadows is a campsite deep in the San Emigdio Mountains, a range that straddles the northern boundary of L.A. County. This hike provides the opportunity to experience the change from high desert to mountain country. Add a seasonal waterfall to the mix and you have one great hiking destination.
No matter where you #optoutside this Black Friday, you’re sure to find it to be a good experience for mind, body and soul alike. If none of these ten strike your interest, two more lists of ten hikes from Thanksgivings past have also been included. Now stop reading this and go hike!