Easy Does It Outdoors

We're dipping our pinky toe into the outdoors again. While trails begin to reopen, health guidelines are asking us to keep our outdoor adventures local to our counties, for now. So we put together a list of hikes and bike rides to consider. Please be sure to check official websites for status updates and for alternative trails to consider if a particular trail is busy. We also recommend checking your county's ordinance for outdoor recreation and mask usage. Stay safe and enjoy the parks!

My Weekend Sherpa:

Want to do it Did it
Week of:

1) Descanso Trail {Los Angeles County}

Descanso hike

Descanso Trail gets overlooked by its showy neighbor, Descanso Gardens, but if you’re looking for a quick-fix hike and a cardio challenge, opt for the 3-mile loop trail. It’s a hidden gem near the busy 210 and 2 freeways, just west of the garden entrance, that offers 1,000 feet of quickly earned elevation gain. TIP: Descanso Gardens is also open, but non-members will need to buy a ticket in advance, and they’re a hot item! Get info and updates on Descanso Trail. Here is protocol from Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Bring plenty of your own water.


2) Henninger Flats  {Los Angeles County}

Henninger Flats and Castro Peak Lookout

Where do old fire lookout towers go after they retire? This one moved from Malibu to the San Gabriel Mountains. That’s right: The old Castro Peak Lookout, which stood at 2,826 feet in the Santa Monica Mountains and saw service from 1925 to 1971, now stands above Henninger Flats in the San Gabes, at 2,600 feet. Its crown, the 20-foot steel relic, can be viewed via a 5.6-mile gut-bustin’, heart-thumpin’ out-and-back workout that delivers panoramic vistas of the San Gabriel Valley. Here is protocol from Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Bring plenty of your own water.


3) Ride Open Spaces  {Los Angeles County}

This 5-mile fat-tire cruise in the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve is what mountain bikers call a middle-chainring ride—no extremes, nothing technical, but rather a gentle climb into the Simi Hills and a gentle descent on the return through an oak-studded landscape. More about nature than rad biking. Check Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority for trail status updates. Here is protocol from Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Bring plenty of your own water.


4) Peter’s Canyon  {Orange County}

For an inspiring example of a land’s resilience after wildfire, hike the trails of Peters Canyon Regional Park in central Orange County. Although the 2017 Canyon 2 Fire devastated the wildlife at the north end of the canyon and left charred willows in its wake, today an entire palette of green, yellow, and orange regrowth fills spaces that flames once dominated. The 5.7-mile East Ridge Loop Hike sets the stage in full. Bring plenty of your own water.


5) Bike the Back Bay  {Orange County}

Biking the 10-mile Newport Beach Back Bay Loop Trail is a great way to see the quiet side of Newport Beach—the side that isn’t beach. Instead you’ll ride through 1,000 acres of coastal wetlands known as the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve and Ecological Reserve. Bring plenty of your own water.


6) Bounty of Bonelli {Inland Empire}

Bonelli Park Loop Trail

The 6.3-mile Bonelli Park Loop Trail is proof you don’t have to go far to escape the city. In San Dimas, the park’s nearly 2,000 acres of rolling hills surround 250-acre Puddingstone Lake with views of the towering San Gabriel Mountains just to the north. Check Bonelli Park’s official website for updates. Bring plenty of your own water.


7) Wilderness Gardens {San Diego County}

Wilderness Gardens County Preserve

Hidden spots may seem harder to come by these days, but San Diego’s Pauma Valley has a few less-known gems, including a small oasis tucked within Wilderness Gardens County Preserve. Find it along 3.2 miles of tranquil trail where water, native history, and natural diversity come together—along with fabulous far-reaching views of the valley. Bring plenty of your own water.


8) Sonny & Share {Deserts}

Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge

The Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge doesn’t get many human visitors, but more than 30,000 birds make it a point to visit this hidden gem every year. It consists of 2,200 acres of wetland, farm fields, and desert across two separate units on the Salton Sea’s sparsely populated south shore. Bring your binoculars and go bird-ID crazy on the 2-mile Rock Hill Trail, which starts next to the informative visitor center. You might see a covey of quail and some burrowing owls right off the bat. Bring plenty of your own water.


9) Reminder: New Rules of the Trail

It’s not so hard and it’s a way to help keep our parks open during this challenging pandemic: follow your county’s specific ordinance and see our easy online guide, New Rules of the Trail, for remembering some of the top-level basics for being responsible outdoors during Coronavirus. Enjoy the trails!


10) New Podcast Episode on the National Parks

Take It Outside podcast

This week on the Weekend Sherpa podcast, Take It Outside, we discuss “mask-phobia” and three national parks in California to put on your ASAP list for when they open (which may be soon!). Listen to our episode “National Parks ASAP” and read our issue all about these national parks.

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