There are lots of great reasons to hike, and every trail has something special to offer – but one of the most rewarding feelings is a great summit view. Whether you’ve climbed up a grueling backcountry trail full of switchbacks and loose ground or just found a little “off the beaten path” peak in a popular park, taking a break from the incline to enjoy some sweeping vistas (and maybe a snack). Expedia.com asked me to share five hikes with great summit views you can enjoy.
The tallest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains is also one of the finest all-around hikes in Southern California. Routinely topping hikers’ top-anything lists, this 6-mile loop trail dives through fragrant sage scrub, passes impossibly-balanced rock formations, and finally tops out at 3,111 feet after a short scramble. From the summit, you’ll have unparalleled views of the Pacific Coastline, including the nearby Channel Islands National Park.
Who says you have to trek to the wilderness for a peak with a great view? This rarely-visited summit is just a short side trip off of one of the popular routes in Griffith Park – the largest municipal park in Los Angeles. It’s just a 3-mile out-and-back starting near the iconic Greek Theater. From the summit, you’ll have clear sight-lines to the rugged Verdugos and San Gabriel Mountains as well as the man-made peaks of downtown. On the weekends, an easy shuttle ride from the Vermont / Sunset subway stop means you don’t even have to worry about parking!
If you want to get away from the city and have the trail to yourself for a while, Ontario Peak is the place to go. A challenging nearly-12 mile trek into the Cucamonga Wilderness takes you alongside a year-round creek lined with sub-alpine pine trees, then climbs to an epic ridge to Ontario Peak, providing outstanding views of Icehouse Canyon, the towering Mount Baldy, and the foothill cities below. Add a side trip to Bighorn Peak for an extra couple of miles or consider spending the night at Kelly Camp for a full-weekend adventure.
SAN JUAN HILL
In Orange County, Chino Hills State Park helps provide a biological corridor between the Santa Ana Mountains and Puente Hills, but it also offers hikers, trail runners and cyclists some of the most incredible views in all of Southern California. The relatively diminutive (and somewhat mysteriously named) San Juan Hill stands at just 1781 feet tall, but it’s position allows a view of that entire sweeping corridor of rolling green hills—unbelievably emerald in the spring after a few good winter storms. That view’s backdrop is the highest end of the San Gabriel Mountains, and on clear days you’ll be able to see the San Bernardinos, Mount San Jacinto, and the Pacific Ocean. Reach this point from a moderate 6 mile out-and-back from Rimcrest Drive or a grand 14 mile loop through Telegraph Canyon at the park’s headquarters. The canyon trek makes the view even more impressive, as you’ll be tucked inside the canyon walls for almost the entire approach.
MOUNT SAN JACINTO
At 10,834 feet, San Jacinto Peak towers over the low desert of nearby Palm Springs. Its high-elevation forested face serves as a drastic contrast to the sands below (and a welcome respite from warm temperatures) and it stands as a siren-like beacon for hikers in the mountain getaway of Idyllwild. There are many ways to reach this peak, including grueling climbs from the desert floor, moderate backpacking treks, and even a relatively easy ride up an aerial tramway followed by a gentle day hike. No matter which way you reach it, you’ll enjoy soaking in the thrilling views from this prominent, rocky summit.
Modern Hiker partnered with Expedia.com and was compensated for their time on this post. Modern Hiker retained total creative and editorial control over the content of this post.