Traversing Trails: The Best Autumn Trail Runs and Hikes in SoCal

Traversing Trails: The Best Autumn Trail Runs and Hikes in SoCal

By Rachael Medina October 29, 2019

While the California summers get most of the attention, the cooler weather and smaller crowds of autumn make it the best time of the year to take a hike. Along with the beautiful fall foliage, Southern California is filled with stunning panoramas, waterfalls, and mountain vistas that make for unforgettable runs and hikes during this time of year. No matter what you’re looking to add to your fall hiking itinerary, these five Los Angeles area trails are excellent choices. 

Bridge-to-Nowhere Hike

9.3-mile out-and-back trail, Mount Baldy

The long hike to the Bridge to Nowhere offers stunning views and an excellent workout. 

Tucked near Mount Baldy, the Bridge to Nowhere is one of the most picturesque hikes and is one you would expect to see in Big Sur rather than in Southern California. The bridge was originally constructed in 1936 to connect the banks of the East Fork of the San Gabriel River between Wrightwood and the San Gabriel Valley. Merely two years later, however, the work was for not: A major flood washed out the road that led to the bridge, officially making it a bridge to nowhere. 

While this trail provides plenty to keep you entertained, for even more excitement, consider heading to the Bridge to Nowhere for bungee jumping, and prepare to leap off the side of the bridge. But first, you’ll have to cross four rivers and potentially wade through thigh- to waist-high water—so make sure to bring water shoes, hiking boots, a towel, and a waterproof case for any electronics you have with you. 

Mount Baldy via Devil’s Backbone Trail

14-mile out-and-back trail, Mount Baldy

When it comes to exciting fall treks, it doesn't get much better than the Devil's Backbone Trail to Mount Baldy. 

Mount Baldy is the tallest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains, reaching 10,064 feet at its summit—which can be seen from the coast when the fog and smog subside. So, hiking to the top of Mount Baldy along the narrow ridgeline of the Devil’s Backbone Trail is quite the feat. Expect rocky gravel, steep elevation gains, and incredible views you can’t see anywhere else. 

While the trail is accessible year-round, the intense winds can make it nearly impossible to cross the ridge. But should you make it, be sure to have an extra sweater packed so you can comfortably take in the views from the top. Hiking poles also make this Mt. Baldy hike a bit more manageable, but the most important thing to bring is a hiking partner to make the journey safer and more enjoyable. 

Lost Palms Oasis Trail

7.2-mile out-and-back trail, Indio

The desert is full of wonder and unexpected surprises. The Lost Palms Oasis Trail offers so much beauty and makes for the perfect fall hike. Photo courtesy of Time Travel Turtle.

There’s nothing quite like a desert hike. Though Joshua Tree National Park and Palm Springs make for interesting summer vacation destinations, the pleasant temperatures of autumn days allow the unique landscape to shine, and you can take it all in while hiking the Lost Palms Oasis Trail. The road to the parking lot sometimes gets washed out during the fall months—adding a couple of miles to each end of the hike—but the trail is mostly accessible year-round. Just remember that the oasis lies in the middle of the arid desert, so don’t expect to see water unless there has been a decent amount of rainfall. Also bear in mind that because the desert can be unpredictable, it’s vital to bring plenty of water and a hat with you, regardless of the season. You should also come prepared to see all kinds of wildlife such as foxes, jackrabbits, lizards, and tortoises. 

Solstice Canyon Loop Trail

3.2-mile loop trail, Malibu

Short trails like the Solstice Canyon Loop Trail near Malibu are ideal running destinations. Bring running shoes and plenty of water before you tackle this trek.

The unparalleled Santa Monica Mountains near Malibu make for the perfect outdoor escape. Known for its intermediate-level trail runs and welcoming hikes, Solstice Canyon Loop Trail provides all the views you crave along with an intimate look at the local fall foliage

When you get to the trailhead, follow the service road and veer right at the dirt road. Here, you’ll pass by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy; turn right after the second building. This will lead you to the Rising Sun Trail, to the top of the ocean-view ridge, and down into the mansion ruins of the “Tropical Terrace” before returning you to the service road that parallels the stream. As an added bonus, you might be able to see the 30-foot waterfall along this pathway if it has rained recently.  

Escondido Falls Trail 

3.7-mile out-and-back trail, Malibu

Escondido Falls is an unexpected wonder in the middle of Malibu. The breathtaking sights and short trail distance make it an excellent fall hike for the whole family. Photo courtesy of The Adventurer.

The fairly short Escondido Falls Trail makes for the perfect fall hiking path. Because the trail doesn’t offer very much shade, attempting it during the summertime can prove to be quite exhausting, so the temperate autumnal weather makes for a much more pleasant experience. Plus, both sections of Escondido Falls are even more beautiful after it rains.

This trail is well-traveled and thus less secluded than some of the other trails throughout the Los Angeles area. There is also an $8 parking fee, so make sure to bring some cash with you. Once you ditch the car and head out on the trail, be prepared for a decent climb—particularly if you plan to venture up to the upper falls—which is more welcoming to groups than to solo hikers. 

For even more hiking adventures, check out the best hikes in Hollywood, or mix it up with a few rock climbing excursions and take full advantage of the fall weather.

Rachael Medina

WRITTEN BY Rachael Medina

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