Hike and a brunch?
You know you love it.
And I know you love brunch. Oh, how you love brunch.
So everyone loves a hike-n-brunch on a sunny weekend morning, and with the weather seemingly turning a corner from its oh-so-brief winter spell, we’ve put together ten of the most popular and fun hikes in Orange County with options for everyone, and the brunch spots nearby that can be the perfect after-hike antidote, for those that need more than just the promise of fresh air, vertical climbs and fantastic ocean and mountain views to get out of the house on the weekend.
10. Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park
27901 Glenn Ranch Rd, Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679
23 trails and 17 miles are in the park, with streams and Red Rock Canyon providing plenty of scenic views. Whiting Ranch is popular with mountain bikers, but it’s a great easy-to-moderate hike that can be as short as 20 minutes or a few hours long, it’s all up to you. There have reportedly been several mountain lion sightings in recent years so be sure to bring a friend or travel in a group along the trail. Located in Foothill Ranch, parking is $3 unless you have an annual OC Parks Pass, which we highly recommend.
Brunch Spot: Stacks Pancake House in Mission Viejo. Keep it simple after the hike with this OC favorite (they have another location in Dana Point that’s also super popular with the weekend crowd) and grab chocolate chip pancakes, omelettes and crepes at single-digit prices.
9. Back Bay Loop Trail
2301 University Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660
A favorite among bicyclists, this trail offers a clear, flat path of about 10.5 miles around Upper Newport Bay in Newport Beach. There are a number of different scenic stops along the trail, including Upper Castaways Park, Big Canyon and upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve. Free street parking is available on the neighboring streets. The one downside to this trail? Not a single bathroom is situated on or near the trail so be sure to take care of business before engaging on your walk/hike/ride.
Brunch Spot: Combination of Sidecar Doughnuts and Pie Not. These two shops are next door to each other, and while it’s hard to eat both on the same day because Sidecar doughnuts are amazingly rich and Pie Not specializes in Australian meat pies, the combo would be one hardy brunch. Get to Sidecar before 11:30 am for the Country Ham & Egg donut along with others and their in-house coffee brews, then head over to Pie Not to finish with the Southern Comfort (chicken pot pie) and Drover pie (ground beef, onions, carrots and peas).
Christianitos I-5 exit, San Clemente, CA 92672
Located at the south end of the beach at San Mateo Point in San Clemente, Trestles Beach is regularly considered to be among the greatest surfing spots on the West Coast. The trail has the odd distinction of traveling under some beautiful sycamore trees–as well as the Interstate 5. While it certainly isn’t a lengthy trail, the path is long enough to warrant a visit solely for the ocean views it provides. Parking is available at the State Parking Lot on El Camino Real for $2 an hour or $15 per day.
Brunch Spot: Pipes Cafe on El Camino Real. No frills, cheap but delicious, with tropical beach decor, and the perfect match to the Trestles vibe. If you did more than just hike and got some surfing in too, the hearty veggie breakfast burrito here will hit the spot.
7. Moro Canyon
8471 N Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92652
Regardless of whether you are pedaling a bicycle or hiking, there’s one thing you’ll be sure to get at Moro Canyon inside Crystal Cove State Park–a workout.
Although there are trails for everyone at all levels, if you do choose to challenge yourself on the more advanced paths, be prepared for some serious incline. When the sky is clear, you can even see Catalina Island as well! Looking to avoid the steep $15 price tag for parking? Try parking on the street outside of Gate 9 right across from Coastal Peak Park.
Brunch Spot: Zov’s in Newport Coast. We endorse the $11 bottomless mimosas in four varieties, the Dirty Fries, and a lunch and brunch menu with a Mediterranean influence from this 30-year-old establishment in the OC (Zov’s in Tustin is well-known as a political hangout). Brunch is served until 2:30 so even you late-morning hikers can make it.
6. Dripping Canyon and Cave Rock
28373 Alicia Parkway, Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
Not every trail leads to a cave, but this one inside Aliso and Wood Canyons Wildness Park does. There are several different options of getting there, but the most popular way to do it is to start from the park’s main entrance. Depending on who you ask, the cave has two names–Dripping Cave or Robber’s Cave–the latter a reference to its use as a hideout by robbers who held up stage coaches traveling from San Diego to Los Angeles. If you’re lucky, you can find a free parking spot in the neighboring streets or you could pay $3 for the convenience of the main lot (your OC Parks Pass works here too).
Brunch Spot: Break of Dawn in Laguna Hills. It’s not exactly adjacent, but this is a spot that elevates brunch to more than an excuse to day-drink. Chef Dee Nguyen brings fine dining and French and Vietnamese influence to breakfast and lunch, we recommend the pork belly and tempura eggs, but the menu changes frequently with the chef’s creations and seasonal produce availability.
5. Peters Canyon
8548 E. Canyon View Ave, Orange, CA 92869
If you’re looking for a place to bring the kids, the dogs and even grandma too, then Peters Canyon in Tustin should be the location of your next family outing. There are two trails, one that leads down and the other that heads to higher ground. There’s even a 500 Days of Summer-esque bench at the top that may give you that dramatic profile picture you have been dying to take. The canyon trails has Easy, Medium and Difficult(ish) options- the flat perimeter trail is easy, there’s a little bit of a climb on the trail that is just in from the perimeter, and the last trail has a little bit more difficulty with the hill shown in the picture above. But you can really do any of them without breaking too much of a sweat. Park in the lot using your OC Parks Pass or pay $3, or park along the street just past Peters Canyon Elementary School near the south entrance.
Brunch Spot: The Filling Station Cafe in Old Towne Orange. Not only is The Filling Station a picturesque outdoor brunch spot that’s ideally suited to meeting up with friends, the menu has every classic brunch option and excellent eggs Benedict (the brunch gold standard).
4. Chiquito Falls
34950 Ortega Hwy, Lake Elsinore, CA 92530
At nearly 9 miles, this trail is one of the more strenuous hikes in the county. This one isn’t for the kids (or grandma). While the water will likely not be flowing at either Chiquito or Ortega falls because of the drought, there still remains a payoff in the form of some gorgeous views. Plus, if you make it to the highest point on the trail, you can tell your friends you reached a height just shy of 2,700 feet above sea level. The trail begins in the northeast corner of the parking lot, which is located across the street from The Candy Store on Ortega Highway. You will need an Adventure Pass ($5) to park.
Brunch Spot: Head back west on Ortega Highway to Ramos House in San Juan Capistrano. At $40 per person for brunch, this is one of the pricier options, but it’s another historic restaurant in San Juan Capistrano’s train depot, and matches the Ortega Highway vibe of your hike in Chiquito Falls. Enjoy the people watching, artifacts and antiques, and their Black Truffle and Fava Bean Treat.
3. Falls Canyon Falls
Trabuco Creek Rd, Trabuco, CA 92679
Updated: Originally, the No. 3 hike was the Black Star Canyon Falls in Orange. But several people commented that they have encountered rather unfriendly neighbors, and we don’t want anyone to feel unsafe or have their day soured by looking down the barrel of a shotgun, and thanks to Dee Nguyen (from Break of Dawn), we replaced this hike with the Falls Canyon Falls off Trabuco Creek Road. The hike to the falls here takes no more than an hour, and it’s easy enough to bring the kids and dogs. The falls trail is pretty unmarked, but drive the past the open gate on the dirt road (Trabuco Creek Road) for a few minutes, park on the right, and keep walking for about 20 minutes before you see the falls. Yelpers have a few good tips if you need more specific directions.
Brunch Spot: Mi Casa Cal-Mex Cantina in Rancho Santa Margarita, for casual, leisurely food after. Try the Mex Benedict and Chile Verde Machaca Torta.
2. Santiago Peak
Trailhead at Holy Jim Road and Trabuco Canyon Road fork
Want to say you reached Orange County’s highest point? As the highest peak in the Santa Ana Mountains at 5,689 feet, Santiago Peak is no easy feat. However, this particular hike isn’t so much about the destination but the journey. Although the actual summit itself is host to a large quantity of radio towers, the hike up is quite scenic. On a clear day, you’ll be able to look out into the Inland Empire as well as the Pacific Ocean. Parking is available with a National Parks Pass or an Adventure Pass, though you can also just buy a $5 day permit from the ranger’s office.
Brunch Spot: After that hike, it might not still be brunch time, but if it is, you deserve the food and the view at Carmelita’s in Ranch Santa Margarita. Overlooking a manmade lake, the brunch menu at Carmelita’s is perfect for a long, filling meal. The vibe here might be a little dressier than your post-hike gear, but sit outside and do your thing- there’s no dress code.
1. Top of the World
3287 Alta Laguna Blvd, Laguna Beach, 92651
This spot is unique because you can actually start where you would expect to finish — at the top. Besides the awesome views, there are easy, medium, and difficult trails that stretch as long as 6 miles for different level hikers, though none are as taxing as Chiquito Falls or Black Star Canyon. One of the more difficult, but popular trails is the “Car Wreck Trail” which brings you to–you guessed it–a wrecked car. How it got there remains a mystery.
Another perk? Free parking.
Type in “3287 Alta Laguna Blvd, Laguna Beach, 92651” on your phone and it will lead you directly to an area where you can park.
Brunch Spot: Laguna Beach is a brunch mecca, so there are plenty of choices here, but if we had to pick just one, we’d go with Sapphire Laguna. This is another elevated brunch experience and the quality of food here is excellent. It’s where we go when we feel like splurging.