Food & Drink, Things to Do

10 Beloved Orange County Hikes and Brunch Spots for the Perfect Weekend Combo

Hike and a brunch?

You know you love it.

Hiking in California is a universal activity. Rappers do it. Kim Kardashian does 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

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

TinyLeaf.com

TinyLeaf.com

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).

8. Trestles

Trestles San Clemente

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

Claimyourjourney.com

Claimyourjourney.com

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

socal-hiking-trails.blogspot.com

socal-hiking-trails.blogspot.com

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

Yelp

Yelp

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

socalhiker.net

socalhiker.net

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

OCMomBlog.com

OCMomBlog.com

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

condor-connection.org

condor-connection.org

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

Yelp

Yelp

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.

The Ultimate Guide to 10 of Orange County's best hikes and where to brunch after

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  • Fang

    I would be cautious of Black Star Canyon. I’ve run into very unfriendly people there before when I was trying to hike around and take some nature photos. This was a few years ago though so maybe the people who live around there are more accepting of hikers etc.

    • Sahar

      Thanks for the info, I have heard that from others as well, but also regarding several years ago. I will update this post if we see that it’s still the case!

    • ocexplore

      Thank you for sharing, I have heard this as well, but didn’t experience it personally so I didn’t include it. I’ll be aware next time and update here if this is a noticeable trend.

      • Josh Hunt

        I went on that hike with a bunch of friends and some of had a shot gun pointed at us. So if you go go at your own risk. Bring lost of water too. It is a long hike.

        • ocexplore

          Whoa! That’s insane. I am going to update the article, and probably replace that hike. Glad you shared.

        • Melissa McKeehan

          You had a shotgun pointed at you? By whom? “Black Star Bill”? That’s a myth that’s been perpetuated since I was a child. I would very much challenge this statement as hundreds of people use the trail daily, and I live in the canyon and I run that trail several days a week.

          • ocexplore

            Hmmm, maybe these comments about unsafe-ness are coming from the same intention that surfers have when they post about “shark sightings” in the waters right around 4th of July weekend?? Thanks for sharing, glad we have another perspective on here.

        • Melissa McKeehan

          The only suspect individuals I have ever encountered are stoners, and they’re always just chillin’. The only individuals who own property in Black Star live so far off of that trail, I’ve never encountered any of them except in the cafe, and they are friendly. I’m okay with fewer people on the trail, though, if anyone wants to believe this. Crowds are no fun.

  • Billy Trigwell

    Why isn’t holy Jim on the list?

    • ocexplore

      That’s a good one too! I’m not sure, but I need to hike it and then include it in a future list. Have you done the hike recently? How was it?

  • Dewey

    This whole list is a reach.

    • ocexplore

      Hi Dewey, what would you like to see?

  • Samsonite

    Since OC parks posted this on Facebook, it seems as if they are endorsing the list. My opinion on #3 is that it probably isn’t the best thing to have a bunch of day hikers trying to find a poorly marked trail. A few years ago some hikers got lost in the area and spent a few nights in the wilderness. I’d probably encourage Holy Jim waterfalls as an alternative, but you almost need an offroad vehicle to get to the parking depending on the season and road condition. The previous #3 of Blackstar was a worse option as there is practically no path to get to the falls. I’ve never had any problems in Blackstar during the day or night, but I did witness a confrontation between a resident and a biker. Regarding the overall list, I can appreciate your take on things, but having biked most of OC my top 10 brunch & hike list probably wouldn’t overlap much with yours. It’s all a matter of opinion, so I’d encourage everyone to get out and explore. There’s a lot to see.

  • Pratita

    Thanks for the info! Where’s the exact location of nomor 8 picture? We didn’t find the trail accross the river. Road is close once you get to the river bank.