To research our cover story this month, my family embarked on the Aliso Peak hike. I’ve been in Orange County for more than 20 years and had never tried this trail. The outing was everything I like about hiking.
The trailhead theory: Fellow hikers are so friendly, and people seem to get more chatty the farther away from the trailhead they go. I suspect it’s the camaraderie of a shared interest in being outdoors, but there’s also a feeling of relief as you savor the open space.
Amazing views: We started in the morning, and fog hugged the coastline. It was invigorating to see Catalina peeking through the clouds as we basked in the sunshine and viewed our world from above. It was also a joy to get a new perspective on familiar places. “There’s Ben Brown’s golf course at The Ranch!” “Is that The Montage?” “Remember when we went to that little beach cove?” And this month there are likely to be whale sightings from Aliso Peak.
The hint of danger: OK maybe not danger so much as adventure. Though my son did tangle with a cactus twice during the one-hour hike. Plus it was mildly exhilarating to navigate the steep early portion of the rocky path and wonder “Is this the right way?” as my foot slid on a few loose rocks.
Accomplishment: This is my favorite part, and it’s valuable for my children, too. We got a little sweaty and felt like we’d done a workout. We enjoyed looking back at the peak—“That’s where we just were!” It feels virtuous to get outside and exercise, and the kids were in great spirits as they assured families just starting the trail that the views were worth it.
Dig into our feature about hikes and pick one to try, no matter your experience level. We promise there’s one that’s perfect for you.