Dreaded Hill, Whiting Ranch
For those seeking a challenge, this trail has nearly 1,000 feet of elevation gain in one mile. To your left as you ascend is an awesome view of Saddleback Valley. Upon arriving at the hilltop, enjoy stunning vistas of colorful white and red rock formations, purple mountains, and bursts of wildflowers in spring. At Four Corners, lengthen your hike by heading to Red Rock Canyon to marvel at iron-rich sandstone crags bracketed by cactus and yucca, O.C.’s little Sedona. This out-and-back will add approximately 4 miles to your trek. Or turn right and head down Serrano Road and through the peaceful Serrano Cow Trail, the latter shaded by groves of oak trees and laurel sumac beside dry creek beds. Watch for bobcats, deer, speedy roadrunners, and soaring hawks. Arrive back exhilarated at your starting point on Glenn Ranch Road, having conquered the no-longer-dreaded hill (8 miles or 4.5 miles).
City: Aliso Viejo
Details: Offering nearly 1,000 feet of elevation gain in just 0.75 miles, this rocky, steep trail got its name when a vandal ripped off the “enviro” part of the original sign.
City: Laguna Beach
Details: The 1,100-foot elevation gain in just a mile leaves you breathless by the time you reach Bommer Ridge with its, yes, breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and Catalina.
Quail Hill Trail to Little Sycamore Canyon
Distance: 9.5 miles
Details: Hike this rollercoaster of a trail from behind the community center to Serrano Ridge. Then swoop down Little Sycamore and back along Stagecoach and West Ridge.