Top 18 of ’18 – reader choice!

The Sinks as seen from the new viewing deck (#15)
Strawberry Peak (#10) as seen from the La Canada Teepee (#14)
Mt. Lukens, Los Angeles
View from Mt. Lukens (#6)
Terranea Sea Cave Coastline
Coastline above the Terranea Sea Cave (#5)

It’s hard to believe it but we’ve come to the end of yet another year. I hope everyone reading this had a successful and happy 2018 on and off the trails. It was another great year for this website – different from years past in that no new write-ups of So Cal hikes were posted. Many hike write-ups were revised with updated photos and directions; in some cases with a route that was an expansion or variation of the original. A few hikes which have become off-limits due to changes in land management or ownership have been replaced with comparable trips. Since hike #1,000 – Mt. Baldy via Bear Ridge – was posted on Christmas 2017, however, no new local hike write-ups have been posted. Because of this, the Top 18 of ’18 was decided not by the author, as in years past, but by you, the readers, measured by total post views in 2018.

As anyone familiar with search engine optimization and the inner workings of Google can tell you, there are many factors that go into how much traffic a website – or a specific post on the site – gets. Some may be surprised that many hikes that are household names, such as Mt. Baldy, Cucamonga Peak, San Gorgonio, Holy Jim Falls, Sturtevant Falls, were not among the top 18. Similarly,  some of the hikes whose write-ups received the most traffic might not ring bells. The list runs from easy, family-friendly hikes to all-day treks, from summits to caves to waterfalls to hot springs to infamous landmarks in Griffith Park, Orange County to the San Gabriel Valley to the Inland Empire, from sea level to almost 10,000 feet of elevation. Here are the 18 hike write-ups on this site that received the most visitation this year. Enjoy and thank you as always for reading.

#18) Dominguez Gap Wetlands

Lately, a lot has been made of the importance of having outdoor spaces in urban areas. Long Beach’s Dominguez Gap Wetlands serves this purpose well, providing residents with an easy opportunity to experience nature. Highlights include bird watching (ducks, cormorants, hawks) and spring wildflowers, including California golden poppies. (Originally published: 2014)

#17) Pacific Ridge/Ticketron Loop

One of only two Orange County hikes to make the Top 18, this trip in the northwest corner of Crystal Cove State Park was updated earlier this year to include a return via the Red Tail Ridge trail. In addition to offering a convenient workout for south O.C. residents, the loop offers scenic variety including panoramic ocean views, the secluded Deer Canyon Campground and a small cave. (Originally published: 2011, updated 2018)

#16) Two Harbors to Little Harbor (Catalina Island)

One of the more scenic and challenging stretches of the Trans-Catalina Trail is the five miles from Two Harbors to Little Harbor. If you have been considering thru-hiking the Trans-Catalina Trail, this segment – with steep ascents and sharp drop offs – gives you a taste of what to expect. Added bonus: a beer or cocktail at one of Two Harbors’ bars as a reward for when you’re done. (Originally published: 2012)

#15) The Sinks: East Viewing Deck (Limestone Canyon Regional Park)

What if you could visit the Grand Canyon without having to drive to Arizona and deal with crowds? Okay, the Sinks of Orange County might not be an equivalent experience but the unusual formation is still one of O.C.’s most interesting geological sites. This post was updated earlier this year to include the new (2016) viewing deck which provides exceptional views of the formation. The hike to get there is enjoyable as well, following a ridge with views of the nearby mountains and then strolling through oak-shaded Limestone Canyon on the return. This hike is accessible on Limestone Canyon’s open access days (usually the first Saturday of the month) and on specially scheduled events, usually once or twice per month. (Originally published: 2012; updated 2018)

#14) La Canada Teepee via Crosstown Trail

Here’s one that might not be a household name outside of the San Gabriel Valley, but on clear days, the views from the La Canada Teepee are hard to beat. The steep (1,400 feet of elevation gain in less than 2 miles) climb to the teepee is one of the better workouts in the San Gabriel front country and the teepee itself makes for a great photo spot. (Originally published: 2012)

#13) The Road to Nowhere

Shoemaker Canyon Road, now known as the Road to Nowhere, is one of several ill-fated attempts to bridge the San Gabriel Valley and the Angeles Crest. The project was abandoned for good in 1969 but the remains of it – especially the two tunnels – are a popular draw among hikers, due to the site’s history and impressive canyon and mountain views. Note that this hike is different from the nearby Bridge to Nowhere, the result of another doomed project aimed to build a road from the valley to the mountains. The Road to Nowhere also serves as an access point for challenging Rattlesnake Peak. (Originally published: 2011)

#12) Stoddard Canyon Falls

The only waterfall on this list is not Etiwanda, Black Star, Big Falls or San Antonio but a 30-foot cascade that’s not actually known by its proper name. This hike, popularly called Stoddard Canyon Falls due to its proximity to Stoddard Peak, is located in San Antonio Canyon, not Stoddard Canyon. It can be reached via a short but challenging rock scramble and, due to San Antonio Canyon’s large drainage area, it can usually be counted on for water year-round. (Originally published: 2016)

#11) Deep Creek Hot Springs via Bradford Ridge Path

Here’s something you don’t see every day in Southern California – naturally occurring hot springs. This clothing-optional site is a favorite for L.A. area hikers due to its wild nature and scenic locale in the northwestern San Bernardino Mountains, on the edge of the desert. All three popular approaches to the springs – via Bowen Ranch, via Pacific Crest Trail and via the steep Bradford Ridge Path – are written up on this site. The Bradford Ridge route is considerably shorter than the P.C.T. route and doesn’t require driving on miles of dirt roads and paying a fee as does the Bowen Ranch route. Be careful on that descent to the springs though, and remember that you have to climb back up it. (Originally published: 2013)

#10) Strawberry Peak

Visible from most of the L.A. basin, Strawberry Peak (elevation 6,164) is the tallest summit in the front country of the San Gabriels. Its name comes from its recognizable shape – similar to an upside-down strawberry. Adventurous hikers attempt the mountaineer’s route up the peak’s steep western face, but even the standard approach from Red Box, via single-track trails, is a challenge – especially the last mile. (Originally published: 2015 – #4 on the year end best of list)

#9) Mt. Wilson Trail

Los Angeles hikers collectively have a love-hate relationship with Mt. Wilson. Some appreciate its convenient location, views of the city and variety of trails while others don’t want to hike double digit mileage to see a bunch of antennas and tourists that have driven up. That being said, the original Mt. Wilson Trail, built by Benjamin “Don Benito” Wilson in 1864 as a route for hauling timber via burro, is arguably the most scenic and challenging of any of the established paths to the summit. For those not up to the whole trek, Orchard Camp, almost half way up, is a good destination. (Originally published: 2016 – #3 on the year end best of list)

#8) Sugarloaf Mountain

Can’t get that San Gorgonio permit for the day you want? The views from Sugarloaf Mountain might not equal those from its more famous neighbor to the south, but this nearly 10,000-foot peak – the tallest in the San Bernardino Mountains outside of the San Gorgonio Wilderness – is still one of the I.E.’s best hikes. If you are planning on knocking off San Gorgonio, Sugarloaf makes a good training hike. (Originally published: 2016 – #8 on the year end best of list)

#7) Eagle Rock Canyon Trail

Did you ever wonder how the community of Eagle Rock got its name? Just off the 134 Freeway is a giant boulder with an outcrop of stone that resembles an eagle in flight. The short but adventurous Eagle Rock Canyon Trail provides a taste of wilderness in the middle of suburbia and a panoramic view of the neighborhood. As one of the easier hikes on this list, it is a good family destination. (Originally published: 2016)

#6) Mt. Lukens via Crescenta View and Rim of the World Trails

Here’s one whose placement on this list shouldn’t surprise anyone. The highest point in the city limits of Los Angeles, Mt. Lukens (elevation 5,074) offers predictably impressive views, despite the antennas on its summit. This route makes a loop from Deukmejian Wilderness Park, climbing up the mountain’s south slopes and taking in views of the entire L.A. basin. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a little snow on the summit. (Originally published: 2013 – #5 on the year end best of list)

#5 Terranea Beach Sea Cave

Usually the word “development” makes hikers cringe, but when the Terranea Resort opened on the Palos Verdes Peninsula at the site of the defunct Marineland amusement park, the upscale establishment included several hiking and walking trails that are open to the public. The most popular is the short hike to the large sea cave – the only one between Malibu and Orange County. (Originally published: 2010)

#4) Haunted Table 29

It’s hard to resist the lure of a good ghost story, and Griffith Park has many. Probably the most infamous is the tale of Haunted Table 29, where as local legend has it, a young couple was crushed to their death by a fallen tree. Myth or not, the hike offers a good workout in the heart of Griffith Park with some excellent views of the San Fernando Valley, the San Gabriel Mountains and the Verdugos. (Originally published: 2015)

#3) Azusa River Wilderness Park

This family friendly hike offers a close-up view of the San Gabriel River as it leaves the mountains and begins its journey toward the ocean. It provides a taste of local history, following abandoned Old San Gabriel Road which has since been replaced by Highway 39 across the river. (Originally published: 2015)

#2) Potato Mountain

Maybe it’s the mountain’s convenient location; maybe it’s that it provides enough of a workout to feel like an accomplishment without requiring weeks of training in advance; maybe it’s the outstanding views that can be enjoyed on clear days; maybe the name makes people think of warm, salty fries as a post-hike snack. Whatever the reason is, 3,422-foot Potato Mountain, a seemingly unremarkable bump in the Mt. Baldy front country, is a big draw with Inland Empire and San Gabriel Valley hikers, veterans and newbs alike. (Originally published: 2012)

And the number one most viewed hike write up in 2018 is….

#1) M Trail

If you’ve driven along the 60 Freeway to Palm Springs, it’s hard to miss the giant “M” on south slopes of the Box Springs Mountains, towering above Moreno Valley. On clear days, the hike to the M offers great views of San Bernardino, San Gorgonio and San Jacinto, as well as the local neighborhoods. With 1,200 feet of elevation gain, it’s a pretty good workout too. (Originally published: 2011)

To view the best-of lists from years past, click here.

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