With beautiful views over Laguna Niguel, California, the Colinas Ridge Trail is a 7-mile out-and-back trail perched above the Pacific Ocean. Just north of San Clemente and Dana Beach, it's a great trail with easy access close to town to hike with the whole family. It is also surprisingly popular with dog owners, being one of few dog-friendly trails in southern Orange County.
The trailhead blends in with the neighborhood, making it hard to recognize if you don't know what you are looking for. Find it across from the parking lot tucked into a large complex of stores right next to the busy road. Most people park and meet up at the Starbucks at the corner before crossing the street to start the hike.
The trail starts just behind a housing area that looks south toward the ocean. Even though its location is so close to the main road, it feels like quiet nature once you start the hike. Gentle rolling hills are perfect for hikers and mountain bikers who follow the trail as it winds farther south and away from the houses.
After 1.5 miles, reach the highest point of the trail, where you can turn around or keep going toward the ocean. The trail drops toward a housing area before winding back up. It can get confusing here; there are no trail markers. Keeping away from the road and behind the houses is generally a good rule to stay in the right direction.
The houses get much bigger closer to the ocean, and about 2 miles from the trailhead you start to see the waters of the Pacific. There isn't a clear turnaround, so go as far as you want then turn around to head back to the trailhead.