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Hiking in Surf City: 5 Parks to Check Out in Huntington Beach

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By David Lockeretz of Nobody Hikes in L.A. / Special to LAist

It’s not exactly a mystery what kind of recreation is king in Huntington Beach, but hikers and nature lovers can also find places to do their thing in “Surf City.” Huntington Beach might not have the longer, more challenging hiking trails found near Orange County’s foothills, but there are a few spots that are well worth a visit.

Bartlett Park is an undeveloped parcel of land located behind the historic Newland House, near the corner of Adams and Beach. The park is situated on a slight hillside; from the upper end, the views include the ocean, Old Saddleback and on clear days the San Gabriel Mountains. The lower level of the park features some wetlands. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of trash and graffiti here, and the park has a reputation as being a haven for squatters, so families with small children might want to keep that in mind. Still, it’s nice to have this little pocket of open space, which could just as easily have become condominiums.

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is perhaps Huntington Beach’s best-known nature park; it’s the only one that’s made it into the guidebooks “Afoot and Afield Orange County” and “California Hiking.” The big draws here are the huge variety of wildlife (according to the park’s site, 321 different species of birds have been spotted here during the last decade, including egrets, pelicans, sandpipers and more) and the chance to see a rare coastal saltwater marsh habitat. Sunsets here are great. Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is located on Pacific Coast Highway, between Seal Beach and Huntington Beach.

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Harriett M. Wieder Regional Park is one of the newest units of Orange County’s recreation system. Located near Bolsa Chica, it offers a scenic, if not quite as varied, landscape. However, unlike at Bolsa Chica, dogs are allowed here. The park is located at 19251 Seapoint Avenue, near the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Goldenwest Street.

Shipley Nature Center is a very enjoyable place to visit; unfortunately the hours are somewhat limited (9am-1pm Monday -Saturday; closed Sundays). It’s part of Huntington Beach’s large Central Park, itself a worthwhile recreational destination. The 18-acre Shipley Nature Center features close to a mile of walking trails which go through a variety of habitats, including coastal wetlands, riparian forests and more. According to the park’s site, birds observed here include herons, hawks, turkey vultures, hummingbirds and more.

Sunset County Beach is technically part of the city of Huntington Beach, which incorporated it in 2011. It’s a nice alternative to the crowded city and state beaches farther south, and it also has free (if limited) parking along Pacific Avenue, which runs parallel to Pacific Coast Highway. It’s also surprisingly undeveloped; you can walk for a while in the sand while enjoying the surf, views of the Palos Verdes Peninsula and more.

It just goes to show that no matter where you live in Southern California, there are chances to get out into nature if you know where to look. You’re never too far from a hiking trail - even in Surf City.

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