10 Romantic Nature Walks and Hikes for Valentine's Day
If you're out of ideas about how to spend Valentine's Day, why not let Mother Nature provide some answers? Since February 14th falls on a Saturday this year, it's easy to work a walk or hike into your plans. Whether you're a couple who loves to spend time in the outdoors or city folks who want to mix up the routine, consider squeezing some nature into your Valentine's Day celebration. From Santa Barbara to San Diego, you're sure to find a beautiful outdoor spot. The ten listed here all offer scenery and seclusion, in most cases they're not too far from the city. It doesn't require much planning or money; no fees or permits are required, just a sense of curiosity, adventure and romance.
Arroyo Sequit Park
This small, secluded spot in the western Santa Monica Mountains offers a perfect nature walk. Plan on spending an hour to an hour and a half walking the two-mile loop, taking in excellent views of Boney Mountain, passing through meadows and canyons. The park is located on Mulholland Highway west of Malibu, about four miles north of Pacific Coast Highway.
Angel Vista PointThe views from this spot near Thousand Oaks are hard to beat. It doesn't matter which of the three routes you use—the short but steep approach from the north or the longer approaches from the west near Rancho Satwiwa or the east from Moorpark Road, the views are breathtaking. For information about the various routes to Angel Vista, visit the website of the Conejo Open Space Foundation, the area's managing agency.
Baldwin Hills Overlook
While hard-core nature lovers might balk at the Baldwin Hills' proximity to civilization, they offer panoramic views of the Santa Monica Mountains, Santa Monica Bay, the San Gabriels and more. The vistas are all the more impressive considering the overlook's modest 500-foot elevation. Visitors can choose between a path that switchbacks up the hill or a stairway going straight up. The entrance is on Jefferson Blvd., three miles northeast of the 405 Freeway (Sepulveda exit) and two miles southwest of the 10 Freeway (La Brea exit). Click here for more information.
Inland Empire and Palm Springs couples with a sense of adventure—and perhaps a four-wheel drive vehicle—might consider taking a walk in this scenic and isolated corner of Joshua Tree National Park. The three-mile round-trip hike leads to a view point with outstanding vistas of the Coachella Valley and the San Jacinto Mountains. From Highway 62 (23.6 miles east of the 10 freeway and 18 miles west of Twentynine Palms), head south on La Contenta Road. It becomes dirt after a mile when it crosses Yucca Trail. Continue on the dirt road, which is generally in good condition and should be passable by all vehicles. After 1.9 miles, bear left at the fork, following the signs for the park and Covington Flat. Follow this road into the park for a total of 6 miles and turn right on another dirt road. Follow it to its end, turn left and drive 1.8 miles to Covington Flat.
A waterfall in the Santa Clarita Valley? Believe it or not, a 15-foot seasonal waterfall can be found just a few miles from the 14 Freeway. Access could scarcely be easier: simply exit at Newhall Avenue and head east to the road's end, which also serves as a trail head for Whitney Canyon (another enjoyable place for a nature stroll). Once inside the boundaries of Elsmere Canyon Open Space, follow the Creek Trail for just over a mile to a secluded grotto where the waterfall flows after recent rains. For more information, click here.
San Joaquin Marsh
Orange County may best be known for its beaches and coastline, but in the heart of Irvine, the wetlands of the San Joaquin Marsh provide a quintessential urban oasis. Sit on a bench and watch the setting sun and city lights reflected in a still pool. The park is conveniently located to the 405 Freeway via the Jamboree Exit. For more information, click here.
Santa Ysabel Open SpaceLike Orange County, San Diego may best be known for its beaches, but the inland mountain ranges provide some stunning landscapes that no romantic should miss. In particular, the eastern Santa Ysabel Open Space near Julian is well worth the drive. Wide open fields provide excellent views of the mountains while shaded oak canyons enhance the sense of solitude. The full loop is more than seven miles, but even just a short walk in this area is sure to be inspiring. With Valentine's Day falling conveniently on a Saturday, L.A. couples who want to get away for the weekend can make this part of an escape to Julian. The park can be reached via Highway 78/79 (35 miles east of Escondido; 17 miles east of Ramona). Turn left on Wynola Road, follow it to Farmer Road and park by the signed trail head. For more information, click here.
Toro Canyon ParkOn the outskirts of Santa Barbara, Toro Canyon Park offers a mile-long nature trail climbing to a ridge with views of the ocean and the surrounding foothills and mountains. A gazebo offers a perfect spot to sit and enjoy the panorama. The park is a short drive from Highway 101 (Via Real exit). For more information, click here.
Ventura River PreserveLocated in the foothills of the Ojai Valley, the Ventura River Preserve features a network of trails traversing meadows and thick oak woodlands. Whether you're looking to lose yourself and your significant other in nature or simply aiming for a quick walk before dinner in downtown Ojai, this 1,600-acre park presents multiple options. Note that the park is closed by 5 pm, allowing you plenty of time to wash up and get to your restaurant of choice. For more information, click here.
Wind Wolves Preserve
The San Joaquin Valley might not be the first destination that comes to mind when Valentine's Day is mentioned, but the huge Wind Wolves Preserve offers gorgeous scenery and solitude for couples with a sense of adventure. Spring wildflowers, green meadows, a seasonal waterfall and a pond with a floating dock are among the highlights of this park, located off of Highway 166, 10 miles west of I-5 (just north of the split with Highway 99). Whether you are looking for a short stroll or an epic ten-mile-plus hike, Wind Wolves provides many options. The main trail through the park follows the original course of El Camino Viejo, the first inland route between L.A. and San Francisco. For more information, click here.