From snowy mountains to sandy beaches and expansive deserts, the Los Angeles area offers a wide variety of natural terrain that, believe it or not, is hard to beat anywhere else in America. Here you can do almost any outdoor activity imaginable. The best part is that it’s all close to home. As the common selling point goes, students at Claremont McKenna College can ski and go to the beach all in the same day. But that’s not all you can do! You can hike, ski, surf, lounge in hot springs, visit major landmarks and do much more. All of these places are only a short drive from CMC.
It is easy for us to forget that outdoor adventures are possible because we’ve grown so accustomed to the typical weekend at “Camp Claremont”: sun bathing, grinding to music, and playing pong. Don’t get me wrong, these activities are awesome but every once in awhile, when the word “shot” makes you feel like you might vomit, when you just can’t stand another night grinding to Top 40, bros trying to look cool, and rough Sunday mornings, it is time, my friend, to go on an outdoor adventure. Here are five of my favorite adventures for when you just need to get away from life at CMC.
Does soaking in warm natural hot springs after a gorgeous mountain hike sound like a good way to spend your Sunday? Well, you’re in luck because there’s a hot springs not too far from campus! It’s a two-mile hike into the springs, which are located along the side of a river. You can lounge in the hot springs and then cool off in the river.
Beware– there may be some nude hippies skinny-dipping. It is easy enough to avoid them though… or you could join them.
EXTREME: The Deep Creek Canyon has great bouldering – so go climb some rocks! Also, there are swimming holes that offer great cliff jumping.
Hiking Mt. Baldy (35 minute drive)
Mt. Baldy is that sometimes-snowy mountain that you gaze at from your Econ 50 class when you have given up trying to understand the lecture. Although it may look like a small and kind of lame peak from here, it actually reaches an elevation of 10,068 feet, which is higher than the peaks in both Whistler, and Park City. If you want to check out what Southern California mountains have to offer, Baldy is your place to go! A great hike that I would recommend is The South Approach from Maker Flats parking lot. The trail is 8.5 miles round-trip and first leads you to a resting ski hut (2.5 mi), a perfect place to eat lunch, relax and enjoy some scenery (you can even spend the night here and see the Baldy Summit view at sunrise). The trail continues all the way to the top of Baldy. The views from the hike are absolutely insane. On a clear day you can see all the way to the ocean and you can also see Honnold-Mudd library (where all your poor classmates are trying to study)! Also, from December through May you will be hiking through snow. So make a snowman, have a snowball fight, and sled down the mountain on your butt!
EXTREME: If you want to take this adventure to the next level, I suggest carrying your skis/board up and skiing down the Baldy bowl (not part of the ski resort). These steep slopes and chutes offer backcountry skiing comparable to Colorado or Utah.
Beach camping (55 minutes)
Chilling on the beach, watching the sunset, roasting some s’mores and drinking some nice beer; this is beach camping. Not only is it super relaxing, but it’s a great way for new campers to experience a milder version of camping. The beach campsites in Southern California have toilets, running water and even showers. If you don’t want to deal with cooking over a fire, it is really easy to jump in your car and make the five-minute drive to a local burger joint. Campsites can be reserved through Reserve America, or you can just show up and hope there’s a spot open. My two favorites are San Clemente and San Onofre State Beach.
San Clemente has nice facilities and campsites. They seems brand new! The beach is a quarter mile walk from the campsite through sandy bluffs. This beach is awesome and very quiet. It is a sick surf spot, so pack your board! San Clemente is a great place to swim, lounge and read a book or play sports on the beach.
San Onofre State Beach is also a nice place to camp. It offers a more authentic camping experience that is further away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The drawback is that it is only open during half the season. Check out their website for open season.
EXTREME: After some nice warm campfire raging, there is nothing more exhilarating than going out in a midnight skinny-dip in the ocean! It is extremely cold but totally worth it. Just don’t trip on the sand while running naked towards the ocean. It’s quite embarrassing and very painful. (That actually happened).
Sunset hike to the “Hollywood” sign (40 minutes)
If you’re feeling stressed and need a break from that ten-page history paper due in two days, you should totally take a night hike to clear your mind. Do it right; go to Griffith Park to watch the sun set. Although extremely busy in the day, you are almost guaranteed to be alone at night because the park officially “closes” at sunset. Driving into the park after dark is prohibited but walking in is apparently OK. Just remember to park your car outside of the park if you plan on staying past sunset. There is no better way to spend your Sunday night than standing on the top of Mount Hollywood alone in nature, yet surrounded by a sea of city lights. I would recommend hiking up to the “Hollywood” sign and then exploring one of the many less traveled trails.
EXTREME: Make it a date. Pack some Cabernet, some fancy cheese, a blanket and have a picnic with your sweetheart (or with that really cute girl in your Gov. class that you’ve always wanted to ask out) on a secluded hillside while you watch the sun set.
Bridge to Nowhere Hike
If you think that hiking to a giant arch bridge that is literally in the middle of nowhere might be cool, you should definitely do this hike. Not only do you get to see an awesome bridge nestled in the San Gabriel Mountains, you get to experience one of the most beautiful hikes around. This hike travels four miles in a canyon along a mountain creek. The creek offers many pools that are perfect for a mid-day swim.
EXTREME: If you think not studying for a midterm gets your adrenaline pumping,try bungee jumping off the bridge! This has been seriously one of the most thrilling experiences of my life! You can’t get much more extreme than hiking four miles to bungee jump off a bridge in the middle of nowhere. If you are interested I suggest reading Ellie Beckett’s article about it.
I hope this article has provided you with some ideas for fun outdoor adventures so that next time you need a break from CMC’s “study hard, party hard” lifestyle, you’ll have some sick things to do. You can also check out my Facebook group dedicated to CMC outdoor adventures. We go on trips like these all the time!