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Like most other things, hiking is better when it’s done by the beach. And here in California, we have plenty of incredible coastal trails to choose from. But sometimes you don’t have the entire day to devote to scaling a huge trail… and sometimes you’re just not up for an enormous trek. These trails are meant for those days. These hikes are all under five miles long, so you can get your workout in before lunch.

Elk Head Trail, Trinidad State Park

This trail is a mere mile, and it’s an easy out-and-back hike that offers access to College Cove Beach. The trail is well marked, easy to follow and offers beautiful beach views. As you approach the ocean, you’ll see steep cliffs and large sea stacks. You might also spot some dolphins, sea lions or gray whales.  Bring a camera if you hike this trail—there’s a good chance you’ll see plenty of things worth photographing.

Tuna Canyon, Malibu


Photo credit: Jeff

This 5 mile trail is beautiful, but it isn’t easy, so take things slowly if you’re a beginner. With viewpoints at an elevation of 1,500 feet, Tuna Canyon has some of the best views of Santa Monica Bay and the Malibu coast. And with the steep uphill climb to the top, you’ll definitely earn them.

Chimney Rock, Point Reyes National Seashore

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This short 1.4 mile “round trip” hike is part of the scenic Point Reyes National Seashore. You’ll walk along a bluff-lined peninsula that forms a section of Point Reyes and head out to the tip, where you’ll find an overlook of the ocean and Chimney Rock itself. This is a beautiful trail to take in any season, but it’s especially stunning in spring because of all the wildflowers.

Point Dume State Beach

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The hike to the top of Point Dume is short, about half a mile, and it’s not overly challenging. But you may find yourself stopping on the way up anyway—the views are that good.

El Dorado Nature Center, Long Beach


Photo credit: Vinh Tran

El Dorado Nature Center is a stretch of natural habitat that rests between the San Gabriel River and the 605 Freeway. You’ll find several trails here ranging from 1 to 3 miles, so you can decide how long you’d like to spend hiking.

Tennessee Valley, Marin County

Tennessee Cove Beach is at the end of a two mile long gradually descending trail near Mill Valley in Marin County. This lovely brown sand beach is a wonderful destination with lots of hiking trails to extend your hike. Bring a lunch and stay a while before you hike back up to the trailhead.

The Sara Wan Trail, Corral Canyon


 Photo credit: Pacheco

You’ll find Corral Canyon in a 100-acre coastal stretch of Malibu. The Sara Wan Trail is a 2.5 mile loop that winds through a small marsh before heading to the top of the mesa. You’ll feel like you’re on top of the world here as you overlook the ocean.

Bayside Trail at Cabrillo National Monument, San Diego

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The Bayside Trail is an easy 2.8 mile hike with views of San Diego Harbor and Coronado Island. It’s a great place for whale watching and checking out Old Point Loma Lighthouse, a historic structure that dates back to 1850.