Best Nature Trail - 2012
Black Star Canyon Falls
Orange County—at least the southern part of it—is full of amazing hiking trails. For pure exertion, views and thrill of conquest, it's hard to top the 5,689-foot Saddleback Mountain, a.k.a. Santiago Peak. Equally stunning view-wise but more accessible are the myriad trails in Laguna Canyon, some of which, near the Top of the World, even lead to hippie caves. But for sheer weirdness, you can't beat Black Star Canyon Falls. The place has long been rumored to be the lair of everything from Satan worshippers, ghostly apparitions and Ku Klux Klan klaverns. Now, you're more likely to encounter teenagers throwing rocks in the bushes and screaming like banshees in an attempt to frighten one another or irritable residents who aren't happy about the foot traffic. (The first few miles of the trail go up a road.) Until a month or two ago, there was an abandoned schoolbus that added to the trail's eerie charms, but that has apparently been removed by county workers. If you survive all the weirdness, your final destination is a small waterfall that pours forth from an abandoned mine shaft, although if you want to see much water, you'll want to schedule your hike for the first dry day after a major storm. The trail is 6.6. miles long and will take you five to six hours, so bring plenty of water.