The Best Spots to Work Out Outdoors In Orange County

I don’t know about you, but I am all about changing my workout routine and place of exercise. When I get bored of seeing the same four walls while I work out, I change up the scene to avoid the dreaded exercise plateau. I like to head outside for some much-needed vitamin D, and I make sure to not only immerse myself in a new skill (i.e. how can I stagger my heart rate for a kick ass workout), but I also evade the gym doldrums by getting my share of free outdoor oxygen.

I’ve found a few great and unique outdoor places to work out in Orange County, CA, where I can enjoy a change of pace and be surrounded by the beautiful weather and views of Southern California.

Beautiful young caucasian woman in fitness wear doing belly press exercises in a park at the morning

1. The Thousand Steps, Laguna Beach

My all time favorite outdoor workout spot is the Thousand Steps, located in Laguna Beach. It’s secluded and on most days, very few people are seen working out on the steps.  Don’t let the name fool you; it is not 1000 steps (yes, I counted them). But I will say it is for people who work out like beasts. However, don’t be deterred if you are a first timer and aren’t quite in beast mode yet. The first time I went, I only did three rounds because my workout buddy warned me of the pain I would be feeling over the next few days. I laughed at the thought, but days later, the pain was wicked awful. Tiger Balm was my best friend, and my physically demanding job was horrifyingly difficult for that week. I felt defeated, so I went back again and again and again. Now I can do 16 laps (up and down counts as one). I do not say that to boast; I say that because it took me time and repetitiveness to become better at the stairs. A word of warning: this is not the type of workout nor place you just beast out without expecting to feel the wrath of your workout later. Beyond the incredible and steep stair runs, there are hills (where you can park), that can give you a RUN for your money.

There are also many beautiful beach homes to run past and almost always, the SoCal sunshine beating down on you for an added Vitamin D boost and tan. Double score! The neighborhood folk are very friendly and wave a lot. I personally really enjoy running for thirty minutes around the homes and hills, and then I hit the steep steps for 10-16 rounds. I enjoy taking my up steps in variations: kickbacks, ballet pointing toe calf workout or deep squats every two steps, etc. but I always run down speedily without question. If you eat it, though, the people there seem always to be considerate and will not laugh, thankfully!

thousand-steps-laguna-beach-fitted copy

2. College Stadiums

My alma mater is Cal State Fullerton, so for me, I specifically work out at CSUF’s stadium, but many schools have accessible stadiums that can give you a change of pace from being indoors in a gym. Just like I mentioned above, I tend to follow the same run for time, then rounds of stairs after. However, unlike the Thousand Steps,  these stairs are not steep and are usually wider, too. The rounds I count at the thousand steps are not comparable, and you don’t have to be a beast for these locations. As a bonus, you can always catch a brisk warm-up walk in the Arboretum at CSUF. Who doesn’t need a little motivation to get the blood flowing sometimes? I do!

3. Peter’s Canyon, Orange

Peter’s Canyon has various routes and can be an easy walk or a difficult run. Some routes have steep hills that will take your breathe away, while others won’t necessarily have you sweating at all. My suggestion is to have an idea of how much you want to push yourself for the day before you begin. Read the maps and the intensity of each level and then do the hike. Either way, expect to see lots of people, dogs, and wildlife roaming around.

Young girl running along the beach.

4. Newport Back Bay, Newport Beach

If you are a runner or a swimmer, I suggest hitting the Newport Back Bay for a workout. The Back Bay is O-shaped, and thus, you can make it your “track.” If you’re a swimmer, jump into the water. It’s chilly sometimes, but if you heat up during your run, take a plunge and enjoy a delightful swim in the water after. Now, when it comes to being busy or overly crowded, it varies. The Back Bay hosts a lot of events, so I would suggest viewing their calendar first if you’re not interested in running next to a lot of people.

If you take your workout outdoors, I recommend that you take the unbeaten path. If you park in the Back Bay, run up the street instead. Eventually, you’ll end up on desolate road backed up to the actual Bay where you’ll see a lot of birds, marsh-like waters and another hill and trail. It’s hidden and breathtakingly beautiful. If you’re training for a triathlon, I personally enjoy this location because it gives you the ability to hit the pavement, water, and bike trails, all in one swoop. One thing I must mention here is that the Back Bay also has homes up on the cliffs nearby.  If you run down 19th Street, there is a hidden trail that gives you a different vantage point of the Bay that is cliff high. It ends with a memorial and loop back out of the pathway.


5. Oso Trail, Mission Viejo

After reading articles on this place, my husband and I finally decided to take a ride down to the Oso Creek Trails.  It can be a bit confusing as the trail was about five plus miles but we enjoyed the fact that it had multiple parks for our almost two-year-old son and a beautiful scenic walk. It was the perfect mix of difficulty and ease, depending on which route you take. Read the signs and choose your path. Aside from a scenic walk and parks for our kiddo, we enjoyed the fact that they had outdoor workout equipment area alongside the path. If you want to enjoy a nice family workout, this is your trail.

Huntington Beach Pier-fitted-1

[RELATED POST: Running My First Marathon: The Good, The Bad & The Wall]

6. Huntington Beach Pier, Huntington Beach, CA

Host of one of the more popular and scenic marathon and half marathons, Huntington Beach’s Pier and the boardwalk around it is a favorite for many runners and bicyclists alike because of its flat, even surfaces. Take a long run or bike ride from the pier through the Santa Ana River Trail or a few miles toward Bolsa Chica and the wetlands. It does get busy during the summer months, so get your work out on early to avoid the crowds.


If you find yourself getting tired of the same workouts, try taking it outdoors for a change of pace. You can also check out one of the 100+ gyms in the fitted. network to find a new workout to try! Click here to for a free trial.

Comment below with your favorite spots to work out in Orange County!

Shane Briseno
Shane Briseno is a health enthusiast whose desire to find a healthy balance in all areas of life: spiritually, mentally, physically and emotionally. After years of being a patient from an unexpected series of hospitalizations, she desires to care for others in Western medicine’s field of nursing. She learned so much through her personal life and education, but she soon realized her bigger desires were to lead a holistic and naturally based life. She researched, read and experienced. After many years of study, she realized how equally important Western and Eastern medicine were and how both, in combination, were able to lead people on a healthy life path. She continues to educate herself for the betterment of living life to its fullest and tries every day to appreciate and soak it all in. Shane is a wife, a mommy, an educator, and a health and fitness lover. She will forever be the seeker of a healthy lifestyle.

3 Responses

  1. Burton

    I also like doing some hikes in Laguna Canyon. Big Ben and Bonner Ridge and Willow Canyon Bonner Ridge. Aliso Summit Trail is nice too!

  2. Burton

    Hi Shane!

    Thanks for sharing!

    I also enjoy getting out doors for my work outs. I have recently started doing 1000 steps beach in Laguna and a couple days ago did it 7 times which I thought was pretty good since last time I did it was 4 times and was exhausted. This last time however I experienced really sore calf muscles a couple days later and could barely walk especially down stairs! Have you experienced this? Wow I am impressed you did it 16 times! Unbelievable! Was that all at once or did you take breaks? Anyway congrats!! That is amazing! Burton


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