Exploring the best hiking locations in California
California has some of the best hiking routes in America, from hiking into the wilderness on backcountry trails surrounded by mountains and forest to walking across desert landscapes full of otherworldly rock formations. Famous hiking trails include the John Muir Trail, which passes through Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park and is 210.4 miles in length and the Pacific Crest Trail. Stretching from the Mexican border to the Canadian boarder at a total of 2,659 miles the PCT passes through California’s incredible scenery; that’s some serious hiking! For those who prefer shorter distances there are many trails that are easily doable in one day and even half a day, making exploring and seeking out adventures a very easy thing to do. Read on for our pick of the best hiking locations in California.
Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Redwoods State Park in Northern California is famous for its tall trees, after witnessing their beauty don’t miss out on something completely different. Fern Canyon featured in a Jurassic Park movie and it’s easy to see why. Lush green ferns cling to the 50 ft walls of the canyon, while water trickles down onto the canyon floor, parts of which becomes a shallow stream under foot. Although only 1 mile in length this is a hike like no other. The drive isn’t the easiest, 10 miles along a rough dirt track with a few stream crossings mean an interesting journey but it is definitely worth it; look out for elk along the way too. The Fern Canyon trail loops back to the car park, but to take in more of this beautiful place simply turn back around and retrace your steps. Watch out for an abundance of wildlife including Pacific giant salamanders hiding amongst the ferns.
Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes is only one hour’s drive away from San Francisco and a total contrast to the cityscape, with beautiful coastline and forest home to 1,500 species of animal and plant life. There are 22 miles of hiking trails to explore here, so pick and choose the distance you walk depending on your itinerary. Tracks though lush, green forest lead to meadows full of deer and wildflowers and onto the Coast Trail where sweeping views of the coastline await. The varied landscapes on this hike make it a really adventurous one.
Eastern Sierra Nevada
The Sierra Nevada Mountains are fantastic to explore on foot any time of the year, trails are still accessible during the winter with snowshoes making for a very different adventure. Home to Mount Whitney the tallest peak in the lower 48 states, walks are vast and varied. Follow trails through glacial valleys, past thundering falls and through dense forest full of giant trees. The 6-mile hike to Devil’s Postpile is a beauty, surrounded by the stunning Sierra Nevada mountain range, see San Joaquin River, Rainbow Falls and the mighty Devils Postpile. The basalt columns are 60 ft high and a really unusual sight. The 5.2-mile walk to Sherwin Lakes is a moderate hike through pine forests to the two alpine lakes; this is a great spot for a picnic, surrounded by mountains and forest. If you have time the 11.5-mile hike to Jordan Hot Springs includes a rewarding relaxing soak. Descend 3,000 ft on the way down to the hot springs, follow Nine Mile Creek towards Casa Vieja Meadows and the springs will appear. Enjoy a soak in one of the three small pools before the strenuous trek back up.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite has to be California’s most famous national park. Waterfalls, huge granite cliffs, glaciers, lakes, mountains and alpine meadows are just some of the beautiful sights to be seen here. The High Panorama Loop is a breathtaking hike with jaw dropping views and quite literally breathtaking as you walk up to a height of 7,214 ft. It’s a good job there are plenty of scenic stops to take in the landscape and catch your breath. This route passes by the mighty Vernal Falls, cascading over a steep rocky face and Nevada Falls. The trail is 12.8 miles in total, if you are short on time Mist Trail covers both waterfalls. If not continue on for some more impressive views and adventures. Pick up the John Muir Trail for some fantastic panoramic views of Half Dome, Yosemite Valley, mountain peaks and waterfalls.
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia is well known for its tall trees, in fact some of the worlds largest can be seen here. High up in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range hiking is the best way to take it all in, jaw dropping views, waterfalls in glacial canyons, alpine meadows and bear spotting are just a few of the adventures to be had here. The Congress Trail is an easy 3 miler, which passes through some impressive sequoia groves and a lovely alpine meadow on the way to the tree of all trees, General Sherman. This is the largest living tree by volume in the world and is as tall as the Statue of Liberty. Hike this trail to escape the crowds. For mountain ranges and canyon views Big Baldy Ridge is the one, the total trail is 6 miles but can be shortened to 3 at the third bald spot where the views across Sequoia and Kings Canyon are breathtaking.
More outdoor wonders to explore in California
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Top 10 most photogenic locations in California
Top 10 things to do in Yosemite National Park
A beginner's guide to Death Valley National Park
A beginner's guide to Joshua Tree National Park
Top 10 things to do in Redwood National Park
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California Travel Guides
- Useful Facts
- A beginner's guide to California
- Top 10 things to do in California
- Road tripping coastal California
- Top 10 national parks in California
- Exploring the best hiking locations in California
- Top 10 most photogenic locations in California
- Explore the best film locations in California
- Top 10 most photogenic urban highlights in California
- Top 10 coastal towns in California
- Top 10 non-coastal towns in California
- Top 10 national monuments in California
- Top 10 things to do in Redwood National Park
- A beginner's guide to Death Valley National Park
- A beginner's guide to Joshua Tree National Park
- Laguna Niguel beach holidays
- Eating, Drinking & Nightlife
- Things To Do and Excursions
- Santa Monica beach holidays
- Top 10 things to do in Palm Springs
- Top 10 things to do in Los Angeles