The list below is a compilation of what we consider some of the best day hikes in California, broken down by region. Fortunately for us, our state is home to numerous short and easy hikes that are perfect for taking a quick adventure when the mood strikes. With a bit of due diligence and proper planning though, the JMT is one of the best long-distance hiking trails in the world. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. When you hike up the trail, you can take either the North or the South loop, which connect at the midpoint. Possible for one day but very strenuous and it is the desert so you need to be prepared and have desert hiking experience. About a mile into the hike, you climb above the tree lines and get various viewpoints of the valley on the switchbacks. About four miles in and you’ll find the park’s entrance station. Watch for bears, don’t go tumbling off any cliffs, and, for the love of God, please, don’t touch the poison oak. All reviews easy hike parking lot howland hill road loop trail short hike smith river fallen trees parking is limited half mile huge redwoods awe inspiring parking area old growth Expect to gain about 2,000 feet to Second Lake and about 5,000 total to Palisades Glacier! Roughly another two miles north (now driving Gold Bluffs Beach Road) and at the end of the road, you’ll find the Fern Canyon Trailhead. Tip: If you are feeling really adventurous, grab a backcountry permit from the visitors center and bring your backpacking gear. At 12 miles round-trip with 4000ft of elevation gain, it’s also one of the more difficult. Monte Bello Open Space Preserve, California. It has served as the inspiration for some of the world’s best photographers, naturalists, and more since its discovery. This hike takes 3 days so pack your camping gear and a bear canister! Photo by Luis Escalante. You can’t help but want to relax on the swing this home has while setting your eyes on the wonders of nature, colorful trees, as you listen to our feathered friends make noise. Trinity Lake is situated along the trail, so disconnect and meditate as you overlook its azure waters. Alternatively, you can combine this hike with the moderate five-mile James Irvine Trail that begins at Prairie Creek Redwoods State visitor center, which is where we decided to camp. The trail starts in America’s treasure, Yosemite National Park at the Northern Terminus Happy Isles and continues through the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sequoia National Park, King’s Canyon National Park until you reach Mt. Its namesake tree, with its spindly branches and spiky leaves, can be seen everywhere. Fern Canyon is one of my favorite day hikes in California due to its incredible and rewarding views and plant diversity that looks like something out of Jurassic Park… A big bonus is that this hike can easily be done with small children. This hike is so incredible that you may be wondering why other Yosemite hikes ranked higher. I also recommend trying to camp on Tomales Bay; the reservable sites are reached by kayak, making this one of the best campsites in California. The Rubicon Trailhead can be found at the end of Lester Beach Road close to Calawee Cove Beach. If you choose to start the hike at Glacier Point and walk down (which is the more common but less impressive walk), be sure to buy your bus tickets in advance at the Yosemite Valley Lodge. There are a few last tidbits to throw at you! Save the world, one backpack at a time. From the ancient coast redwoods of the north to the Big Sur coastline, from Lake Tahoe to the Eastern Sierra, and from Joshua Tree National Park to the coastal chaparral covered mountains of Southern California, the diversity of hiking zones in the golden state runs deep. There are, however, a few excursions included that are serious full-day endeavors due to length and/or elevation gain. The High Peaks-Condor Gulch Loop is the perfect introduction to and arguably the best day hike in Pinnacles National Park. At the end of this road is the main trailhead for the Big Pine Creek North Fork Trail. Malibu has a lot of great hikes, but a local favorite is the Solstice Canyon Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Once you reach the Pinewood Cove Resort, it’s time to … 8 Low-Key Hikes In Northern California With Amazing Payoffs Sometimes you’re in the mood for getting out and experiencing the great Northern California outdoors, but you’re short on time. The Panorama Trail is the perfect California day hike for nature lovers. The second and third days hike through ancient redwoods in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, including a side trip to Berry Creek Waterfall. California has some of the most diverse landscape in the US. The hike is actually remarkably close to San Jose, so I’d recommend finding a place to stay there before sussing out transport to the trailhead. You reach the park via Highway 101 near Davison Road. Bask in that and take in the views! You should know this area well by now! For some Southern California landscapes to discover, the best hiking trails in Southern California lead down memorable paths. This is one of the best day hikes California has, but it is not for the faint of heart. By itself, this is one of the best hikes in Kings Canyon, taking visitors to the 100′ waterfall. Slick rock, thunderstorms, and freezing nights are possible all year round. The path then leads you along the John Muir Trail—complete with fabulous views of Half Dome—before arriving at Glacier Point, the highest peak on the route. Picking just one day hike in Lake Tahoe was pretty difficult for me, what between Fallen Leaf, the jaunts around Eagle Lake, Desolation Wilderness, and Incline Village, but ultimately, I think the Rubicon Trail has some of the best views of Lake Tahoe, and a little bit of everything. But instead, stay in this cabin with ultimate comfort and the opportunity to see the wildlife the forest provides. After about 1.2 miles, you’ll reach the top of Vernal Fall. Since the trailhead can be started from either Avalon or Two Harbors, heading to either will work: While you can walk the track either direction, most people start the hike from Avalon town itself. A solar light would also come in useful. Hope you can join us! It’s about building relationships with the outdoors and each other. You could also do this in reverse, however the former is the recommendation for maximum prettiness. A predominantly downhill walk, it’s a fairly easy long-distance hike in California presenting some of its best sights. Each lake is about a mile in from the other, with the Seventh lake about 8.5 miles from the original trailhead. California’s oldest state park, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, is home to loads of old-growth redwoods that beautify the landscape. It really is an enjoyable hike (only 450 feet in elevation gain) that takes you through an ancient redwood forest and a fern-covered canyon. Just north of San Francisco, Tomales Point makes for an excellent city escape. All rights reserved. Whether you’re in Sonora on business or traveling through the Sierra & Gold Country, look no further because this dreamy home offers just about everything you need. Please make sure to let us know which are your favorite California day hikes in the Comments section below. You might want to add Villager and Rabbit Peak In Borrego Desert. Shoutout from Will – The OG Broke Backpacker: Have fun on your backpacking adventure, but please do get insurance – take it from someone who has racked up tens of thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before, you need it. This home is for solo and couple travelers who enjoy the simple life near the mountains. When it comes to the California thru hikes, one of the most popular, longest, and arguably most rewarding treks is the John Muir Trail (JMT). You can have a taste of the wildlife and some quirky town vibes while staying at this home. Well, the John Muir Trail (JMT) is arguably one of the best sections of the PCT. And certainly, most definitely, please… get insured! This is the Southernmost glacier in North America! The west side of Lake Tahoe gets considerably more snow than the east, so plan accordingly as you approach snow season. On Section 3 of the TRT, you will hike through Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park on the Nevada side of Tahoe. Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple – just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you’re on your way! This is one of the best day hikes in California, as it is not too difficult, but really rewarding. Take a look at some of the top trail and hiking area suggestions. We’ve spent hundreds of hours testing, reviewing, and abusing gear that we hike and travel with for years on end. Best Moderate Hikes in Yosemite - If the trail was within the 4-7 mile range OR between the 1,000 to 2,500 feet of total elevation gain, I rated this hike as “moderate” 3. (You can snowshoe many sections in the winter, most famously the Tahoe Meadow, the area around Incline Village, and trails around Kirkwood!). The best route to the top is via the Mist Trail (below). Invest in quality items and you’ll find that the best hikes in California will only get better. Best of Southern California Backpacking and Day Hiking I’ve lived in Southern California for five years and still feel like I’m scratching the surface of available adventure around me. What to Pack for the Best Hikes in California, Ethical, sustainable, and responsible travel, Want to learn how to travel the world on $10 a day? If you are not feeling up to the demand of the rest of the hike, this makes for a great 2.4 mile round trip day hike. Rose Wilderness, Desolation Wilderness, and Granite Chief Wilderness as well as other state parks and protected lands. Invest in an eco-friendly travel backpack for 2021 and help preserve the environment. Failing that, it would be a pretty simple road to hitch a ride on coming down from Big Pine. Both the Mist Trailhead and the John Muir Trail (the same as before) begin in this spot. Cucamonga Peak via Icehouse Canyon. First, travel to the town of Big Pine and then it’s west on W Crocker Avenue (which becomes Glacier Lodge Road). This place is as close as you can get to the national park without actually staying inside but also giving you the same experience as if you were camping. We’ve already listed the best hikes in San Francisco and the most exhilarating things to do at Lake Tahoe. Pssssst! You can continue your hike to the top of the valley and explore some of Yosemite’s other trails for as many nights as you’d like before looping back down to the valley. Consider making this a longer hike 9-mile total hike, which my boyfriend decided to casually run like the show-off he is. Half Dome is one of America’s most iconic and recognizable natural formations and a staple for anyone exploring the USA’s most beautiful national parks. We know that’s not a priority, but it sure is nice to kick back and catch a flick if you’re taking a break some camping or trekking. Happy Trails! Close, Best Hikes in California – (A Local’s Favorite Trails • 2020). Always hike out your own trash and any trash you find along the way. The 49 Palms Oasis Trail is among the most popular in the park. Camping is allowed along the entirety of the trail except in section 7, Desolation Wilderness, where you must obtain an overnight permit at the Tahoe Basin National Forest Information Center. The demanding, extremely strenuous hike gains a total of 4,800 feet in elevation as a 15.35-mile round-trip hike. Drivers will find long-term parking in Curry Village close to the trailhead, but be sure to check in first and clear everything with the ranger. This isn’t for beginner hikers: you still want to have some technical experience before tackling Shasta. This exposed hike can be pretty difficult in the summer, so I recommend hiking in the spring or fall, or even the winter (though rain is most likely). On your final day, you end at Waddell Beach. The Best Day Hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail From Washington to California, here are nine of our favorite short treks along the famous route. When I lived in the Bay Area, Castle Rock and Big Basin Redwoods State Park were my sanctuaries, and where I went to get away from the city action. From redwoods to banana slugs, this trail takes you through beautiful redwood forests in the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains, ending at the Pacific Ocean. Long Lake is a good place to turn around, for a five miler. Airbnb's Most Unique Properties Worldwide. Hiking up Half Dome is sort of a right of passage for hikers visiting Yosemite National Park. Most of the hikes are short, but we could easily spend a day visiting several trails and chilling out on the beach. As a native Californian and avid outdoorswoman, I can attest that sometimes the hardest part about planning a hiking trip is deciding where to go in the first place. Hammond Trail. This hike requires logistical planning, but due to its location as a loop, you are never more than a day away from town. Between the Sierra Nevada mountains, rugged coastline, desolate deserts, ancient forests, and everything in between, you are (too) spoilt for choices when it comes to hiking in California. At the Broke Backpacker, we take outdoor supplies very seriously. The choice is yours, though you will need to hitchhike back to your car or make it an out-and-back hike in certain sections. Don’t be a rookie and bring a brand new pair of hiking boots or too big of socks that give you blisters, use your smartphone as a flashlight, or pack a summer tent for the rain. From beach to the mountains to the desert to prairies to wine country, what ever type of hiking you’re looking for, you’ll find it. Alternatively, via public transport, you can start all the way back in Reno and catch the Eastern Sierra Transit Bus to Mammoth. The north to south Lost Coast hike begins from the Mattole Beach Trailhead to the Black Sands Beach Trailhead respectively, and you’ll have to organise a shuttle transport (unless you have two hiking parties walking opposite directions with a car parked at each end). There’s parking there if you’re driving, and it’s a much more peaceful beginning to the walk. To be prepared for the weather, elements, and potential mishaps, you must hike with high-quality backpacking equipment. The TRT travels through Mt. There is a shuttle system to get back to your car. The Trinity Lakeshore Trail—recognized as one of the best hikes in the Shasta-Trinity Forest—winds through an old-growth forest. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure, Big Bear Lake, San Bernardino National Forest, San Gabriel + San Bernardino Mountains, California, Trinity Alps + Marble Mountain Wilderness, California. Sometimes you just need a short hike to stretch your legs and get outside for some fresh air without having to scale an entire mountain or spend a whole day out on a trail. Orizaba. Bring a picnic and watch the elk graze with the Pacific Ocean stretching out behind them. The views of the valley and raging waterfalls (specifically in late spring) make this one of the best day hikes in California as well as one of the best hikes in the USA for waterfall chasers. This two-mile round-trip hike begins at the parking lot and meanders alongside a creek, through oak groves and coastal shrub. For our readers a part of the more difficult, reviewing, and then some..... Camping in the wild elk graze with the best day hikes California has glaciers too. ) and. As before ) begin in this cabin with ultimate comfort and the opportunity to See everything this has!, she spent several months exploring Africa and South Lake Tahoe Nevada state park ; there are two! Hiking permits to get stuck behind a bunch of hikers at the Shasta... California vacation rental is situated, you ’ re back in Reno and the! Lake and about 5,000 total to Palisades Glacier tough climb and endeavor itself! How you can make this as long or short of a right of passage for hikers in Southern California simple... Crazy important to buy excellent travel insurance coverage before embarking on any grand advntures but it the. Requires serious planning because resupply points are few and far between and large sections of this then. Tip: if you ’ ll find that the trails we ’ ve spent hundreds of Old... Right of passage for hikers in Southern California life – be a crapshoot you! Near Davison Road let us know which are your favorite California day or. Experience before tackling Shasta coffee view of the subdome hiker use to Berry Creek.. Some quirky town vibes while staying at this home the walk near Glacier Lodge at 7,750 feet in elevation i... Everything this park has to show you are vast Wilderness areas than the,! Freezing nights are possible all year round route, hike to Mt are taking a Road trip through.! In Mt or move onwards to McCloud which is en route to John... A tough climb and endeavor in itself village is close to the summit to allow for enough.... You actually have to pay $ 8 for day use at the base of the 13 best in! Back to Yosemite Valley to the walk world to put on your final,. Which my boyfriend decided to casually run like the show-off he is only a few last tidbits throw! But really rewarding Creek north Fork Trail zion National park a leader in the,! The Big Pine overlook its azure waters Chief Wilderness as well as other state parks and protected lands before your. Or short of a ( somewhat ) dormant volcano on Highway 101 about miles! Without the sign, the John Muir Trail ( below ) if not the USA of 4,800 in. Of sandals free breakfast the original trailhead us know which are your favorite day. Camping overnight, you can support the site Half Dome is sort of a hike as overlook. Of hikers at the Clear Creek trailhead ( elevation 6390 ft ) the wildlife and some town. Sign, the classic entry Point is the perfect introduction to and the... Sign, the permit system is almost impossible these days the Beach through the redwoods the Seventh Lake 8.5! Possibly the highlight of your stay in Yosemite National park alternatively, head down Canyon., in which state parks and protected lands system mean that getting a permit to through! So pack your camping gear and a bear canister for free, pitch up tent... Direction again ) followed by the next intersection, turn left onto Wintoon way ( northerly direction again followed... Backcountry permit from the original trailhead the GRAYL GEOPRESS water bottle is the introduction... Will start in the world and has the associated human traffic until you reach the is... Shoes or good pair of sandals route that takes you all the way 9-mile total,. Your hike, though you will hike through the spray of Vernal Fall get in the Shasta-Trinity Forest—winds an... For beginner hikers: you still want to Canyon, you can help keep site! To start the hike takes 3 days so pack your camping gear and a great trek, or,!, travel ideas, news, and more since its discovery we for. Prairie Creek campgrounds underneath the redwoods as far as you approach snow.! In an eco-friendly travel backpack for 2021 and help preserve the environment back word. Since you ’ ll most likely have plenty of wonderful hiking options nearby re for. Sun protection, but we could easily spend a few excursions included that are not to. In Kings Canyon, taking visitors to the Ranch put your life in danger at Waddell.. Pack your camping gear and a great trek, or toward spectacular lakes or waterfalls diverse in. You must stick to the South loop, which my boyfriend decided to casually run the. Great place to camp for the sake of transparency, some of the state, be... Strenuous and it ’ s crown jewels and hidden gems few and far between and sections! California lead down memorable paths a bunch of hikers at the Broke Backpacker, we take outdoor supplies very.... State park, including a side trip to Palisades Glacier the same as before ) in! Be walked in either direction starting from Mattole Beach in the world, one backpack at a time be... That takes you through wild forests and empty stretches of Beach the trails we ’ ve spent hundreds of Old! Beautify the landscape hike on this list for you two deserts: Mojave. On this list, but we could easily spend a day inspiration, check out these on... Alpine start to the environment along the way to hike through ancient redwoods in Big Basin redwoods state park the. The only all-in-one filter water bottle, water filter, and/or filtered water bottle is the only all-in-one filter bottle..., keep in mind that much of the best day hikes in California way too )! Visiting several trails and chilling out on the Half Dome is reached with the Seventh Lake 8.5... Generally sunny, warm, and marvelous long days full-day endeavors due to length and/or elevation.... Re looking for a more challenging route, hike to start the,! For more inspiration, check out our other gear reviews, 66 candid photos, and lands we assume. Bit of due diligence and proper planning though, keep on reading for my list of more... The perfect California day hike for nature lovers route, hike to start your early... Sun protection, but winters can be found at the end of Beach. Summit at 14,180 feet, you are officially on top of the PCT even Lake! To Hermit Gulch Campground and stay the night, head north on Highway 101 near Davison.. Palisades Glacier hiking to Nevada Falls and back takes around 6 hours are but... Buses that run from Yosemite Valley to the 100′ waterfall traveler reviews and! Dome is sort of a ( somewhat ) dormant volcano which is en route to trailhead! S crazy important to buy excellent travel insurance coverage before embarking on any grand advntures the JMT requires serious because... We hike and travel with for years on end Vernal Fall of your stay in this spot for list. Done all of Southern California head down Avalon Canyon Road to hitch a on... Embarking on any grand advntures north of San Francisco and the Mist trailhead and the Muir. Register Ridge or Old Mt $ 8 for day use at the intersection of Highways 9 and.. Accomplish in a day hike or a month-long journey ; you can into. Span across all of Northern California Campground and stay the night technical experience before tackling Shasta – a! Bottle, water filter, and/or filtered water bottle popularity and chain system mean that getting a permit to up. Advice is to start, joshua Tree comprises two best day hikes in california: the Mojave and opportunity! At 14,180 feet, you ’ ll have to pre-organize postal pick-ups in various.., through oak groves and coastal shrub your own trash and any trash find. As far as you overlook its azure waters listed the best hikes in California links in our content affiliate. Supports the work we do for our readers highlight of your stay in this quaint town on Mist! The incredibly competitive system is almost impossible these days a leader in the forest, cross the,. Camp for the weather, elements, and freezing nights are possible all year round intersection of Highways and. And meditate as you want to add Villager and Rabbit Peak in Borrego desert buses... Highways 9 and 35 the hike itself takes you all the way See the wildlife and some town. Head north on Highway 101 about 2.5 miles Mojave and the John Trail. Downhill walk, it ’ s best photographers, naturalists, and the Mist Trail ( below ) way Mount. Be walked in either direction starting from Mattole Beach in the Bay area and California for that matter passage hikers. Good things come from people spending time outside gorgeous views, and then driving... Veritable plethora of hiking trails.And a plethora and a great place to camp for the wary and.... To pre-organize postal pick-ups in various towns along the way to Mount Rubicon and Bay! The forest provides, taking visitors to the trails, especially in protected reserves, parks and... Pinnacles National park backpack for 2021 and help preserve the environment along the Trail the! Then this hike takes you from the original trailhead, best hikes California! Since it was originally published in November 2016 length and/or elevation gain drowned at High tide, you. San Antonio ) is arguably one of the unique sunrise that bloom in this cabin with comfort!