Take a hike. 😉 Here are our picks for the Top 5 Hiking Trails in California.
With gym life closed, there’s never been a better time to opt outside and get a healthy dose of fresh air on California’s best hiking trails. We’ve broken down our top five best in California. Below that is a top-line list of LA’s best too, in case you’re looking for local vibes.
CA Top 5 Hikes
- Yosemite Falls Trail, Yosemite
This famous trail rewards hikers with views of Yosemite’s most spectacular waterfalls as well as sweeping panoramas of the valley floor. The Trail includes two parts: The two-mile section to Columbia Rock, a moderate hike that ascends 1,000 feet through a switchback trail. Be sure to stay on the path, since wandering off can lead to dangerous sheer drop-offs near the trail. Most hikers will be satisfied with completing Columbia Rock portion that takes two to three hours round-trip. From here, hikers are awed by the bird’s-eye view of Yosemite Valley’s meadows, with the Merced River winding its way down the center, enclosed by Half Dome and Sentinel Rock.
The second part of the trail up to Yosemite Falls is more difficult. This strenuous seven-mile round-trip hike ascends 2,425 feet, up rugged terrain and steep hillside staircases. To complete this round-trip hike takes another six to eight hours from Colombia Rock. The trail lies thrillingly close to Yosemite Falls. While climbing, hikers often feel mist from the waterfalls, and after reaching the summit of this challenging trail are rewarded with incredible vistas. The panoramic outlook from the top of Yosemite Falls extends over the entire valley.
- Mount Shasta
The majestic snow-capped Mount Shasta is one of the most inspiring places to hike in California. Many visitors come to Mount Shasta seeking a spiritual experience in nature. Adventurous outdoor enthusiasts come for the challenge of climbing to the mountain’s summit. However, Mount Shasta has plenty of hiking trails that are suitable for the average hiker. A popular hike is the Gray Butte Trail, with its trailhead at an impressive 7,500-foot elevation. This moderate four-mile round-trip trail gains 600 feet in elevation and takes about two hours to complete. The trail crosses through the expansive Lower Panther Meadow and continues up through a pristine forest of old-growth Red Fir Trees. At the fork in the trail, the right hand side ascends through a stand of fragrant Mountain Hemlock Trees. The trail continues past the Lower Peak to the Upper Peak of Gray Butte, offering splendid panoramic views at several vantage points along the way.
- McWay Waterfall Trail, Big Sur
This trail lies in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, named after the pioneer and frontier woman who owned a ranch in Big Sur country in the early 1900s. The park stretches along the mountainous Big Sur coastline with its 3,000-foot ridges that drop off dramatically into the Pacific Ocean. Lush wooded areas flourish with redwood trees, oaks, and chaparral. The McWay Waterfall Trail is a marvelous hike leading to an overlook that affords a stunning view of the 80-foot waterfall, one of the most breathtaking and frequently photographed sites in Big Sur. Hikers are awestruck by the sight of this magnificent waterfall descending from a sheer granite cliff into the ocean. Despite the grandeur of the scenery, this trail is surprisingly easy and short. The 0.7-mile round-trip hike has only a slight elevation gain of 50 feet and takes only about 30 minutes to complete. Hikers may spend more time admiring the amazing scenery than actually hiking.
- Sea Lion Point Trail, Point Lobos
The Sea Lion Point Trail delights nature lovers who appreciate marine wildlife and ocean views. A short and easy hike, the 0.6-mile loop trail is an especially scenic portion of Point Lobos State Reserve in Carmel. The trail winds around peaceful coves and rocky ocean bluffs that meet with crashing waves. Along the way, hikers will have a chance to spot barking sea lions on offshore rocks. The trail also passes by Headland Cove and Sea Lion Cove, quiet coves where seals swim, and sea otters bask in the protected waters. To get a closer view of the animals, hikers may walk down a staircase that provides access to the coves.
- Fern Canyon at Prairie Creek, Redwoods State Park
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park lies 50 miles north of Eureka, an off-the-beaten-path destination. This beautiful state park is dedicated to the protection of coastal redwood trees, the tallest living plant on earth. With their giant amber-hued trunks and leafy canopies, the stately redwood trees create a refreshingly serene, shady environment. Bordering the coast, the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park also has sandy beaches and expansive open meadows. Many visitors enjoy the gentle nature walk to the Fern Canyon, a site so remarkable that is was chosen by Hollywood directors as a backdrop for scenes in the Jurassic Park film. In fact, relatives of today’s living coastal redwoods existed 160 million years ago, during the Jurassic Era. Visitors are delighted by the breathtaking scenery of majestic densely wooded redwood stands, a pristine fresh-water creek, and lush ferns cascading down the canyon walls.
Top 5 Hiking Trails in Los Angeles
Located in the Hollywood Hills, Runyon is a fairly known hike and trail around Los Angeles. Often, you may see the beautiful view of Hollywood posted on Instagram or Facebook tagged at Runyon. People commonly known Runyon as a place to bring dogs, spot celebrities, and see a full skyline. This trail is not very long, as it only extends around 3 miles round trip.
Solstice Canyon is located near Malibu just West of Los Angeles. Aside from the 2.6 mile round trip hike, Solstice Canyon also features historical ruins and a waterfall. Also, along the Solstice Creek there are picnic tables for a nice outdoor lunch.
Another park in the Hollywood Hills is Cahuenga Park, which leads to a view of the Hollywood Sign and the Wisdom Tree. Heading up the East trail, there is a 1.6 mile round trip hike to the Wisdom Tree. This trail is more rugged and less paved than Runyon Canyon, and it gets steep at points. To the West, the trail gets even steeper and more rugged, but eventually leads to the back side of the Hollywood Sign. Both of these trails offer a large amount of elevation for a short distance.
Santa Anita Canyon
The most challenging hike on this list, the Santa Anita Canyon, is an 8.7 mile loop, best made for a full day hike with lunch and swimming stops. The Santa Anita Canyon is located Northeast of Pasadena. Along this trail, there are numerous cabins, a 60-foot waterfall, and a total escape from Los Angeles. The waterfall is comes up in the first half of the trail, so you can jump in then dry off the rest of the way.
Sandstone Peak is the furthest hike to the East, past Santa Monica and Malibu but is one of the highest points in Southern California. You can see jaw-dropping views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica Bay. The summit is over 3,000 feet and follows a 6.25 mile loop. This hike features a picnic area and plenty of shade on the way up. Another beautiful aspect are the Grottoes with creeks and pools.