California’s Top Hiking Trails


Do you love to hike? Then you have to visit the state of California.

 Golden Hour Hike in the Tuolumne Meadow, Yosemite National Park, by:  Mariia Prokopenko

Golden Hour Hike in the Tuolumne Meadow, Yosemite National Park, by: Mariia Prokopenko

Remember the saying “the great outdoors?” Well, I am pretty sure that was referring to California. It is a beautiful state with so much to offer, from snowy mountains, lush forests, desert plains, to sandy beaches. If you love spending your days outside in the fresh air and hiking then there is nothing you won’t like about California! I’ve put a list together of some of California’s top hiking trails and areas just for you!

1. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, CA

Whether you want to adventure into the mountainous forest or along the coastline, at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park you can do both! Follow the Tanbark Trail inland and witness the massive redwood trees, oaks, and chaparral. Once you’ve gotten your fill of that scenery, turn around and head to Mcway Waterfall Trail. Along this short and easy trail, you will see the famous Mcway Falls, an 80-foot waterfall pouring into the Pacific Ocean. You won’t believe your eyes. Be sure to hike down to Pfeiffer Beach as well to see some amazing rock formations and sink your toes in the purple sand.

  The wonderful McWay Falls in Big Sur, by:  Johannes Wienke

The wonderful McWay Falls in Big Sur, by: Johannes Wienke

2. Joshua Tree National Park, Twentynine Palms, CA

You will feel like you are on a different planet when hiking through Joshua Tree. Two desert ecosystems meet in the park, the Mojave and the Colorado, resulting in an interesting variety of wildlife and plants. There are numerous trails traversing through the park like Arch Rock Nature Trail, an easy 0.5-mile nature trail guiding you to some of the fascinating rock formations and a natural arch. Another is Mastodon Mine Loop Trail, a strenuous hike about 3-miles long with views of the Eagle Mountains and the Salton Sea. There are also some oasis trails that are really worth hiking. The first being Lost Palms Oasis Trail which is 7.2 miles round-trip and leads you through a canyon filled with palms and refreshing natural pools. The second is Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail which is three miles round trip and a moderately strenuous hike, because of the 300-foot elevation gain. However, you are rewarded for your hike with shaded pools of fresh water. 

 A spectacular desert sunset in Joshua Tree National Park, by:  Laurie Hernandez

A spectacular desert sunset in Joshua Tree National Park, by: Laurie Hernandez

3. Yosemite National Park, CA

HALF DOME!  This is one of California’s most popular hiking trails. It’s a day hike and definitely on the more demanding side. Give yourself at least 10 hours to complete the hike and be aware that the last part is a steep climb up the dome for about 900 feet, where you will cling to cables for the final ascent. It’s a rush and a hike a lot of enthusiasts have on their bucket list. A hiking permit is required for this hike. For more information about preparing for the hike and getting your permit, click hereLower & Upper Yosemite Falls Trail, Vernal & Nevada Falls via Mist Trails, and Mirror Lake Trail are all beautiful and rewarding hikes in the park as well. There are stunning views of waterfalls, vistas, meadows, and lakes. Get a move on early in the day to hike all around Yosemite.

 Road To El Capitan, by:  Ken Easter

Road To El Capitan, by: Ken Easter

4. Pinnacles National Park, CA

Pinnacles is located in Central California and is a very popular destination for hiking and rock-climbing. It is known for its cave trails, including Bear Gulch Cave and Balconies Cave, where you hike in complete darkness. (don’t forget your flashlight!) These caves are home to colonies of bats, that are protected by the park. Check on the status of the caves here to see which ones are open and closed.

 Moonrise Over Pinnacles NP High Peaks, by:  Don Smith

Moonrise Over Pinnacles NP High Peaks, by: Don Smith

5. Mount Whitney, CA

Mount Whitney is in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks and is the most frequently climbed peak in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. It is not a hike for the faint of heart and requires altitude conditioning and advanced hiking skill. Prepare to start your adventure before sunrise (around 5AM) if you want to complete the 22-mile round-trip in one day. You will hike deep into the wilderness of the parks and witness some beautiful views along the way! A permit is required for hikers and overnight backpackers before entering the Mount Whitney zone.

 Sunset Over Mount Whitney, by:  Brian Klonoski

Sunset Over Mount Whitney, by: Brian Klonoski

6. Mount Shasta, CA

Mount Shasta is a great place to hike for all skill levels. Gray Butte Trail is a popular moderate hike about four miles round-trip with a 600 feet elevation gain, taking around two hours to complete. The hike is only accessible in the summer and early fall!

 Mount Shasta North Face, by:  Hal Hanesworth

Mount Shasta North Face, by: Hal Hanesworth

7. Big Basin Redwoods State Park, CA

You will be blown away by Big Basin. It is home to some of the largest and oldest Redwoods in California. The Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail is a popular backpackers hike that covers 30 miles through the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. It is a 3-day scenic trail, giving you an overview of California’s scenery. An all-day adventure hike is the Berry Creek Falls Loop. It is a picturesque 11-mile round-trip hike through the beautiful redwoods and ending at the Berry Creek Falls. You will be in heaven.

 Mist through the Redwoods, by:  Tom Post

Mist through the Redwoods, by: Tom Post

Now, this is simply the tip of the iceberg for California’s hiking trails. There are hikes for every skill level and interest. If you prefer to adventure in the mountains, you have numerous parks to choose from, and if you prefer to explore the coastline, there are just as many choices! Give yourself ample time to really hike California and take advantage of all it has to offer.