The 15 Best Hiking Trails in California!

California is filled with natural wonders and is home to numerous national parks, perfect spots for hiking that include beaches, forests and mountainous terrains. Whether you’re looking for Hollywood stars or want to get away from the everyday, you’ll find plenty of perfect hiking trails in California. Our large state has hiking trails in just about every community, but here are 15 that can’t be missed.

1. Runyon Canyon Hike, Los Angeles, CA

If you follow celebrity events, you’ve probably heard of Runyon Canyon, a nature park in the Hollywood area where celebrities and other hikers like to explore the terrain. Bring your dog and be prepared to be star struck.

2. Vasquez Rocks Natural Area, Agua Dulce, CA

Although it’s rarely called by its proper name, the Vasquez Rocks Natural area not only offer a stunning look at prehistoric formations, but also a glimpse of Hollywood history as the setting and scenery for many a film—you may even recognize some parts.

3. Palos Verdes Cove Shipwreck Hike, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Bring some sturdy shoes and be prepared for a rocky road if you head out to the Palos Verdes Cove. A little-known spot, the hike is short but filled with rocky terrain and twists and turns before you get to see the beautiful cove and the ruins of a Greek freighter ship that hit the rocks back in 1961.

4. Mount Whitney, Lone Pine, CA

Mount Whitney is the tallest mountain in the mainland United States and it just so happens to be a favorite spot for both climbers and hikers. You can spend a day or a summer getting up to the top, depending on your ability. Just be sure to get a permit before you go, no matter how long you plan to take. 

5. Sentinel Dome, Yosemite, CA

Yosemite is one of the nation’s most famous parks and the Sentinel Dome hike is an easy hike, just over two miles, that takes you past a famous tree. There are also alternate routes to the summit, for shorter or longer hikes.

6. Eagle Lake Hike, South Lake Tahoe, CA

Depending on the trail you choose, The Eagle Lake hike in South Lake Tahoe can be moderately difficult or best left for experienced hikers. There are waterfalls and the opportunity to camp out to enjoy the stunning beauty of the area, which can lead to more exploration of the surrounding forest, should you have camping gear with you.

7. Pacific Crest Trail, from Mexico to Canada

The Pacific Crest Trail runs from Mexico to Canada and covers the entirety of California. While some hikers make it a mission to complete the entire trail, others choose to just tackle sections of it, like the John Muir Trail.

8. John Muir Trail, Yosemite, CA

The John Muir Trail is actually several trails that are located in Yosemite National Park. You can do small bits that are easy day hikes for beginners, as well as find trails that require more preparation and expertise. In any case, you’ll likely discover the natural wonders that won conservationist John Muir’s heart.

9. Redwood Canyon Trails, Three Rivers, CA

To get up close and personal with some of the oldest sequoia trees in the world, hit one of the Redwood Canyon Trails. Loops vary in size and intensity and some offer glimpses of historic human involvement in the wilderness, while others allow you nothing but nature.

10. Mount Baldy, Mount Baldy, CA

Mount Baldy is a vast wilderness area that offers steep hiking trails, including The Devil’s Backbone, as well as biodiversity. There are different trails and the elevation is high enough that it often snows in the winter months, making Mt. Baldy something of a destination for locals beneath the mountain.

11. Escondido Canyon Trail, Malibu, CA

Just off Pacific Coast Highway in the canyon area surrounding Malibu’s famous beaches is the Escondido Canyon Trail. Dogs and horses are welcome and at the end of the trail, just over four miles in from the trailhead, you will find yourself in front of the tallest waterfall in the Santa Monica Mountain Range. Just beware of climbing the falls because the top is located on private property and it’s also dangerous.

12. Anza Borrego State Park Slot Hike, Borrego Springs, CA

There’s no trail marker and it’s a fairly short distance from the parking lot to the area of the park known as The Slot, but the memories of being in the area are priceless. The super narrow canyon makes for stunning photos. Just be careful because once you’re in the canyon, the trail is pretty steep.

13. Bridge to Nowhere, San Gabriel Mountains, CA

The Bridge to Nowhere hike is part of an ancient plan to connect San Gabriel with Wrightwood, but flooding eventually left only the bridge and none of the road. It’s a long hike, around 10 miles and leads through some very rugged terrain as well as some waterways.

14. Castle Dome, Mt. Shasta, CA

Castle Dome isn’t Castle Crags, but it is a beautiful way to explore various rock formations and you can see Castle Crags in the next park over. There’s an entrance fee at the gate, but it’s an easy hike that will let you see a lot of stuff from way up high.

15. Badwater Salt Flats, Death Valley, CA

The Badwater Salt Flats don’t have a defined trail, but they are an easy, flat hike if you want to explore Death Valley and considered a must-see if you’re in the area. The lowest point of elevation in the Western Hemisphere is Badwater Basin and you’ll find cars and other signs of life to show that you’re on the right track. 

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