|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
With annual visitation of fewer than 40,000, Northern California’s largest state park (87,000 rugged acres) offers loads of privacy—particularly in its steep backcountry. Hike nine miles into the park to earn ridgetop views of wooded slopes and a serene campsite above a small backcountry reservoir. First, avoid company on lesser-used but lush Madrone Soda Springs and Mile Trails to reach the relatively popular swimming holes along Coyote Creek’s East Fork. Then, at mile 5.6, start the calf-burning climb up narrow Willow Ridge Trail—1,200 feet over 1.6 miles, with more false summits than switchbacks—to earn your privacy. Of the four lakes accessible from Willow Ridge, one-acre Hoover, off an easy, unmarked trail, is least-visited—unless you count the lark sparrows, goldfinches, and other songbirds that flutter among its blue oaks and gray pines. In September, the evergreens offer a shaded respite from the waning summer heat.
-mapped by Nate Seltenrich