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California Backpacking Trails

John Muir Trail Section 5: Onion Valley to Whitney Portal

Tag Mount Whitney, the Lower 48's highest peak, during this 42-mile trek into Sequoia National Park where there's more acreage of wilderness than you'll know what to do with.

John Muir Trail Section 4: Edison Lake to Onion Valley

In this 86-mile section, hike through Kings Canyon National Park into a series of JMT favorites.

John Muir Trail Section 3: Devil’s Postpile to Edison Lake

Climb through a rejuvenating burn zone and a cinder cone-strewn hillside at the front end of this 32-mile stretch on the JMT

Channel Islands National Park: Torrey Pines Loop

Squeeze this 4.3-mile dayhike in before the ferry departs for the mainland. Highlights: super rare pine trees and breezy views of the mighty Pacific.

Kings Canyon National Park: Bullfrog Lake Overlook via Kearsarge Pass

Trek along a series of High Sierra lakes nestled in sculpted granite basins below towering alpine peaks on this 11.6-mile out-and-back.

San Francisco: Clipper Ridge Loop

Watch ships glide into Half Moon Bay as you climb a steep ridgeline, then drop into a secluded ravine perfect for spying wildlife. This loop with recommended spur trail runs 7.6 miles.

San Francisco, CA: Coyote Hills

This easy 6.2-mile loop links lush marshland with ancient mountains–now small weathered hills–that were once islands before river sediment filled in the channel.

San Francisco: Hazelnut Loop

This easy 4.2-mile loop is the perfect sunset hike, thanks to sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. Keep an eye out for foraging rabbits and deer.

San Francisco: Wilder Ranch Loop

This 7.6-mile loop stitches together windswept coastline bluffs with the steep and quiet foothills of Santa Cruz County. Open to hikers and mountain bikers.

San Francisco: Alameda Quicksilver County Park Loop

Take a self-guided tour of abandoned mine shafts and old miner homesteads on this 7.9-mile loop with breathtaking vistas of the San Francisco Bay and the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Los Angeles: Vulture Crags

Jagged sandstone cliffs, glorious wildflowers, and deep canyons seem endless on this 9-mile out-and-back ridgeline run in Cleveland National Forest.

Los Angeles: Crystal Cove State Beach

Trace the rugged, uninhabited coastline of Crystal Cove on this 5.2-mile out-and-back to sunbleached bluffs, swirling tidal pools, and a deserted settlement of old beach villas.

Los Angeles: Echo Mountain via Sam Merrill Trail

Trek into history on this 7-mile out-and-back in the San Gabriel foothills. You’ll visit the ruins of a luxurious hotel and cog railway that date back to the early 1900s.

Los Angeles: Santa Ynez Falls

This 4.6-mile canyon hike features chilly mountain pools, several beautiful waterfalls, and slim sandstone cliffs set in a cool oasis of lush oak and sycamore forests.

Los Angeles: Sullivan Ridge Loop

Savor sunny views of Catalina Island and the Pacific Ocean, then descend to a cool creek under the pleasant shade of sycamore trees on this 8.9-mile canyon loop.

Los Angeles: Tongva Peak

Hike 6 miles to an island of green space nestled in L.A.’s suburbs, then climb steeply to panoramic views of the nearby San Gabriel mountains and the Hollywood Hills.

Los Angeles: Parker Mesa

Hike, run, or bike this moderate 6.2-mile out-and-back, which follows a scenic, rolling ridgeline to a boot-shaped mesa with a stunning ocean vista.

Los Angeles: Mount Bliss

Don’t be fooled by the name–this 9.3-mile out-and-back climbs more than 3,000 feet. But it rewards hikers with some of the most spectacular views in the LA foothills.

Los Angeles: Zuma Canyon Loop

This 4.2-mile hike begins in a deep cleft of the Santa Monica Mnts., then winds up a mellow ridgeline with gorgeous ocean views. Zuma Canyon is a lush basin of wildflowers in season.

Sacramento: Pinecrest Lake Loop

Giant stands of ponderosa pine alternate with patches of wildflowers along the rugged shorelines of Pinecrest and Catfish lakes on this isolated 5.9-mile loop.

San Bernardino: Owl Canyon Trail

Scamper 4 miles into a picturesque canyon loaded with Technicolor rock formations and high desert species like the brown eagle, desert fox, and California condor.

San Francisco: Ritchey Canyon Loop

Before Napa Valley got its grapevine rep, the landscape likely resembled 2,000-acre Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, where redwoods shade this mellow 4.6-mile trail.

San Francisco: Rodeo Beach Loop

This 9.6-mile hike offers a tour of the Marin Headlands, then loops to include fine bluff views of San Francisco Bay and the Pacific. Bring extra clothes; the weather changes quickly.

San Francisco: Sam McDonald County Park Loop

This 5-mile loop wanders through huge redwood stands along the western slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Extend the trip with an overnight at a Sierra Club hut.

Los Angeles: Abalone Cove Shoreline Park

The rocky points of this 5.6-mile coastal hike offer some of the best tidal pool viewing in Southern California. Go at low tide to see crabs, sea stars, anemones, and sea hares.

Los Angeles: La Jolla Valley Loop

Escape the city’s smog on this pretty 7.3-mile loop into the chaparral-covered ecosystem of La Jolla Canyon. Fresh air and Pacific Ocean vistas are only a 30-minute drive from downtown.

Los Angeles: Bear Canyon Loop

This 6.5-mile loop passes through sage, chaparral, and oak groves to a high plateau with panoramic views of the Santa Ana Mountains.

Los Angeles: Sycamore Canyon Falls

This easy 4.7-mile route loops past Sycamore Canyon Falls and the shady bottom of Big Sycamore Canyon.

Los Angeles: Lake Sabrina to Echo Lake

Navigate the long, gorgeous valley of Bishop Creek’s Middle Fork to alpine lakes beneath spectacular Sierra Crest peaks. Leave early for this arduous 17-mile hike.

San Diego: Black’s Beach to Torrey Pines State Reserve

A steep, 330-foot cliff descent begins a 5-mile out-and-back along one of SoCal’s last undeveloped coasts–which happens to include a famous nude beach.

Lost Coast Trail: Shelter Cove

The 9.2-mile trek heads along one of California’s last pristine beaches to the swimming grounds of harbor seals and the once-endangered California gray whale.

San Francisco: China Camp Loop

Hike this rolling 5.8-mile loop on a weekday for quiet trails and frequent sightings of wild turkeys and deer.

San Francisco: Sunset Trail

The 4-mile climb to Mt. Livermore is the most ambitious hike on Angel Island, the historic immigration station in the center of San Francisco Bay.

San Francisco: Morning Sun Trail to Rodeo Valley Trail

Enjoy stellar views of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz and the Angel Island on this 6-mile loop through Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Los Angeles: Ski Hut Trail

A 3,000-foot gain in 3.4 miles delivers landscape-painting vistas of pastoral valleys and idyllic California hamlets on this 6.8-mile round-trip.

Los Angeles: Winter Creek Loop, Angeles NF

Enjoy a gurgling creek, the staccato of canyon wrens, and ridgetop vistas on this 4.2-mile jaunt just minutes from downtown Pasadena.

San Francisco: Matt Davis Loop

This 7.4-mile loop in Mt. Tamalpais State Park links three superb trails stretching from ridgeline to sea.

San Francisco: Baldwin Trail–Enchanted Loop

If the surf is dead, hike up the coast bluffs of Wilder Ranch State Park for stellar views of Monterey Bay and a cool walk in a forest of redwood giants.

Los Angeles: Whiting Ranch, Santa Ana Foothills

An oak-shaded creek with cat tails and mountain lion tracks.

Los Angeles: Bell Canyon-East Ridge Loop

Tall grass mixes with prickly pear on this 5.4-mile loop to sprawling ridgeline views of the Santa Ana Mountains, Bell Canyon, and San Juan Canyon.

San Diego: Ysabel Truck Trail

Ramble from canyon views to shady forest along the exposed cliff bands above Santa Ysabel Creek.

San Francisco: Windy Hill Loop

Climb through several Bay Area ecosystems on this 8.6-mile ramble from Portola Valley to Windy Ridge.

San Francisco: Mitchell Canyon Loop

This 7.3-mile loop over Eagle Peak offers panoramic views, from nearby Mt. Diablo to the Pacific Ocean.

San Francisco: Harvey West to Pogonip Park

This 4-mile lasso hike leads through redwood forests and coastal meadows to an abandoned golf clubhouse and movie set, plus superb views of Monterey Bay.

Los Angeles, CA: Sandstone Peak Loop

Climb high above the Pacific on this 6-mile loop over 3,111-foot Sandstone Peak, the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Yosemite National Park: Breeze Lake Backpacking Loop

Camp under sharp peaks and sharper stars on this 4-day, 20-mile tour along the eastern edge of Yosemite National Park. Summits, swimming holes, and trout abound.

Joshua Tree National Park: Lost Horse Mine

Explore a desert moonscape of otherworldly cacti on this 4.2-mile hike to an abandoned gold prospect. Take plenty of water and sunscreen.

Yosemite National Park: Hetch Hetchy-Vernon Lake Loop

Enjoy the quiet trails and scenic views of Yosemite Valley’s less-traveled twin on this 28.7-mile overnighter. Early season is marked by waterfalls surging with spring meltoff.

Lassen Volcanic National Park: Bumpass Hell to Kings Creek Campground

Hit two alluring lakes while exploring a landscape carved by fire and chiseled by ice on this picturesque 9.2-mile out-and-back lined with plentiful wildflowers.

Channel Islands National Park: Lobo Canyon Trail

Discover ancient archaeology and island isolation (playful sea lions excepted) on this 5.2-mile loop through Santa Rosa’s steep canyons and sandy beaches.

Redding: Grizzly Lakes

Trek 24.4 miles to a 200-foot, glacier-fed waterslide, then bag the highest peak in the Trinity Alps. Bring a fly rod for rare red-meat brook trout.

San Diego: Dripping Springs Trail

This 12.8-mile cardio challenge climbs 3,000 feet to sweeping vistas in Agua Tibia Wilderness. Start early with lots of water, and bring gaiters for the chaparral.

Yosemite National Park: Sentinel Dome Loop

Hike 5.5 miles into Ansel Adams country to the top of Sentinel Dome and around to Taft Point for fisheye panoramas of Yosemite Valley.

Los Angeles: Billy Goat Trail

Experience the many moods of the chaparral and wildflowers in bloom en route to an unnamed summit on this 6.8-mile hike in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park.

Los Angeles: Santiago Oaks Regional Park Loop

Escape cookie-cutter suburbia on this 4.5-mile hike or bike through a mix of soaring ridges, lush canyons, and remnants from the ranchero era.

San Diego: Iron Mountain Trail

Tackle a heart-thumping 5.6-mile, out-and-back scramble over boulder fields to a 2,700-foot peak perched high above the coastal haze of the Pacific.

Los Angeles: Cold Springs Trail

This 8.3-mile lollipop loop quickly ascends 2,500 feet into the coastal hills; bring your camera to capture striking above-the-fog seascapes.

San Francisco: Mission Peak

This challenging, 6.8-mile out-and-back is a classic in spring when lush greenery and riotously colored wildflowers cover the Bay Area foothills.

Los Angeles: Rustic Canyon Loop

Explore the ranch estate of late cowboy humorist Will Rogers on this 5.4-mile trek among the Pacific Palisades ridgelines of Topanga State Park.

Pinnacles National Monument: High Peaks Loop

See the result of millions of years of tectonic movement
on this 7.9-mile loop beneath massive volcanic monoliths. Bring a flashlight for optional cave trails.

Reno: Penner Lake

This 5.4-mile out-and-back has it all: 5-star camping, superlative swimming, and picture-postcard scenery along a patchwork of lakes in Tahoe National Forest.

San Francisco: Blue Ridge Loop

Knock off an adventure quickie on this 4.2-mile loop into toothy, little-known ridgelines above the Central Valley.

San Francisco, CA: Whittemore Gulch-Harkins Ridge Loop

Bobcats roam this 7-mile route through a redwood-canopied canyon in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

San Diego: Pacific Crest Trail (Long Canyon)

This aggressive 20.2-mile loop snakes past canyon walls and up aggressive ridgelines to stellar views of the Laguna Mountains and beyond.

San Francisco: Beach-Panorama-Ridge Loop

This 8.4-mile circuit in Andrew Molera State Park showcases California’s most prized natural assets–sandy beaches, killer sunsets, and giant redwoods.

San Francisco: Jack London Mountain Trail

Answer the call of the wild on a 7.8-mile round-trip to the redwood retreat of an American literary icon. Later, try the cabernet at a local Sonoma vineyard.

Redding: Alphabet Lakes

Basecamp in a rarely visited basin and take daytrips to several alpine lakes with stunning views on this 17.2-mile, long-weekend backpacking trip.

Los Angeles: Morris Peak

This rigorous but rewarding 9.8-mile out-and-back on the Pacific Crest Trail climbs more than 2,000 feet to a summit with splendid high-desert views.

Los Angeles: Fryman Canyon Loop

This 5-mile loop winds through an undisturbed swath of parkland to babbling creeks and fine views across the San Fernando Valley to the San Gabriel Mountains.

Los Angeles: Poppy Reserve

This 5.2-mile desert hike is great any time, but spectacular in spring when the Antelope Buttes bloom with native grasses and fire-orange poppies, the California state flower.

Los Angeles: Portuguese Bend

Amazing views of Catalina Island and Abalone Cove unfold right from the start of this 5.2-mile hike. Minutes from metro L.A., this quiet wildland is also home to red-tailed hawks.

Los Angeles: Holy Jim Falls-Trabuco Canyon Loop

This 14.4-mile loop starts in a lush canyon framed by a secluded waterfall, then ascends to a mellow ridgeline in the Santa Ana foothills.

Mammoth Lakes, CA: Sadler Lake

Escape Yosemite Valley crowds on this 21.2-mile, multiday trek to glacial cirques and turquoise lakes deep in the wilds of the Ansel Adams Wilderness.

San Francisco: Tolman Peak Loop

Climb to the site of a legendary plane crash on this 5.5-mile loop through the rolling hills of Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Park.

San Diego: Daley Ranch Loop

This beautiful 7.1-mile figure-eight route visits a weathered farm and two ponds, then passes through chaparral patches to isolated oak stands.

San Diego: Santa Margarita River Trail

This 5.7-mile loop visits SoCal’s last wild river in Santa Margarita Canyon, a refuge hosting numerous species of endangered birds and plants.

Redding: Emerald Lake

Wander through a remote paradise of high-alpine lakes in the lightly visited Trinity Alps on this 33.2-mile, long-weekend trip in Klamath National Forest.

Los Angeles: Satwiwa to Tri Peaks

A stiff 2,300-foot climb rewards you with monster views and a waterfall swim on this 8.8-mile out-and-back in the Santa Monica Mountains.

San Francisco: Huddart-Phleger Redwood Loop

This mild 4-miler won’t wear you out as it winds through coastal redwoods and parallels a quiet, shady creek in Huddart County Park.

San Francisco: Bear Lake/Emigrant Wilderness

Wildflower pockets and piles of granite boulders punctuate this mellow 7.4-mile route to two alpine lakes with primo campsites.

San Francisco: San Bruno Mountain Loop

Hike 3.8 miles through a quiet oasis of undulating hills to a 1,076-foot summit overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Bay Area. Bonus: Trailhead is less than 9 miles from city center.

Los Angeles: Nicholas Flat

This 7.3-mile loop leads to photo-worthy views of the colorful Santa Monica Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, then enters a highland meadow to a tranquil pond.

Los Angeles: Laguna Coast Wilderness Park

This 6.6-mile dayhike in Orange Country features scenic ridgelines and lush wooded canyons.

Los Angeles: Eagle Rock Loop

A scattering of rocky outcrops, with their big sky views, offers a surprisingly wild haven within the city limits on this 6.7-mile, figure-8 loop in Topanga State Park.

Los Angeles: Bolsa Chica Wetlands Loop

This 5-mile loop meanders along coastal bluffs and into wetlands in the heart of one of the finest birding spots in the United States.

Los Angeles: Telegraph Canyon via Diemer Trial

Cross a rolling ridgeline with great views of Orange County before descending down into the beautiful sycamore-, manzanita-, maple-, and wild zucchini-filled Telegraph Canyon.

Los Angeles: Point Dume Nature Preserve

This out-and-back beach hike climbs over Point Dume to a coastline littered with tidepools. Tip: Bring snorkel gear and plenty of drinking water.

Los Angeles: Peters Canyon Regional Park

Escape gridlock on this quick and easy 5.6-mile getaway along a peaceful reservoir with eucalyptus groves and views over Orange County.

Los Angeles: Upper Newport Bay Trail

Trace the muddy flats and coastal bluffs of Upper Newport Bay and observe a long list of birds on this easygoing 5.9-mile stroll.

Los Angeles: Trabuco Canyon Trail

Meander through big oaks, sycamores, and pines on this 7-mile, out-and-back hike along a tranquil creek and up Trabuco Canyon for vistas overlooking Cleveland National Forest.

Los Angeles: Temescal Canyon Loop

Get the best of two worlds–high ridgeline views and intimate canyon settings–on this moderate 4.8-mile trek in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Los Angeles: Wood-Mathis Canyon Loop

Wander through old ranching claims now covered with sage scrub and oak woodlands to ridgeline views of Catalina Island and the Santa Ana Mountains on this 10.8-mile loop.

Los Angeles: Weir Canyon Loop

This 4-mile loop boasts canyon views among layers and layers of hills, sandstone cliffs. Look for wild zucchini, thistle, prickly pear cactus, white sage, and raptors.

Lassen Volcanic National Park: Twin Lakes

Ramble 8 miles out-and-back along a chain of shimmering lakes and enjoy a refreshing midsummer swim beneath the park’s centerpiece, Lassen Peak.

Lake Tahoe, CA: Eagle Lake-Granite Lake Loop

This popular 6.2-mile hike loop visits two alpine lakes in the Desolation Wilderness and offers outstanding views of the bright blue waters of Lake Tahoe.

San Francisco: Briones Park Loop

This enchanting 5.7-mile loop through 6,000-acre Briones Regional Park has it all-rolling hills, shady woods, and spectacular views of the East Bay.

San Francisco: Black Mountain Trail

Watch for black-tailed deer on this steep up-and-back 9-mile hike, which climbs through Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve to the top of 2,805-foot Black Mountain.

San Francisco: Black Diamond Mines Loop

Explore historic sites on this 5.9-mile loop in the fascinating Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve-once California’s largest coalfield.

San Francisco: Purisima Creek

In 6.9 miles, this loop leads from Purisima Creek through the huckleberry-filled hills of Half Moon Bay up to a ridgeline with impressive ocean views.

San Francisco: Monte Bello Preserve

This 5.9-mile hike features a cache of wild riches: loads of wildlife, peaceful grasslands, dappled forests, and a treeless ridgeline with big ocean views.

San Bernardino: Deep Creek Hot Springs

Take this lesser-known, 6-mile route to the famous Deep Creek hot springs. Go on a weekday for more seclusion.

Los Angeles: Rancho Nuevo Trail-Deal Trail

Squeezed into the extremely rugged landscape of Dick Smith Wilderness, this 5-mile out-and-back features great streamside camping and plenty of solitude.

Los Angeles: Arroyo Seco Trail

This 9-miler travels a shady canyon with a handful of creek crossings to lovely picnic getaways in Angeles National Forest.

San Francisco: Bear Valley Trail

Go from an active fault zone to thundering ocean spray on this classic 9.4-mile out-and-back in Point Reyes National Seashore.

San Diego: San Pasqual-Clevenger Trail South

Link two unnamed peaks in the rugged hills above San Pasqual-Clevenger Canyon on this challenging 4-mile, half-day hike.

San Francisco: Table Mountain Loop

This brisk 5.2-miler loops through shaded gullies to the famously photogenic foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

San Francisco: Sweeney Ridge

This 7.4-mile hike heads into the Coast Mountains and onto the spot where explorers first discovered San Francisco Bay. Look for wild cat and badger tracks along the way.

San Francisco: Big Basin Redwoods State Park Circuit

Walk 7 miles among wildflowers, oaks, towering redwoods, and rushing creeks.

San Diego: Sunset-Big Laguna Lake Loop

Ramble 7.8 miles through woodlands of black oak, Jeffrey pine, and incense cedar.

San Diego, CA: Garnet Peak-Champagne Pass Loop

Witness the stunning transition of forest to desert on a 10.5-mile hike that traverses the Laguna Mountains.

San Francisco: Montara Mountain Trail

Hump 2,200 feet on an 8.2-mile hike to views of the Bay Area, the Pacific, and Mt. Diablo.

Los Angeles: Morro Strand Natural Preserve

Beachcomb 11.6 miles up and back on this sandy fin for intimate oceanside views and sweet body-surfing spots.

Los Angeles: East Island Loop

Escape the city’s bustle by leaving the mainland. This 10.4-mile loop explores the crowd-free hills and beautiful gardens of Santa Catalina Island.

Joshua Tree National Park: Warren Peak via Black Rock

Escape the hot-air desert floor by bagging two breezy peaks with outstanding views on this 5.8-mile out-and-back hike.

San Diego: El Cajon Mountain

Rock-scrambling and long-range vistas highlight this hardy 11.2-mile out-and-back up a much photographed but rarely climbed East County peak.

Live from the Sierra High Route

Welcome to the map portion of Steve Howe’s solo thru-hike of the Sierra High Route. Steve is BACKPACKER’s Rocky Mountain editor, and he started this 37-day, 280-mile route on Saturday, August 26, 2006. He’s podcasting once a day from his evening camp, and we’ll be updating this map daily with a new waypoint showing where he’s pitching his tent.

Yosemite National Park: Nevada Falls Loop

This 6.2-mile loop leads into a land of rainbows and big waterfalls among the granite faces of Yosemite Valley.

Sequoia National Park: High Sierra Trail

Spend a week (or more) trekking 72 miles from the Giant Forest to Mount Whitney on the High Sierra Trail.

Los Angeles: El Moro Canyon

Look for deer, bobcat, and soaring turkey vultures on this 8.8-mile ridgeline hike in Crystal Cove State Park.

Redding: Lost Coast Trail to Cooskie Creek

Unspoiled black-sand beaches, rogue breakers, and craggy mountains form a remote backdrop to this 13.4-mile weekend adventure along the Lost Coast.

San Diego: Fortuna Mountains Loop

Stuck in the city? Bag two peaks on this 7.9-miler in the rugged hills and valleys of Mission Trails Regional Park, just a few miles from downtown.

Los Angeles: San Jacinto Peak

Hike one of SoCal’s highest peaks on this 10.4-miler that serves up magnificent views and plenty of high-country beauty in Mt. San Jacinto State Park.

San Francisco: Upper Wildcat Canyon Loop

Revisit the Bay Area’s ranching past on this mellow but view-packed 6.4-miler across the tawny hillsides of Rancho San Antonio Preserve.

Eureka, CA: Lost Coast Trail

Play tag with the pounding surf by day and camp in misty coves by night on this 26-miler along the wildflower-swathed hillsides of the Lost Coast.

San Francisco: Henry W. Coe State Park Loop

Hike 7 steep miles among wild cattle to sweeping views of the Gabilan and Diablo Mountains.

San Diego: PCT to Kitchen Creek Falls

Hike a chaparral-covered slope in Cleveland National Forest to a view of Mexico. Then cool off at the falls, a series of cascades and swimming holes alongside smooth granite boulders.

San Francisco: The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park Trail

Look for banana slugs and California newts on this 4.6-mile hike to scenic waterfalls.

San Francisco: Estero Trail

Look for heron and sandpiper in the estuaries of Point Reyes National Seashore on this rolling 7.4-mile hike.

San Francisco: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Loop

Roam 5.1 miles among redwoods to a promontory 2,000 feet above the larger-than-life Big Sur coast.

Los Angeles, CA: Malibu Creek State Park Loop

This 14.2-mile hike shows off LA’s flipside: rugged mountains, oak-filled valleys, and miles of quiet trail.

Los Angeles: Hollywood Hills Loop

Hike 4.5 miles along Griffith Park’s ridge for commanding views of the Hollywood sign and downtown.

San Francisco: Carson Falls Loop

4.5 miles and 2,500 feet of elevation change yield views
of Marin County’s tallest waterfall.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 16

HIKERTOWN to TEHACHAPI/WILLOW SPRINGS ROAD: This one isn’t for tender-footed hikers. Best saved for springtime, it’s a hot run for 37 miles across the Mojave Desert peppered with iconic Joshua trees.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 3

LAGUNA MEADOW to CA 78: Starting on the Laguna Rim, this 25.7-mile leg passes over granite knobs with long views into the undulating desert.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 19

WALKER PASS to KENNEDY MEADOWS: Go 48.5 miles on the Kern Plateau, a slanted wilderness that connects foxtail pine country to the crumbling granite obelisks of the Sierra foothills.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 21

TUOLUMNE MEADOWS to SONORA PASS: This 65.8-mile section travels the remote regions of Yosemite. Our advice: Pack a good camera (the scenery is five stars), extra sunscreen (it’s the High Sierra), and water shoes (swift rivers).

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 20

KENNEDY MEADOWS to TUOLUMNE MEADOWS: The highlight reel of this 209-mile section includes three national parks, several high passes with heavenly views, two stunning wilderness areas, and not a single road. Option: Detour up Mt. Whitney, the tallest peak in the Lower 48.

Pacific Crest Trail: Best Dayhike – Sonora Pass, CA

This 8.9-mile section hike gets top billing for its 100-mile Sierra views of shimmering alpine lakes, towering peaks, and hillsides bursting with wildflowers.

Pacific Crest Trail: Most Diverse – San Jacinto Mountains, CA

This 49.8-mile traverse passes through all six California life zones, from scrubby deserts of chaparral and shaggy Mojave yucca to the frosty spine of the San Jacinto Range.

Pacific Crest Trail: Best Weekend – Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, CA

Traverse the dry, but surprisingly life-filled, San Felipe Hills on this 18.9-mile trip in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Pacific Crest Trail: Best Weekend – Mokelumne Wilderness, CA

Hike past bizarre volcanic formations to a campsite offering remote sunrise views of the northern Sierras on this 14.8-mile trek.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 2

I-8 to LAGUNA MEADOWS: Explore the shady ravines of the Laguna Mountains on this 19.2-mile to a cozy meadow campsite under Jeffrey pines.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 9

CRAB FLATS ROAD to CA 138: Hot springs. Killer views. Lonely campsites. That’s just a short hitlist of what unfurls on this 30.4-mile section across the San Bernardino Mountains.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 6

CA 74 to I-10: This 54.3-mile segment serves up an ecological buffet, passing through all California six life zones from the scrubby desert floor to the frosty spine of the San Jacinto Range.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 4

CA 78 to WARNER SPRINGS: Best done during the cooler days of spring and fall, this 25.8-mile stretch runs through the shrubby San Felipe Hills of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 11

CAJON JUNCTION to CA 2: Walk the scar of the San Andreas Fault then climb the pinyon ridges of the Mojave Desert on this 23.6-mile trek. Don’t miss Wrightwood, CA, considered the friendliest hiker town just off the PCT.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 13

THREE POINTS to AGUA DULCE: Finish off the San Gabriel’s by dipping into steep ravines and over ridges covered in spruce on this 41.3-mile stretch that ends beneath the uplifted sandstone cliffs in Vasquez Rocks County Park.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 15

ELIZABETH CANYON to HIKERTOWN: Much of this 26.3-mile stretch navigates the slopes of Sawmill Mountain before ending in the desert flats of Hikertown, USA. High point: Views on Leibre Mountain stretch from the Pacific to the Mojave.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 18

LANDERS MEADOW to WALKER PASS: Begin the long ascent into the Sierras through the pinyon forests and cholla clumps of the Scodie Mountains on this 38.7-mile leg. In spring, wildflowers bring color to the arid gray-green landscape.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 23

EBBETTS PASS to CA 88: Pass through an ancient volcanic kiln of rugged knobs and lava streams now-framed with willows, peaceful meadows, and early-summer snow fields in the Mokelumne Wilderness. This is a moderately-challenging 23.6-mile leg.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 25

US 50 to I-80: Visit two scenic wilderness areas, swim in countless lakes, and traverse above Lake Tahoe’s rim on this 56-mile section.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 28

QUINCY-LAPORTE ROAD to OROVILLE-QUINCY HIGHWAY: This 29.8-mile leg skirts crumbled lava flows and the churning Middle Fork Feather River, where delightful riverside pools offer ample sunbathing and swimming.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 27

SIERRA CITY to QUINCY-LAPORTE ROAD: Hike past dozens of alpine lakes and a few notable peaks on this 31.7-mile section. Don’t pass by the Sierra Buttes without climbing to the old lookout, the views from the top are some of California’s best.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 30

BELDEN to HUMBOLDT SUMMIT: This 22.4-mile heart-pounding section climbs 5,000 feet and crosses several lovely mountain streams.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 31

HUMBOLDT SUMMIT to CA 36: Hit the PCT midpoint and some refreshing creekside pools in the Sierra’s last canyon on this 17.9-mile section.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 32

CA 36 to DRAKESBAD RESORT: Pick up some steam on this 17.4-mile segment through the puffing geysers and thermal lakes of Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 33

DRAKESBAD RESORT to OLD STATION POST OFFICE: Head into the remote corner of Lassen Volcanic National Park on this 22.4-mile section past high mountain lakes ringed with conifers and a backdrop of cinder cone volcanoes.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 34

OLD STATION POST OFFICE to BURNEY FALLS: This 43.8-mile leg, possibly the longest waterless stretch on the PCT, follows the sweltering contours of Hat Creek Rim before ending at a 129-foot cascade. In early spring, wildflowers are top-notch on the rim.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 36

GRIZZLY PEAK to CASTLE CRAGS: Drop into shady canyons packed with cedars, firs, and flowing creeks before grinding up Girard Ridge for long-range vistas of snowy Shasta and the wrinkled Castle Crags on this 37.2-mile section.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 35

BURNEY FALLS to GRIZZLY PEAK: Scope a raging 129-foot waterfall to start this tough-and-dry 37.5-mile leg through rolling fir-forest basins to an isolated peak that rewards with views of Mount Shasta.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 37

I-5 to GUMBOOT TRAILHEAD: Trek past the lofty spires of Castle Crags to the weathered ridges and lakes near the Trinity Divide on this 21.5-mile stretch. Postcard views of Mount Shasta dominate the horizon.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 38

GUMBOOT TRAILHEAD to CA 3: High in the Trinity Alps, this 32.9-mile ridge section views the headwaters of the Trinity River and countless alpine lakes.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 39

CA 3 to CARTER MEADOWS SUMMIT: Pass rocky lake basins and deep, glacially scoured canyons on this 18.5-mile leg across the slim ridges of the Scott Mountains.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 40

CARTER MEADOWS SUMMIT to ETNA SUMMIT: Stick to the high crest and get bird’s-eye views over the headwaters of the Salmon, Scott, and Trinity Rivers during this 18.1-mile section through the less-explored lakes and peaks of the Russian Wilderness.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 41

ETNA SUMMIT to SEIDAD VALLEY: Packed with craggy peaks and rugged cirques, this 51.1-mile leg through the Marble Mountains serves up endless solitude.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 42

SEIDAD VALLEY to OREGON BORDER: Few, if any hikers, make it this far north in California, so you’ll likely have the trail to yourself. This 32.1-mile leg begins with a steep climb out of the Klamath River Valley and hugs the Siskiyou Crest passing buttes and deep ravines.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 12

CA 2 to THREE POINTS: This 25-mile leg has a mad list of peaks. Start by climbing 2,000 feet up Mt. Baden-Powell with views unfolding to the Sierra Nevada. Then zigzag the swelling ridges of the San Gabriel Crest.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 10

CA 138 to I-15: On this 10.5-mile stretch, climb through sandy washes and gullies around Cleghorn Ridge to overlooks of Cajon Canyon and the San Gabriel Mountains.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 17

TEHACHAPI/WILLOW SPRINGS ROAD to LANDERS MEADOW: Climb through the Piute Mountains on this 42.5-mile stretch past dry mining claims and an expanse of sagebrush and yucca.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 22

SONORA PASS to EBBETTS PASS: Curve between sharp ice-hewn boulders on this 27.2-mile stretch surrounded by red volcanic peaks.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 24

CA 88 to US 50: Start at the headwaters of the Truckee River and get an early glimpse at Lake Tahoe before winding through lush canyons on this 12.5-mile section.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 26

I-80 to SIERRA CITY: This 32-mile leg runs from ridge-to-river and offers incredible campsites.  Add a wildcard to this adventure by overnighting at a backcountry hut.

Pacific Crest Trail: Best Weekend – Marble Mountains, CA

Find big views and small crowds on this 18-mile loop in the Marble Mountains that tops above northern California at a secluded lakeside campsite.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 29

OROVILLE-QUINCY HIGHWAY to BELDEN: Travel a scenic 16.3-mile rim route above alpine ponds to one California’s most isolated campsites under a canopy of red firs.

Pacific Crest Trail: Best Month – High Sierra, CA

Every hiker’s life list should include the 270 miles between Mt. Whitney and Sonora Pass. It may take a month, but it’s a trivial sacrifice to make for the most unrelenting wilderness eye-candy you’ll ever feast on.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 7

I-10 to BIG BEAR CITY: This 48.9-mile segment offers plenty of crowdfree miles through twisty canyons, past wind farms and into fragrant fir groves.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 8

BIG BEAR CITY to CRAB FLATS ROAD: Follow the forested high ridges across the San Bernardino Mountains to creekbeds tangled in sagebrush on this 21.6-mile leg.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 5

WARNER SPRINGS to CA 74: Horned lizards are just one of the oddly adapted desert creatures and plants you’ll see on the 35-mile leg over Bucksnort Mountain. Pack plenty of water.

Pacific Crest Trail: CA Section 1

SOUTHERN TERMINUS to BOULDER OAKS CAMPGROUND: From the US-Mexico border, begin this 21.2-mile leg with a traverse of Hauser Mountain’s broad slopes before descending into the lowlands near Lake Morena.

Pacific Crest Trail: Mexico to Canada

This interactive map is the next best thing to hiking the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail. Check out the trail on seamless topo maps, aerial photos, or fly over the terrain by clicking on the Google Earth link.

Redding: Albert Lakes via PCT

This 9.6-mile overnight in the Russian Wilderness is pine-studded, alpine lake-riddled, and in-your-dreams beautiful.

Los Angeles: Solstice Canyon Loop

Where do the locals go? To the lovely waterfalls, big ocean views, and hidden ruins on this 4.3-mile dayhike in the Santa Monica Mountains.

San Gorgonio Wilderness: San Bernardino Peak

Crave big views? Get your fix on this challenging 15-mile dayhike in the San Gorgonio Wilderness and bag SoCal’s third-highest summit.

San Francisco: Pescadero Creek Loop

Go deep into a rugged creek basin teeming with towering trees and a charming waterfall on this 4.2-mile hike in Portola Redwoods State Park.

Los Angeles: San Gorgonio Mountain

Want to get higher than a Hollywood star? Shoot up 5,400 feet and scrape the sky on SoCal’s tallest peak on this 13.2-miler in San Gorgonio Wilderness.

Pinnacles National Monument: High Peaks Trail

Explore a once-active seismic hotbed of sheer canyons and towering spires on this 4.5-mile loop. Bird bonus: See California condors up close.

San Diego: Monument Trail Loop

Visit stream-fed meadows and regenerating woodlands on this 5.3-mile loop to a 1922 plane wreck in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.

San Francisco: High Ridge Loop Trail

Find subtle beauty in the suntanned hills of Garin Regional Park as you hike this 5.9-mile loop past creeks to breezy overlooks.

Lake Tahoe, CA: Susie Lake via Pacific Crest Trail

On this 16.2-mile weekend, you’ll cross through a giant, glacier-carved basin with shimmering lakes and camp at first-class High Sierra campsites.

Redding: Caribou Lake

With views at every turn, this 22.8-mile, 3-day Trinity Alps route visits soaring spires of bleached granite and a basin full of shimmering lakes.

Los Angeles: Gaviota Peak

Scale rugged coastal hills to a solitary peak in the Santa Ynez Mountains on this 6.7-mile loop. Bonus: Soak in the natural hot springs.

San Diego: McGinty Mountain

This 4.8-mile dayhike takes you past rare plants as you climb 1,200 feet to a summit with knockout views from Mexico to the Pacific.

San Francisco: Wildcat Beach Loop

Seaside waterfalls, campsites, and swimming lakes earn this 10.4-mile route in Point Reyes National Seashore a 5-star rating among big-city hikes.

Los Angeles: San Rafael Traverse

Take a weekend for this 21.8-miler, which features a stout 3,000-foot climb up into the foothills and mountains of the San Rafael Wilderness.

San Francisco: Indian Joe Trail Loop

As you hike this 6.3-mile route, check out a small, Yosemite-type gorge tucked beneath the vibrantly blooming hills of Sunol Regional Wilderness.

San Diego: Monument Hill-Vernal Pools Loop

This 9.8-miler reveals the hard-knock life of the West–an old cowboy camp with jailhouse. Also, check out the rare shrimp in seasonal pools.

Sequoia National Park: Mount Whitney via Whitney Trail

Take a day or a three-day weekend for a challenging 20.2-mile climb to the roof of the Lower 48, and see why Muir called it a paradise of rock and light.

Los Angeles: Inspiration Point Loop

Take the Metro to this 4.8-mile loop, then soak up sunny ocean views from the foothills of Will Rogers State Park.

San Diego: Cowles Mountain

Ride the bus to the rugged hills of Mission Trails Park and bag the city’s high point on a 3-mile out-and-back.

San Francisco: Cowell Redwoods Loop

This Friday, skip gridlock and take mass transit to a campsite near big redwoods, then hike to views of Monterey Bay.

Yosemite National Park: Half Dome

Climb 4,800 feet on this classic 15.7-mile route to the top of the park’s most-iconic peak towering above the Valley floor.

San Francisco: Mount Tamalpais Loop

A bus drops you at the start of a 10.5-mile trail leading to overlooks with world-class views of the city and Golden Gate Bridge.

Los Angeles: Bedford Peak

The views over SoCal and the Pacific keep getting better and better during this 2,000-foot climb to the Main Divide of the Santa Ana Mountains.

Redding: Tangle Blue Lake

A lakeside campsite awaits at the end of this 4.2-miler that passes old-growth cedars, a mining camp, and meadows splashed with wildflowers.

San Diego: Woodson Mountain via Lake Poway

Jack up your heart rate on this 6.4-mile out-and-back past giant boulders to a sun-baked peak with incredible ocean-to-mountain views.

San Francisco: Limantour to Sunset Beach

Traverse rolling coastal hills with seabird-friendly estuaries and ranching history on this 14.8-mile out-and-back in Point Reyes. See seals and whales, too.

Los Angeles: Big Sycamore-Wood Canyon Loop

Lasso together the Pacific Ocean, two deep canyons, and an unnamed high point on this 11.9-mile loop in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Los Angeles: Bertha Peak

Catch killer views of Big Bear Lake and hike a short leg of the Pacific Crest Trail on this 7.8-mile out-and-back to an 8,200-foot peak.

Joshua Tree National Park: Coxcomb Mountains

This 12.4-mile dayhike or overnighter hits the park’s lesser-traveled northeast tip, linking cactus lands to unnamed peaks. Good navigation skills required.

Sacramento: Loon Lake to Spider Lake

Grab a quick overnight on this 8.8-miler past two lakes, where bald eagles soar the blue skies and dive for fish in Eldorado National Forest.

Los Angeles: Tahquitz Peak via Devils Slide

This 8.4-mile out-and-back gains 2,500 feet to unbeatable desert-to-ocean views over the San Jacinto Mountains.

Los Angeles: Chaparral Crest Loop

Test your map skills on this moderate 4.7-mile hike into the woodland maze along the Ventura River in El Nido Preserve.

Redding: Papoose Lake

Earmark a long weekend for this 31-miler linking tree-shaded lowlands, old mining homesteads, waterfalls, and a beautiful alpine lake.

San Diego: Iron Mountain via Ellie Lane

Loop 8.3 miles through coastal sage and eucalyptus to views of mountain-ringed beaches and the Pacific Ocean.

San Francisco: Mission Peak via Hidden Valley Trail

See where the sport of hang gliding took off on this 6.2-mile out-and-back above the city’s East Bay.

Lake Tahoe, CA: Donner Pass to Tinker Knob

This challenging 10.4-miler climbs past lowland scrubs, a wildfire zone, and several campsites to a tall pine forest in Los Padres National Forest.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park, CA: Sequoia Loop to Sempevirens Falls

Loop under giant redwoods, by a 25-foot waterfall, and past a 125-year-old cabin on this easy-going 4.2-miler in Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

San Diego, CA: Laguna Hills via PCT

This weekend trip strings together cool ravines, desert canyons, and sunset views over the Pacific Ocean.

Los Angeles, CA: Chorro Grande Trail

This challenging 10.4-miler climbs past lowland scrubs, a wildfire zone, and several campsites to a tall pine forest in Los Padres National Forest.

Mojave National Preserve: Piute Canyon

Take a springtime ramble through the red rocks of Mojave National Preserve.

Orick, CA: Golds Bluff Beach/Fern Canyon Loop

See towering forests, ocean waves, and fern-covered canyons at Redwood National and State parks

Death Valley National Park: Surprise Canyon

Splash through canyon waterfalls to an 1870′s ghost town in Death Valley National Park.

San Francisco, CA: Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail

Thru-hike a California classic in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

San Francisco, CA: Morgan Territory Regional Preserve

Hike through a wooded ravine to an overlook with expansive views of Mount Diablo on this 5.8-mile loop in Morgan Territory Regional Preserve.

San Francisco, CA: Ring Mountain

Escape city crowds on this 2.9-mile hike in Ring Mountain Open Space Preserve that features massive boulders, giant oaks, and sweeping views of San Francisco.

San Francisco, CA: Pleasanton Ridgeline Loop

Just minutes from downtown Pleasanton, this 5.2-mile loop treks through shaded olive groves past panoramic vistas of rolling hillsides.

San Francisco, CA: Berry Creek Falls Loop

Explore young redwood forests and several waterfalls along this 10.5-mile loop in Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

Point Reyes National Seashore: Glen Camp Loop

Wildlife, scenic vistas, and rugged undeveloped coastline reward hikers on this 12.1-mile lollipop loop through Point Reyes National Seashore.

Yosemite National Park: Dewey Point Snowshoe (Winter Route)

This 7.2-mile snowshoe to Dewey Point tops out at one of Yosemite Valley’s most spectacular views–a panorama stretching from El Capitan to Half Dome.

Los Angeles, CA: Mount Pinos to Cerro Noroeste

Bag four peaks all over 8,000 feet along this 13.8-mile out-and-back with two short off-trail summit scrambles.

Sierras, CA: Sierra High Route

On this burly, 200-plus-mile traverse, which
crosses 33 passes and barely touches
established trails, you can find Alaska-size
scenery, complete solitude, and just
enough risk to keep things interesting.

Sacramento, CA: Michigan Bluff to Deadwood Trail

Follow a nineteenth-century toll road to an abandoned gold mining town on this 11.5-mile out-and-back.

Sacramento, CA: South Yuba River Trail

Dive into wild and scenic Gold Rush country on this 20-mile hike past mining relics in Tahoe National Forest.

Redwood National Park: Redwood Creek Trail

Hike the quiet route to the iconic redwoods of Tall Trees Grove on this 16-mile out-and-back.

Lassen Volcanic National Park: Rainbow-Snag Lakes Loop

Tour lava beds, painted dunes, and a dormant volcano on this 12-mile hike in Lassen Volcanic National Park.

San Luis Obispo, CA: Bob Jones Trail

Cruise along the San Luis Obispo Creek on this 4.1-mile out-and-back that starts in Avila Beach and passes blue herons, butterflies, and two seaside resorts.

San Bernadino Mountains: San Jacinto Loop

High altitude peak bagging abounds on this 20-mile loop in the heart of Southern California. Starting from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway in Palm Springs, CA, this 3-night backpack offers easy access to multiple 10,000+ ft peaks, alpine meadows, and jaw-dropping views.

Sequoia National Park: Panther Gap Loop

This 11-mile loop passes open meadows and forested slopes, topping out with scenic Sierra campsite on Panther Gap.

Palm Springs, CA: San Jacinto Peak Loop

String together two 10,000-foot peaks on this 19.4-mile loop with a mix of trail and off-trail pursuits. Enjoy fine campsites and views of Southern California too.

Channel Islands National Park: Santa Cruz Island

Ecological balance–and dozens of sweet places to hike, paddle, and camp–have been restored at California’s Channel Islands.

Kings Canyon National Park: Sierra Palisades

This 34-mile, four-day loop straddles Muir’s namesake wilderness and Kings Canyon National Park.

Bishop, CA: Horton Lake

Bypass the weekend crowds on this 8.6-mile hike past old mining claims to a campsite near Horton Lake.

Bishop, CA: Slims Peak

This 3-mile off-trail route leads to Slims Peak, a 7,000-foot summit with 360-degree views of the Mojave Desert and Sierra Nevada.

Redding, CA: Stuart Fork to Smith Lake

This 23-mile out-and-back in the Trinity Alps features pristine mountain lakes, stunning views and an easy, off-trail scramble.

Lake Tahoe, CA: DL Bliss State Park to Rubicon Point

This moderate 4.3-mile lollipop-loop leads to a stunning overlook above the emerald blues of Lake Tahoe. Don’t miss: The wooden lighthouse perched on a granite ledge above the lake.

Lake Tahoe, CA: Rubicon Trail to Rubicon Point

This 10.6-mile out-and-back links thick lodgepole pines, stunning overlooks, and jade-colored waters reflecting the high Sierra.

Los Angeles, CA: Waterman Mountain Loop

This 6.4-mile loop follows trails and jeep roads to Waterman Mountain, where sweeping views of the San Gabriel Wilderness await.

Yosemite National Park: Panorama Trail

Don’t worry about the crowds. This classic 8.8-mile dayhike offers plenty for all trailgoers: giant waterfalls, trailside rainbows, and arguably some of the best views in Yosemite.

Yosemite National Park: Mist Trail

A short 3-mile out-and-back full of rainbows, waterfalls, and sprawling mountainside views, this Yosemite classic isn’t called the Mist Trail for nothing.

Lake Tahoe, CA: Pope-Baldwin to Inspiration Point

This paved 11.4-mile out-and-back travels Lake Tahoe’s mountainous southwest shoreline to an overlook with views across Emerald Bay.

Los Angeles, CA: Mount Markham

Ascend two rigorous saddles on this 6.3-mile out-and-back up to the unsung Mount Markham and panoramas of the San Gabriels and L.A. basin.

Los Angeles, CA: Mount Baden-Powell

Bag one of the highest peaks in the San Gabriel Mountains.

San Francisco, CA: Chewing Gum Lake, Emigrant Wilderness

Discover wildflower-filled meadows, swimmable subalpine lakes, and Sierra Nevada vistas on this 9-mile out-and-back through Stanislaus National Forest’s Emigrant Wilderness.

San Diego, CA: Noble Canyon-Indian Creek-Pine Mountain Loop

No time for Pacific Crest thru-hiking? This 12-miler samples a section of the Pacific Crest Trail, passing mile-high peaks and desert vistas.

Yosemite National Park: Half Dome at Full Moon

Let the soft light of a full moon guide your way to Yosemite’s most iconic granite peak on this 14.2-mile out-and-back.

San Francisco, CA: Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge, Tidelands Trail Loop

Spy on migratory waterfowl while touring salt marshes, vernal pools, and bay tributaries on this 1.6-miler near Oakland and San Francisco.

Los Angeles, CA: East Fork to Bridge to Nowhere

This 10-mile trek down the East Fork of the San Gabriel River ends at the 120-foot-high Bridge to Nowhere, a popular bungee jumping destination.

Lake Tahoe, CA: Squaw Bike Trail

Experience Tahoe scenery without Tahoe crowds on this 12-mile riverside out-and-pack path which passes under rugged crags en route to the lake shore.

Los Angeles, CA: Kenyon Devore Trail Loop to Mount Wilson

Climb over the picturesque north face of Mount Wilson, the site of a historic observatory, on this 11-mile loop in L.A.’s San Gabriel Mountains.

Yosemite National Park: Lyell Canyon to Yosemite Valley

Escape front-country crowds on a trek to the park’s idyllic interior.

Los Angeles, CA: Ontario and Bighorn Peaks via Icehouse Canyon

Explore the ruins of historic taverns and watch clouds roll over two 8,000-foot San Gabriel peaks on this 14-mile out-and-back in the Cucumonga Wilderness.

Santa Cruz, CA: Fall Creek to Lime Kilns

Hidden deep inside the Santa Cruz Mountains, this 2.4-mile out-and-back wanders through old-growth forests and past meandering creeks to century-old limestone kilns.

Santa Cruz, CA: West Cliff Drive

Cruise, walk, run, blade, or skate this 5-mile out-and-back with views of world-class surfers, jagged coastline, and jaw-dropping sunsets.

Catalina Island, CA: Two Dump Loop

An isthmus crossing and a killer climb reward with cross-channel views and a glimpse of Catalina Island’s rugged backside on this 5.4-mile loop above Two Harbors.

Death Valley National Park: Death Valley Traverse

Walk through Death Valley National Park on this grueling, 14-day, 221-mile thru-hike of the largest national park in the contiguous United Sates.

Yosemite National Park: Mariposa Grove Loop

Check out some of the oldest trees in the world–1,000 year-old sequoias–on this 4-mile loop through southern Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove.

Death Valley National Park: Ibex Dunes

Trek along the remote Ibex Dunes and wind through rugged washes on this 28-mile overnight near Death Valley National Park’s southern border.

Death Valley National Park: Harry Wade Road to Stovepipe Wells Campground

Trek over dunes, sand flats, and salt pans in the shadow of the Black and Panamint ranges on this 109-mile, multi-day excursion through southern Death Valley.

Death Valley National Park: Stovepipe Wells Campground to Racetrack Valley Road

Follow the secluded Marble Canyon through Joshua trees and Cottonwood Mountains to vast playas and volcanic craters on this 80-mile trek.

Death Valley National Park: Racetrack Valley Road to the Nevada Border

Climb through gaping craters and narrow canyons before bagging 11 peaks in northern Death Valley’s Last Chance Range on this 46-miler.

Death Valley National Park: Eureka Dunes via Last Chance Range

Traverse the Last Chance Range en route to the highest sand dunes in California and the abandoned Crater Mine on this difficult, 40-mile out-and-back in Death Valley.

Death Valley National Park: Eureka Dunes to Last Chance Mountain

This 28.7-mile weekend getaway travels from Eureka Dunes, the highest dunes in California, to Last Chance Mountain, an 8,500-foot peak in Death Valley.

Yosemite National Park: Clouds Rest

Looking to tag a life-list summit without queuing up? Pass on Half Dome, and opt for the 12-mile climb to Yosemite’s unsung granite peak.

Santa Barbara, CA: Cold Springs to Tangerine Falls

Look for banana slugs, newts, and canyon tree frogs on this 2.5-mile hike to Tangerine Falls, the largest cascade in the Santa Barbara frontcountry.

Santa Barbara, CA: Romero Canyon

Marvel at Pacific coast views, tree-lined canyons, snowy peaks and tumbling waterfalls on this 7.5-mile highlight reel of Santa Barbara’s frontcountry.

Santa Barbara, CA: Rattlesnake Canyon

Delve deep into the Santa Ynez Mountains on this 4.7-mile, creek-hopping, canyon traverse to rock climbing walls and a hang glider launch pad.

Santa Barbara, CA: Seven Falls via Tunnel Trail

Don’t forget to pack a swimsuit: This 2.4-mile out-and-back leads to a multi-tiered cascade with sandstone swimming holes and views of the Santa Ynez Mountains.

Santa Barbara, CA: Inspiration Point via Jesusita Trail

Cruise through oak-filled canyon country and shrubland meadows to overlooks of the Channel Islands, city lights, and the Pacific coast on this 7-mile out-and-back.

Santa Barbara, CA: Santa Ynez Ridge via San Ysidro Trail

Hike or run past oak forests, vernal pools, rock climbing walls, and fields of chaparral on this 9-mile out-and-back to the Santa Ynez Ridge.

Los Angeles, CA: Strawberry Peak

Ascend razor-thin ridgelines and scramble up sheer rock faces on this 10.7-mile loop to Strawberry Peak, one of the most challenging summits in the San Gabriel frontcountry.

Los Angeles, CA: San Gabriel River

Find solitude less than an hour from 20 million Angelenos on a 14-mile out-and-back peppered with fishing spots, waterfalls and rock pools.

San Francisco, CA: Philip Burton Wilderness

Experience one of California’s famous coastal landscapes on a 15-mile shuttle through Point Reyes National Seashore.

San Francisco, CA: Tomales Point Trail

Trace the Pacific coastline from a tule elk preserve to a seal-dotted bluff along this 9.7-mile out-and-back on Point Reyes National Seashore.

Catalina Island, CA: Loop to Goat Whiskers

Climb 1,100 feet along Catalina Island’s west-end ridge on this 6.5-mile loop that cruises three west-end coves en route to an ice-cream window finish in Two Harbors.

Channel Islands National Park: Anacapa Island

Anacapa Island’s oceanfront overlooks, throngs of wildlife, and a picture-perfect lighthouse highlight this classic 2.5-mile loop in Channel Islands National Park.

Eureka, CA: Lost Coast

Explore a wild shore bypassed by modern development.

San Francisco, CA: Bay Area Ridge Trail

See Shaky Town from a whole new perspective.

Sequoia National Park: Marble Fork

Soak in a series of refreshing swimming holes in Sequoia National Park.

Joshua Tree National Park: Fortynine Palms Oasis

Hike past massive boulders, red barrel cacti, and restless tumbleweeds to a shady oasis on this 3-mile out-and-back in Joshua Tree National Park.

Joshua Tree National Park: Ryan Mountain

This popular 1.5-mile climb leads to a panoramic view of valleys, mountains, deserts, and one really cool rock formation.

Joshua Tree National Park: Lost Palms Oasis

This 7.4-mile out-and-back rolls over hills dotted with spiky yuccas, ocotillos, and cactus before dropping into the lush Lost Palms Oasis in Joshua Tree National Park.

Palm Springs, CA: Big Morongo Canyon Preserve

Sample nature trails that weave through Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, a bird-watching haven tucked between the Mojave and Colorado deserts.

Joshua Tree National Park: Mastodon Peak

In 2.6 miles, you’ll explore abandoned mine sites, learn about desert fauna, and scramble up Mastodon Peak for wide-open views of Joshua Tree National Park.

San Francisco, CA: Año Nuevo State Natural Reserve

See sunbathing elephant seals and trotting coyotes on an easy 3-miler in Año Nuevo State Natural Reserve.

San Francisco, CA: Bayfront Park Loop

Escape to the lush green hills and pristine saltwater marshes of Bayfront Park on this 2.8-mile loop just minutes from the Bay Area suburbs.

Yosemite National Park: The North Rim

Savor Yosemite’s icons in solitude on this 4-day exploration.

San Francisco: Monument Peak Loop (AUGUST ISSUE)

Invigorating 8+ mile hike up to one of the great East Bay Peaks.

Joshua Tree National Park: California Riding and Hiking Trail

Clocking in at 36.5 miles, this trail is a fine choice for hikers to see high desert landscapes, mind-blowing rock formations, and absolutely no one.

Channel Islands, CA: Two Harbors to Little Harbor

Climb a rugged mountain spine—and cruise wide-open bison territory—on this 5.6-mile section of the Trans Catalina Trail that joins two of the island’s best beaches.

Sacramento, CA: Independence Trail

Hike, push a stroller, or even roll a wheelchair into a mining relic from 1859. This former aqueduct above the South Yuba River offers easy access to rugged wilderness and amazing mountain views.

Catalina Island, CA: Two Harbors Campground

Explore Little Fisherman’s Cove and Two Harbors’ popular campground on this easy 1.4-miler that is a perfect escape for boat-bound island guests.

South Lake Tahoe, CA: Vikingsholm

Visit a Scandinavian-inspired castle and one of Tahoe’s most beautiful beaches on this family-friendly 2.3 miler in Emerald Bay State Park.

South Lake Tahoe, CA: Cascade Creek Falls

It’s an easy 0.75-miles through the El Dorado National Forest to a sweeping view of Lake Tahoe and this hike’s payoff–perfect toe-dipping pools atop Cascade Creek Falls.

Sequoia National Park: Mount Whitney via the Mountaineers Route

Climb the Lower 48′s highest peak on a route with all of the thrills but none of the crowds.

Death Valley National Park: Badwater Basin to Gold Valley

Don’t waste winter: Tackle this cross-country canyon trek in the Lower 48′s largest national park.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, CA: Beach Trail to Broken Hill Loop

This 2.6-mile loop in Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve links three park trails, sandstone bluffs, and views of undeveloped coastline.

San Francisco, CA: Eagle Point to Sutro Baths

Perched on the edge of the city, this 3.4-mile out-and-back showcases views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco Bay, and the historic Sutro Baths.

Los Angeles, CA: Mount Islip

Climb 1,400 feet through a shady stretch of the Angeles National Forest on this 7-mile out-and-back that rewards with summit views from 8,250-foot Mount Islip.

San Francisco, CA: Mile Rock Beach

This easy 1.8-miler links San Fran’s west-side streets to some of its most rugged headlands and off-the-beaten-track views of the Golden Gate and Marin County.

Sequoia National Park: Giant Forest Loop

This rolling, 7-mile hike travels through some of the largest trees on earth.

Sequoia National Park: Mount Whitney via the Mountaineers Route (Copy)

Climb the Lower 48′s highest peak on a route with all of the thrills but none of the crowds.

Lost Coast Trail (Copy)

Play tag with the pounding surf by day and camp in misty coves by night on this 26-miler along the wildflower-swathed hillsides of the Lost Coast.

Ventura, CA: Dry Lakes Ridge

High in the Matilija Wilderness is a narrow ridge that only widens where four dry lakes are located. They catch winter rains and freeze, permafrost laying icing over scrubby chaparral. The views along this hike are incredible.

Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge: Santa Maria Rivermouth to Mussel Rock

This 5.6-mile out-and-back in Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge runs across pristine sand dunes that overlook the Pacific Ocean.

Carrizo Plain National Monument: Caliente Ridge via Caliente Mountain Trail

Explore “California’s Serengeti” on this 14-mile out-and-back to a 4,404-foot summit high above Carrizo Plain National Monument

Montana De Oro State Beach: Bluff Trail

Hike some of the most rugged yet picturesque coastline along the Central California coast at this secluded state park in San Luis Obispo County.

Santa Barbara, CA: Grass Mountain Trail

This 4.6-mile trek to Grass Mountain is a steep one (2,100 feet in 1.5 miles), but the payoffs are worth it. You’ll find spectacular summit views and some of the best wildflower displays in the state.

Channel Islands National Park: Santa Barbara Island Loop Trail

Santa Barbara Island is the smallest island in the Channel Islands National Park. It’s the most remote and furthest offshore, roughly 45 miles. One loop trail covers the one-square-mile islet. The windswept isle is home to seals, sea lions, seabirds and the secretive island night lizard.

Catalina Island, CA: Ballast Point Loop

Warm up alongside Cat Harbor before a steep ascent—900 feet in 0.4 miles—to Ballast Point. This 3-miler loops east of Cat Harbor to a vantage point overlooking Two Harbors and a string of other islands.

Santa Barbara, CA: Rincon Beach Park to Carpinteria State Beach

This 6.2-mile round-trip links a series of beaches and coastal bluffs 15 minutes from Santa Barbara.

Channel Islands National Park: Yellow Banks

Explore an abandoned ranch, island fauna, cave-pocketed canyons, and a secluded beach on this 2-mile trek along southeastern edge of Santa Cruz Island.

Anza Borrego Desert State Park, CA: Hellhole Canyon

Old cattle ranchers didn’t call this desert canyon Hellhole Canyon for nothing. They used to herd cattle up the canyon to an oasis for 3 miles. It must’ve been tough for the cattle scrambling over granite boulders, but for day hikers it’s a gem in the middle of the Colorado Desert.

Santa Barbara, CA: Gaviota Peak

Hike the western fringe of the Santa Ynez Mountains, one of the few ranges that runs east to west. Gaviota Peak overlooks the Pacific Ocean, the scenic Gaviota Coast and the Los Padres National Forest.

Santa Barbara, CA: Davy Brown Trail

This out and back hike runs through one of the prettiest backcountry canyons in Santa Barbara County in the Los Padres National Forest. A steady creek runs the entire length of Fir Canyon underneath a canopy of Douglas fir, sycamore and pine trees

Death Valley National Park: Darwin Falls

Hike up this narrowing canyon along a trickling creek to Darwin Falls.

Death Valley National Park: Mosaic Canyon

Fascinating rock walls and formations make for an interesting hike up this canyon near Stovepipe Wells Village in Death Valley National Park.

Point Reyes National Seashore: Mount Wittenberg Loop

Hike to the highest point in Point Reyes National Seashore on this 6.3-mile loop that visits the wooded summit of Mount Wittenberg.

Santa Barbara, CA: Cathedral Peak

Climb a 3,333-foot sandstone spire just four miles north of Santa Barbara.

Lassen Volcanic National Park: Lassen Peak Trail

Ascend 2,000 feet in 2.5 miles to tag this 10,457-foot volcano with sweeping views of Mt. Shasta and Lake Almanor.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, CA: Whale Peak

Climb to a 5,349-foot summit in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park on this 8.2-mile out-and-back.

Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area: Devils Chair

Climb to a rocky highpoint in the San Gabriel Mountains on this 6.7-mile dayhike in Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area.

Angel Island State Park, CA: North Ridge Trail to Sunset Trail

Link two trails on San Francisco Bay’s largest island on this 4.2-mile loop.

Sacramento, CA: Howard Ranch Trail

This 6.9-mile lasso loop in Rancho Seco Recreational Area traces a lake and tours golden grassland.

San Francisco, CA: Stinson Beach to Pantoll Ranger Station

Link a sandy beach with towering redwood forest on this 5.7-mile lasso loop less than an hour from San Francisco.

Redding, CA: Stuart Fork to Alpine Lake

This 17-mile out-and-back in the Trinity Alps features pristine mountain lakes, stunning views and an easy, off-trail scramble.

Santa Barbara, CA: Topatopa Bluff

This 14-mile out-and-back ascends Sisar Canyon to a viewpoint overlooking the Sespe Wilderness.

Sacramento, CA: Redbud Trail

This 8.8-mile out-and-back rolls over oak-dotted hills, drops to the banks of Cache Creek, then climbs to a meadow with picture-perfect views.

Los Angeles, CA: Towsley Canyon to Wiley Canyon

Just 30 minutes from Los Angeles, this 6.2-mile loop in Ed Davis Park winds through two canyons and tops out on a ridge overlooking the Santa Clarita Valley.

Placerita Canyon Natural Area: Canyon and Waterfall Trails

You’ll trace Placerita Creek, pass a natural oil seep, and visit a 15-foot waterfall on this easy-going 4.8-miler in Placerita Canyon Natural Area.

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area: Whiskeytown Falls via James K. Carr Trail

Get up close and personal with 220-foot Whiskeytown Falls on this 3.1-miler in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area.

South Lake Tahoe, CA: Tahoe Rim Trail

Take two weeks to hike through superlative Sierra Nevada country on a 165-mile circumnavigation of Lake Tahoe. Ranging in elevation from 6,240 feet to 10,338 feet, the TRT spans two states (California and Nevada), six counties, one state park, three National Forests, and three Wilderness areas.

McWay Falls

Take in the iconic McWay Falls with Big Sur, a California treasure.

Wallace Creek

See the effects when two tectonic plates collide at Wallace Creek Interpretive Trail at Carizo National Plain

Bird Island Loop

Hit two beautiful sandy beaches and view the rugged coastline on the is easy one mile loop hike.

Cypress Grove Loop

Hike through one of the last natural Monterey Cypress groves that exist on the easy one mile loop hike through the Allan Memorial Cypress Grove.

Sea Lion Point Loop

Hike to great ocean views and a chance to see great coastal wildlife including Sea Lions, Harbor Seals, Sea Otters.

San Francisco, CA: Golden Gate Bridge

Cross the iconic Golden Gate Bridge on foot on this 4.4-mile out-and-back that links Fort Point National Historic Site to the Vista Point overlook.

Point Reyes National Seashore, CA: Sky Camp

This family-friendy, 2.7-mile out-and-back leads to one of Point Reyes’s five backcountry campgrounds with views of the Pacific Ocean.

San Jose, CA: Henry W. Coe State Park

Escape into the Bay Area’s backcountry on this weekend excursion through the scrub-brushed hillsides and pine-dotted meadows of Henry W. Coe State Park.

San Luis Obispo, CA: Coon Creek to Rattlesnake Flats Loop

On this easy 3.3-mile loop, wind through the tranquil hills of Montana de Oro State Park en route to jaw-dropping Pacific Ocean panoramas.

San Luis Obispo, CA: Bishop Peak

Climb to the highest of Central California’s Nine Sisters on this 3.5-mile out-and-back to Bishop Peak.

Yosemite National Park: South Rim Traverse

Climb from Yosemite Valley’s forested floor to the cloud-scraping South Rim on this 18-miler featuring trips to Taft Point, Sentinel Dome and Glacier Point.

Yosemite National Park: Glacier Point to Four Mile Trail

Notch inimitable panoramas of Yosemite Valley from the soaring Glacier Point before tackling a steep descent from the South Wall on this staggeringly scenic 4.6-miler.

Yosemite National Park: Clark Range Traverse

On this four-day trip through the Clark Range, push deep into Yosemite’s backcountry to discover a wonderland of slickrock waterfalls, pristine alpine lakes and jagged peaks.

Yosemite National Park: Elizabeth Lake

Climb through deep lodgepole forest toward the foot of the Cathedral Range on this 4-mile out-and-back to the peaceful Elizabeth Lake.

Yosemite National Park: Lembert Dome

Big on views and short on distance, this out-and-back climbs to the granite-topped Lembert Dome: sprawling panoramas of Tuolumne Meadows and the surrounding mountain country await.

Yosemite National Park: Young Lakes Loop

On this 15-mile overnighter in Yosemite National Park, climb through wildflower-dotted meadows and whitebark pine forest en route to three remote lakes circled by towering granite peaks.

Yosemite National Park: Merced Grove

Visit some of the world’s oldest and largest trees on this peaceful stroll to Yosemite’s most remote giant sequoia grove.

Yosemite National Park: Mount Hoffman and May Lake

Enjoy a leisurely stroll to the postcard-like May Lake before taking on the rugged ascent to the 10,850-foot Mount Hoffmann, which serves up a 360-degree display of every major peak in the park.

Yosemite National Park: Pohono Trail

Wander along Yosemite’s towering South Rim for unbeatable Valley panoramas from a series of high-country, cliff-edge vantage points.

Yosemite National Park: Tuolumne Grove And Hodgdon Meadow

Attain deep-forest tranquility on this leisurely amble to Yosemite’s Tuolumne Grove of giant sequoias, home to some of the largest living organisms on Earth.

Yosemite National Park: Sentinel Dome

Savor can’t-miss Yosemite panoramas from the Valley’s second-highest vantage point on this easy hike to the legendary Sentinel Dome.

John Muir Trail: Tuolumne Meadows to Devils Postpile

Score some of the John Muir Trail’s most classic views on this 31-mile section hike in Yosemite National Park that starts less than two hours from Bishop.

Los Angeles: The Big Parade 2010

Two days. Forty-two miles. More than 10,000 feet elevation gain climbing 100+ stairways. In Los Angeles? Here’s how one visionary (OK, a slightly obsessed backpacker) started a local-hikes revolution in the epicenter of urban sprawl.

Channel Islands National Park: Water Canyon to East Point

Venture off SoCal’s coast for long beaches, hidden canyons, and sea life.

Yosemite Falls Loop

See the tallest waterfall in the United States up close in this short and easy loop hike in Yosemite Valley.

Yosemite National Park: Mount Conness

Walk a scary-narrow rock fin to an airy summit.

Sequoia National Park: Lone Pine Peak via Meysan Lake Trail

Climb without crowds to the state’s top mountain view on this 9.6-mile out-and-back in Sequoia National Park.

Lava Beds National Monument, CA: Black Crater and Wright Battlefield

Overlook the battlefield where the Modoc made their last stand, and a nearby spatter cone displaying unusual frozen rock formations on this 2.6-mile out-and-back.

Lava Beds National Monument, CA: Big Painted Cave and Symbol Bridge

This easy 2-mile out-and-back visits two collapsed sections of a wide lava tube with Native American pictographs and natural bridge walls.

Lava Beds National Monument, CA: Lyon’s Trail

Walk an old homestead route that crosses sagebrush plains and passes lava flows and collapsed tubes on this 9.5-mile point-to-point trail.

Lassen National Park: Bumpass Hell

This easy, 3-mile trail (out and back) visits Lassen’s largest geothermal area—a steaming basin filled with boiling mud pots, belching fumeroles, and colorful hot springs.

Carmel, CA: Sykes Hot Springs

Follow the Big Sur River to a group of hot pools on this 19.3-mile out-and-back half an hour from Carmel.

Yosemite National Park: High Sierra Camps Loop

This weeklong loop in the Cathedral Range is the epitome of Yosemite high country hikes: you’ll climb past craggy granite, listen to babbling streams, and gaze at vibrant summer wildflowers.

Los Angeles, CA: Echo Mountain

Visit the 100-year-old ruins of a once glamorous resort on this 5.3-mile hike to a 3,207-foot summit in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks: Evolution Valley Loop

Hike cross-country through Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks to a pocket of dreamy lakeside camps on the John Muir Trail.

Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail

Hike through a towering redwood forest on the easy-access overnighter.

Backpacking in Yosemite National Park

Get three classic Range of Light trips in Yosemite National Park and hike below granite-capped peaks through wildflower-dotted meadows to remote alpine lakes and pristine camping.

Backpacking Death Valley National Park

This bundle features a complete thru-hike in Death Valley National Park–where you’ll see more Joshua trees and traveling rocks than people–plus four section hikes across the deep washes, alluvial fans, and isolated canyons that make this park one of a kind.

Chico, CA: Phantom Falls Loop

Hike to a cliff-top vantage that overlooks Phantom Falls on this 7.3-mile figure-eight loop just 40 minutes from Chico.

San Francisco, CA: Hoover Lake Loop, Henry Coe State Park

Hike to a private lakeside retreat.

San Francisco, CA: Wildcat Canyon Loop, Tilden Regional Park

This 6.6-mile loop visits 1,211-foot Wildcat Peak before dropping down the Conlon Trail to Wildcat Creek.

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