1. Best dayhike: Big Basin Redwoods SP
Big trees, ocean views, banana slugs, sword ferns, and a 40-foot falls. It’s all yours on this 10.5-mile loop.
2. Multiday: John Muir Trail
Hike 33 miles from Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley and pass some of Ansel’s favorite photo ops.
3. Best wildflowers: Hite’s Cove Trail
From March to May, the first two miles of this 4.5-mile trail explode with flowers. While Yosemite’s higher elevations are still buried under feet of snow, you’ll cruise through fiery California poppy, aptly named alpine gold, alpine lily, and 10 more flower species. Explore the abandoned mining settlement at the end, then turn back at the Merced River.
4. Dayhike: Charleston Peak
Summit this 11,918-foot pyramid via the 8.3-mile (one way) South Loop Trail, an hour from the strip.
5. Wildlife: Año Nuevo State Natural Reserve
The world’s largest colony of elephant seals winters on the sandy beaches here. Hike three miles to the dunes to see the beasts lounging. Best viewing: April, in the early morning.
6. Favorite oceanside hike: Na Pali Coast
Our mappers agree: the 11-mile Kalalau Trail leads to the world’s prettiest campsite.
7. Best foliage: Ice House Canyon
In summer, beat crowds on Mt. Baldy by heading to this shaded climb up 8,303-foot Timber Mountain. In fall, the oak and sycamore rival the show in Vermont.