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9 Breathtaking Sunrise Hikes in California
Health & Fitness

9 Breathtaking Sunrise Hikes in California

From gleaming national parks to mountain hikes, we’ve compiled a majestic list of sunrise hikes that put the “gold” in Golden State.

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6 min read

May 26, 2021

Are you a morning person? If no is your answer, you’ll change your mind once you experience one of California’s transcendental sunrise hikes.

Feel the rhythm of your movements as you walk the hills, wake up slowly, and reconnect with your body once again. Admire the fusion of pink, yellow, and vermillion hues in the sky, as the starry night transforms to the light of dawn. From gleaming SoCal national parks to Bay Area mountain hikes, we’ve compiled a majestic list of sunrise hikes that put the “gold” in Golden State. 

The Best Sunrise Hikes in Southern California 

Mount Baldy is a SoCal icon that stands out. At 10,068 feet above sea level, it serves as a snow-covered backdrop for much of the year.

1. Mount San Antonio and Mount Baldy Notch Trail

Location: Angeles National Forest, Mount Baldy

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Parking: Available at Ice House Canyon Trailhead

Difficulty: Hard 

Distance: 9.6 miles 

Time: 7 hours 

Route: Loop

Dogs allowed: Yes 

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Nestled between the San Gabriel Mountains and Cucamonga Wilderness, Mount Baldy stands proud, looking over the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Nature lovers flock to this snow-capped peak, ready to experience divinity on one of California’s best sunrise hiking trails. This ethereal nine-mile journey is nothing short of miraculous.

Begin trekking at Manker Flats Trailhead. Hike up a fire road stretching all the way to Baldy Notch. While this trail is best for advanced hikers, exploring this trail is worthwhile when you see the sky light up in pretty pinks and peaches. Though it’s hard to top a Mount Baldy day hike, there’s no other sunrise hike we’d rather go on.

One of Southern California’s gems, Cucamonga Peak is a challenging hike in the San Gabriel Mountains.

2. Ice House Canyon to Cucamonga Peak Trail

Location: Cucamonga Wilderness, Mount Baldy

Hours: Sunrise to sunset  

Parking: Available at Ice House Canyon Trailhead

Difficulty: Hard 

Distance: 11.4 miles

Time: 7 hours 

Route: Out and back

Dogs allowed: On leash

The Icehouse Canyon to Cucamonga Peak Trail is a strenuous yet rewarding sunrise trail located in the Inland Empire. Begin your journey from the parking lot near Ice House Canyon and follow the path to the hills. The first mile or so is the hardest—tough it out though. You’ll be rewarded with an ethereal surprise: thousands of ladybugs chillin’ on remaining snowy patches. This sight is best experienced at dawn, when the shades of blue, pink, purple, and red paint the sky—talk about SoCal at its peak beauty.

Hollywood Sign Sunrise Hikes 

Looking to squeeze in a leg workout with views? You'd better hike to Cahuenga Peak via Burbank Peak Trail for exactly that.

3. Cahuenga Peak via Burbank Peak Trail

Location: Griffith Park, Los Angeles 

Hours: Sunrise to sunset 

Parking: Free on Lake Hollywood Drive 

Difficulty: Moderate 

Distance: 2.2 miles

Time: 3 hours 

Route: Out and back

Dogs allowed: On leash

When it comes to hiking the iconic Hollywood Sign, you can’t do better than the Burbank Peak Trail. This hike extends west from Cahuenga Peak—the highest point in Griffith Park—and is narrower than the other Griffith Park trails.

Watch the sky light up in tints of gold as you reach the Wisdom Tree, a lone-standing pine on Burbank Peak that rises above the surrounding brush. As you hike up the trail, radio towers atop Mount Lee come into view to the east. You’ll also see the Hollywood skyline reflected in Lake Hollywood Reservoir. Does it get more scenic than this?

The moderately trafficked out-and-back Ferndell Trail is accessible year-round and welcomes your four-legged pals.

4. Ferndell Trail to the Hollywood Sign

Location: Griffith Park, Los Angeles 

Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Parking: Not applicable

Difficulty: Moderate 

Distance: 11.8 miles

Time: 3 hours 

Route: Out and back 

Dogs allowed: On leash

Feeling motivated? The Hollywood Sign at sunrise via this trail is by no means a short journey. However, if you’re up to the task, the out-and-back will whisk you away to wildflower beds, breathtaking views, and the iconic sign in its majestic poise. Roam effortlessly through most of the trail until you reach a series of inclines—this is where the fun begins. Flowing streams and sycamores await your exploration as the year-round woodland playground leaves you feeling refreshed and energized.

Sunrise Hiking Trails in Central California 

The High Peaks Trail is a rugged route through the remarkable rock features of Pinnacles National Monument, formed millions of years ago.

5. High Peaks and Bear Gulch Loop Trail

Location: Pinnacles National Park, Paicines

Hours: Sunrise to sunset 

Parking: Available near Bear Gulch Cave Trailhead

Difficulty: Hard 

Distance: 7.7 miles

Time: 3.5 hours 

Route: Loop

Dogs allowed: No

Blooming greenery, sky-pointed spires, and stairs carved in stone—The High Peaks and Bear Gulch Loop Trail in Pinnacles National Park is quite the hiking experience. The adventurous hike here at sunrise is unlike anything you’ve ever done. Trek this rugged route to find geological features dotting the national park, formed millions of years ago when the San Andreas Fault shattered a volcano. You might even catch sight of a rare California condor soaring through the skies above as you hike this trail. 

Bishop Peak is the centerpiece of the Bishop Peak Nature Reserve, and can be accessed from trailheads on Patricia Drive and Highland Drive.

6. Bishop Peak Trail from Patricia Drive 

Location: Bishop Peak Natural Area, San Luis Obispo

Hours: Sunrise to sunset 

Parking: Free on Patricia Drive 

Difficulty: Moderate 

Distance: 3.4 miles 

Time: 2.5 hours 

Route: Out and back

Dogs allowed: On leash

Searching for a spectacular Central Coast sunrise hike? Head to Bishop Peak, the most sought-after summit in San Luis Obispo. This iconic volcanic plug is the tallest among its neighboring Nine Sisters. Bishop Peak’s rocky crown, shaped a little like a bishop’s mitre, provides panoramic vistas of San Luis Obispo and nearby parks. Fill your tumbler with hot cocoa, meander the oak woodland along the way, and watch the entire city come alive from the top. 

The Mount Whitney Trail is a strenuous out-and-back hike that leads past rocky switchbacks, sheer cliffs, and flowing waterfalls to the summit.

7. Mount Whitney Trail

Location: John Muir Wilderness, Lone Pine 

Hours: Sunrise to sunset 

Parking: Available at Whitney Portal

Difficulty: Hard 

Distance: 20.9 miles 

Time: 7 hours 

Route: Out and back 

Dogs Allowed: No

Whether you’re seeking a day-long hiking rendezvous, an overnight ascent, or the trek of a lifetime, Mount Whitney is the place to be. Located on the east side of the stunning Sierra Nevada Mountains, Mount Whitney showcases the beauty of dawn at 8,300 feet above sea level. Feel your cheeks grow warmer as beaming daylight guides you through this strenuous hike. Hike past rocky switchbacks, sheer cliffs, and flowing waterfalls.

Places to go Hiking at Sunrise in Northern California 

Fern Canyon is a surrealistic and amazing display of primal ferns growing in a narrow 50-foot-deep vertical walled canyon.

8. Fern Canyon Loop Trail

Location: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Orick

Hours: Sunrise to sunset 

Parking: Not applicable

Difficulty: Easy

Distance: 1 mile 

Time: 30-45 minutes 

Route: Loop

Dogs allowed: No

Tucked away in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Fern Canyon should make it onto every cinephile's itinerary. Travel back in time to the Mesozoic Era through a series of footbridges. Discover lush ferns along a familiar gorge. Here you’ll recognize a number of scenes from the iconic film, The Lost World: Jurassic Park—talk about a stunning California filming location. As the sun rises, this NorCal trail begins to hold more promise than ever before. As dawn turns to daylight, the narrow canyon comes alive.

Early Morning Hikes to Take in the Bay Area 

While the Stonewall Panoramic Trail has steep segments, you'll find several spots to relax and take in the views. Photo courtesy of AllTrails.

9. Stonewall Panoramic Trail

Location: Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve, Berkeley

Hours: Sunrise to sunset 

Parking: Not applicable

Difficulty: Moderate 

Distance: 1.5 mile

Time: 45 minutes  

Route: Out and back 

Dogs allowed: Yes 

Engulfed in rustic perfection, the Stonewall Panoramic Trail is the best early morning hike and vigorous summer workout you’ll ever do. Terraced areas wind your path, leading to eucalyptus groves, while rare gray foxes grace you with their presence (pull out your camera, it’s time for a photoshoot straight from the wild).

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