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The 5 Best Northern California Wildlife Hiking Trails
Health & Fitness

The 5 Best Northern California Wildlife Hiking Trails

Northern California Wildlife is something every outdoor enthusiast should check out, here are the best hiking trails for it.

Palig Dzadourian


5 min read

October 23, 2022

As those of us who live in big cities know, it’s important to take a breather every now and then to enjoy the natural wonders of the state and this planet. Northern California is home to an infinite amount of possibilities when it comes to outdoor activities for you to dive into; with its untamed wilderness and incredibly diverse wildlife and ecosystems, we are simply spoiled by choice. For all outdoor lovers who also enjoy coming face-to-face with the wildlife of our beautiful state, here are the best Northern California wildlife hiking areas. 

The powerful presence of the Mt. Shasta mountain, one of the key elements of Shasta Valley.

1. Shasta Valley Wildlife Area

If you are posing the question, “where can I find wildlife viewing near me”? The answer is: almost everywhere within the wilderness of Northern California. The sheer size of the forests and public parks make it impossible not to have any wild animals living in them; in fact, they are part of the reason why most of these parks have been turned into California natural preserves. 

Shasta Valley Wildlife Area is one of the most beautiful thriving wildlife areas of NorCal, with over 4,700 acres of land filled with juniper trees, mountains, and animals. There are a great number of trails you can take at the Shasta Valley Wildlife Area, most of which are located near Mt. Shasta. 

One of these trails is the out-and-back trail of Mount Shasta via Avalanche Gulch Route, which is considered to be a rather difficult hike, stretching up to 10 miles and taking up to 10 hours to complete - so it’s not for the faint of heart.

Another easier alternative is the Bunny Flat to Panther Meadow, it’s also an out-and-back trail of seven miles, and you will need up to three hours to cover the entirety. Both of these trails are popular amongst backpackers, campers, and birdwatching enthusiasts.

The full California wilderness experience can be found at Tule Lake National Wildlife Preserve.

2. Tule Lake National Wildlife Preserve

Wildlife conservation and protection have played a very important role in how wild animals in California have fared all over the continent. It has been necessary to upkeep due to the rapid decline of bird populations back in the 1800s, which has more or less recovered today with the help of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Tule Lake is home to one of these natural preserves, where there are a great variety of outdoor recreational activities to do in tandem with the California wildlife we find ourselves entranced with each time. The managers of these preserves do their best to cater to the needs of both the animals and the people visiting, making for some amazing opportunities to learn about the wonderful wildlife that shares their land with us.

What’s more is that the trails available at Tule Lake will leave you breathless, giving you a genuine California wildlife experience, as the forests and ecosystems exist naturally alongside the hikers. One of these trails is The Discovery Marsh Trail, where you will be able to see Northern California animals in their natural states, such as coyotes and mule deer, going about their day while you take in the splendor of it all. This is a generally easy hike to take, leaving you more time to focus on the beauty Tule Lake has to offer while you relax and stroll through this National Wildlife Preserve.

Lake Tahoe is a great destination for a hike. Come for a breathtaking day out in nature.

3. Lake Tahoe

The Lake Tahoe region is not limited to just Tahoe Lake, it includes a large number of other lakes and even rivers that come with many recreational activities for all the outdoor lovers out there. Not only is the Lake Tahoe region a great place for outdoor activities, but it is also a phenomenal destination for California wildlife lovers. It’s no wonder that so many people have decided to make their homes in Tahoe City, a paradise for nature enthusiasts. 

There is a great number of trails in the Lake Tahoe region, some being so well known that you might have already heard about them. The Tahoe Rim trail is definitely one of the most popular hiking trails in the area. The main trail itself takes days to complete as it is so long, so if you are not planning on backpacking through this multi-day trail, you can take part of the day hiking other trails available, or even enjoy the guided hiking programs offered.

There is an abundance of trails to choose from in Lake Tahoe, all ranging from moderately easy to challenging. If you choose to take the guided day hike, it’s a very riveting experience wherein you will be able to discover the local birds and be introduced to the wildflowers of the area as you hike through the forests.

Yosemite National Park is rich with nature and is a golden hub for hiking, camping, swimming, and all of the like.

4. Yosemite National Park

Found in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Yosemite National Park is one of those destinations that just stays with you even once you leave it. Brimming with wondrous scenic views and incredible natural sights, it is one of the best nature spots in Northern California. The trails found in Yosemite National Park each have distinct elements to them - every hike will give you a different set of experiences and emotions. One of the most popular hikes amongst these trails is the Vernal and Nevada Falls via Mist Trail, which takes up to 4 hours to complete. This hike is one of the more challenging ones in Northern California, so come prepared! 

The main points of interest of this trail are the proximity of the Vernal and Nevada waterfalls during your hike, so the best time to experience this incredible adventure is during the warmer months of May through October when the splashes of the water will freshen you up. If you are wondering where to see wild animals in this stunning national park, the answer is quite simply - everywhere. Whether you are out hiking along pristine NorCal rivers, camping, or just wandering around the grounds, you will spot wild animals like mule deer, coyotes, bears and so much more.

The breathtaking Eagle Lake makes for really great company on your adventure.

5. Eagle Lake Trail

Last but not least, you can find the Eagle Lake trail in Desolation Wilderness in the Eldorado National Forest. A moderately challenging out-and-back trail, you will need an hour to complete this beautiful hike. With the beauty of South Lake Tahoe, this trail will offer you stunning views that you can enjoy with the whole family. As it is also considered to be quite family friendly, dogs on leashes are allowed as well. 

The California wildlife surrounding this location is abundant and well conserved as it is a federally protected wilderness area. Taking a dip in Eagle Lake is also one of the many things to do here during the warmer months of the summer. Additionally, the Eagle Lake Wildlife Sanctuary has educational programs for animal enthusiasts and additional trails around this sanctuary can also be found.

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