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These Are the Best Hikes in California
Health & Fitness

These Are the Best Hikes in California

From lush green forests to oceanside escapes, the Golden State is a hiker’s paradise.

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6 min read

March 09, 2021

The Golden State is a hiker’s paradise. From lush green forests to oceanside escapes, the best hikes in California are so sublime that you have to see them for yourself. The abundance of trails makes it easy to embark on adventures in the great outdoors—there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re trekking to discover desert oases in SoCal or looking for the best hikes near Sacramento, each trail offers a unique experience. 

The best hiking trails in California

All you have to do is choose a day and pick a trail. Trek the many Northern California waterfall trails or go on amazing day hikes in SoCal. Whatever you do, don’t forget to stock up on water. 

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Best hikes in Southern California

Winding among massive boulders, the Hidden Valley Nature Trail is one of the most scenic hiking trails in Joshua Tree National Park.

Hidden Valley Nature Trail

Location: Joshua Tree National Park, Twentynine Palms

Level of difficulty: Easy

Distance: 1 mile

Route: Loop

Dogs allowed: No

As one of the best hikes in Joshua Tree, the Hidden Valley Nature Trail boasts unique scenery and vibrant wildflowers—it’s the perfect introduction to one of the best places to hike in California. 

Best hikes in Los Angeles

The easiest way to get an IG-worthy front-facing photo of the Hollywood Sign is by hiking the Hollyridge Trail.

Hollyridge Trail to Hollywood Sign Viewpoint

Location: Griffith Park, Los Angeles

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 5.1 miles

Route: Out and back

Dogs allowed: On leash

Primarily used for hiking, walking, running, and nature trips, the Hollyridge Trail is a favorite among Angelenos. As one of the best hikes in Los Angeles, this moderately rated trail features incredible views of Downtown L.A. and the expansive ocean. This breathtaking Hollywood sign hike is known to get crowded, so if you prefer hiking solo, opt for other trails in Griffith Park.

Glendale Peak Trail

Location: Griffith Park, Los Angeles

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 3.6 miles

Route: Loop 

Dogs allowed: On leash

Incredible views, great inclines, and a decent challenge make the Glendale Peak Trail one of the best hiking trails in Los Angeles. If you’re short on time and looking to squeeze in a quick workout in your daily routine, this is a hike you’ll enjoy. Admire the magnificent wildflowers along the way with your four-legged pal keeping you company.

The best hikes near San Diego

The iconic rock formation is a thin ledge accessed by the Mount Woodson Trail.

Potato Chip Rock via Mount Woodson Trail

Location: Mount Woodson, Poway

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 7.3 miles

Route: Out and back

Dogs allowed: On leash

You’ve probably seen photos of the gravity-defying Potato Chip Rock on your Instagram feed at least once. Hiking the Mount Woodson Trail is a must for locals and visitors alike—the lake views, decent incline, and great photo ops make it one of the very best hikes in California. Wear your sunscreen, grab your camera, and trek this dog-friendly hike near San Diego for an exhilarating adventure.

La Jolla Beach Trail

Location: La Jolla, San Diego

Level of difficulty: Easy

Distance: 2.2 miles

Route: Out and back

Dogs allowed: Yes, except for the seal lookout area

The relatively flat and easy-going nature of this trail makes it accessible and enjoyable for hikers of all ages and skill levels. You’ll especially enjoy trekking one of the best San Diego hikes if you’re a wildlife enthusiast. The La Jolla Beach Trail is an easy hike that allows you to view seals and other sea creatures who call this place their home.

Dog-friendly hikes in San Diego

The spectacular Cowles Mountain Trail is the best place to enjoy the great outdoors with your four-legged friend.

Cowles Mountain Trail

Location: Mission Trails Regional Park, La Mesa

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 3 miles

Route: Out and back

Dogs allowed: On leash

The scenic pathway up Cowles Mountain is one of the best hiking trails in California. While there are stunning views throughout the hike, the best is saved for last. The cherry on top is the 360-degree panoramic views of downtown San Diego, Mexico, North County, and Orange County from the summit. Need we say more?

Hiking near Palm Springs

The picturesque Skyline Trail climbs 7,900 feet from the desert to Long Valley.

Skyline Trail: Cactus to Clouds

Location: Mount San Jacinto State Park, Palm Springs

Level of difficulty: Hard

Distance: 19.8 miles

Route: Point to point

Dogs allowed: No

Looking for the best backpacking experience in California? The Skyline Trail is one of the best routes to take for competent adventurers. With the greatest elevation gain of any hike in the country, the Skyline Trail provides the best hiking trip near Palm Springs.

Best hiking in Orange County

Go for a morning run on this trail and you'll be ready for the rest of the day.

Santiago Oaks Trail and Peralta Hills Trail

Location: Santiago Oaks Regional Park, Orange

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 2.2 miles

Route: Loop

Dogs allowed: On leash

Get lost in the wilderness at Santiago Oaks Regional Park and experience some of the best hiking in Orange County. With many options to choose from, this adventure can be as long and as challenging as you want it to be. Enjoy the panoramic views and interesting wildlife along the trail and you’ll be glad you discovered this hidden O.C. gem sooner rather than later.

Best hikes in Northern California

Close-up views of Upper Yosemite Falls is all you need for the perfect NorCal hike.

Upper Yosemite Falls Trail

Location: Yosemite National Park, Yosemite Valley

Level of difficulty: Hard

Distance: 7.6 miles 

Route: Out and back

Dogs allowed: No

Yosemite Falls is a stunning Northern California waterfall you can hike to. The pathway along North America’s tallest waterfall is incredibly beautiful. However, if you plan on trekking the entirety of this hike, make sure to allocate 6–8 hours at least to fully enjoy the journey.

Best hikes in Big Sur

The stunning views of McWay Falls on the Overlook Trail are unbeatable.

Overlook Trail to McWay Falls

Location: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur

Level of difficulty: Easy

Distance: 1.1 mile

Route: Loop

Dogs allowed: No

As one of the best hikes in California, the Overlook Trail to McWay Falls features the most breathtaking views in Big Sur for the least amount of effort. At the viewpoint, you get to see the cascading waterfall pouring down on the sandy beach below in McWay Cove—a sight so beautiful that it makes the trail one of the very best hikes in Big Sur.

Timber Top and Boronda Trail

Location: Los Padres National Forest, Big Sur

Level of difficulty: Hard

Distance: 5.3 miles

Route: Out and back

Dogs allowed: Yes

Ready to see the very best views in Big Sur? Trek the Timber Top and Boronda Trail and you’ll be doing exactly that. One of the best hikes in Big Sur, this trail is challenging, scenic, dog-friendly, and rarely ever crowded. 

Dog-friendly hikes In The Bay Area

Hiking the Lands End Trail offers glimpses of the past at every turn.

Lands End Trail

Location: Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 3.4 miles

Route: Loop

Dogs allowed: On leash

As one of the best dog-friendly hikes in the Bay Area, the Lands End Trail is a favorite spot for S.F. residents to trek with their furry friends. Discover breathtaking views and historical landmarks along the way. Treat yourself to top-notch panoramas while enjoying one of the best hikes in Northern California.

Lake Chabot Loop

Location: Lake Chabot Regional Park, San Leandro 

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 9 miles

Route: Loop

Dogs allowed: On leash

The Lake Chabot Loop is a beautiful East Bay hike you need to try. This wooded and picturesque trail is one of the best dog-friendly hikes in the Bay Area thanks to its scenery and outdoor activities. You’re going to want to take a short break along the way—if you pack some snacks in advance, you’ll have a lovely picnic at one of the spots near the lake.

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