With its enormous diversity of landscapes, California is a hiker’s dream. The stunning, glacier-carved valley of Yosemite; a gorgeous, mountainous coastline in Big Sur; the serenely barren Mojave Desert; the majestic, snowcapped Mount Shasta; and a harsh, untamed wilderness in Solstice Canyon are just a few of the natural beauties.
Several of California’s national parks have established records in terms of visitor counts. The longest waterfall in North America may be found at Yosemite National Park, while Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park has the highest summit in the continental United States, and the tallest trees in the world may be found in Redwood National and State Parks.
This list of top-rated walks includes the highlights of California’s nature trails, with treks ranging from moderate to strenuous in well-known locales such as Yosemite and Mount Shasta.
For those looking for a more severe challenge, the list includes two epic walks at iconic natural places, Mount Whitney and the Lost Coast, which should only be undertaken by experienced hikers.
With this collection of the top hiking trails in California, you can discover some peace and quiet in the countryside.
This walk, one of the greatest in Yosemite National Park, gives close-up views of Yosemite’s most spectacular waterfall as well as expansive panoramas of the valley floor. The trip is broken into two pieces. The Yosemite Falls Trail is a nine-mile round-trip hike when both segments are combined.
The one-mile portion to Columbia Rock on the Yosemite Falls Track is a hard climb that ascends 1,000 feet via a switchback track. Views from Columbia Rock reach all the way across Yosemite Valley to Half Dome in the distance. If you don’t want to hike the remainder of the Yosemite Falls Trails, this segment is a two-mile round-trip journey that takes roughly two to three hours.
The second leg of the journey heading up to Yosemite Falls is more demanding. This strenuous seven-mile round-trip climb involves an elevation gain of 2,700 feet, as well as ascents and descents through rugged terrain and steep mountain stairs. This round-trip hike from Colombia Rock takes another six to eight hours.
The Yosemite Falls Trail puts you perilously near to Yosemite Falls. Hikers commonly experience mist from the waterfalls as they hike the trail. Hikers are startled by enormous views over the whole Yosemite Valley after reaching the pinnacle of this tough hike.
When to Visit Yosemite Falls: The finest time to visit Yosemite Falls is in the spring, when the waterfalls are in full flow. By August, the water levels had plummeted and the falls have become less spectacular.
In the summer, start early because the trip may be extremely hot by midday, and the highest section is exposed, with no shelter by late afternoon.
Consider the length of the round-trip journey and the time of sunset in spring and fall; take off early enough to do the round-trip in daylight.
Wear hiking shoes with robust treads since this trail could be dangerous. Bring bottled water; there is no drinking water on the hike.
Stay on the trail at all times. Deviating from the path may expose you to dangerously steep drop-offs close to the track.
Keep an eye out for dangerous sand patches and uneven ground. Keep to the trail; numerous portions lead to dangerously steep waterfalls.
Ice and snow on the upper portion of the trail can make travelling perilous during the winter. Avoid trekking the second section of the climb up to the top of Yosemite Falls in freezing or snowy weather.
Mount Shasta, with its magnificent snow-capped summits, is one of the most inspiring hiking locations in California. Many visitors to Mount Shasta come in quest of a spiritual experience surrounded by nature.
Adventurous outdoor enthusiasts assemble to attempt the mountain’s top. Mount Shasta, on the other hand, has an abundance of hiking trails suitable for the casual hiker.
On Mount Shasta, the Gray Butte Trail is a popular hike. This strenuous, 3.5-mile round-trip climb gains 750 feet in elevation and takes approximately three hours to complete from a trailhead at a height of nearly 7,000 feet.
The walk begins at the Panther Meadows Campground parking lot and ascends through a lovely forest of old-growth Red Fir trees.
At the trail split, the right side of the trail ascends through a grove of aromatic Mountain Hemlock trees. The route continues past Gray Butte’s Lower Peak to the Upper Peak, providing spectacular panoramic views along the way.
This trek through Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park leads to the most photographed viewpoint in Big Sur.
The park, named for a female pioneer who had a ranch in the Big Sur region in the early 1900s, stretches along the rugged Big Sur coastline, with its forested 3,000-foot hills plunging precipitously into the Pacific Ocean. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park features two walk-in campsites that rank among Big Sur’s best.
The McWay Waterfall Trail is a short hike that takes you to a vantage point overlooking the McWay Waterfall. Despite its grandeur, this walk is surprisingly simple and straightforward. The 0.6-mile round-trip trail is more saunter than hike, taking around 30 minutes to complete.
The viewpoint provides an incredible perspective of the 80-foot McWay Waterfall, which flows down a sheer granite cliff into a secluded cove below. Hikers may spend more time admiring waterfalls and beach panoramas than they could walking. The vista is also an excellent spot to sight whales during the migratory season.
The McWay Waterfall Trail does not have a beach access point. Hiking down to the coast is extremely dangerous and strictly prohibited.
The Sea Lion Point Trail is ideal for nature enthusiasts who like marine life and ocean views. The 0.6-mile circular hike takes you through a very lovely stretch of Point Lobos State Reserve in Carmel. Carmel, a gorgeous seaside town, is located around one hour south of Santa Cruz, another location known for its scenic hiking trails.
The Sea Lion Point Trail goes past tranquil bays and high beachside cliffs that meet pounding waves, providing a chance for hikers to view barking sea lions on offshore rocks. Additionally, the trip passes Headland Cove and Sea Lion Cove, two tranquil coves where seals swim and sea otters sleep in the protected waters.
Hikers may get a better view of the animals by descending a stairway down to the coves. While descending the steps to the coves, keep an eye out for sudden waves and avoid the edges.
Hikers may see some of the world’s tallest and oldest trees in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, one of the collaboratively managed Redwood National and State Parks in northern California. This grove of old-growth coastal redwoods is descended from an ancient forest that thrived during the reign of dinosaurs.
Near Prairie Creek, the 10-mile round-trip James Irvine Trail is the best hiking in the Redwood National and State Parks. At Redwoods State Park, the scenery is diverse and magnificent. This simple hike winds its way through beautiful redwood forest, across mountain slopes and valleys.
Even if you do not complete the walk, it is well worth venturing out and returning for a mile or two. At the absolute least, you’ll be able to admire the magnificence of towering redwoods and the cooling sensation created by their green canopies draping the walkway.
The James Irvine Trail comes to an end at the trailhead for the short (0.6-mile) Fern Canyon Trail that leads to the beach. The canyon is densely forested with seven unique fern species. The dense vegetation absorbs sounds, imparting a sense of tranquillity. Except for the singing of birds, the rushing (or trickling) of a freshwater stream, and the distant roar of ocean waves, this place is completely silent.
Fern Canyon is so stunning that it was utilised as the backdrop for scenes in the Jurassic Park film. Indeed, cousins of today’s coastal redwoods thrived during the Jurassic Period 160 million years ago.
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is one of the Redwood National and State Parks in northern California, close to the Oregon border. The hiking areas of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park give visitors with a great sensation of being far from urban surrounds.
The 5.6-mile round-trip Boy Scout Tree Walk, a moderate walk through an old-growth redwood forest, is one of the Redwood National and State Parks’ most spectacular hikes. With the exception of a few switchbacks and steep slopes, the landscape is mostly flat. Allow around a half-day to walk the trail and take in the luscious canopy of colossal trees.
A side path approximately 2.5 miles from the trailhead leads to the Boy Scout Tree, a 2,000-year-old twin redwood tree named after the leader of a Boy Scout unit who discovered it. The trek concludes at the stunning Fern Falls before circling back to the start.
Joshua National Park is located in the rugged and lonely Mojave Desert, a portion of the California desert area that is distinctive. While this national park is most known for the Joshua tree, it also contains other good trails that snake through palm oases.
The Lost Palms Oasis Trail is a 7.2-mile round-trip hike in a canyon dotted with green palm trees and lovely springs of water. The walk concludes at Cottonwood Campground, which features a picnic area and drinking water.
The 49 Palms Oasis Trek is a moderately difficult three-mile round-trip climb that rewards hikers with palm-shaded springs of clean water. Due to the trip’s 300-foot elevation gain, hikers must be in good physical condition, since the ascent is particularly strenuous in the desert heat.
Bring lots of water with you when trekking in the heat. Summer hiking should be avoided, as temperatures can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Campsites Nearby: Joshua Tree National Park is home to nine campgrounds, the bulk of which are first-come, first-serve. However, availability is limited during the busy season (October to May). A few campgrounds allow reservations. The ideal way to experience Joshua Tree National Park is to camp at one of the park’s campgrounds.
Runyon Canyon Park is a well-kept secret in the heart of Los Angeles, a metropolis where residents never venture. Only two blocks from Hollywood Boulevard sits the 130-acre park. However, the majority of tourists are ignorant of its presence. Locals attend to get some exercise, fresh air, and to stroll their dogs.
Runyon Canyon Park features a range of hiking trails that all offer beautiful views of the park’s rugged terrain and the Los Angeles cityscape. From some vantage points, the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island may be seen in the distance. Additionally, tourists may visit Griffith Park for additional beautiful hiking trails in Los Angeles.
The Solstice Canyon Trail is a peaceful stretch of coastline in Malibu, making it an ideal day trip from Los Angeles. The route runs through the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, an area of historical significance to the Chumash people.
The Solstice Canyon Trail is one of Southern California’s most popular hiking trails, as well as one of the best sites in the Santa Monica Mountains to explore and watch nature. This two-mile round-trip ride begins at the parking lot and meanders alongside a creek among oak trees and coastal shrub. The trek provides stunning views of the Pacific Ocean’s deep blue waters, steep valleys, and sagebrush-covered mountains.
Due to its proximity to the Malibu beaches, the route is particularly popular on weekends. Despite this, the Solstice Canyon Trail retains a sense of isolation and provides a calm reprieve from Southern California’s bustling city life.
Avoid poison oak, bees, and rattlesnakes when hiking. Utilize suitable footwear and clothing to keep ticks at bay.
Bring drinking water or a refillable water bottle. A drinking fountain is located in the parking lot.