10 Best Hikes In California
There’s something about a deep breath of fresh air that helps calm the mind and awaken the senses. Today, it is all too normal for us to spend hours on our many digital devices, straining our eyes and overstimulating our minds. It’s easy to forget how grounding and accessible it is to breathe in nature and give our minds and body a healthy sweat and time to reset in the outdoors.
With navigation at our fingertips and a growing need to escape the hustle of the everyday, hiking is no longer reserved for bearded woodsmen and birdwatchers. It’s become a celebrated form of exercise for city folks and nature enthusiasts alike.
Whether you fancy an exhilarating traverse under Malibu’s most beautiful waterfalls or a leisurely wandering between the redwoods of Big Sur, hiking offers something for everyone. Here are a few of our favorite hiking spots in California, perfect for all experience levels.
Table Rock, Napa (2.2–3.8 miles)
If venturing up to Wine Country sounds appealing, Table Rock is a must during a Northern California trip. Vast views of Napa Valley steal most of the attention on this hike, which features plenty of flat rocks for sipping in that fresh air or taking an eye-catching break along the trail.
Lands End Trail, San Francisco Peninsula (1.4 miles)
A local San Franciscan favorite, Lands End Trail offers one of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge in the area. Traversing the coastal bluffs above the ocean between Point Lobos and the Sea Cliff neighborhood, the Coastal Trail provides hikers, runners, bicyclists and beachcombers easy urban access to the Golden Gate’s rugged southern edge.
The Mist Trail, Yosemite National Park (3–7 miles)
If wandering under waterfalls is your thing, you’ll love the Mist Trail at Yosemite National Park. Cool yourself off mid-hike (literally) underneath one of its high-powered waterfalls—welcome relief after the challenging uphill start—and enjoy beautiful changing vistas along the entire path. Need we say more?
Bench Trails, Southern Diablo Mountains, Salinas Valley (11 miles)
According to the National Park Service, the Pinnacles Rocks “are believed to be part of the Neenach Volcano that occurred 23 million years ago near present-day Lancaster, California, some 195 miles southeast.” If you’re seeking scenic views paired with impressive historical significance, this is the hike for you.
Bridge to Nowhere / East Fork San Gabriel River Trail, San Bernardino Mountains (10.5 miles)
Its name sounds a bit more mystical than the trail actually is. After a flood and suspended highway construction in 1938, the abandoned project was dubbed “Bridge to Nowhere” and given new life as a local tourist destination. This scenic hike takes you through rocky tree-covered trails along the canyons of the San Gabriel River. Note that this area can flood quickly and should be avoided during rainy weather.
Lost Palms Oasis, Joshua Tree (7 miles)
Joshua Tree, known for its spacious skies and textured bedrocks, is the ideal hiking spot for most. The Lost Palms Oasis trails is even more celebrated for its breathtaking views of the desert oasis and active wildlife. Keep an eye out for elusive bighorn sheep, and if you can manage a springtime hike, enjoy the blooming wildflowers at lower elevations in the park.
Charmlee Wilderness Park, Malibu (2–4 miles)
As if Malibu wasn’t already picturesque enough, this 532-acre wilderness park will have you stopping to literally smell the flowers. Enjoy frequent Pacific Ocean views tucked between vibrant swells of trees and wild foliage. The sun might be shining bright, so this is a hike best saved for the cooler months or late afternoon.
Griffith Park Hollywood Sign, Los Angeles (6.5 miles)
You don’t have to ditch the city and drive hours to get back to nature. The Griffith Park hike is lush with fresh foliage and tree-covered trails all the way to the top, where visitors can savor stellar views of the entire Los Angeles County—and beyond. Plus, the further up you go, the closer you get to the Hollywood sign. You can have your pick of trails around the backside of the sign or down below; either trail promises stunning views of the sign.
Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, Lancaster (0.2–1.2 miles)
If taking in the sites is higher up on your hiking to-do list, the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve will have you standing in awe for hours. Enjoy a brief but brisk trail walk as you explore miles of wild poppies blooming under the bright blue sky. The poppy season starts as early as mid-February and lasts through mid-May, so be sure to visit during poppy season to catch a glimpse of these vibrant florals.
Mount Baldy Summit, Devil’s Backbone Trail, San Gabriel + San Bernardino Mountains (14 miles)
Popular for its skiing and snowboarding in the winter, the Mount Baldy Summit trails will have you really feeling the burn with steep mountainsides and rocky terrain. This area is perfect for a morning workout to get the blood pumping and fresh air moving through those lungs.