Hiking Guides For Everyone
Hi, I’m Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional hiking guide. I created this site to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different in that it gives very detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I share the hiking tricks and tips that I’ve learned over the years to fast-track you into a hiking pro. And I tell you what hiking gear works and what gear doesn’t so you don’t waste your money. See ya out on the trails…
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Don’t waste your money on hiking gear that’s no good; I’ve already done that for you! Here’s my trail-tested best hiking gear list, last updated . I only recommend hiking gear that I’ve used over hundreds of miles. I don’t do any paid or sponsored reviews, and I don’t waste your time with gear that doesn’t make the cut. This is only the good stuff.
The Garmin inReach Mini packs some powerful features into s small and reasonably priced package. You can send and receive your GPS location to anyone with a text or email (or another inReach Mini) in the backcountry where your cell phone doesn’t work. You can also receive messages, allowing you to communicate with family, friends, and emergency services. Additional features on the inReach Mini allow you to get weather reports, track your trip and share with friends, and perform navigation. There are some limitations, and I’ll cover that later, but all-in-all, the inReach Mini is a solid device that I use and recommend.
The GPSMAP 66i is Garmin’s top-of-the-line handheld GPS unit with InReach satellite communications built-in. It’s a solid device built for outdoor use and navigation. I’ve logged months of testing and use for this Garmin GPSMAP 66i review, and while it’s a solid unit, it’s also probably not for everyone. In this review I’ll give you my thoughts on what works and what doesn’t, I’ll compare it to devices like the InReach Explorer, I’ll give you my recommendations for the 66i, and I’ll show you how to use the device.
This 11 mile Mt Baldy hike brings you to the highest point in LA at 10,064 feet. With almost 4000 feet of climbing, it’s a tough yet popular hike, and well worth the effort. You can see from the Pacific to the Mojave on a clear day. There are a few ways to hike Mt Baldy, and this guide takes you on the most popular route.
Mt Baldy, CA - 11 miles, Hard
The Mt Whitney hike is on every hiker’s bucket list. At 14,505 feet, it’s the highest point in the lower 48 and is one of those rare high peaks that you can hike to without any mountaineering skills. There is some prep work you need to do, like getting your Mt Whitney permit and dealing with the altitude. This hiking guide has everything you need to know to successfully climb Mt Whitney. Keep reading for all the info.
Whitney Portal, CA - 22 miles, Very Hard
The hike up to Half Dome, towering over the Yosemite Valley at 8846 feet, is one of the great bucket list hikes. You’ll pass iconic waterfalls, hike through majestic sequoias, and then pull yourself up steel cables to stand at the summit. There’s a lot to know before you start; this isn’t just a hike where you show up at the trailhead and go. There’s a decent amount of anxiety about the cables section of the hike for a lot of folks. In this guide, I will cover everything you need to know in a simple and step-by-step way. I’ll help you prepare, conquer your fears, bag the summit, and have a great time in the process.
Yosemite Village, CA - 17 miles, Very Hard
The South Fork Trail is one of the more popular routes to the San Gorgonio Mountain summit, and for a good reason. You have to put some work in on the climb, but overall the gradients are steady and reasonable. As you wind up toward the summit, you’ll get postcard views of the San Bernardino high line of peaks, views down to Mill Creek, and then, of course, the epic views from the summit, the highest point in southern California. Overall this is a classic hike.
Angelus Oaks, CA - 19.5 miles, Hard
If you primarily use your smartphone as your outdoor navigation device, and are looking for satellite messaging and SOS when out of cell phone service (like with InReach), the ZOLEO is a great option. It’s a small box that you pair with your phone to send and receive messages over the Iridium satellite network. And the ZOLEO will automatically send over your phone’s data networks if they are available, saving you the cost of a satellite message. If your phone (or Bluetooth connection) dies, the ZOLEO will still function (SOS, check-ins, location sharing) by using buttons on the unit. It’s well thought out, rugged, and an effective tool.
Offering solitude and the easiest (but not easy) climb to San Gorgonio Mountain, the Fish Creek Trail is a great hike to escape the crowds. Getting to the trailhead is a challenge, but once there, you’ll start the hike just 3500 feet below the summit, and a well-designed trail helps you keep momentum as you climb to the highest point in SoCal. Unfortunately, there’s some damage from the 2015 Lake Fire, but it’s still a beautiful hike with great views and rugged wilderness.
Angelus Oaks, CA - 20.5 miles, Hard
Hiking the Morgan Trail takes you on a serene journey through the rugged San Mateo Canyon Wilderness, off the beaten path and away from the hustle and bustle of other nearby and popular trails. You’ll hike through the chaparral with high peaks of the Santa Anas flanking you until you reach scenic and shaded Morrell Canyon, full of willows, sycamore, and oaks. And at the end of the Morgan Trail, you’ll be treated to epic views of Lake Elsinore and the high peaks of Southern California.
Lake Elsinore, CA - 10.5 miles, Moderate
Easily the most popular San Gorgonio hike route, the Vivian Creek Trail is an iconic adventure up to the highest point in SoCal, at 11,503 feet. Vivian Creek is popular because it’s the shortest and most accessible route, but it’s also the steepest, so expect a good workout on your way to the summit. It’s a beautiful hike through pines, cedars, and streams and then up to the barren moon-like landscape above the tree line. From the summit, you’ll enjoy sweeping views from Nevada to the Channel Islands. Many people hike it in a day, but you can also make it an overnight backpacking trip. In this guide, I’ll give you everything you need to know for either option.
Forest Falls, CA - 18 miles, Very Hard
Off the radar of most hikers, the Exploration Trail to Keller Peak is a scenic adventure that’s not too hard but also packs in some great trail highlights. The entire area you hike through was devastated by the 1970 Bear Fire; today, as you hike, you can experience what a half-century of recovery looks like (it’s good). Along the way, you’ll get some epic views of the Angeles National Forest and the surrounding high peaks. At Keller Peak, you can experience the oldest standing fire tower in Southern California, dating back to 1926.
Big Bear, CA - 12.5 miles, Moderate
The Hoh River Trail in Olympic National Park is a bucket-list worthy hike. You’ll start the adventure by hiking along the Hoh River, which is fed directly from glaciers, making it a cold, milky-gray color. The trail winds through what most consider is the best-preserved rain forest in the northern hemisphere, also located in one of the most remote areas of the United States, the middle of the Olympic Peninsula. The temperate rainforest is covered in ferns, mosses, and massive trees, some of which are over 1000 years old. And then the Hoh River Trail turns upward, over a spectacular whitewater gorge, climbing through alpine scenery until it reaches the spectacular Blue Glacier at the foot of Mt Olympus. Most people take two to four days to backpack the Hoh River Trail, and in this guide, I’ll give you all the information you need to plan and enjoy this epic hike.
Forks, WA - 36 miles, Hard
Although Sugarloaf Mountain, at 9952 feet, is the highest point in Big Bear Valley, this mountain peak is often overlooked by hikers today. That’s good news for you because the Sugarloaf Mountain Trail is rarely crowded, offers a good climb with excellent views, an old-growth forest, and another peak to add to your list. And while the summit doesn’t have a viewpoint, you do get some of the best panoramas of the San Bernardino high peaks along the way.
Big Bear, CA - 12 miles, Hard
Hiking up the Castle Rock Trail to the viewpoint is tough, but thankfully short. Once you get to Castle Rock, you’ll have sweeping views of Big Bear Lake and the mountains surrounding it. Since the whole hike is under two miles, I’ve included an easy extension to a hidden mountain lake, Bluff Lake, which also features ruins from an 1890s mountain resort. There’s a lot to see packed into this short hike, and it’s worth the effort.
Big Bear Lake, CA - 1.6 miles, Moderate
While it isn’t a hike to a high mountain summit, taking the serene and scenic Pineknot Trail up to Grand View Point offers you a similar payoff, but without a big effort. The trail climbs gently through the pine forest, with glimpses down to Big Bear Lake, and then ends at Grand View Point, which has sweeping views of the San Bernardino high peaks. Overall it’s a pleasant hike that offers something nice for hikers of all ability levels.
Big Bear Lake, 92315 - 7.5 miles, Moderate
The rim-to-rim hike in the Grand Canyon is iconic, spectacular, and challenging. Over my years of hiking the rim-to-rim, I’ve seen people of all shapes and sizes hike across the Grand Canyon, and in this guide, I’m going to give you all the information you need to know so that you can hike it too. Your journey will start months before stepping foot on the trail, as planning is critical for this popular bucket list hike. And then, armed with the correct information and preparation, you’ll know what to expect as you leave 99.9% of the other Grand Canyon visitors behind and hit the trail to cross one of the seven wonders of the world. And in case you’re wondering, although you’ll be exhausted at the end, the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel at the end is unparalleled.
Grand Canyon Village, AZ - 21 miles, Very Hard
The Garmin GPSMAP 66sr is the best consumer GPS out there. There, I said it. When I say “best,” I mean it has a very accurate GPS receiver, long battery life, a big and easy-to-read screen, and it’s all packaged in a MIL-SPEC case that you can thrash outdoors. I spent several weeks using the GPSMAP 66sr on the hiking trails, and in this review, I’ll tell you what my experience has been. I’ve even tested the 66sr in one of the most demanding environments to get a good positioning fix, within the walls of the Grand Canyon, and I’ll share my results in this review. At the end of the review, I’ll recommend whether the 66sr or another GPS model is the right fit for your needs.
The Amboy Crater hike takes you across the Mojave Desert, onto an ancient lave field, and then up the 250 foot extinct Amboy cinder cone. It’s a hike like no other, with wide-open views, tons of lava rocks, a circuit around the rim of the volcano, and all in a short 3-mile package right off of historic Route 66. I highly recommend making a stop to experience this fantastic hike.
Amboy, CA - 3.7 miles, Easy
The hike to Mt San Jacinto Peak on the Deer Springs Trail is one of the toughest and most beautiful hikes in Southern California. You’ll climb over 5000 feet on the ascent of San Jacinto Peak, hiking through old-growth pine forests until you crest the summit. On the way back down, we’ll hike the Wellman’s Cienega Trail, which hugs the mountainside, offers incredible views of Tahquitz Peak and Suicide Rock, and feels more like Yosemite than Southern California. You can tackle this underrated hike in one day or break it up overnight in Little Round Valley Campground.
Idyllwild, CA - 19 miles, Very Hard
The Art Smith Trail offers a skillfully routed hike through the desert foothills, making you feel like you are many miles away from civilization. Referenced to by the Forest Service as “truly one of the signature trails in the (Santa Rosa & San Jacinto) National Monument,” the Art Smith Trail features palm oases, dramatic rock formations, sweeping views, and unlike many other foothill hikes in the area, some solitude. There’s climbing, but it’s not too steep, and it’s spread over a more extended series of ups and downs, making it a good workout without extreme gradients.
Palm Desert, CA - 16.6 miles, Hard
The Trans Catalina Trail, a mini, 38.5-mile thru-hike across the rugged island of Catalina, is a very doable adventure for almost every hiker and backpacker. Most people take between two and five days to complete the trail, which winds its way around Catalina. Along the way, you’ll experience expansive ocean views, the unique Channel Islands ecology, challenging terrain, and spectacular beachside campgrounds. In this complete Trans Catalina Trail (TCT) guide, I’ll show you everything you need to know to hike the trail and plan it out so that it’s a perfect fit for your hiking abilities.
Avalon, CA - 38.5 miles, Hard
This “best of” loop on the Big Laguna Trail offers a little bit of everything, and is one of my favorites. You’ll get scenic a mountain meadow and lake, a peaceful oak and pine forest, glimpses of the highest peaks in San Diego County, a climb to a mountain summit, a stretch on the PCT, and incredible views into the desert and high mountains beyond. Even though the hike is only about 12 miles through the Laguna Recreation Area, you’ll feel like you covered more ground because of the tremendous variety.
Pine Valley, CA - 12 miles, Moderate
Almost everyone understands that GPS uses satellites to pinpoint our position on earth. Whether you have a GPS unit or use a smartphone with GPS, understanding some of the principles behind how it works will help you feel confident when using or purchasing one. In this guide, I’ll demystify GPS using plain language and then share some tips to get the most out of your GPS.
Bane Canyon, located in Chino Hills State Park, comes alive with flowers in the spring. In this moderate loop hike, you’ll leave the crowds behind and circle picturesque Bane Canyon. Along the way, you’ll enjoy the landscape of Chino Hills, views of the high mountains, and hopefully, lots of colorful flowers. It’s a fun hike that’s doable by most folks in decent shape.
Chino Hills, CA - 8 miles, Moderate
Hot Springs Mountain, the highest point in San Diego County at 6,535 feet, would be worth hiking just for that fact, but there’s so much more to enjoy. After a tough initial climb, the trail is peaceful and scenic as it winds through conifers, giving the feel of a higher alpine area. And at the summit, you get to visit the oldest standing fire tower serving Cleveland National Forest, dating to 1942, and then enjoy a ladder climb up to the actual summit. It’s a fun and beautiful hike that’s tough but not too tough.
Warner Springs, CA - 10.5 miles, Hard
The South Clevenger Trail has gained popularity because of a unique attraction: a pair of lawn chairs perched on a boulder, offering epic views down into San Pasqual Canyon. Visiting the chairs is fun, but there’s also much more to enjoy on this hike in the San Pasqual – Clevenger Canyon Open Space Park. You have a moderate climb that provides spectacular views of the valley and then the final summit, where you get sweeping views of high peaks like El Cajon and Cuyamaca Peak. It’s a fun hike with lots of natural eye candy and photo opportunities.
Escondido, CA - 5 miles, Moderate
Cedar Creek Falls Trail is one of San Diego’s most popular hikes. The trail offers epic views of the San Diego River Gorge before you arrive at Cedar Creek Falls, almost the perfect waterfall, plunging 80 feet down into a bowl-shaped pool of clear water. It’s such a popular hike that you need a permit to do it. The extra work is worth it though, the experience is magical, but you need to avoid the crowds if you can. In this guide I’ll tell you everything you need to know to make the best of this hike.
Ramona, CA - 6 miles, Moderate
Tucked away in Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, just minutes from Laguna Beach, the Dripping Cave Trail is one of the most fun and easiest hikes in Orange County. Dripping cave, used by native peoples and later bandits, is huge, open, and fun to explore. The park is rich with natural beauty and wildlife, and on the way to Dripping Cave, we’ll visit Cave Rock, another cool rock formation hidden away from the busier trails. This five-mile hike is mostly flat, easy to follow, and family-friendly.
Aliso Viejo, CA - 5 miles, Easy
The Bommer Canyon Trail, a natural oasis nestled within suburbia, offers a little bit of everything. This easy hike showcases natural beauty, has lots of wildlife spotting opportunities, an interesting history, and sweeping vistas as you approach the highest point in the San Joaquin Hills. The full 4.8 mile hike includes some uphill, but if you want to do something easy, I’ll show you an easy 2 mile option that’s flat and great for families. Bommer Canyon is a National Natural Landmark and California’s first Natural Landmark; it’s worth visiting.
Irvine, CA - 4.8 miles, Moderate
Considered “the hardest hike in San Diego” by some (more on that later), the El Cajon Mountain Trail makes you work for it, even though the summit is only at 3,648 feet. El Cajon Mountain, which towers over eastern San Diego, dominates the skyline you drive down I-8. Its sheer granite cliff face is also colloquially known as El Capitan or El Cap, after the iconic granite rock face in Yosemite National Park. We won’t be going up the sheer cliff on this hike but instead taking a rolling trail through El Capitan County Preserve, known for its steep climbs on the way out AND back. Aside from a great workout, the payoff is spectacular views from Palm Springs to Mexico and the bragging rights to say you conquered El Cajon Mountain.
Lakeside, CA - 12 miles, Hard
A favorite of San Diego hikers, this hike in the Eflin Forest to Lake Hodges Overlook offers a lot. Starting in a quaint valley along Escondido Creek, believed to have been a meeting point for neighboring native tribes, you’ll ascend the picturesque Way Up Trail until you reach the shores of Olivenhain Reservoir. After circling the reservoir, you’ll arrive at Lake Hodges Overlook, where panoramic views of the lake and mountain peaks are a feast for your eyes.
Escondido, CA - 7 miles, Moderate
This mellow hike on the Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail takes you to the highlight of the park, a waterfall plunging through volcanic rock. Along the way you’ll encounter a forest of giant California live oaks and sycamores, the grave of European royalty, and a year-round stream that many endangered species call home. Nestled in a valley insulated from surrounding development, Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve is not only one of the most bio-diverse areas in SoCal, but it’s also one of the largest urban parks in the USA.
San Diego, CA - 7 miles, Easy
Nestled deep in the remote San Mateo Canyon Wilderness, the Tenaja Falls Trail takes you to majestic Tenaja Falls, a cascading waterfall that plunges 150 into the scenic canyon. In this guide I’ll show you two ways to get to the falls. You can either do the short 1.5 mile (total) “roadside attraction” route, or you can take the 7.5 mile scenic and relatively easy route through Fisherman’s Camp and along San Mateo Creek. Which ever way you go, you’re in for a treat, because the scenery is incredible and the vibe is off the beaten path.
Murrieta, CA - 7.5 miles, Moderate
The Goat Canyon Trestle hike is iconic: a meandering trail along what is dubbed “the impossible railroad,” through the spectacular Carrizo Canyon, and finally to the world’s largest wooden trestle bridge, hidden miles away from civilization. Although not offering any big mountain climb, it is a strenuous hike through a harsh desert environment, with over 16 miles of distance to cover.
Jacumba Hot Springs, CA - 16.5 miles, Hard
A local favorite, the Monserate Mountain Trail loop hike features a tough little climb with some unique trail markers. First off, you’ll climb about 1,200 feet straight up the mountain, which is challenging but doable. And along the way, you’ll have trail markers for every ten stories of the original World Trade Center, put there for the Fallbrook Firefighters 9/11 Memorial Hill Climb. The top offers panoramic views and a fun summit area that often includes a flag. You can head straight back down or hike a loop that rewards you with more great views into the Agua Tibia Mountains.
Fallbrook, CA - 4.5 miles, Moderate