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 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
The Beeks Place hike takes you to the ruins of an old cabin compound built at a scenic spot high in the Santa Ana Mountains. From Beeks Place, you can see from San Gorgonio to Mt Baldy to Catalina. The hike is challenging, taking you 2000 feet up fire roads through the mountains, and along the way, you get epic views, hidden pastures, and even a Native American settlement. While Beeks Place might not be a big-name peak bagging experience, it is a nice long mountain hike that you can do all year.
Silverado, CA - 16 miles, Hard
The Eagle Rock hike, near San Diego in Warner Springs, is an easy adventure on the legendary PCT (Pacific Crest Trail). You’ll meander up a babbling brook in the shade of oaks, and then cross grasslands offering views of San Diego County’s high points. At the end, you are treated to Eagle Rock, perched on a hillside and overlooking this remote area. Overall Eagle Rock is a great hike with lots of payoff for not much effort.
Warner Springs, CA - 6.5 miles, Easy
One of the questions I get asked the most is, “is the Apple Watch good for hiking?” I review many hiking watches and GPS units, but not everyone wants to invest in another piece of gear, especially if they have an Apple Watch already. So to cut to the chase, the Apple Watch is suitable for hiking for most casual hikers, and in this guide, I’ll tell you the who’s and the why’s. I’ll also show you how to use it for hiking and go through some apps that are good for hiking with your Apple Watch.
Just opened in 2020, the East Indio Badlands Trail hike offers a spectacular loop through a classic badland topography formed by thousands of years of erosion and an active San Andreas Fault. You’ll hike through slot canyons, in the shadow of tectonic uptilts, and along a prominent ridge with 360 views from the Salton See to San Gorgonio Mountain. It’s an extremely fun hike at a shorter distance that makes it accessible to almost all types of hikers.
Indio, CA - 5.5 miles, Moderate
Considered one of the best desert hikes in Southern California, the Ladder Canyon Trail, with a loop through Painted Canyon, is a must-do. The hike weaves through the canyons in Mecca Hills Wilderness, a rugged and beautiful series of rock formations and slot canyons created by the San Andreas fault and thousands of years of erosion. And, of course, there are the famous ladders. To do the hike, you’ll climb up and down several ladders to scale the steep cliff walls. Don’t worry, the ladders aren’t that scary and I’ll explain the experience in detail here in this guide. Another great thing about the Ladder Canyon Trail is that you have great views of the high mountains when you are not in a canyon. Overall this is an incredible hike.
Mecca, CA - 5 miles, Moderate
The Bear Creek Oasis Trail hike in La Quinta, CA is just spectacular; there’s no other way to slice and dice it. The first mile is flat and easy as you follow the Bear Creek wash up into the Santa Rosa foothills. And then you start climbing, winding your way up like a bighorn along the ridges and switchbacks, eventually getting to a point where you can see for miles: San Jacinto, San Gorgonio, the Coachella Valley, and the Salton Sea. But wait, there’s more! Toward the end, you wind down into a canyon nestled in the desert mountains to find a beautiful hidden fan palm oasis. It a tough one, but the payoffs are incredible.
La Quinta, CA - 9 miles, Hard
Nestled deep in Cleveland National Forest, the Chiquito Trail takes you away from the crowds visiting the popular San Juan Falls to a waterfall hidden in a secluded canyon up in hills, Chiquito Falls. To get there you have to hike up a moderate climb, but as with most climbs, you’re rewarded with great views. The hike to Chiquito Falls is great for the hiker who’s done the popular trails and now wants something a little different without the bigger crowds (like nearby Sitton Peak).
Lake Elsinore, CA - 9.6 miles, Hard
The San Juan Loop Trail by Lake Elsinore is a fun hike that offers an easy glimpse into the Cleveland National Forest’s rugged beauty. You’ll hike to Ortega Falls, a 35-foot waterfall in a steep ravine, and then you’ll meander through lush canyons rich with wildflowers in the spring. The trail also follows San Juan Creek, which usually has water in the spring and early summer, and eventually drains out to the ocean. Overall the San Juan Loop Trail is a great family or beginners hike that packs a lot of scenery into a short distance.
Lake Elsinore, CA - 2.1 miles, Easy
Most hikes in the Palm Springs area are up and down desert tracks in the foothills. But if you venture a little farther (7.5 miles total) and do the Murray Peak hike, you’ll leave the big crowds behind and get a taste of the raw beauty of the Santa Rosa Mountains. You’ll climb up along a quiet canyon in the shadow of the San Jacintos, crest a ridge with views into the Santa Rosas, and then end at a panoramic viewpoint where you can see the Coachella Valley, San Jacinto, San Gorgonio, and Joshua Tree. It’s one of my favorite peaks and worth a visit.
Palm Springs, CA - 7.5 miles, Moderate
You can’t go wrong hiking the McCallum Trail in the Coachella Valley Preserve near Palm Springs. The trail starts in the Thousand Palms Oasis, making its way through the native fan palms over a boardwalk. Then you’ll have a sandy stretch before you reach McCallum Pond, a desert oasis that is one of the rare areas where the endangered Desert Pupfish can live. A short hike extension takes you to a vista point where you can see San Andreas Fault below you. This hike packs a lot of scenery into a small package, and is excellent for families and beginning hikers.
Desert Hot Springs, CA - 2.5 miles, Easy
The hike to Pushawalla Palms in the Coachella Valley Preserve is a must-do hike in the Palm Springs area. You’ll follow a ridge on top of the San Andreas Fault to the hidden Pushawalla Palms grove, fed by water that has risen to the surface through cracks in the fault. On the way back, you’ll hike through Hidden Palms, full of thick growth fan palms. The Pushawalla Palms loop is a spectacular hike and not to be missed.
Desert Hot Springs, CA - 5 miles, Moderate
Although not a wilderness hike, the Mt Rubidoux Trail, nestled right in the middle of Riverside, CA, still has lots to offer and is worth a visit. A gradual, paved, family-friendly trail winds up to the top of Mt Rubidoux, where you are treated to panoramic views of the big mountain ranges, as well as attractions some historical attractions like the Serra Cross, the giant flag, and the Peace Bridge. Now there are many trails in Mt Rubidoux Park, but I’ll show you the popular (and probably easiest) route to the top.
Riverside, CA - 3 miles, Moderate
Don’t let the short distance fool you; the Museum Trail in Palm Springs is a tough one. You’ll climb up a rocky and steep slope, covering almost 1000 vertical feet in about a mile. But at the top, you are rewarded with a picnic area that offers panoramic views of Palm Springs. The Museum Trail is also the beginning of the epic Cactus to Clouds hike, rated one of the hardest in the USA. So if you do this short hike, you’ll get a taste of what it’s like to do this grueling classic without all the distance and risk.
Palm Springs, CA - 2 miles, Hard