Today it's easier than ever to find hiking trails near you. This site has turn-by-turn directions, along with maps, GPX files, and insider tips on all the hike guides The idea is that you can feel confident about where you are hiking, not get lost, and have a fun adventure.
Best Hikes in the World
Los Angeles – Orange County, CA – Riverside County, CA – San Diego – LA Mountains – Palm Springs Area – Around Mt Whitney – Eastern Sierras
National Parks >
Grand Canyon Hikes – Joshua Tree National Park – Yosemite National Park –
Monuments & Forests >
Sand to Snow National Monument – San Gorgonio Wilderness – Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Hikes – – Wildlands Conservancy Trails – San Bernardino National Forest – San Gabriel Mountains National Monument – Angeles National Forest – Cleveland National Forest – Inyo National Forest
Other USA >
Pacific Northwest – Philadelphia – Las Vegas – Phoenix
Other Ways to Find Trails
You can also check out sites like AllTrails.com, SummitPost.org, and GaiaGPS to find hikes. Search for hiking groups on Reddit for up to date tips and recommendations.
If you want to do a group hike, try Meetup or contacting a local hiking club.
Don’t forget hiking guide books. I actually prefer them over a digital resource because I can put it in my pack to help me navigate. REI has some great trail guides that offer worldwide coverage. For UK and international folks, Stanfords is the ultimate travel and map geeks store, around since 1853.
National Parks are obvious great choices, but don’t forget to Google your state and county parks for some less crowded gems. Typically parks have PDF maps online to help you plan your hike. If you’re stuck in the city, do an urban hike. The important thing is that you get outside and get moving.
The Panorama Loop and Warren Peak hike in Joshua Tree NP gets you away from the crowds and into some classic Joshua Tree terrain. You’ll enjoy Joshua Tree groves, foothill climbs, and epic views. You’ll also bag the most western point over 5000 feet in Joshua Tree NP. And Warren Peak is not Warren Peak. More about that in the guide.
Yucca Valley, 92284 - 8 miles, Moderate
The hike to Eaton Canyon Falls is one of those LA classics you have to do at least once. Eaton Canyon and the falls are spectacular, one of the true gems of the San Gabriels. Even John Muir wrote about Eaton Canyon Falls’s beauty. But its easily accessible location means that you’ll find crowds here, and many people on the trail are not familiar with hiking etiquette. The best time to hike Eaton Canyon Falls is early on a weekday when the canyon is still peaceful, and the masses haven’t yet arrived.
Pasadena, CA - 4 miles, Easy
A local’s favorite, the Tim’s Ladder Trail offers a rugged adventure into the hills of the northern Coachella Valley. Along the way, you’ll encounter a monument built by a local artisan. Then, you’ll enter the Joshua Tree National Park backcountry and finish with a panoramic viewpoint overlooking the Little San Bernardino Mountains. And 2000 feet of climbing in under 3 miles means that you’ll earn the views.
Desert Hot Springs, 92241 - 6 miles, Moderate
Tucked away in a remote corner of Cleveland National Forest, the waterfalls of Upper Hot Spring Canyon are truly wild and beautiful. Luckily it’s a relatively easy hike to the first 15-foot waterfall, then a bit harder to the second, taller 25-foot waterfall, which I cover in this guide. After that point, this hiking guide ends because Lower Hot Spring Canyon lacks a trail and is known as one of the most challenging canyoneering routes in SoCal. But this more leisurely hike in the upper canyon will give you a taste of the beauty without having to mount a major expedition.
Lake Elsinore, CA - 2.8 miles, Moderate
The Big Dalton Canyon Trail is just about the perfect family-friendly hike. It’s short, shaded, has lots of twists and turns, is picturesque, and follows a shallow stream that kids can safely enjoy. If you want a little bit more of a workout, take the Coulter Pine Trail back, offering epic views of Big Dalton Dam, Mt Baldy, and Big Iron Mountain. It’s a gem of a hike tucked into suburban LA.
Glendora, CA - 2.2 miles, Easy
The hike to Hoyt Mountain, often overshadowed by its more popular neighbors, is a great adventure packed into 4 miles. To start, you’ll scramble up a challenging use trail to the summit, which offers panoramic views into Angeles National Forest and along the San Gabriel Fault. The hike continues by looping down and circling the mountain along an old trail blasted out of the cliffside about 100 years ago. Along the way, you’ll even pass LA’s outdoor school for kids, which has been operating continuously since 1925.
Tujunga, CA - 3.9 miles, Moderate
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike to Mt San Jacinto is a great way to bag Southern California’s second-highest peak without putting in a considerable effort. It’s still a challenging 11-mile hike, but it’s nothing like climbing Mt San Jacinto from Palm Springs or Idyllwild; taking the Palm Springs tram cuts about 6,000 feet of climbing off the hike. The summit of Mt San Jacinto is one of my favorites because it straddles the line between Coastal California and the Sonoran Desert, allowing you to see the transition between the two ecosystems, and on a clear day, from Catalina Island to Mt Charleston, just outside of Las Vegas. It’s a fun and insanely beautiful hike.
Palm Springs, CA - 11 miles, Hard
San Mateo Peak, a beautiful and fun hike with a fantastic summit and sweeping views, is not officially there. The trail is not on the Forest Service maps, and you won’t find “San Mateo Peak” anywhere on an official topographic map. But the trail and peak are there all right, and in this guide, I’ll show you how to hike to the top and enjoy this fun peak in Cleveland National Forest.
Lake Elsinore, CA - 4.6 miles, Moderate
This hike, which takes in Throop Peak, Mount Burnham, and Mount Baden-Powell from Dawson Saddle, has dramatic high-mountain scenery and interesting history. This ridge of peaks was initially referred to as “North Baldy Mountain,” with Throop Peak being the “West Twin” and Baden-Powell being the “East Twin.” Whatever you want to call it now, this is a great hike, with three peaks to bag, expansive views, and well-groomed trails, including the PCT.
Paradise Springs, California - 9 miles, Moderate
You can’t go wrong with a hike on the Eagle Creek Trail, considered the signature trail of the Columbia River Gorge. Right from the start, the Eagle Creek Trail offers dramatic views of waterfalls, a raging mountain stream, dense PNW forest, and towering basalt cliffs. Most hikers enjoy the short 4.2-mile roundtrip hike to Punchbowl Falls, but I highly recommend going farther if you have the fitness. You can even make it an overnight backpacking trip, ideally hiking to the end of the Eagle Creek Trail at Wahtum Lake, high in the mountains. Whatever option you choose, you can’t go wrong here.
Cascade Locks, OR - 4.2 miles, Moderate
A hike through the Big Bear Wild Burro Territory, Located in the eastern San Bernardino Mountains, offers an excellent chance to spot these beautiful animals in the wild, as well as some pristine mountain scenery. The territory is about 50 square miles, and in this guide, I’ll take you on a route through some of the hot spots where the wild burros can be found. We’ll add in a trip to Onyx Peak as well, so you can bag a summit along the way. I’ll also share a map with alternative locations where the wild burro can often be found.
Big Bear, CA - 12.5 miles, Hard
Hiking the Tin Mine Canyon Trail takes you into another world. You’ll park your car in suburban SoCal, but end up in a lush, shaded gully alongside a mountain stream. On the way you get to check out the old tin mine shafts, over 100 years old and once part of the search for the purest tin in the world. The Tin Mine Canyon Trail is relatively short, easy, shaded, and great for the family.
Corona, CA - 5 miles, Easy
Grays Peak Trail, one of the most popular hikes in the Big Bear Area, is not too tough, but plenty nice. You’ll hike through an old-growth forest, be treated to views of the surrounding peaks, and then reach the forested knob of Grays Peak, which has lengthwise views of Big Bear Lake, as well as the San Bernardino high line of peaks. It’s such a nice area that two bald eagles decided to raise a family here! More on that in the guide.
Fawnskin, CA - 7.2 miles, Moderate
Tucked away in a hidden canyon in Cleveland National Forest, the hike to Holy Jim Falls is fun, easy, and great for families. The area recovering from the 2018 Holy Fire is still very lush and offers forest and tree cover not often found in Southern California. You’ll hike up a gentle gradient along Holy Jim Creek and then turn off onto the Holy Jim Falls spur trail, which narrows as it approaches the falls.
Corona, CA - 3.4 miles, Easy
The Red Mountain hike, although “normal” on paper, really packs a punch. Red Mountain, a volcanic cone rising over 2000 feet above the surrounding Mojave Desert, has steep slopes, harsh terrain, and a challenging trail. And with great effort comes great payoff: the summit offers sweeping views and an interesting history.
Randsburg, CA - 5.5 miles, Hard
Offering dramatic views into some of the most dramatic landscapes in the world, the beauty of the Telescope Peak hike will leave you breathless. You’ll hike up a well-maintained trail to Death Valley’s highest point, Telescope Peak, towering eleven-thousand feet over the lowest point in the USA, Badwater Basin. The trail passes through alpine meadows, amongst ancient bristlecone pines, along rocky ridges, and ends at an epic panoramic peak. Add Telescope Peak to your bucket list if you haven’t done it already.
Death Valley, CA - 12.5 miles, Hard
The hike to Los Pinos Peak offers a remote and rugged experience through the heart of Cleveland National Forest. Although not technically prominent, Los Pinos Peak is “practically” prominent, and on the hike, given a clear day, you can see from Catalina to San Gorgonio. There are several ways to hike to Los Pinos Peak, and in this guide, I’ll show you the most popular (and shortest) route from the area by Falcon Group Campground.
Lake Elsinore, CA - 5.4 miles, Moderate
Standing prominently in the western San Gabriels, Josephine Peak offers a cool summit with sweeping views. There are a few ways to hike to the summit, and this guide covers my favorite route, which takes the (single track) Colby Canyon Trail (instead of the fire road). This is a great “off-the-beaten-path” hike where you never see crowds, making for a peaceful and pleasurable experience.
Tujunga, CA - 8.4 miles, Moderate
The Thunder Spring Trail Loop is one of the quieter hikes in Palomar Mountain State Park; it’s a great hike to get away from it all. The scenery is lush, with lots of pines, cedars, and in the spring, wildflowers. You have a climb that will get your heart rate up, but is not too tough. And along the way, you visit a historic homesteader’s cabin site. Overall it’s a nice trail and a good time.
Palomar Mountain,, CA - 4.2 miles, Moderate
This short loop hike to the Boucher Fire Lookout Tower offers a lot to see in a short distance. The climb to the tower is gentle, and at the top, on a clear day, you can see from Mexico, to the Coronado Islands, to Mt San Jacinto. I’d venture to say the best views from Palomar Mountain State Park are from Boucher Hill. Then rom the tower, we’ll hike in a loop and visit the remains of a historic homesteader’s cabin.
Palomar Mountain, CA - 3.5 miles, Easy
The hike through Lower Doane Valley and French Valley at Palomar Mountain State Park is a gem; every twist and turn offers something natural and beautiful. You’ll follow the lush Doane Creek, hike through groves of giant trees, across mountain meadows, visit a historic weir, and find a hidden pool of French Creek. There are ups and downs, but no big mountain climbs on this short 4 mile hike.
Palomar Mountain,, CA - 4.2 miles, Easy
The Grand Canyon “rim to river” hike from the South Rim to Colorado is the one hike that the NPS asks you not to do. Why? Beginning hikers underestimate the effort of hiking back up to the rim after enjoying a casual downhill to the river. I’ve written this guide to help experienced hikers who understand the challenges of the “rim to river,” and for those who are not experienced yet will do it anyway. This guide gives you all the information you need to do the hike safely if you are up to it and the conditions are right.
Grand Canyon Village, AZ - 17 miles, Very Hard
It’s an easy hike to visit Southern California’s largest Redwood Grove, located in Carbon Canyon Regional Park. The Redwood grove, while not as majestic as those in Northern California, is still impressive. You’ll be able to wander in the shade of over 200 Redwoods, which would not survive in the hot, dry Southern California climate without the loving attention of OC Parks. It’s a great hike that’s easy for families and beginners.
Brea, CA - 1.5 miles, Easy
Annie’s Canyon Trail is about as unique as they come. On this short hike, you’ll be able to experience a sandstone slot canyon, complete with narrow walls and ladders. And on the way to the canyon, you’ll get beautiful views of San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve, a critical migrating waterfowl habitat. Another bonus on this hike is that it’s only minutes off of Interstate 5, making it an excellent leg-stretcher hike stop if you’re driving past.
Solana Beach, CA - 1.8 miles, Easy
The Sunset Peak hike, with its gentle yet steady uphill, offers lots of beauty for all levels of hiker. For beginners, Sunset Peak lets you dip your toe into the high peaks of Angeles National Forest without anything too hairy. And for the experienced hiker, the sweeping panoramic views give you a unique perspective of all the big-name peaks. Overall Sunset Peak is a great hike that I recommend for everyone to enjoy.
Mt Baldy, CA - 7.5 miles, Moderate
The Echo Mountain hike packs a lot of bang for the buck. You’ll hike up the Sam Merrill Trail, which follows the old Mt Lowe railway route up to Echo Mountain, where you can see the old ruins of the Echo Mountain mountain resort. USA Today included the Echo Mountain hike as one of the “10 Great North American Hikes” and Sunset Magazine called it one of the top 45 hikes in the west. The hike is easy to follow, has an interesting history, offers great views, is a good workout, and is close to LA. Overall it’s a win.
Altadena, CA - 5.6 miles, Hard
If you want to get off the beaten path in Angeles National Forest, head over to the Pacifico Mountain hike. Pacifico Mountain, the highest peak in the northwestern part of the forest, offers unique views spanning from Mt Baldy to Los Padres National Forest to Nevada. There are several approaches to the summit of Pacifico Mountain, and we’ll take what I think is the most scenic one up the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). It’s a great hike without big crowds.
Palmdale, CA - 13.5 miles, Moderate
The Teepee Trail is a great hike, but probably not for the reason that you think. Yea, the teepee is cool to visit and great to take photos with, but the climb up to the teepee offers some of the best views into the western peaks of Angeles National Forest that you’ll ever see. The hike takes the Mt Lukens Truck Trail up to the teepee, which is uphill, but expertly folded onto the land with switchbacks to make the gradient doable. Overall it’s a fun little hike in the foothills of Angeles National Forest.
La Cañada Flintridge, CA - 5.4 miles, Moderate
Don’t let the shorter distance fool you; the hike to Jones Peak from the Bailey Canyon Trail is a tough one. The climb up through Bailey Canyon features steep canyon walls, sweeping views, and a well-maintained trail with many switchbacks. Along the way, there are ruins of a cabin in a lush gully, and then after some more switchbacks, you get to Jones Peak at 3375 feet. The peak offers panoramic views from Mt Wilson to Catalina. Overall it’s a solid hike with a little bit of everything.
Sierra Madre, CA - 6.5 miles, Hard
Stoddard Peak stands guard over the front range of the San Gabriels, with a unique view stretching from Mt Baldy to the LA suburbs. The hike to Stoddard Peak is challenging but not too tough; it’s perfect for beginners, with a great summit payoff. In this guide, I’ll show you how to hike to Stoddard Peak safely and enjoy all it has to offer.
Mt Baldy, CA - 6 miles, Moderate
The 41.5 mile Timberline Trail, which circles Oregon’s highest point, Mt Hood, dropping in and out of glacier-carved canyons, is a classic that should be on everyone’s bucket list. There’s a lot to love about the Timberline Trail: a well-worn path above and below the timberline (the altitude where trees stop growing), epic views of Mt Hood and the other peaks of the Cascades, glaciers, waterfalls, volcanic rock, alpine meadows, wildflowers, and rich history (it’s also a National Historic Trail). Numerous tent sites along the trail and an easy permit system make tackling the Timberline in 2-4 days straightforward. In this guide I’ll explain everything you need to know to plan your trip, and then do the hike.
Government Camp, OR - 41.5 miles, 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
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 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
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
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
The Araby Trail is one of the more popular hikes in Palm Springs. You not only get the natural beauty of the Santa Rosa Mountains and all the views that they offer, but you’ll also get to go by some iconic architecture in a gated community that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see. And while the trail is challenging, you’ll be heading uphill for about 1.7 miles; it’s not a big mountain hike and is doable by most folks with a reasonable level of fitness.
Palm Springs, CA - 3.4 miles, Moderate
The Buck Gully Trail is a peaceful and fun hike through a coastal watershed located in Newport Beach’s foothills. What makes the hike remarkable is that the 1,200 acres of Buck Gully Reserve are tucked in between all the development around Newport Beach. So even though this hike is close to civilization, you feel like you are a world away as you hike your way up the canyon. It’s an easy hike, great for all levels and families. And while the trail itself doesn’t offer ocean views, I’ll show you an optional loop that offers vistas to Palos Verdes and Long Beach.
Corona Del Mar, CA - 5.2 miles, Easy
The Mission Creek Preserve hike is a great family-friendly adventure that offers a little bit of everything in an easy package. You’ll be able to visit the ruins of an old “glamping” resort, follow a creek that started high in the mountains and is now irrigating the desert, pass a rare wetland, enjoy views of the high peaks, and then visit an old stone ranch house. The trail is wide, the climbs gradual, and it’s easy to follow. Even if you’re an experienced hiker, there’s enough beauty here to warrant at least one visit.
Desert Hot Springs, CA - 3.4 miles, Easy
One of my favorite hikes, the Canyon View Loop Trail at the Whitewater Preserve, between Palm Springs and Joshua Tree, offers beauty at every twist and turn. The well-marked trail follows the Whitewater River Canyon until it reaches the iconic PCT and then climbs up to a bluff that offers non-stop views into the canyon and high peaks of the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area. It’s a hike that’s worth making a trip for, so give it a try.
Whitewater, CA - 4 miles, Moderate
The Cross Hike in Palm Desert is a great out-and-back hike for all levels. You’ll hike through classic desert hill terrain to reach the cross, standing 30 feet tall on the hilltop, a religious experience for some and a fun destination for all. Whatever you believe, the views from the top are great, and the workout is a good one. This hike is a local favorite for a quick hiking fix.
Palm Desert, CA - 2.4 miles, Moderate
The Bump and Grind Trail, one of the most popular in the Palm Springs area, is a short yet challenging loop hike that packs a lot of fun. You’ll get the incredible scenery of the desert foothills, a challenging but doable climb, a visit to a refuge for the endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep, and views of the two high peaks of Southern California, Mt San Jacinto and San Gorgonio. For the best experience, leave at sunrise or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds and heat. This guide will show you how to navigate the Bump and Grind Trail and have a great time.
Palm Desert, CA - 4 miles, Moderate
The Bernardo Bay Trail in San Dieguito River Park is a natural oasis, just minutes off the I-15 freeway. In this short loop hike on the banks of Lake Hodges, you’ll enjoy great water views, a variety of fauna, and a ton of wildlife. In fact, this whole area is known as a birding hotspot. And while I wouldn’t travel hours to do this hike on its own, its location just off the I-15 makes it a great spot for a quick leg-stretching rest stop.
San Diego, CA - 2.5 miles, Easy
Iron Mountain, in San Diego County, is one of the most popular hikes in the area. Hiking to the summit is tough, but not extreme, and once there, you can soak in panoramic views from the high mountains to the Pacific Ocean. The summit even has a viewfinder and picnic benches where you can relax. In this guide, I’ll show you how to safely do the hike, avoid the crowds, and beat the heat.
Poway, CA - 5.6 miles, Moderate
The Palomar Mountain Observatory Trail is a gentle hike that offers a lot of scenery packed into a short distance. One of the only National Recreational Trails in San Diego, the hike takes you through mountain pines and cedars, offers panoramic viewpoints, and ends at the iconic Palomar Observatory, the largest in the world from 1948 to 1976. The Observatory Trail is easy to follow, not too steep, and great for families.
Palomar Mountain, CA - 5 miles, Moderate
The Cougar Crest Trail, one of the most popular in Big Bear, CA, offers excellent views and beautiful wilderness for a moderate, but not crazy, effort. On the hike, you’ll experience a lush Alpine forest, views of Big Bear Lake, stone sculptures, a stretch on the iconic Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and then the panoramic Bertha Peak, one of the high points around the lake.
Big Bear, CA - 8 miles, Moderate
Hidden in a remote valley in the mountains around Big Bear, the Aspen Grove Trail offers a rare glimpse into one of the two aspen groves in Southern California. The leaves turn orange and yellow in the fall, and the area feels more like the Sierra Nevada than Big Bear. The Aspen Grove Trail was destroyed in the 2015 Lake Fire, and while the big pine trees are no longer there, the aspens have grown back nicely. If you’re looking for fall colors, this hike is a great option.
Angelus Oaks, CA - 4.8 miles, Moderate
Don’t let the start of the Coal Canyon Trail, which is next to the 91 freeway, fool you. After a short stretch next to the freeway on the Santa Ana River Trail, you’ll hop into a wildlife corridor and up into the northwest Santa Ana Mountains. Along the way, you’ll have views of Angeles National Forest, San Gorgonio, and at the top, Orange Counties’ “Mini-Moab.” It’s a bit of an under-hiked gem, so get out and enjoy it.
Corona, CA - 10 miles, Moderate
The hike to Terri Peak, which towers over Lake Perris and offers panoramic views, is a hidden gem. It’s located in Lake Perris State Recreation Area, a park noted more for water sports than hiking. The trail to Terri Peak climbs through boulders and offers plenty of gradual sections to catch your breath and take in the views. You can either hike to the top and back, or you can do the full loop for even more views.
Perris, CA - 5 miles, Moderate
The Santa Margarita River Trail hike is a true gem. The hike follows the shady shores of the Santa Margarita River, Southern California’s last undiverted, free-flowing river, home to over a hundred species of animals. The peaceful river banks also hold glimpses into the area’s past, including Native American artifacts and relics of a railroad that once connected San Diego to the outside world. Today the Santa Margarita River Trail is protected and well-marked thanks to the non-profit Wildlands Conservancy. It’s a beautiful trail that’s easy, with a flat 3 mile option or a longer 5.7 hike to a hidden beach.
Fallbrook, CA - 5.7 miles, Moderate
Most people only experience Yosemite National Park from their car, but the majority of Yosemite is backcountry, which is best explored by hiking. There are hikes for all levels, and these Yosemite hiking tips will help you pick the perfect one and have a great time experiencing it. It’s time to leave the car and crowds behind and enjoy Yosemite the way it was meant to be.
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 Dawn Mine Trail hike takes you on a loop through history and beauty. You’ll see the old abandoned Dawn Mine, enjoy a cool swing installed there, and then retrace your way back along the Mt Lowe railway. But more than that, it’s a beautiful hike. You hug ridges with expansive views, you hike along a lush canyon stream, and then you descend along the ridge and soak in a vista that includes LA and the Verdugo Mountains. And there’s just enough climbing to make it a decent workout.
Altadena, CA - 6 miles, Moderate
The Mt Hillyer Trail hike takes you on a mellow summit loop through a little-hiked area of Angeles National Forest. The climb isn’t tough, the distance isn’t extreme, and that’s part of why it’s great. You’ll hike through the old stomping ground of 1860s horse bandits, complete with a hidden pasture and boulder hideout. And at the summit of Mt Hillyer, you’re rewarded with sweeping views of the eastern San Gabriels. Oh, and there are two different summits with two different views. So you got that going for you, which is nice.
Chilao Campground, CA - 6.5 miles, Moderate
This two-peak hike is incredibly beautiful. First, you bag Mount Pinos, the highest point in Ventura County at 8847 ft. The Mount Pinos Trail is wide, shady, and pleasant. The real fun starts as you continue to Sawmill Mountain, the highest point in Kern County, at 8822ft. You’ll pass a condor observation point, enter the rugged Chumash Wilderness, and then enjoy sweeping views and a huge cairn on Sawmill Mountain. The hike is challenging, but it’s not a big mountain expedition; most folks can do this hike without much fuss.
Frazier Park, CA - 8 miles, Moderate
The North Dome hike in Yosemite is a gem in so many ways. It’s tough, but not super hard. You enjoy beautiful trails but without the major crowds. A quick side-trip takes you to Yosemite’s only natural arch, which is worth a visit. There are picture-perfect views of Half Dome from directly across the valley. And then, of course, North Dome offers panoramic views from down the Yosemite Valley up to the high peaks on Tioga Road and beyond. I highly recommend this hike; give it a try.
Yosemite Valley, CA - 9.5 miles, Moderate
The hike to Chilnualna Falls is one of Yosemite’s undiscovered gems. And, of course, when I say “undiscovered,” I mean in loosely, but in practical terms, this waterfall hike only has a fraction of the crowds that other Yosemite waterfall hikes have. The Chilnualna Falls Trail is in the southern Wawona section of the park, and offers a multi-cascading waterfall, swimming holes, views of Wawona Dome, and beautiful trails. If you’ve done the big name hikes already or are just looking for something a little more peaceful, the Chilnualna Falls Trail is the move.
Wawona, CA - 8.4 miles, Hard
The Clouds Rest hike in Yosemite is a favorite of the park rangers; you get incredible panoramic views from over 1,000 feet above Half Dome. And unlike Half Dome, for the Clouds Rest hike, no permit is needed, the distance and climbing is manageable, and you don’t have to navigate anything like the anxiety-inducing cables section. It’s considered one of the epic Yosemite hikes and is definitely worth the effort.
Lee Vining, CA - 12.5 miles, Hard
The Mt Zion loop hike is a great option for those that have hiked from Chantry Flat before, maybe to Mt Wilson, but want something a little more off the beaten path. On this loop, I’ll take you on the Upper Gabrielino Trail, then on the historic Mt Zion Trail, built in 1896 and once the main trail into the area, then up to Mt Zion for panoramic views, and finally back to the start on the Upper Winter Creek Trail. And while there might be crowds on the nearby trails, this loop route on Angeles National Forest’s secondary trails offers peace and tranquility.
Arcadia, CA - 9 miles, Hard
This challenging and lightly-trodden loop hike offers three summits along the route: Mt Hawkins, Middle Hawkins, and South Mount Hawkins. The hike offers sweeping views of the peaks of Angeles National Forest, an interesting history, beautiful trails, a long descent down Hawkins Ridge, and three different peaks to bag from the Sierra Club’s 100 Peaks list. Escape the crowds on the nearby peaks and give the Mt Hawkins loop a try.
Irwindale, CA - 13 miles, Hard
Dry Lake, nestled in the shadow of San Gorgonio Mountain, is a beautiful day hike or overnight camping destination. This hiking guide to Dry Lake takes the scenic South Fork Trail, which is well maintained with gradual slopes. And despite being called Dry Lake, it often has water in it, making for a pristine alpine oasis in the mountains of Southern California.
Angelus Oaks, CA - 11.5 miles, Hard
Located just outside of Idyllwild, CA in San Bernardino National Forest, the Black Mountain Trail hike to the fire lookout is a hidden gem. Often overshadowed by hikes like Tahquitz, it offers a healthy mountain climb, great panoramic views, a fire lookout, AND a secret grove of Giant Sequoia trees. You heard that correctly.
Banning, CA - 8 miles, Hard
The Verdugo Mountains, often overshadowed by their bigger neighbors, offer great hiking and trails right in the middle of LA. This hike on the popular Vital Link Trail takes you to the highest point in the range, Verdugo Peak. The Vital Link Trail is a tough one, but you’re rewarded along the way with panoramic views from the ocean to the San Gabriels. And the Burbank trailhead makes it convenient to most of LA.
Burbank, CA - 6 miles, Hard
LA is a dog hiker’s paradise, with tons of great trails open for four-legged hikers. Here are my top 5 best hikes with dogs in Los Angeles, complete with why they are so great. I also have a big list of dozens of dog friendly hikes on my LA hikes page here. As a general rule in LA, federal parks and lands allow dogs, local and county parks allow dogs, but state parks do not.
These 5 great Grand Canyon Hikes for families offer options for all kinds of situations. There are hikes away from the crowds, hikes that take in museums and attractions, and hikes that give a taste of the epic trails without an epic effort. All of these hikes are family-safe and not too tough.
Orange County is home to hundreds of miles of great trails and hikes you can do with dogs. There’s everything from mountains to beaches, and this guide has some dog owner’s favorites. You can see a complete list of all hikes for dogs in Orange County here, but these are the top picks.
The Crystal Cove red route is the toughest hike that the park recommends, calling it “a strenuous loop hike around the permitter of the park.” The hike doesn’t include a big mountain climb, but rather is a series of ups and downs through pristine native coastal scrub, a rarity in Southern California. The red route is well marked and easy to follow, there are bathrooms along the way, and it offers lots of opportunities for wildlife spotting and expansive ocean views.
Laguna Beach, CA - 9.2 miles, Hard
There are big payoffs on the short but steep Top of the World hike in Laguna Beach. You’ll climb through the coastal scrub of Aliso and Wood Canyon Wilderness Park until you reach the panoramic vista at Top of the World. From there, you’ll have views from Catalina Island to Mt Baldy, and there’s even a bench where you can soak it all in.
Laguna Beach, CA - 2.4 miles, Hard
Hidden in the hills high above Laguna Beach, far away from any road, lies the fabled “car wreck,” 1946 Dodge 5-passenger coupe. Visiting the car wreck became so popular that Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park officially made a trail to it in 2013. Today it’s a fun hike, offering not only a cool vintage car wreck but also expansive views from Catalina to Mt Baldy. This guide has a 3.8 mile loop that makes the climbing a little easier, or you can do a shorter hike to the car wreck and back.
Laguna Beach, CA - 3.8 miles, Moderate
The Weir Canyon Loop Trail hike is tucked into Orange County suburbia, but once you step onto the trail, you will feel like you are miles away. This scenic loop trail in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains is packed with scenery. It offers stunning panoramic views reaching to the high mountains, easy to follow trails, winding canyon paths, and lots of wildflower and wildlife viewing. The full hike is 3.8 miles but you can do it with 1.5 or 2.5 mile options too. It’s a great hike for families and those just wanting an outdoor fix without traveling far.
Anaheim, CA - 3.8 miles, Moderate
Planning a hiking trip to Joshua Tree National Park can be intimidating. There are a lot of trails and if you’re not familiar with the area, it can be confusing. This Joshua Tree hiking tips guide will arm you with everything you need to know to get some epic hikes when you’re staying at the park. You can see a list of all the Joshua Tree hike guides here.
Planning a hiking trip to the Grand Canyon can be intimidating. There are a lot of trails and if you’re not familiar with the area, it can be confusing. This Grand Canyon hiking tips guide will arm you with everything you need to know to get some epic hikes when you’re staying at the Grand Canyon. You can see a list of all the Grand Canyon hike guides here.
The Four Mile Trail hike is like a “best of” Yosemite hike. Built in 1872 as a $1 toll road, the Four Mile Trail connects the two most popular spots in the park, the Yosemite Valley and Glacier Point. Along the way up the switchbacks of this engineering marvel, you are rewarded with turn after turn of breathtaking views of the Yosemite Valley. You’ll see El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and everything in between. And if you hike up, you are rewarded with a rest at Glacier Point, probably the most stunning vista in the park.
Yosemite Village, CA - 10 miles, Hard
If you’re not a big hiker but still want to get a taste of what the epic hikes of Yosemite are like, this short, yet specular, hike to Columbia Rock is for you. In just 2 miles (round-trip) you’ll get to hike the iconic switchbacks, up the walls of Yosemite Valley, on a trail built by Yosemite’s master trail-builder, John Conway. And at the top, you reach Columbia Rock, a scenic overlook with sweeping views of Yosemite Valley and Half Dome. The hike is just minutes away from the popular Yosemite Lodge and tourist attractions of the valley.
Yosemite Valley, CA - 2 miles, Moderate
The Upper Yosemite Falls hike is one of the must-do hikes at Yosemite National Park. The trail is an iconic engineering marvel. It’s tough, climbing about 3000 feet in 3 miles, but the incredible scenery makes your heart light even when your legs feel heavy. You’re treated to panoramic views of the Yosemite Valley, Half Dome and the high peaks, and of course, Upper Yosemite Falls. The falls are the tallest waterfall in North America at 2425 feet, and you’ll be able to see it from many angles as you hike to the top. And at the top, you can simply take in the views, or even hike onto a viewing platform carved into the granite wall. Give the hike a go; the memories will stick with you for a lifetime.
Yosemite Valley, CA - 7.2 miles, Hard
As one of the few hikes that are flat in Yosemite, the Mirror Lake Trail takes you on a scenic loop around the popular swimming hole and Tenaya Creek. Mirror Lake is very popular, and you can expect crowds at the beginning of the hike. But after that, you should have most of the trail to yourself as you meander through Tenaya Valley, gazing up at views of Half Dome, North Dome, and Mt Watkins. This guide has a short 2 mile option to Mirror Lake and back, and also a very doable 5 mile loop up peaceful Tenaya Valley.
Yosemite Valley, CA - 5 miles, Easy
Considered the classic Yosemite hike, the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls lives up to its hype. The lower slopes are paved and scenic, but then you cross the Merced River and hike through the mist up 600 granite steps to the 317-foot Vernal Falls (3 miles round-trip). You can then continue to the massive and booming 594-foot Nevada Falls (6 miles round-trip). And for a (highly recommended) loop hike back, follow the famous John Muir Trail down scenic switchbacks where you’ll get great views of Nevada Falls and Liberty Dome.
Yosemite Valley, CA - 6 miles, Hard
Just a mile away from the popular Tunnel View overlook, this hike to Artist Point in Yosemite National Park feels like it’s a world away. Simply a short hike away from the parking area and you leave the crowds behind, get a sample of Yosemite’s famous trails, and then arrive at Artist Point, with incredible views of the Yosemite Valley. And most likely, unlike Tunnel View, you’ll have the spot all to yourself. It’s a great hike for all levels and a great leg stretcher if you’re arriving in the Yosemite Valley.
Yosemite National Park, CA - 2.2 miles, Moderate
Close to civilization but a world away, the short and shady Millard Canyon Falls hike follows a lush riparian habitat to a spectacular waterfall. The hike starts on a gradual downhill offering views into the foothills of Angeles National Forest, then heads through Millard Trail Camp and up through a richly biodiverse area to the fifty-foot waterfall. A shorter option cuts the hike down to about a mile and a half. It’s an excellent hike for families and those wanting a quick outdoor fix without a long trip into the forest.
Altadena, CA - 2.8 miles, Easy
The Batiquitos Lagoon Trail hike is easy and peaceful, offering a great way to experience one of the few remaining tidal wetlands in Southern California. There’s lots of wildlife, a nice mix of sun and shade, and a family and stroller-friendly path that’s great for everyone. The Batiquitos Lagoon Trail is also right off of Interstate 5 in Carlsbad, making it a convenient place to connect with nature amidst interstates, tourist attractions, and other development.
Carlsbad, CA - 3.4 miles, Easy
Backpacking the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) is like a mini thru-hike of Joshua Tree National Park. The CRHT takes you through some of the most remote parts of Joshua Tree, away from the crowds, and does it using gentle trails ideal for backpacking. There are some incredible camping sites with breathtaking views, and the 38 mile distance makes it doable as a 2 or 3 day hike. The only tough part is caching water and arranging a shuttle for the point-to-point route. This guide will tell you everything you need to know for a spectacular time on the California Riding and Hiking Trail.
Yucca Valley, CA - 38 miles, Hard
If you want to dip your toe into desert hiking at Joshua Tree, the hike on the Pine City Trail is a great place to get started. The Pine City Trail is straight and easy to follow, with no climbs. But you hike through some beautiful pinyon pine and Joshua Tree vegetation until you reach Pine City, not much of a city anymore. In fact, the only thing left are two hidden mine shafts. But you do get beautiful sweeping views into Pine City Canyon and onward toward Twentynine Palms in the distance. It’s a great hike for everyone, including families.
Twentynine Palms, CA - 4.2 miles, Easy
As one of the longer recommended day hikes in Joshua Tree National Park, the Boy Scout Trail is a popular hike. Starting at the Keys West Trailhead, you’ll hike across an open desert full of Joshua Trees, then transition into a rocky descent through the Wonderland of Rocks that offers panoramic viewpoints. And then, 1,000 feet lower, the trail makes its way through washes and canyons to Indian Cove. The hike is unusual in that you get a taste of the upper Mojave desert with it’s Joshua Trees, and then lower Mojave desert, with cactus and yucca. Do the out-and-back hike for 16 miles, or just hike to the viewpoint for a respectable 9.5-miler.
Twentynine Palms, CA - 16 miles, Hard
The Desert Queen Mine hike is a cool one; you can actually touch and explore the ruins of a mine that dates back to the 1890s and has a rich story involving cattle rustlers and gunfights of the Old West. And of course, you can enjoy all the natural beauty of Joshua Tree at the same time. If you’re feeling adventurous, I highly recommend the optional extended hike to Eagle Cliff Mine, a remote mine and rock cabin perched above a beautiful overlook.
Twentynine Palms, CA - 1.8 miles, Easy
The Split Rock Trail in Joshua Tree is one of those hikes that packs a lot of scenery into a small package. The hike is just over 2 miles with minor ups and downs, and offers a mini “best-of” scenery tour, with some of the best rock viewing including Face Rock. And unlike the roadside attractions like Jumbo Rock, a small effort to do this hike will mean that you leave the crowds behind. The Split Rock Loop Trail is one of my favorite short hikes here in Joshua Tree. It’s easy, great for beginners, and a feast for the eyes.
Twentynine Palms, CA - 2.5 miles, Easy
This hike on the 49 Palms Oasis Trail takes you to a pristine fan palm oasis, tucked into a hidden desert valley. The trail to 49 Palms Oasis is well-maintained and easy to follow, and along the way, you’ll enjoy some great views as you climb the ridge on the way to the oasis. After 1.5 miles, you reach the grove of towering fan palms, fed by a cool spring that is a favorite watering hole for bighorn sheep. 49 Palms Oasis is a perfect place for a snack and rest as you take in the spectacular scenery.
Twentynine Palms, CA - 3 miles, Moderate
The hike to Willow Hole in Joshua Tree takes you through quintessential desert scenery to a hidden willow grove that has its own microclimate. Willow Hole, a seasonal water source protected by a thicket of Willow trees, is nestled in a small canyon in the Wonderland of Rocks. The hike starts tame, making its way through some popular climbing areas, then it begins to feel like a real adventure, snaking through washes and canyons until you reach Willow Hole. And although the hike is 7 miles, it’s relatively flat and doable by most hikers.
Twentynine Palms, CA - 7 miles, Moderate
The Lost Horse Mine Trail hike offers not only a peaceful trip to a neat mine that’s over 100 years old but also a great deal of natural beauty and diversity. Hiking to just Lost Horse Mine is only 2 miles (4 out and back), but I highly recommend hiking the full Lost Horse Mine Loop Trail, which offers expansive views and over Joshua Tree National Park, more ruins, groves of robust Joshua Trees, and quiet. Either way, you do it, it’s a fun adventure.
Twentynine Palms, CA - 7 miles, Moderate
The Ryan Mountain Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Joshua Tree for a good reason. Ryan Mountain, at 5,457 feet, right in the middle of Joshua Tree, offers panoramic views as far as the eye can see. On a clear day you’ll be able to see the massive peaks of San Jacinto and San Gorgonio, the highest point in Southern California. The actual trail is straightforward but tough, climbing 1,050 feet to the summit of Ryan Mountain. It’s a must-do hike in Joshua Tree, so give it a try!
Twentynine Palms, CA - 3 miles, Moderate
The Temescal Canyon hike, tucked into the hills of LA’s west side in the Pacific Palisades, is one of the great Los Angeles city hikes. The hike starts in serene Temescal Gateway Park, climbs up a shaded oak and sycamore canyon, and then returns along a ridge high above the Pacific Ocean. On a clear day you can see from the San Gabriel Mountains to Catalina. The trail is easy to follow, the route isn’t long, and I highly recommend it.
Pacific Palisades, CA - 3.2 miles, Moderate
Hiking the Lost Palms Oasis Trail in Joshua Tree National Park is a unique experience. The trail is in the southern part of the park, which has more of a Sonoran Desert feel than the majority of hikes in the northern part of the park. You won’t see any Joshua Trees on the Lost Palms Oasis Trail, but you will see the park’s largest grove of California fan palm trees, tucked into a hidden canyon. There are no big climbs as you make your way over the ridges and washes through the desert. It’s a fun desert hike that’s worth your time.
Twentynine Palms, CA - 7.4 miles, Moderate
A hike on the Mastodon Peak Trail loop is a fun way to explore the rugged southern part of Joshua Tree National Park without a huge effort. You’ll hike on sandy trails that are more Sonoran than most trails in Joshua Tree, then hike up stairs carved in the stone to the base of Mastodon Peak. It’s an easy scramble to the top of Mastodon Peak where you are treated to panoramic views of the desert and mountains. After that, the hike passes the abandoned Mastodon Mine on a long easy downhill back to the finish.
Twentynine Palms, CA - 2.6 miles, Moderate
The 2.5-mile hike to Taft Point Overlook and the Fissures offers a lot of incredible scenery away from the crowds, all for a small effort. After hiking through lush forest, you arrive at the fissures; massive gashes cut into the granite cliffs. And from there, it’s a short walk to Taft Point, which offers sweeping views into the Yosemite Valley. The hike is downhill to Taft Point, and then has a mild uphill back to the start on Glacier Point Road. Do yourself a favor, get away from the crowds along the road and enjoy the pristine wilderness on this hike. You won’t be disappointed.
Yosemite National Park, CA - 2.5 miles, Easy
Nestled in the southern, less-visited part of Yosemite National Park, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias hike takes you on a tour through a grove of 500 mature Giant Sequoia trees, including some that are 2,000 years old. The Mariposa Grove was first protected by Abraham Lincoln in 1864, added as a National Park in 1906, and in 2019 reopened after an extensive restoration. The 7 mile Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias Trail hits all of the major attractions in the grove. It’s got a little bit of uphill, but in general, is pretty easy and offers great scenery for the effort.
Yosemite National Park, CA - 7 miles, Moderate
The Sentinal Dome hike offers everything that’s great about Yosemite National Park in an easy 2.2-mile package. You get to hike on the iconic trails of the Sierras, you get to climb a big granite dome, and you get the best panoramic views of all the attractions in the park. Even if you’re not an experienced hiker, you need to put this trail on your list, it’s worth it.
Yosemite National Park, CA - 2.2 miles, Moderate
For a quick mountain fix without driving into the mountains, try the Potato Mountain hike, right at the beginning of Angeles National Forest. It’s a moderate climb through some beautiful oak forests. The hike ends at the Potato Mountain summit, which offers views of the high peaks in Angeles NF, including Mt Baldy. And of course, there are the potatoes that everyone decorates and brings to the summit. It’s a fun hike that especially great for beginners who want to train or get a taste for the bigger mountain peaks.
Claremont, CA - 4.5 miles, Moderate
The Etiwanda Falls Trail hike feels like you’re a world away from the nearby LA suburbs. Starting in North Etiwanda Preserve, you gently hike up through the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, with glimpses of the prominent mountain peaks along the way. After a short 1.6 miles, you’ll reach Etiwanda Falls, tucked into a shady canyon. The trail is easy to follow, the workout is good, and the scenery is beautiful.
Rancho Cucamonga, CA - 3.5 miles, Moderate
The Lake Hollywood Reservoir hike feels more like a stroll around a mountain lake than a hike in the middle of Hollywood. Just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the city, this quiet lakeside hike is easy, serene, full of wildlife, and of course, offers great views of the iconic Hollywood Sign. It’s a great hike for beginners, those wanting to see the Hollywood Sign, or anyone wanting some peace and quiet from the city.
Los Angeles, CA - 3.5 miles, Easy
The Wisdom Tree hike, one of the most popular in Los Angeles, offers a lot of bang for your hiking buck, right in the middle of Hollywood. The Wisdom Tree, the only tree to survive the 2007 Barham fire and a source of inspiration thousands, sits atop Burbank Peak, the highest peak at the end of Griffith Park. From the top you’ll be able to soak in not only the good vibes of the Wisdom Tree but also sweeping views of LA and the mountains surrounding it. The hike is short but steep and is doable by most everyone.
Los Angeles, CA - 1.8 miles, Moderate
Located far away from the South Rim crowds, this hike on the Hermit Trail to Dripping Springs is one of the great Grand Canyon hiking adventures. The Hermit Trail is an engineering marvel, once paved with sandstone slabs when it was built in 1911 for tourists. At the end of the hike you reach a unique hanging garden spring, tucked into a remote corner of the Canyon. It’s not a very long hike but it’s challenging, with steep climbs and narrow sections.
Grand Canyon Village, AZ - 6.8 miles, Hard
The Rim Trail from Bright Angel to Hermit’s Rest hike is one of the best-kept secrets on the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. The well-maintained and easy to follow Rim Trail winds along the western section of the South Rim, stopping at every marked vista point and making it’s way past dozens of others that aren’t on the map. The hike is flat, away from the crowds, and away from the cars (the road next to it is only open to shuttle buses). And if you get tired at any point, you can just hop on the shuttle bus. If you want to do a Grand Canyon hike that doesn’t include hardcore hiking down into the canyon, but do want a peaceful and spectacular experience on the trail, this hike is for you.
Grand Canyon Village, AZ - 8.6 miles, Moderate
Instead of driving to the attractions on the South Rim, here’s a great easy hike that you can do instead. You’ll follow the paved Rim Trail away from the crowds at the Visitor’s Center to take in Mather Point, the Geology Museum, the Trail of Time, Verkamp’s, Hopi House, and all the Bright Angel attractions. In between the sights, the Rim Trail meanders along the South Rim, with dozens of unique vistas and viewpoints where you can take in the majesty of the Canyon. At the end of the hike, you hop on a free shuttle bus back to your car at the Visitor’s Center.
Grand Canyon Village, AZ - 3 miles, Easy
Hiking in the Grand Canyon doesn’t have to be a leg-busting trek to the bottom. There’s a beautiful trail called the (South) Rim Trail that allows you to walk along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It’s a wide, easy, and flat trail where you can enjoy the views without breaking a sweat. This Rim Trail hike starts right at the Visitor’s Center and takes you eastward to the legendary South Kaibab Trailhead. You’ll be rewarded with dozens of vista points that don’t have the crowds. At the end, you can hop on a free shuttle bus back to the Visitor’s Center.
Grand Canyon Village, AZ - 2.8 miles, Easy
Hidden just a mile off the South Rim road, this easy hike to Shoshone Point is worth your while. The Shoshone Point Trail is a beautiful walk through a Ponderosa Pine forest to a serene picnic spot, and then to a hidden rock formation and Shoshone Point. If you want to get away from the crowds of tourists stopping at the roadside attractions, this short hike is for you.
Grand Canyon Village, AZ - 2.2 miles, Easy
The Ooh Ahh Point hike is a great beginner’s hike that lets you get away from the South Rim and spend some time on the trail. Each step of the hike offers breathtaking views, culminating at Ooh Ahh Point where you get to see panoramas, including the little-visited eastern Grand Canyon. The trail is safe and easy to follow, so if you were thinking of trying a Grand Canyon trail out, this one is for you.
Grand Canyon Village, AZ - 1.8 miles, Moderate
The South Kaibab Trail to Cedar Ridge offers all levels of hikers a safe and breathtaking walk into the Grand Canyon. The trail is wide and well maintained, it’s only 1.5 miles each way, and the climb out is tough but doable by those with a basic level of fitness. Once at Cedar Point, you’ll be rewarded with expansive 360 views from within the Grand Canyon. This day hike, recommended by the Parks Service, is a great way for beginning hikers to hit the trail while at the South Rim.
Grand Canyon Village, AZ - 3 miles, Moderate
The hike on the South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point is one of the quintessential day hikes in the Grand Canyon South Rim. It offers incredible iconic views, a twisting (and well maintained) trail winding around and over natural features, and views of the Colorado River. This day hike, recommended by the Parks Service, is a must-do if you’re looking to hike the South Rim.
Grand Canyon Village, AZ - 6 miles, Hard
Easily the toughest and most rugged of the Grand Canyon Park Service’s recommended day hikes, the Grandview Trail to Horseshoe Mesa is not for the faint of heart. The trail was built in 1893 by miners, and after a few minutes on the Grandview, you’ll realize that people were a lot tougher back then. The route is an engineering marvel, with steep cobbled sections and wood cribs hugging the cliffside that lead down to an abandoned mine site at Horseshoe Mesa. This day hike offers expansive views, natural beauty, and a break from the Grand Canyon crowds.
Grand Canyon Village, AZ - 6 miles, Hard
If you’re not a big hiker but want to “dip your toe” into the Grand Canyon, the short but beautiful hike to 1.5 Mile Resthouse on the Bright Angel Trail is for you. The trail is considered the Grand Canyon’s premier hiking trail; it’s very well maintained, safe, and spectacularly beautiful. You’ll hike down into the Grand Canyon, experiencing all the wonders it has to offer without any hardships aside from the short climb back up. The trail has water stations and bathrooms, making it very beginner-friendly.
Grand Canyon Village, AZ - 3 miles, Moderate
If you’ve got a decent level of fitness and want to experience the Grand Canyon, the hike to 3 Mile Resthouse on the Bright Angel Trail is for you. The trail is considered the Grand Canyon’s premier hiking trail; it’s very well maintained, safe, and spectacularly beautiful. You’ll hike down into the Grand Canyon, experiencing all the wonders it has to offer without any hardships aside from the climb back up. The trail has water stations and bathrooms, making it very beginner-friendly.
Grand Canyon Village, AZ - 6 miles, Hard
If you had to pick a “must-do” hike in the Grand Canyon, hiking to Indian Garden on the Bright Angel Trail is the one. The trail is considered the Grand Canyon’s premier hiking trail; it’s very well maintained, safe, and spectacularly beautiful. You’ll hike down into the Grand Canyon, experiencing all the wonders it has to offer without any hardships aside from the climb back up. The trail has water stations and bathrooms, making it very beginner-friendly. And Indian Garden is an oasis in the depths of the Grand Canyon where you can relax in the shade, talk to a ranger, and have a picnic.
Grand Canyon Village, AZ - 9 miles, Hard
The Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point hike takes you on the Grand Canyon’s most popular hiking trail to the peaceful and scenic Plateau Point, offering stunning views of the Colorado River. It’s a tough hike, but the Bright Angel Trail is the safest and most well-maintained trail in the park. Regular water stations, park rangers, and shelters make this hike manageable without being a desert expedition. This guide arms you with everything you need to know to hike to Plateau Point successfully.
Grand Canyon Village, AZ - 12.5 miles, Hard
The 13.5 mile Oak Grove Trail to High Point hike starts in historic Warner Springs and gently makes it’s way up to one of the only active fire towers in San Diego County, which also happens to be the tallest fire tower in California. On the way you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of San Diego County and the high mountains of Southern California. The hike is not too technical and includes fire roads, but it is still a decent challenge with a fair amount of climbing.
Warner Springs, CA - 13.5 miles, Hard
The Cottonwood Lakes hike probably gives you the most bang-for-your-buck in the Eastern Sierra. The hike starts from the Cottonwood Lakes Campground, already at 10,000 feet, so your car does most of the legwork to get you to altitude. From there, the Cottonwood Lakes Trail gently makes its way through pristine alpine terrain to a series of several crystal-clear alpine lakes, all in the shadow of the high Sierra peaks like Mt Langley. Every step of this must-do hike is spectacular, so give it a try.
Lone Pine, CA - 13 miles, Moderate
Tucked into Angeles National Forest away from the crowds, this loop hike to Mt Islip from Crystal Lake offers a little bit of everything in a very doable package. Starting at one of the only natural lakes in Angeles National Forest, Crystal Lake, the hike follows well-marked trails, offers spectacular views, and summits Mt Islip at 8,250 ft. After soaking in the sweeping views from Catalina to the Mojave, you have a long, gradual downhill cruise back to the Crystal Lake Recreation Area.
Azuza, CA - 10.5 miles, Hard
Stretching 28.8 miles through the heart of Angeles National Forest, the Gabrielino Trail covers not only some of the most popular areas, but also some of the most remote. And not only is it a beautiful hike, but it’s also got historical significance. The Gabrielino Trail was chosen as the nation’s first National Recreation Trail (NRT) in 1970 because it “represents its region, supports a diverse community, and is among Americas best trails.” Some sections of the Gabrielino Trail were in sad shape (and impassable) until August 2018 when local mountain bikers led a restoration effort that reopened this iconic trail once again. Today you can enjoy the Gabrielino Trail as a backpacking trip or an ambitious day hike. Keep reading for all the details.
Arcadia, CA - 28.8 miles, Hard
For a taste of the big mountains around Mt Whitney without the massive effort or hard-to-get permit, try the very doable Lone Pine Lake hike which follows the Mt Whitney Trail. It’s a moderate effort but very doable by most people as a half-day adventure. When you finish the climb to Lone Pine Lake, you’re rewarded with a pristine mountain lake, a scenic picnic area, and a backdrop of the high peaks in the Eastern Sierra.
Lone Pine, CA - 5.6 miles, Moderate
Tucked into the foothills around Idyllwild, the Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail offers backcountry beauty without heading into the big mountains. This family-friendly hike is easy to follow, has a gentle climb, and offers lots of shade. Even though you’re right next to a residential area, you’ll feel like you’re miles away as you hike through the forest.
Idyllwild, CA - 5.2 miles, Easy
Get away from the crowds on this San Bernardino East Peak hike that climbs up the Forsee Creek Trail, meanders along the breathtaking Bernardino Peak Divide Trail, then heads back to the start on the primitive and secluded John’s Meadow Trail. It’s a tough hike with a fair amount of climbing, but the scenery and ruggedness of the San Gorgonio Wilderness make it well worth it. I usually do this as a loop hike in a day, but there are several camping options if you want to make it an overnighter.
Angelus Oaks, CA - 18 miles, Hard
A hike to Mt Waterman and the Twin Peaks offers rugged and remote beauty, well-groomed trails, panoramic views of the major summits in Angeles National Forest, and an absence of major crowds. This guide shows you how to do the popular 11.5 mile “reverse lollipop” route to Twin Peaks and then back over Mt Waterman, but you can also just do a shorter 5.5 mile hike to Mt Waterman and get a taste of the beauty of the area. If you have the time, I highly recommend the longer hike. It’s a bit of a workout with a lot of up-and-down, but the summit of Twin Peak East is a great one.
Pearblossom, CA - 11.5 miles, Hard
The Tahquitz Peak via Devil’s Slide Trail hike is one of the most popular hikes in the San Jacinto area for a reason. The scenery and views are incredible, the trails are in excellent condition and are well-marked, and the summit includes a visit to the highest fire lookout in San Bernardino National Forest at 8,846 feet. Because of its popularity, there are times when you need to apply for a permit and other times that you don’t. I’ll explain it all in the guide.
Idyllwild, CA - 8.5 miles, Hard
The Switzer Falls hike is so much more than just a waterfall. In about 2 miles the trail to Switzer Falls takes you along a babbling brook, through historic ruins, on the side of a spectacular gorge, and then finally, to a pristine waterfall. Although I’ve listed the Switzer Falls hike as moderate because there’s a bit of climbing, overall it’s a very doable hike that offers many rewards for a small effort. It’s also a popular hike so it’s best done very early before the crowds show up.
Altadena, CA - 4 miles, Moderate
This Strawberry Peak hike offers a ton of great scenery in a relatively short distance. You wind around a ridge on Mt Lawlor with spectacular views, then do a short but tough climb to Strawberry Peak, the highest point in the front range of the San Gabriels at 6,164ft. You’ll earn great views of LA, Mt Wilson, and Mt Baldy. It’s a fun hike on its own, but even more attractive if you want to get a mountain climb in to build confidence for the higher peaks in the area.
Azusa, CA - 7.2 miles, Moderate
Unlike the route from Bowen Ranch, this Deep Creek Hot Springs hike takes you on the free and less-traveled Bradford Ridge Path to the popular hot springs. The hike along the Bradford Ridge Path is a treat in itself, winding its way along lush valleys tucked into the pristine wilderness of San Bernardino National Forest until it joins the PCT, where you hike above Deep Creek. And then, of course, you arrive Deep Creek Hot Springs, a series of jacuzzi-temperature pools next to the river. The scene at Deep Creek Hot Springs can be interesting, to say the least, but plan your trip right and you can enjoy a beautiful hike and a nice soak without any craziness.
Lake Arrowhead, CA - 5.6 miles, Moderate
Feeling more like Joshua Tree than Lake Arrowhead, this short but tough hike to the summit of The Pinnacles rewards you with a stone perch where you can soak in 360-degree views from the mountains to the Mojave. The hike ascends through a granite boulder field to a small plateau, then after a last mild scramble to the boulder-pile summit, you reach The Pinnacles peak. It’s a fun hike that’s a bit off the beaten path; don’t be surprised if you have the whole place to yourself.
Hesperia, CA - 4 miles, Moderate
With great opportunities for wildlife spotting, this easy Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve hike takes you on a scenic loop through the 1,300+ acres of protected wetlands just minutes from the Huntington Beach. The scenery includes seabird nesting islands, fresh and saltwater marsh, mudflats, active riparian river banks, and water. Over 200 species of birds have been spotted here, and it’s a popular stopover on bird migration routes. The hike is great for families with opportunities to shorten the route if 4.5 miles is too long.
Huntington Beach, CA - 4.5 miles, Easy
The Mt Wilson Trail is the oldest route to the summit to Mt Wilson. Unlike the popular route to Mt Wilson from Chantry Flat, the Mt Wilson Trail is mellow and lacks the crowds and kids looking for the waterfall. The Mt Wilson Trail offers beautiful views as it ascends the side of Little Santa Anita Canyon, and being the oldest trail, offers some historical landmarks as well. If you’ve only hiked Mt Wilson from Chantry Flat, I highly recommend giving this route a try too.
Sierra Madre, CA - 14.5 miles, Hard
The unique geology on the Devil’s Chair hike make it one of the most beautiful hikes in the area. The hike is in Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area, which is a transition zone between the Mojave Desert and San Gabriel Mountains. It’s also on the San Andreas and Punchbowl Faults And this easy/moderate hike ends on a dramatic rock perch called the Devil’s Chair, offering spectacular views of the colorful geology and fauna around you.
Pearblossom, CA - 7.5 miles, Moderate
The Mt Charleston Peak hike takes you to the highest point around Las Vegas, at 11,916 feet. This guide to Charleston Peak follows the South Loop Trail, a tough 8.5-mile climb with half the hike done above 10,000 feet in an alpine wonderland. It’s got scenery that rivals any National Park, and it’s all under an hour from the Las Vegas Strip. This underrated hike needs to be on your bucket list; it’s one of my favorites.
Mt Charleston, NV - 17.5 miles, Very Hard
The Fletcher Canyon Trail is a beautiful hike nestled in the Mt. Charleston Wilderness Area, within an hour of the Las Vegas Strip. The hike is a gradual uphill through a pine forest along a (mainly dormant) stream and ends in Fletcher Canyon, a beautiful slot canyon with 200 feet walls, water-polished rocks, and great views of Mummy Mountain. The hike is uphill but relatively easy, and is good for all levels of hikers and families too.
Mt Charleston, NV - 3.4 miles, Easy
Quail Hill Trail is a 2-mile loop hike that offers expansive views goes through the Irvine Open Space Preserve, designated a Natural Landmark by both the State of California and the U.S. Department of the Interior. The family and beginner-friendly hike goes along the easy to follow Quail Hill Loop Trail, offers parking and bathrooms, interpretive displays, and wildlife viewing opportunities, all within minutes of suburban Irvine, CA.
Irvine, CA - 2 miles, Easy
Tucked into the suburban sprawl of Los Angeles, the Marshall Canyon Trail hike offers a shaded oasis along Marshall Creek. The hike climbs into the foothills Marshall Canyon Regional Park, does a lollipop-loop with great views, and then descends back along Marshall Creek. This hike offers a little bit of everything: moderate distance, reasonable climbing, and lots of scenery. Keep your eyes open for deer and wildlife that are using the creek to hydrate. This route takes you about 10.5 miles, but there are opportunities to cut the distance and climbing down with a simple out-back turnaround. It’s a great trail for beginners looking to get some distance in without super-tough conditions, and also a great options for experienced hikers who want a change of scenery.
La Verne, CA - 10.5 miles, Moderate
The hike to Big Horn Mine is a fun and relatively easy way to enjoy the breathtaking scenery of Angeles National Forest without a major effort. The trail to Big Horn Mine winds it’s way along the side of a mountain, eventually arriving at the abandoned mine, where you can explore a historic structure from 1895 and grab some iconic photos (with Mt Baldy in the background).
Valyermo, CA - 4 miles, Easy
The hike to Mt Lukens, the highest point in the city of LA at 5,066 feet, is a fun one that doesn’t get as much traffic as other more popular Southern California hikes. It’s a tough 10 mile loop with almost 3,000 feet of total ascent, and you’re rewarded with great views and pristine wilderness, all within the city of LA.
La Crescenta, CA - 10 miles, Hard
I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of the Potato Chip Rock hike, even if you’re not familiar with it. Potato Chip Rock is the iconic rock formation in San Diego County where everyone grabs a photo of themselves perched out on the rock, over the oblivion. The hike to the rock and summit of Mt Woodson is a fun one, with a few options to get to the top. It’s a hard hike because of the uphill, but otherwise well-marked and easy to do. It gets crowded so plan your trip accordingly (keep reading!).
Poway, CA - 7.5 miles, Hard
This “best of” Crystal Cove hike takes you on a loop trail offering pristine coastal nature, ocean views, and well marked trails. You’ll take in the endangered native coastal sage scrub plant wilderness, which is how the area looked before it was developed, and then hike to heights where you’ll be able to see from the San Gabriel Mountains to Catalina. This hike is one of my favorites.
Laguna Beach, CA - 9 miles, Moderate
The 6 hour, 10.5 mile Bridge to Nowhere hike in the San Gabriel Mountains is one those hikes that you have to do at least once in your life. As the name suggests, you hike along the San Gabriel River in the beautiful Sheep Mountain Wilderness for about 5 miles, and then, out of nowhere, there’s a huge, 120-foot high bridge! The hike is fun, especially on a hot summer day, because there are plenty of stream crossings and water holes to cool off in. It’s a classic Southern California hike that every local knows about, so give it a try.
La Verne, CA - 10.5 miles, Moderate
Nestled in the community of Newport Beach, the Bluff and Bay Trail Loop in Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve offers great views of Upper Newport Bay and world-class wildlife spotting. The Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve is home to some 200 bird species, including some endangered species, making it a top bird watching destination in the USA.
Newport Beach, CA - 3 miles, Easy
The Calico Tanks Trail hike is one of the most popular in Red Rock Canyon. The scenery is spectacular–red, orange, and yellow sandstone formations with mountains towering above you. At the end of the hike is a watering hole (the Calico Tank) that has views of Las Vegas. It’s challenging without being too hard, suitable for all skill levels. It’s a great change of pace from the Las Vegas strip.
Las Vegas, NV - 2.3 miles, Moderate
The First Creek Canyon Trail hike brings you up along First Creek, through heavily vegetated Mojave Desert scrub, with striking cliffs as a backdrop, and offers a side trip to a hidden waterfall and plunge pool. I often recommend this hike for those looking for a pleasant hike that doesn’t involve too much effort. The First Creek Canyon Trail hike is in Red Rock Canyon park, but outside of the fee area and 13-mile loop drive, so it’s free and easy to get to.
Las Vegas, NV - 2.1 miles, Easy
The Lone Mountain Trail takes you to an isolated, rocky peak that offers great views of Las Vegas and the surrounding mountain ranges, including a peak at Mt Charleston. The hike is only minutes from downtown Las Vegas and is a popular workout spot for locals. There are a few trail options up Lone Mountain. This guide takes you up the main Lone Mountain Trail, a safe but tough little hike. Lone Mountain Trail is a great place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas.
Las Vegas, NV - 1.2 miles, Moderate
One of the best hikes in Red Rock Canyon, the Turtlehead Peak hike is tough but rewards you with sweeping 360 views of Las Vegas and the surrounding La Madre mountains. The trail to Turtlehead Peak the shortest peak hike in Red Rock Canyon park, so be prepared for a workout and some crowds. It’s worth it, the views are incredible.
Las Vegas, NV - 5 miles, Hard
The short, easy, and fun Fossil Falls hike brings you through a volcanic landscape to a 20,000 year old smooth, water-polished waterfall. The actual water disappeared 10,000 years ago when the Owens River took another path, leaving a geological wonderland for you to checkout. The landscape is beautiful and unique, and is well worth a stop to stretch your legs.
Olancha, CA - 0.5 miles, Easy
The easy Hagen Canyon Trail hike takes you through a colorful geographic landscape that was once all underwater. The colorful layers are sediment washed down from the old Sierra Mountains. Over the last 10 million years plate tectonic movement and erosion have formed what you see today. At one point it was a tourist attraction run by the Hagen family, today it’s a state park. The hike is short and shouldn’t take you more than an hour.
Cantil, CA - 1.2 miles, Easy
The Red Cliffs Trail is an easy 1 mile loop hike in a unique Mojave Desert landscape. You’ll pass the namesake Red Cliffs, rock formations of eroded sandstone, mudstone, and volcanic rock, thrusted up above the desert floor by faulting. It’s also been the backdrop of many movies and television shows. The Red Cliffs Trail is a great place to stretch your legs if you’re traveling between LA and the Eastern Sierra or Death Valley.
Cantil, CA - 0.9 miles, Easy
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Hike to Mt San Jacinto is a great way to bag Southern California’s second highest peak without putting in a huge effort. It’s still a tough 11 mile hike, but it’s nothing like climbing to Mt San Jacinto from Palm Springs or Idyllwild. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway cuts about 6,000 feet of climbing off the hike, and offers a nice base station where you can grab a snack after your successful summit. The summit of Mt San Jacinto is one of my favorites because it straddles the line between Coastal California and the Sonoran Desert, allowing you to see the transition between the two. On a clear day you’ll see from the Pacific Ocean to Mount Charleston in Las Vegas. A really fun and insanely beautiful hike.
Palm Springs, CA - 11 miles, Hard
If you’re in Lone Pine, CA, don’t miss the Mobius Arch Loop Trail in the Alabama Hills Recreation Area. It’s an easy hike that has one of the best photo opportunities in the Eastern Sierras. You’ll be able to perfectly frame Mt Whitney and the Sierras within a natural rock arch formation. And there’s more than just Mobius Arch, Alabama Hills Recreation Area is full of natural beauty and unique rock formations. You might even recognize some of the spots in Alabama Hills from Django Unchained, Gladiator and Iron Man.
Lone Pine, CA - 0.6 miles, Easy
This Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest hike takes you through awe-inspiring groves of the oldest trees in the world, the Ancient Bristlecone Pines. This trail will take you past living trees that are up to 5000 years old, shaped and gnarled by thousands of years of wind coming off of the Sierras and Nevada Basin, which you will also get incredible views of. This hike is relatively easy, on a well marked trail, and includes a very cool visitor center and interpretive info along the route.
Bishop, CA - 4.4 miles, Moderate
Hiking on Catalina Island offers some beautiful options, but I think the hike to and overnight at Parsons Landing campsite is the best. Parsons Landing campsite sits on a secluded beach, with the sounds of the waves as your camping soundtrack. There are only 8 campsites, the hike is not too tough, and the scenery is breathtaking. Do it. Do it. Do it.
Avalon, CA - 15.2 miles, Easy
The Indian Truck Trail offers an alternate way to hike Santiago Peak (Saddleback Mountain). It’s not a rustic single-track trail like the Santiago Peak hike from Lower Holy Jim Trail, but instead includes some wider Forest Service dirt roads (Indian Truck Trail is also known as forest road 5S01). You might see a few 4x4s or mountain bikes, but otherwise it’s very mellow. It’s a beautiful hike, so don’t let this stop you.
Corona, CA - 21 miles, Hard
Hiking the Black Star Canyon trail is a local favorite for a reason. The trail follows Black Star Creek to Black Star Canyon Falls, and there’s a haunted history to ponder as you hike through this beautiful part of Black Star Canyon Wilderness Park. Hiking on the Black Star Canyon Trail can be a challenge, especially when it’s wet. This guide has everything you need to navigate the hike safely and get to the falls.
Silverado, CA - 7.1 miles, Moderate
The Bedford Peak hike in Orange County is a tough one with big payoffs. Bedford Peak trail climbs about 2000 feet in 3 miles, and your reward is great views of Mt Baldy, Saddleback Mountain, and Catalina. It’s a fun, under-rated hike that I recommend.
Silverado, CA - 7.2 miles, Hard
The hike to Pumpkin Rock is one of those things you just have to do at least once. It’s obviously a great Halloween hike, and there are lots of photo opportunities. The hike is easy but the trails to Pumpkin Rock can be confusing — this guide gives you the main route up, complete with parking and bathrooms.
Norco, CA - 1.2 miles, Easy
The White Mountain Peak hike brings you to the third highest peak in California, only a few hundred feet lower than Mt Whitney, and the highest outside peak of the Sierra Nevada. The hike is tough, but doable, and meanders through the White Mountains Wilderness section of Inyo National Forest: a rugged a beautiful mountain desert, tucked into the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada. The summit of White Mountain Peak offers great 360 views from the Eastern Sierras to Nevada.
Bishop, CA - 15 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 Cactus to Clouds hike is epic. It was rated one of the hardest day hikes in the world by Backpack Magazine. You start in downtown Palm Springs and climb over 10,000 feet to the summit of Mt San Jacinto, with a large stretch on the treacherous Skyline Trail. The Cactus to Clouds hike should only be attempted by the very experienced and very fit hiker, and only under the right conditions. This guide gives you all the info you need to do this incredible hike safely.
Palm Springs, CA - 21 miles, Very Hard
This easy hike along the Delaware Canal State Park is full of beauty and history. While this towpath hike isn’t short, it’s dead flat and very easy. As long as you can walk for 2-3 hours, you should be fine. If you want to break the hike in half and have lunch, Stockton, NJ, at the mid-point of the hike, is a great option. Shaded paths, river views, and peace and quiet are the hallmarks of this hike, suitable for all levels of hiker.
New Hope, PA - 7.2 miles, Easy
This unique hike to the Lambertville wing dam brings you to a stone wing dam that extends into the middle of the Delaware River, offering great views of the river, New Hope, and Lambertville. The hike follows the historic Delaware and Raritan Canal, a converted Rails to Trails area. The hike is an easy walk from Lambertville or New Hope, and highly recommended. It’s a local’s favorite.
Lambertville, NJ - 1.6 miles, Easy
Everyone hikes Mt Baldy from Manker Flats, but have you done it on the Bear Canyon Trail? Also known as Old Mt Baldy Trail, this hike leaves from Mt Baldy Village on it’s way to the summit. Unlike the main hike up Mt Baldy (via Baldy Notch), the Bear Canyon Trail is usually not as crowded. That’s because it’s harder. It climbs 5740 feet in 6 miles. There are sections that are very steep. It’d doable with a decent level of fitness. This hike is a good choice for those who have hiked Mt Baldy from Manker Flats and now want to do it again, without all the hub-bub.
Mt Baldy, CA - 13 miles, Very Hard
The Goat Hill Overlook hike is short, easy, and takes you to a lookout where George Washington once stood to survey the land around New Hope and Lambertville. Actually, Goat Hill Overlook was used by both George Washington and British General Charles Cornwallis to view opposing forces up and down the Delaware River. Goat Hill is also known as Washington’s Rock.
Lambertville, NJ - 1 miles, Easy
This hike from Stockton, NJ to Bulls Island State Park takes you on a loop through NJ and PA along the Delaware River Trail, following a historic rail line and offering great river and wildlife views. Don’t let the length put you off, it’s very flat and a great hike for beginners. And you can do it on a bike too if you prefer.
Stockton, NJ - 7.5 miles, Easy
The Three T’s Trail hike is one of the more peaceful hikes in the Mt Baldy area. This loop hike starts at Icehouse Canyon, climbs to Icehouse Saddle, then hits Timber Mountain (elevation 8,303ft), Telegraph Peak (elevation 8,985ft), and Thunder Mountain (elevation 8,587ft), and then descends down to Baldy Notch, Manker Flats, and back to Icehouse Canyon. It’s a long hike, but a favorite for those avoiding crowds.
Mt Baldy, CA - 16 miles, Hard
This is a a fun hike to San Juan Hot Springs, which is located in Caspers Wilderness Park, a lightly-visited, 8,000 acre, protected wilderness preserve in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains. The San Juan Hot Springs were first opened in the late 1800s as a full blown resort, complete with cabins, soaking tubs, and pools. Over the years they’ve closed and opened again, with the latest version being closed down in 1992. Today you can hike to San Juan Hot Springs, but whether you can go in them is up for debate (see the article for more). This hike to the hot springs can be done as an 10.5 mile out-and-back trip, or you can do a longer 14 mile loop that circles through the ridges in Caspers Wilderness Park, offering incredible views.
San Juan Capistrano, CA - 10.5 miles, Moderate
This easy hike takes you to Bowman’s Tower, through Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, and then ends at historic soldier graves from 1776 at Washington Crossing State Park. It’s a great hike with tons to see in a short distance.
New Hope, PA - 3 miles, Easy
The High Rocks hike at Ralph Stover State Park is a local’s favorite. The High Rocks trail follows along a (fenced) 200 foot sheer rock face cliff overlooking Tohickon Creek, eventually reaching the creek itself. As you hike along High Rocks, you might notice ropes leading off the cliff edge, it’s a popular spot for climbers. And as you look down into Tohickon Creek (Lenape for “Deer-Bone-Creek”), keep your eyes open for whitewater kayakers. It’ss a popular whitewater kayaking spot when spring rains flood it. Occasionally they release water from Lake Nockamixon, another popular time for kayakers. It’s a fun hike on many levels, and offers that quintessential Bucks County scenery that people drive miles for.
Plumstead Township, PA - 2.7 miles, Easy
The Sitton Peak hike offers great 360 views of the Santa Ana Mountains, San Diego County, Orange County, and Catalina on a clear day. Sitton Peak (3,273ft) is one of the high peaks in the southern part of Cleveland National Forest, and this hike is much easier than the hike to Saddleback Mountain, with views that are comparable. The trail has some flat sections to catch your breath, making it a great hike for beginners.
Trabuco Canyon, CA - 9.2 miles, Moderate
The Cowles Mountain hike brings you to the highest point in San Diego at 1,593ft, with views from Mexico to Orange County. Cowles Mountain is also one of the most popular hikes in San Diego, so I’ve routed this hike up the less trafficked and more scenic “back way” up the mountain. It’s a fun, safe beginner hike, and a must-do if you’re in San Diego.
Santee, CA - 5 miles, Moderate
The Stonewall Peak Trail hike is the most popular hike in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park for good reason. It’s not too tough, offers great 360 views from Cuyamaca Rancho State Park to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and has a unique bald rock face summit. Give the hike a try, you won’t be disappointed. Stonewall Peak, at 5730ft high, is also right next to the 2nd highest peak in San Diego County, Cuyamaca Peak, and both can be hiked in a day. Break your hikes up with a picnic in Paso Picacho Campground.
Julian, CA - 5.4 miles, Easy
The hike to Cuyamaca Peak brings you to San Diego County’s second highest point at 6,512 feet. It’s only 20 feet lower than the highest peak, but much easier to hike. On a clear day, you can see for 100 miles from the summit, including the Coronado Islands and Table Top Mountain in Mexico. Even though the hike goes to a high point, it’s not a tough backcountry expedition, but rather a a great hike for a beginner – no tricky twists and turns.
Julian, CA - 6 miles, Moderate
The San Bernardino Peak (10,649 feet) hike is tough but rewarding. The San Bernardino Mountains were named after San Bernardino Peak, which was named by one of the pioneer friars in California, Francisco Dumetz in 1835. I like this hike a lot. The crowds are light, the fauna is beautiful, and it offers sweeping views of Mt Baldy, Mt San Jacinto, San Gorgonio, Big Bear Lake, and the Inland Empire.Planning for the San Bernardino Peak Hike
Angelus Oaks, CA - 16 miles, Hard
If you want a great Angeles National Forest mountain hike without the crowds, hike Ontario Peak (8,696 ft) and Bighorn Peak. The hike begins on the popular Icehouse Canyon trail but soon moves off to the much less traveled Ontario Peak Trail, where you might see more bighorn sheep than people. The Ontario Peak Trail roughly follows a ridge line, offering great views culminating in the “rock nest” summit of Ontario Peak. There’s also a short spur trip to Bighorn Peak, because, why not? This is a tough hike but worth the effort–one of my favorites.
Mt Baldy, CA - 14.7 miles, Hard
Offering one of the coolest summits in the San Gabriel Mountains, the hike to Cucamonga Peak very popular. Cucamonga Peak, at 8,862 feet, has spectacular views from SoCal’s high peaks to the urban development below. The hike up to the peak is tough but not brutal, the scenery and views are spectacular, and the summit area is a lot of fun. You might even see some bighorn sheep along the way.
Mt Baldy, CA - 12 miles, Hard
The Modjeska Peak hike is challenging – long, steep, and sometimes primitive. The hike climbs to the second highest point in Orange County, Modjeska Peak. Modjeska Peak, at 5,499 feet, is the lower peak in Saddleback Mountain. The highest peak (and other peak in Saddleback Mountain) is Santiago Peak. The actual summit is undeveloped and much nicer than nearby Santiago Peak. This is a challenging hike. Don’t try this hike without a good level of fitness.
Trabuco Canyon, CA - 15 miles, Hard
Hiking Saddleback Mountain takes you to the highest point in Orange County, Santiago Peak. It’s also the highest point in the Santa Ana mountains at 5,689 feet. This hike takes the scenic Holy Jim Trail, which is also the shortest route to the summit. This is a long and challenging hike. Don’t try this hike without a good level of fitness.
Corona, CA - 15.6 miles, Hard
Mt Wilson, at 5,712 feet, is the peak with all the radio towers that sits behind the LA skyline. It’s not the tallest peak in LA, but it’s a great hike with a fun summit. Multiple hiking trails ascend Mt Wilson. This hike starts at Chantry Flat, which gives you a gentler climb to the Mt Wilson summit, a trailhead store, bathrooms, and great views of LA on the way down. It’s a fun hike and a good long hike for beginners.
Sierra Madre, CA - 14.5 miles, Hard
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 Mount Baden-Powell hike packs a lot into a relatively short distance. On your way to the summit of Mt Baden-Powell (9,399 feet), you’ll experience the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) where you can channel your inner Reese Witherspoon, 40 hardcore switchbacks, a monument for Mt Baden-Powell’s namesake, Lord Baden-Powell, they guy who founded the Boy Scouts, a barren saddle with jaw-dropping views, and a 1500-year old limber pine. And at the summit you’ll enjoy sweeping panoramic views of the San Gabriel Mountains. So you got all that going for you if you do the hike. It’s tough but very doable, I highly recommend it.
Vincent Gap, CA - 8.3 miles, Hard
This hike through Peters Canyon Regional Park is one of the most popular hikes in Orange County for a good reason. The hike has everything: well-maintained trails, climbs and flats, panoramic views, and wildlife spotting opportunities. This Peters Canyon hike takes you on a very-doable 2:30 hour loop of the park. Lots of side trails offer opportunities to make it shorter if you’d like.
Orange, CA - 5.9 miles, Moderate
There’s a few Whiting Ranch hiking options, but Red Rock Canyon is the most popular for a good reason. The gently climbing trail makes it way up a oak woodland canyon, eventually ending in a smooth red rock canyon like you’d see in Arizona (but unique to Orange County). Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park is rich with wildlife. I often see squirrels and lizards, and less often deer. The hike is mellow, easy, and is great for families.
Foothill Ranch, CA - 4.2 miles, Easy
The Kenneth Hahn Park hike brings you through a natural oasis in the middle of west LA. There’s tons of wildlife, great sunsets, and views of downtown LA. In fact, Kenneth Hahn Park is where many professional photographers come to get a photo of downtown LA with the San Gabriel Mountains in the background.
Los Angeles, CA - 2.4 miles, Easy
The Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook hike offers views and quick hiking fix in the middle of LA. The trail to the summit goes up switchbacks that climb a tough 300 feet in about a mile, making it also a popular workout spot. If you want to skip the switchbacks and just punish yourself, you can hike up all 282 steps of the Culver City Stairs. Or you can just take the stairs on the descent. This hike takes the more scenic switchback route to the top of Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, where you’ll get sweeping views of LA, the Hollywood Hills, the Pacific Ocean, and the San Gabriel Mountains. It’s a fun hike to hit right in the middle of LA, and great training for the tougher peaks that you tackle on the weekend.
Los Angeles, CA - 2.3 miles, Moderate
Runyon Canyon is a fun hike tucked right into the middle of Hollywood. It’s a great place to see celebrities, view the Hollywood Sign (in the distance), visit a hidden sculpture, and get a good hike in. In fact, Runyon will give you sweeping views from Catalina Island to the Santa Monica Mountains on a clear day. There are crowds here, so don’t come expecting a pristine hiking experience. Runyon Canyon won a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, and is worth hiking at least once.
Los Angeles, CA - 3.5 miles, Moderate
A Laguna Coast Wilderness Park hike transports you into how coastal California had existed thousands of years ago. You’ll hike through some of the last untouched coastal canyons in California, enjoying pristine coastal sage scrub, ridges with panoramic views, and abundant wildlife, including over 40 endangered species. This hike through Laguna Coast Wilderness Park takes you over the best trails, and you’ll get a taste of all the types of scenery that the park has to offer.
Laguna Beach, CA - 7.5 miles, Hard
The Dog Mountain hike is short, steep, and offers great payoffs at every bend. Dog Mountain rises prominently above the Columbia River Gorge, giving hikers panoramic views of the Gorge, the Columbia River, and on a clear day the Cascades high peaks like Mt. Hood. In the late spring, the higher parts of Dog Mountain are covered in wildflowers, making for some great photo opportunities. If you’re looking for a Columbia River Gorge hike that has the views, this is your move.
Stevenson, WA - 6.2 miles, Hard
The Triple Falls hike from Oneonta Gorge is scenic, great for beginners, and doesn’t have the big crowds that many other Columbia Gorge hikes have. The hike winds up above Oneonta Gorge, and you can look down on the raging creek as you hike on the trail above it. The Triple Falls hike can get crowded, but it’s no where near as crowded Multnomah Falls or Eagle Creek. And you get to see three waterfalls along the way!
Hood River County, OR - 3.3 miles, Easy
This “best of” McDowell Sonoran Preserve hike offers well-marked trails, easy climbs, nice views, and classic Sonoran desert scenery on the Gateway Loop Trail. The hike is a great intro hike to McDowell Sonoran Preserve and is suitable for all levels of hikers. And unlike Camelback Mountain, McDowell Sonoran Preserve is a peaceful oasis where you can connect with nature and unwind.
Scottsdale, AZ - 4.5 miles, Easy
The Hollywood Sign hike is one of those iconic hikes that you need to do at least once in your life. It’s a popular hike, but also beautiful. On your way to the Hollywood Sign (actually, you end up right behind and above it), you enjoy the natural wonders of the urban oasis called Griffith Park, one of the largest urban parks in America.
Los Angeles, CA - 6 miles, Moderate
The Punchbowl Falls hike is one of the most beautiful hikes in Colombia River Gorge. This hike has waterfalls, cliffs, and scenery straight out of the Lord of the Rings. It’s easy to understand how Punchbowl Falls is a local’s favorite, and is good for all levels of hikers.
Cascade Locks, OR - 3.4 miles, Easy
This Torrey Pines hike takes you to the best of the park – you experience get great ocean views, hike through unique geological formations, get a glimpse of the world-famous golf course, hike on an antique version of the Pacific Coast Highway, and of course, get see the Torrey Pine. The Torrey Pine is the rarest pine tree in the United States and is an endangered species. You can only see them here and on the Channel Islands. As you’re hiking Torrey Pines, remember that the environment is fragile, so please stay on the trail. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is one of those once in a lifetime destinations, I highly recommend this hike!
La Jolla, CA - 3.3 miles, Easy
The Camelback Mountain hike is one of the most popular hikes in Phoenix. Camelback Mountain is just 20 minutes from downtown and can be seen all over the area, rising to 2,707 feet. It’s a popular spot for hikers, rock climbers, and tourists, so make sure you do the hike as early as possible, with sunrise being the sweet spot. There are a few ways to hike Camelback Mountain, and this guide takes the easier, less trafficked, and more scenic Cholla Trail. It’s still a tough hike, but the Cholla Trail is a nicer way to hike Camelback Mountain, which is a must-do Phoenix hike.
Paradise Valley, AZ - 3.1 miles, Hard