If you’re looking to go the extra mile, California has some of the world’s most picturesque hiking trails to get your adrenaline going. Whether you’re looking for extensive rugged climbs or more sedate paths, the state contains plenty of worthy hiking destinations to meet your needs.
Here’s a look at three highly-rated destinations worth exploring — each featuring a wide variety of easy to difficult trails, as well as some essential tips for your journey.
Yosemite National Park
More than 800 miles of trails, accented by an array of lakes, valleys, meadows, waterfalls, majestic sequoias and mountains, await you at this popular national park in the Sierra Nevada of California.
- Easy-going: Sentinel & Cook’s Meadow Loop — This 2.25-mile trail will take you through the core of Yosemite Park, where you traverse across the Merced River, navigate the Swinging Bridge and take in breathtaking views of the Half Dome and Yosemite Falls.
- Challenging: If you’re up to the physical challenge, don’t leave Yosemite without tackling the Half Dome day hike. This trail takes 10 to 14 hours and is worth every minute. It features 900 feet of waterfalls, an elevation of 8,842 and stunning views.
Warnings: While bears are not often seen throughout the park, it’s important to keep your distance if you come across one. When crossing a stream without a bridge, avoid areas with higher water conditions. Check out more extensive warnings by the National Park Service . Whether you hike easy or hard trails, make sure you have insurance coverage that fits your specific needs. For example, if you live in the state, you can apply for temporary short term insurance for California residents to cover the duration of your hiking trip.
Located in the Sierra Nevada mountains, straddling California and Nevada, the trails along Lake Tahoe attract thousands of hiking enthusiasts year-round. You can find a variety of trails, including those that last under an hour to difficult hikes that take up to 1.5 days. Trails are categorized generally by the following: South Shore, West Shore, North and East Shores and Meiss Country. Others include Sugar Pine State Park and the Tahoe Rim Trail.
- Challenging: Clark Trail (South Shore Trails) — This short (3.2 miles round trip) yet difficult trail takes you along a path less traveled. Bottoming out at Angora Lakes, the steep trail is lined with loose shale. The elevation tops out at 6,420 feet.
- Moderate: Rubicon Trail (Sugar Pine Point State Park) — Considered one of the most picturesque trails in the Lake Tahoe area, this 6.2-mile round-trip path provides an outlet for those who want to enjoy the scenery while getting a good workout. Elevation is 6,230 feet.
- Multi-day: The Tahoe Rim Trail, which is 165 miles round trip, is considered one of the top in the world. It has the distinction of going through both California and Nevada, three national forests and three wilderness areas. Expect the full journey to take 14 to 15 days. At the end, you can qualify to join the 165-Mile Club.
Warnings: Check weather in the area before embarking on your trip. However, be prepared for all types of conditions as they can suddenly change. Make sure you understand the trail’s requirements and that you’re in good physical condition to handle an intermediate-level hike.
Sequoia National Forest
More than 800 miles of hiking trails, ranging in difficulty from easy to challenging, distinguish this forest, located in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains. Of course, as the name indicates, the Sequoia National Forest includes views of the majestic trees, as well as caves, mountains, wildlife and wildflowers.
- Easy: Big Trees Trail — For those who want to take in the beauty of the Sequoia trees without a challenging hike, this 1.2-mile trail takes only about an hour of your time. It also encircles Round Meadow and includes exhibits about the ecology of the area.
- Moderate: High Sierra Trail — If you’re looking forward to an overnight camping trip, consider the 11.5-mile (one way) hike to Bearpaw Meadow along the High Sierra Trail. The trip, which takes an average of 7 hours, brings you face to face with impressive meadows and the Great Western Divide.
Warnings: Always check road and weather conditions before taking off on your hiking adventure. Check on the latest reports by calling (559) 565-3341. During the winter, make sure you have snow chains, which are mandatory for all vehicles during the season. Beware of black bears, and avoid leaving food in your vehicle, which can attract the animals.
About The Author: Cassandra Lynne is a blogger, traveler and adventure seeker. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending her time outdoors hiking and camping with her pup, Joy. Follow her on Twitter @cassalynne.
Photo Credits: Flickr cc – #1 Mat Honan, #2 Don Graham, #3 Justin Vidamo