9 Beautiful California Hikes Off The Beaten Path
While COVID-19 continues to halt travel plans, many people have decided to head to the great outdoors for recreation this summer. If you live in the Golden State, you have a ton of places that you can visit. However, some of the more well-known tourist hotspots could leave you longing to leave crowds behind. Why not head to one of California’s hidden places to hike? You’ll find ample spaces where you can get far away from the hustle and bustle of city life. You’ll feel miles away from anywhere, even if civilization awaits just down the road. Here are nine prime spots to take a beautifully secluded hike in California.
1. Point Arena — Stornetta Public Lands
If you want to feel like you’ve fallen into an enchanted wonderland, head to Point Arena in the Stornetta Public Lands. You’ll find over 1,100 acres to explore along the Mendocino County coastline. Bring your camera — the photographic potential here is a photographer’s dream.
You’ll also find several riparian wetlands ripe with wildlife like migratory waterfowl and several species of raptors. You can see seals, too, but only you can decide if they’re water spirits disguised under blubbery skin. After you inspect the lighthouse, head to Pelican Bluffs trail right up the road to explore a stunning coastal view from atop the bluffs.
2. Point Buchon Trail
Flickr by: D. Johnson
Here is another trail that meanders along the grassy bluffs overlooking the California coastline. The loop extends for nearly 3.5 miles, although there is a shorter loop near the trailhead. If you combine the two, you can extend your hike considerably.
The preserve is predator-friendly, so if you are lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of coyotes and bobcats. The property is on land owned by Pacific Gas and Energy (PG&E), and you must sign a waiver at the trailhead promising not to hold them responsible if you stray too close to the cliff’s edge. However, it’s tough to lose yourself in anything but the scenery — you’ll find ample trail markings to follow.
3. Hole-in-the-Wall Trail
Located in the Mojave National Preserve, this hidden place to hike offers an exciting set of rings to climb. Use them as handholds to make the descent down to Banshee Canyon, so named for the sound that the wind makes when it echoes through the strange, Martian-like rock formations. If you have vertigo, you can still enjoy the beautiful rock formations from the fenced overlook.
Flickr by: Jeff Hollett
Do remain aware that California is taking steps to combat COVID-19. Although leaders ask Californians to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus, you can still head out for exercise. However, do obey social distancing restrictions so that authorities don’t decide to close these outdoor spaces.
4. Quail Hill Loop
Do you adore wildflowers? If so, you’ll find ample variety along the Quail Hill Loop Trail in the spring. This hike is family-friendly and ideal for beginners, as you’ll gain less than 200 feet in elevation. You’ll also find restrooms at the trailhead, interactive displays and wildlife viewing areas along the route. All of this wonder lies within speedy driving distance of Irvine, CA.
5. Ernest E. Debs Regional Park
If you think you can’t get a fantastic hike at a park, think again. Ernest E. Debs Regional Park offers 5.2 miles of loop trails that traverse every hidden section of this gem. If you live near northeast Los Angeles, you can drive by this place without realizing it’s there, which is why it ranks as one of the top hidden places to hike.
6. Slot Canyon
Flickr by: Dave Bezaire
It’s hard to believe you don’t have to pay a fee to access this playground. Along your 2.3 mile hike, you’ll pass the palm tree oasis of Hellhole Canyon and abandoned mines. Once you reach the slot itself, you’ll pass a mile through walls towering 100 feet above you.
Make sure you look up to catch glimpses of exotic rock formations, like the bridge. You’ll have to work to find this place — it’s 2 miles down a dirt road that you can drive past without noticing.
7. Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
Flickr by: Wilson44691
Los Peñasquitos is Spanish for “little cliffs.” You’ll enjoy several miles through some of San Diego’s most breathtaking scenery. You can take a tour of Rancho de Los Peñasquitos, an 1823 ranch house granted by the last Mexican governor, Pio Pico. The surrounding 3,700 acres offer hiking, biking and equestrian trails, so bring pedal or horsepower.
8. Escondido Falls
Flickr by: Ken Shoufer
“Escondido” means “hidden” in Spanish, so these beauties deserve a spot on this list. You will have trouble finding the trailhead, as the hike begins on a paved road in a residential area. Don’t let that scare you away, however. There are two falls to visit. Lower Escondido Falls is within reach of most hikers, while Upper Escondido Falls requires you to use a rope to access.
9. Castle Rock Trail
Flickr by: daveynin
Located in Castle Rock State Park, you’ll find ample trails to explore between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and sunset. Although the Falls Overlook remains closed at the time of this writing, you can still enter to hike or bike. Authorities do ask that you walk or bike to this Kirkwood gem to prevent crowded parking lot conditions.
Have Fun While Getting Fit on These 9 Hidden Places to Hike
Although the current pandemic may have put a damper on your travel plans, you can still safely enjoy nature’s beauty. Head to one of these nine hidden places to hike and soak in the California sun.