As the third largest state in the US, California has innumerable hiking and backpacking trails that crisscross all of these wilderness areas. Some of these trails are household names – such as the John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, others are more obscure. We’ve compiled a list of California’s best hiking trails. Some of these are for hikers of all skill levels and some of these trails are for experienced hikers only; but irrespective of your skill level, all of these routes feature amazing scenery and views of the state.
Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.
Ewoldsen TrailBig Sur, United StatesAn incredible moderate hike is the Ewoldsen Trail, it starts in Julia Pfeiffer Burns state park and climbs 1520 feet up out of the redwoods and onto an elevated ridge line where you can take in views of a long section of the coastline. It’s a 5.3 mile round trip hike, and has some fairly steep climbing along the way. If you’re there to see one of Big Sur’s iconic sunsets, don’t forget to bring a headlamp for the hike out. #hiking #bigsur #views #viewpoint #accessbigsur
Tioga PassTuolumne County, United StatesHoly cow, I was fortunate enough to drive through the Tioga Pass four times on my trip, and each time I was more and more breath-taken! Coming in through the backside of Yosemite was such a treat!
Ubehebe CraterInyo County, United StatesI don’t think a lot of people bother making it here in Death Valley in favor of Artist’s Pallete, Zabriskie Point, and Mesquite Sand Dunes. But you should go here. It’s reallllly impressive. Not cause by a meteorite or anything but a gas explosion from underneath the ground it’s a lot bigger than what you’d expect and even what this picture implies. And the colors are amazing but that’s a given in Death Valley. #hiking #hiking
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State ParkBig Sur, United StatesIf you’re looking for easy access to beautiful redwood forests, Julia Pfeiffer Burns state park is my go to spot. Within moments you’ll be in the midst of a huge grove of redwoods. I recommend using your time here to wander rather than to hike. Logs criss-cross the creek and lead to spots off the beaten path. For me, this area is about taking it all in and having a moment in these ancient trees. There are other spots to go if your goal is to go far. Bring a picnic basket and relax here for a while. #hiking #accessbigsur #redwoods #wandering
Little Lakes Valley Trailhead
Little Lakes Valley Trailhead (Gem Lakes)Bishop, United StatesGreat short hike to #BoxLake in #LittleLakes valley #Inyo #nationalpark
We camped here two nights, caught lots of fish and were blown away by the good weather and great views.
Topanga State Park
Topanga State ParkLos Angeles, United StatesWith so many excellent hiking trails around Los Angeles, next time you’re in LA, get away from the Hollywood sign and go explore! Like this trail in Topanga State Park, just outside Santa Monica.
Rae Lakes Loop
Rae Lakes LoopIndependence, United StatesBackpacking the Rae Lakes Loop was one of the more physically challenging things I’ve done thus far, as you can see here, the views were worth it! 40 miles in 4 days, over 6,500 feet of elevation gain! This is the view from Middle Rae Lake on day 3 #hiking #extreme #backpacking
Lower Yosemite Falls
Palomarin Trail Head-Alamere Falls
Palomarin Trail Head-Alamere FallsBolinas, United StatesAlamere Falls is a 8.4 mile and beautiful coastal trail in southern Marin. At the end of the hike you end up at a waterfall that runs into the ocean. Tips: Get there early to beat the crowds and to score a parking spot. Wear shoes with a good grip so you don’t fall on your bootay. #hiking
San Elijo Lagoon
Sentinel DomeYosemite Village, United StatesThis is probably the easiest of the Yosemite domes to get on top. Only a couple miles long. Ex employee pro tip: get a blanket and come lay up here during a meteor shower. #hiking
Wildcat CampgroundBolinas, United StatesA 6 mile hike from the Bear Valley center will bring you to this excellent campground with stunning views. Choose your campsite wisely, our favorite is #6, and reserve in advance as this is a very popular campground. You can make a driftwood fire on the beach if you purchase a permit at Bear Valley. It is also a mile up the beach from the famed (getting to be too famed) Alamere Falls. Beautiful spot! #camping #hiking
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
Rock Springs Trail Head
San Gorgonio Peak
San Gorgonio PeakForest Falls, United StatesSan Gorgonio is the tallest mountain in Southern California. Old Grayback is a beast of a day hike, clocking in at ~18 miles. And it’s peak six in the Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge.:
#hiking #camping #snow #sixpackofpeaks
Stout Grove Trailhead
Fortytwo Mile Campground
Fortytwo Mile CampgroundTwin Bridges, United StatesTwin Bridges is my favorite area in the Tahoe region. It’s got a small town vibe, and is short on amenities, but if you’re looking for a place to get away from the resort mentality of the nearby towns and get into the woods this is the place to go.
Becker PeakSouth Lake Tahoe, United StatesAwesome peak to climb at Echo. There is an easy trail from Echo Chalet or you can challenge yourself with a scramble from the middle of the lake. It was tough with dogs and kids but we made it! #hiking
Limekiln State Park
Hollywood Sign Hike
Hollywood Sign HikeLos Angeles, United StatesRigorous and hilly hike that takes you the closest you can legally get to the Hollywood Sign, with a true definition of an epic city panorama below. Protip: no not attempt this during summer, as the opportunities for shade are few and far between.
Taft PointYosemite Village, United StatesTaft point is an easy trail with views just as good as glacier point with less people. Watch your step there are many fissures with a straight steep drop 3,000 feet down to the valley floor. Mega vertigo here. You can go to the very tip of the point where there is a small railing so you can look directly down to the valley. Great views of el cap also. I think this trail is only around two miles but you can keep going to other points and I think it’ll eventually take you to tunnel view and maybe even all the way down to the valley after that. It’s a good one! I’m pretty convinced Yosemite views are the best views in the world #hiking #extreme
Tennessee Valley Trailhead
Potato Chip Rock
Best Travel Credit Cards
Top offers from our partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
100,000 bonus points
The Platinum Card®
75,000 bonus points
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 bonus points