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California is often associated with beaches, Hollywood, Disneyland, vineyards and city breaks. But the state also has a huge number of excellent walking trails. In fact, California is home to some of the craggiest and most beautiful national parks in North America, and there is a good combination of easy, moderate and challenging walking trails all around California.
Whether you opt for a day hike or a multi-day adventure, a large number of California vacation rentals mean that you’ll be able to find somewhere comfortable to stay. Resting up and recharging, ready for the next day’s adventure.
While the cold winters and hot summer temperatures may not inspire you to get out and about, spring and fall are ideal times of year for walking in California.
1. Half Dome, Yosemite National Park
Located in northern California, Yosemite National Park has numerous walking trails that are just jaw-droppingly beautiful. A top choice for thrill seekers is to complete the 15-mile round-trip Half Dome hike. The trail climbs around 5,000 feet, providing sweeping views of Half Dome itself, Nevada Falls, Vernal Falls and Liberty Cap.
To reach the top of the rounded rock you need to haul yourself up using cables. Do note that you need a permit to use the cables and that they are taken down in the winter months. After your energetic ascent you’ll be rewarded with superb vistas of the High Sierra and Yosemite Valley. You’ll likely also have a glowing sense of achievement!
2. The Slot, Anza Borrego State Park
Stretching for less than a mile, The Slot hike leads you through a narrow and atmospheric slot canyon. Although the descent is steep, it’s also short, leveling out to a rocky path. You’ll need to squeeze sideways through several sections, with the soaring rock walls closing in on you on both sides. The incredible natural views, however, make the hike more than worthwhile.
The Slot is one of the most unique walking trails around California. It is filled with interesting rock formations. You’ll be relieved to find that the shaded canyon offers some respite from the desert heat too.
3. Lost Coast Trail, King Range National Conservation Area
The Lost Coast is the name given to a remote and rugged stretch of coastline that is sandwiched between the sea and the cliffs in Humboldt County, Northern California. The wild and barren landscapes can only be traversed by foot, and the trail is submerged during high tide, so make sure to check the tide times before setting out! The Lost Coast Trail leads intrepid souls across deserted beaches and up along the towering cliff tops.
It’s not unusual for eerie mists to cloak the area, adding a somewhat ethereal ambiance. Look out for sea lions basking on the rocks and swimming through the waters.
4. Mount Baden-Powell, San Gabriel Mountains National Monument
Mount Baden-Powell is part of both the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and the Angeles National Forest. Named after the founder of the Scout Movement, Mount Baden-Powell stands at a little over 9,400 feet.
The Vincent Gap Trail winds its way up the mountain through a series of switchbacks, taking hikers through patches of forest. The mountain is home to various species of pine and cedar, with some trees in the ancient forest of Limber Pine dating back more than 2,000 years.
While the climb to the top of the mountain is pretty tough, the views of the surrounding areas are a worthy reward for your exertions.
5. Crystal Creek Falls Trail, Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
A nice and gentle walk of less than half a mile, the Crystal Creek Falls Trail in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area is great for the whole family. The flat track leads to a pleasant picnic area in front of the pretty waterfall. Interestingly, the waterfall was created when the creek was rerouted to make an overflow facility. While not an artificial waterfall, it can’t be said to be completely natural either; it was the natural result of an intervention in nature by humans.
Regardless of how the waterfall came into existence, it is a scenic place to visit when in northern California.
Fasten your walking boots, take plenty of water and set out to explore California’s natural beauty.