Home to thousands of miles of stunning hiking trails, California offers treks through lush green forests, desolate deserts, and dramatic coastlines. We have picked some of our favourite routes, perfect for both beginners and more confident hikers so pack your boots and discover this beautiful state on foot.
Soak up the scenic beauty of SLO CAL’s Fiscalini Ranch Preserve
The historic sanctuary of Fiscalini Ranch Preserve located in Cambria along the North Coast, is a vast open haven of trails. Accessible year-round and with the temperate climate of SLO CAL, this hike is a truly picturesque viewing experience no matter the season. The Ranch extends from the ocean bluffs that run more than a mile along the shoreline, through grass fields, and rising inland to a forested ridge that boasts breath taking views of migrating whales, birds, and playful otters. With 17 different trails and a number of wheelchair accessible routes, visitors can walk, ride horses or cycle through the idyllic terrain of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve any time of the year.
Meander through floral meadows
North Sonoma Mountain Ridge Trail is a fantastic out-and-back option for those seeking a long-distance walk with steady gain. The first mile meanders mostly through a wildflower-filled meadow before coming to the Bennett Valley Overlook just after the one mile mark. From there, the trail climbs through the trees and into Jack London State Park, the home and ranch of American novelist Jack London. This trail includes a four mile stretch of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, an ongoing effort to link routes to create 550 miles of continuous public trails in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Take in views of the majestic Redwood Forest
The Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve preserves 805 acres of majestic Coast Redwoods and is a living monument to the magnificent primeval redwood forest that covered much of this area before logging operations began during the 19th century. The self-guided Armstrong Nature Trail is great for first-time visitors as you can learn about redwood trees from interpretive displays along the route, while the Discovery Trail has a tree-hugging platform.
Sip and stroll
For a multi-day hiking itinerary Wine Country Trekking offers self-guided, inn-to-inn walking holidays that can start either in San Francisco or various points around Sonoma County. With several routes and options, the itinerary combines beach walks and mountain hikes with wine tasting along the way. All treks include accommodation, breakfast, wine tastings and luggage transfers.
Enjoy the astonishing expansive views of Serenity Swing in San Luis Obispo
Available as one of the three trails at Peterson Ranch, the Serenity Swing hike takes hikers on a delightful journey of wildlife sites, impressive scenery, and, of course, the shady tree at the summit with swings. Throughout the 5.6km trail, hikers are met with views of the surrounding hills and forestry, but the true reward is the summit of the trail. Two swings found in the shade of a tree that overlooks the vast scenic hilltop views are guaranteed to leave hikers feeling serene and rewarded for their efforts.
Appreciate the vistas of Monterey Bay
Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail stretches 18 miles from Castroville to Lovers Point Park in Pacific Grove, hugging the coast where the tracks of the old South Pacific Railway once ran. Here you can rent bikes and kayaks from local businesses, detour onto the beach, stop to get a bite to eat or enjoy a picnic while enjoying the views of Monterey Bay, it’s sealion and sea otter residents, and maybe even whales. The trail goes right into the heart Monterey’s attractions including Fisherman’s Wharf, Cannery Row and the Monterey Bay Aquarium and winds through the smaller communities of Seaside, Sand City and Marina.
Explore caves and rock formations
For fantastic rock formations and intriguing caves, Pinnacles National Park, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, has something for everyone with more than 30 miles of trails from grasslands to the rocky spires that Pinnacles is famous for. Children will enjoy the Moses Spring to Rim Trail Loop, an easy and educational two mile round trip that takes in talus caves, giant boulders and a view of the Bear Gulch Reservoir. If it’s open, you can also explore Bear Gulch Cave but remember to bring a torch!
Wonderful Waterfall Walks
Possibly Big Sur’s best-kept secret, Limekiln State Park near Lucia, is in the US’s steepest coastal canyon and holds some of Monterey’s oldest redwood groves. Named after the four abandoned lime kilns that remain largely intact, the Park is home to three child-friendly trails that follow babbling brooks into the forest and can be completed independently or each as a warm up to the next. The Falls Trail is the most challenging, involving crossing several brooks and steams before reaching a 100ft fan-shaped waterfall cascading down the rocky cliff. Bring swimming things to enjoy a cool off in the natural stream below. From here you can also access Limekiln Beach, a protected beach where you can relax, enjoy a picnic and look out for dolphins.
Walk amongst rare pine trees and indigenous wildlife
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, located on the cliffs above Torrey Pines State Beach, San Diego is a 1,750-acre reserve dedicated to preserving its namesake, the Torrey Pine tree and other indigenous wildlife in its native environment. A coastal wilderness of pine forests and sandstone canyons, the park has a series of well-kept trails that wind along the cliffs offering epic views of the Pacific Ocean. With both easy, family-friendly paths and more advanced trails, the park provides a great hiking experience.