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Aron Bosworth | 03.30.2020

Sometimes there's just no substitute for the therapy gained from a nature walk. Whether it be a jaunt through the woods, a day out in the mountains or a morning stroll along the coast, getting out for a hike leads to a wide range of benefits that supports a healthy mind, body and soul. While there is a nearly endless list of great hiking destinations throughout the country, perhaps no land mass holds more diversity for day hikes in terms of terrain type, ecology and climate variety than the state of California. From the ancient coast redwoods of the north to the Big Sur coastline, from Lake Tahoe to the Eastern Sierra, and from Joshua Tree National Park to the coastal chaparral covered mountains of Southern California, the diversity of hiking zones in the golden state runs deep.

The list below is a compilation of what we consider some of the best day hikes in California, broken down by region. To qualify these hikes we asked ourselves the following two questions:

  • "If we had to pick a handful, what day hikes in each region would we undoubtedly recommend to friends visiting from out of town?"
  • "Despite their popularity, what day hikes exemplify the unique qualities of this region?"

The majority of the listed hikes below can be done in a half day or less. There are, however, a few excursions included that are serious full-day endeavors due to length and/or elevation gain. 

Please make sure to let us know which are your favorite California day hikes in the Comments section below. Happy Trails!

North Coast

  1. Stout Memorial Grove
  2. Fern Canyon
  3. Kortum Trail
  4. Table Rock
  5. Chimney Rock
  6. Palomarin Hike to Alamere Falls
  7. Coastal Trail, Pantoll to Ridgecrest Blvd
  8. Steep Ravine to Dipsea Trail Loop

Central Coast 

  1. Lands End Coastal Trail
  2. Cypress Grove Trail
  3. Bench Trail to High Peaks Loop
  4. Headlands to Creamery Meadow Loop
  5. Kirk Creek/Vicente Flat Trail
  6. Bluff Trail Hike

South Coast

  1. Inspiration Point
  2. Nicholas Flat to Willow Creek Hike
  3. Temescal Ridge Trail Hike
  4. Chaparral Trail Loop Hike
  5. Mount Hollywood Hike
  6. Cabrillo National Monument
  7. Torrey Pine State Natural reserve
  8. Potato Chip Rock, Mount Woodson
  9. Silvercrest Trail
  10. Iron Mountain

California Cascades + Trinity Alps

  1. Black Butte
  2. McCloud River Hike
  3. Castle Crags Dome Hike
  4. Lassen Peak
  5. Canyon Creek Lakes
  6. Ravine + Phantom Falls

Lake Tahoe + Northern Sierra

  1. Feather Falls
  2. Independence Trail
  3. Sierra Buttes
  4. Mount Judah Loop
  5. Mount Tallac
  6. Rubicon Trail
  7. North Grove Trail

Yosemite, Kings Canyon + Sequoia National Parks

  1. Four Mile Trail
  2. Half Dome via John Muir Trail
  3. Cathedral Lakes Trail
  4. Nevada Falls via Giant Staircase Loop
  5. Kanawyer Loop Trail
  6. Tokopah Valley Trail
  7. Cresent Meadow
  8. Monarch Lakes

Eastern Sierra

  1. South Tufa to Navy Beach
  2. Mammoth Crest Trail
  3. Lake Sabrina Loop
  4. Big Pine Creek North Fork Trail
  5. Mount Whitney, Whitney Portal

Southern California Mountains + Desert

  1. Mount Baldy Summit
  2. Bridge to Nowhere/East Fork San Gabriel River
  3. Cucamonga Peak
  4. Icehouse Saddle via Chapman Trail
  5. Mount Islip Loop Trail
  6. Mount San Jancinto via Marion Mountain Trail
  7. Round Valley Loop
  8. Bertha Peak Hike
  9. Fortynine Palms Oasis
  10. Skull Rock Nature Trail

This article has been updated since it was originally published in November 2016. 


These look like some fantastic places to hike. I really hope I can visit them with my dog someday.
You might want to add Villager and Rabbit Peak In Borrego Desert. Possible for one day but very strenuous and it is the desert so you need to be prepared and have desert hiking experience. Rabbit Peak is 22 miles round trip.
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