7 Best Day Hikes in California

California is home to many amazing natural features such as mountains, beaches, deserts, valleys, and everything in between. As the third largest state in the U.S., it has an abundance of hiking and backpacking trails to explore. Many of these trails are household names, such as the John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, but others are not as well known. Here’s a list of 9 of the best trails to day hike, allowing you to take in the beautiful scenery of our state!

Rugged razor edged erosion in the sandstone on Torrey Pines hillside with sandstone bluff in the foreground

  1. Broken Hill, Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego– Did you know that Torrey Pines State Reserve is home to the rarest pine tree in North America, the pinus torreyana ? This park also has some of the absolute best views of southern California beaches. Broken Hill is a 2.5 mile loop which will give you amazing 360 degree views of the entire area.
  2. The Goat Canyon Trestle, Anza Borrego State Park– This hike is only 4 miles roundtrip, but it will take up a majority of your day. Is it worth it? Absolutely! You’ll get to see a rare piece of railroad history, the largest freestanding railroad trestle in North America.
  3. Smugglers Cove, Santa Barbara Island, Channel Islands National Park– This trail providers hikers with great views of the Pacific Ocean, other Channel Islands, and a marvelous beach. It’s 8 miles roundtrip, but worth every single step.
  4. Lost Palms Oasis, Joshua Tree National Park– This is one of the most remote and scenic hikes in the famed Joshua Tree National Park. At seven miles roundtrip, it has a variety of terrains for hikers to tackle, boulders to scale for any rock climbers interested, and views of the desert and Salton Sea.
  5. Mist Trail, Yosemite National Park– Mist Trail is a famous hike in Yosemite National Park, with a once in a lifetime experience to walk alongside and partially underneath Vernal Falls. While hikers should note they will likely leave this hike wet, they will also get a great view from the top of Vernal Fall!
  6. Moro Rock, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park- Giant Sequoias are the largest trees on the planet, and Moro Rock Trail is one of the best places to hike amongst these gorgeous giants. This 4 mile trail lets hikers stand beneath the giant trees, view the San Joaquin Valley, and stare in wonder of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
  7. Golden Canyon, Death Valley National Park- Known as the best hike in Death Valley National Park, Golden Canyon lets visitors see many unique geological features and tackle many types of terrain. Overall this is an easy hike, but in the heat of summer can be quite challenging.
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