100 Classic Hikes in Southern California  by Allen Riedel

100 Classic Hikes in Southern California Guide Book

by Allen Riedel (The Mountaineers Books)
100 Classic Hikes in Southern California  by Allen Riedel
Southern California is a paradise for hikers, offering stunning vistas and diverse landscapes – mountains, forests, deserts, and coastlines are ready to be explored. From Death Valley to the Central Coast, from Santa Lucia Mountains to the Channel Islands and much more, this guide is packed with the cream of the crop. As an added bonus, 100 Classic Hikes in Southern California also includes a few areas north of the 37th parallel – the White Mountains, Yosemite, and the eastern Sierra. This new guide is fully loaded with handy features including topographical maps, elevation profiles, full-color photographs, and a hikes-at-a-glance chart to help you find the perfect hike easily and quickly.

© 2008 Allen Riedel/The Mountaineers Books. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "100 Classic Hikes in Southern California" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 100.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 100.

Alta Peak is a magnificent and popular Sierra summit. It is well liked and well traveled, with good reason. From its superior perch, the entirety of Sequoia National Park can be observed. “Breathtaking” is an understatement for the views from Alta Peak; to comprehend this place’s majesty, try standing atop the peak and breathing in the 360-degree view. If your schedule allows for only one tough all-day hike in the park, this is the trail to take. Its central location provides views of some of the most magnificent scenery in the park. The way will not be crowded, but there will almost always be fellow like-minded individuals enjoying the vistas and forested trail.
Three Rivers, CA - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 13
Alta Seca Bench—the name means “high” and “dry”—is a beautiful forest island in the sky. Its proximity to big cities belies its calm and serene nature. High above the smog, cars, and people, it is easy to gain a lucid understanding of why this area needs to stay protected.
Pinyon Pines, CA - Hiking,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 6.5
This island is certainly the most readily accessible of the Channel Islands for the novice hiker, or the visitor seeking a short outing. The scenery here is stunning and impressive; the entire trip is filled with majestic overlooks, vantage points, and breathtaking scenery. In the spring, western gulls breed, their nests lining the trail with pretty little chicks chirping, and vibrant wildflowers blossom.
Ventura, CA - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 2
Andrew Molera State Park is unspoiled Big Sur beachfront at its very best. The park, a favorite of hikers and campers, is relatively undeveloped. The park has meadows, the idyllic Big Sur River, a sprawling coastline, and a mountain crest with awe-inspiring ocean views. The Beach Trail, which shows off much of what the region has to offer, can be completed as a loop with the Creamery Meadows Trail, or as an out-and-back hike.
Big Sur, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.5
The Backbone Trail has been a dream of hikers, naturalists, conservationists, and recreation enthusiasts for nearly half a century. As it finally nears completion, the trail will connect the entire chain of parks, preserves, and recreation lands within the Santa Monica Mountains National Park Unit. It crosses ridgelines, canyons, chaparral-covered hillsides, woodlands, and valleys forming a 65-mile long chain that will one day traverse from Point Mugu through Will Rogers State Historic Park.
Cornell, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5
Badwater is less of a hike and more of a must-do walking excursion for visitors to Death Valley. There is no trail here, but visitors can walk as far as they wish. This is the transcendent and devilishly hot place from which the area’s hellish moniker is derived. In the summertime, the desert heat is trapped and recirculated by the encompassing mountain walls that keep it within the low elevation of the valley. At night, the salt flat, 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest elevation in the Western Hemisphere. high altitude of the surrounding ranges does not allow hot air to escape.
Death Valley, CA - Hiking,Walking - Trail Length: 2.5
The trail begins across sand, on a walkway of wooden posts connected by rope. The way is wide and level as it wanders and enters a boulder-filled paradise known as the Wonderland of Rocks. This hike traverses through a small portion of that beautiful landscape. Here, the arresting majesty of the desert is readily apparent. This hike makes a great introduction to the wonders of Joshua Tree National Park. There is perhaps no better place to discover the austere majesty that is the Mojave Desert.
Twentynine Palms, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.25
Cabrillo National Monument doesn’t have very many hikes, and this really isn’t much of a traditional hike either. The entire trip takes place on a paved road that descends for 1 mile along the San Diego Bay coastline. Eventually, it drops very close to the ocean and comes to a fence that separates the national monument from the adjoining military reservation and national cemetery. Despite the fact that there isn’t a “real” trail, an escape from civilization, or even seclusion, there is something quite magical about Cabrillo that gives this hike a classic appeal. The jutting edge of Point Loma sticks out so far and has been such a danger to mariners that not one but two lighthouses were built upon this spot.
San Diego, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.1
Big Baldy Ridge is an exhilarating hiking destination. The trail is short enough to complete in a couple of hours, and relatively unfrequented for a hike in a national park. A great spot to watch sunrises and sunsets, the trail follows a ridgeline skirting Redwood Canyon, which drops precipitously— nearly 3000 feet below—for most of the trip. The trail wanders, not quite precariously, up and over some sections that resemble a granite dome sliding into oblivion. The trail is safe, though those with an extreme fear of heights may be uncomfortable in a few spots.
Wilsonia, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.25
From the first few footfalls into Laguna Meadow, the region has a majestic beauty superbly outlined by towering lodgepole and Coulter pines, which grow to prodigious heights in the basin. The valley hinges beneath an azure sky that resembles something out of the mountains of Montana rather than Southern California. Clouds float by as if painted on a postcard backdrop, and the lovely lakes lining the forest are a rare sight in these arid climes.
Mount Laguna, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5
The walk through Icehouse Canyon wanders and climbs through a lovely wooded glen filled with sparkling cascades, vernal pools, lush vegetation, towering pines, ruined structures from near the turn of the century, and even getaway cabins that require a short hike for the occupants. There are numerous places to play in the water and enjoy an outing in this beautiful forest. The year-round water in Icehouse Creek can be a dangerous raging torrent during high runoff season, or a gentle stream during warmer months.
Mount Baldy, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 11.5
The scenery on this trip is without compare. Eastern Sierra alpine beauty figures prominently at every twist and turn. The traverse touches the borders of seven named lakes which can all be photographed from a variety of angles, with prominent peaks reflecting off the waters in the background. Dazzling, exquisite, heavenly are merely words which fail to capture the contrasting beauty of the granite and water of the region.
Aspendell, CA - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 11
Morro Bay State Park is a highly developed recreational area complete with golf course and a campground equipped with showers. Hiking in the park is limited, but the trail to Black Hill is a unsigned trail. The path wanders and climbs gently for the first half-mile, gaining steepness as it nears the apex. Views open up of the beautiful estuary and the sandspit behind you. As the trail climbs around the hill, there are remnants of old structures and a water containment tower.
Morro Bay, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.8
Boole Tree Loop is a short jaunt that leads to the largest tree within Sequoia National Forest boundaries. Follow the right fork at the trailhead and climb the shady way; the entire first mile is under cover of large yellow pines.
Wilsonia, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.4
This hike leads along the vibrant and wild East Fork of the San Gabriel River. With many of the region’s tallest mountains nearby, and lots of high-altitude runoff, this section of the river is one of the lushest unbridled flows of water in the southernmost reaches of California. There is normally enough water that some crossings involve getting wet up to the knees. The Bridge to Nowhere is a spectacular and bizarre piece of architecture, in that no road connects to either side. It was engineered in the 1930s along with a highway that was set to be a route out of the Los Angeles Basin up into the High Desert. In 1938, torrential flooding obliterated the highway, and the bridge is all that remains of a once-grand scheme.
Johnson Corner, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 10
Follow the trail as it climbs rather steeply over 600 feet in around half a mile. The steepness is sure to provide a workout, though the short distance makes getting to the top fairly simple. The trail is generally easy to follow, though in spots where it is particularly rocky painted arrows help guide the way. There are several spots to scramble atop the formation known as Castle Rock, which is easy to make out from the trail at about 0.75 mile, because it truly towers above the forest below like the hardened battlements of a fortress. A spectacular view of the lake makes Castle Rock a nice rest stop.
Big Bear Lake, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4
Cathedral Lakes are a popular hiking destination along the John Muir Trail in Tuolumne Meadows. Just about anyone with a little gumption can reach one or both of these alpine lakes, though the average person might be tired after the trek to both. The trail, frequented by horses and backpackers as well as day hikers, follows an even gradient. Most of its ups and downs are relatively gentle, and there are plenty of large trees, rocky dome spires, and even spots of lightning damage to look at.
Yosemite National Park, CA - Backpacking,Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 8
Cerro Alto is one of the taller mountains in San Luis Obispo County, and the highest along the West Cuesta Ridge. The views and scenery from its summit are a spectacular 360-degree panorama of the region, with views extending for miles and miles. In spring expect a show from wildflowers, though the area gets dry and hot toward midsummer. There is shade only on the lower portions of the hike, and as the trail snakes its way up through the canyons, the hillsides are grass-covered with coastal scrub.
Atascadero, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.5
This summit not only has the loftiest name of the mountains that overlook Yosemite Valley, but it also has the most commanding view over the grandeur that is Yosemite. Half Dome sits well below the apex of Clouds Rest, and the jaw-dropping 360degree view encapsulates some of the finest vistas in the entire Sierra Nevada Range. Toward the trailhead, Tenaya Canyon adorns a tableau that resembles an ethereal painting more than reality. One might expect to see the colossal hand of god reaching down to create brushstrokes when staring into the east toward the canyon, the high Tuoloumne area, and Tenaya Lake.
Yosemite National Park, CA - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 12
From the parking area, the relatively short trail climbs rigorously upward toward the summit. The trail is without shade for nearly the entire trip, though Coulter pines, with their widow-maker football-like cones, appear closer toward the apex. Temperatures can be incredibly hot in the summertime, so bring lots of water. Wildflowers are abundant, such as yellow poppies, Indian paintbrush, monkey flower, and penstemon. Butterflies, such as the variable checkerspot, and lizards, such as the western whiptail can also be commonly seen. Poison oak along the trail is frequently eradicated by dedicated volunteers who trim it away, so bare legs are relatively safe along this hike. Views open up immediately.
Lucia, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4