Our Go-To Spots for the Best Hikes in California
Hiking in the Golden State doesn't get better than this.
The Golden State is blessed with sunshine and beautiful nature, so if you’re into hiking, it’s one of the best places in the world to visit. Once you’ve packed your walking boots and trail snacks, all you need to do is pick where in this stunning state you want to visit. Plum Guide has homes all over California just waiting for you to stay in them – all you need to do is choose which one. Here’s our guide to the best hikes in California.
This national park is in the desert and has long been a hotspot for mystics, musicians and creatives. With the wide, dramatic landscapes, spiky Joshua trees (it’s the only place in the world where they grow, hence the namesake) and rocky formations that could be either centuries-old rocks or aliens depending on how you squint, it’s understandable how it got its reputation.
The hikes here are almost unparalleled for their beauty - there is nowhere else on earth that looks quite like this. There are almost too many hikes here to count, but the unique selling points of hiking here are the views over the desert, getting up close and personal with the rock formations (if your inner toddler needs indulging, some trails are even designed to let you clamber over the rocks) and the Joshua trees themselves. As many locations in the park used to be used for mining, you can also view abandoned mines and railway tracks.
After your hike is done, head into town to stock up on vintage homeware and crystals, then grab dinner at Pappy and Harriets, an old-school saloon bar which has live music every night. Yee haw, cowboy.
A byword for sunny paradise, Malibu is an underrated hiking destination. Most visitors are there to enjoy the luxurious, secluded atmosphere, to surf or to enjoy the famous beach, so the many hiking trails are less busy than you think they’d be considering Malibu's popularity.
There’s a wide range of trails ranging from so easy your toddler could walk them to better bring your walking poles. Many of them are blessed with spectacular ocean views over the Pacific, so you get the best of both the dramatic countryside and the sea.
Our pick of the best trail is the Paramount Ranch, which runs through a now-disused filming location established in 1927. Once you’ve parked, cross Medea Creek and enter a replica Wild West town, which you’ll almost certainly recognise from many of your favourite Hollywood films (and is the chance that you’ve always dreamed of to play cowboy).
We’re betting that combining hiking with wine will win you points with your significant other. Santa Rosa is Wine Country’s biggest city, and is a fun yet cultural town with a lively restaurant scene. Before you set off on your hike, make sure to visit the Charles Schulz Museum, honoring the cartoonist of Peanuts fame who called Santa Rosa home.
The landscape here is breathtaking at any time of year - although we’d have to say that autumn is our favourite. One of the best hikes in California is the western trail at Taylor Mountain. From the 1,380 foot summit, you can see Sonoma County, the Laguna de Santa Rosa and the Mayacamas Mountains, among many other sites. You’ll also see a wide variety of wildlife on your hike, including mountain lions, deer, foxes, the California red-legged frog and red-shouldered hawks.
You might not think of the City of Angels as being a hotspot for some of the best hikes in California, but while LA is indeed a buzzing metropolis, it also offers some of the best walks in the US thanks to the ample parkland within the city. Staying here gives you the best of both the countryside and the city. After all, how can you beat being with half an hour’s drive of canyon hikes, the beach and one of the best food and nightlife scenes in America?
Our top hiking area in Los Angeles has to be Griffith Park. With the famous Hollywood Sign, Griffith Park Observatory and other attractions including a merry go round, abandoned zoo and the Greek Theatre, whichever hiking trail you choose is sure to take you past many sights which you could only see in this city.
Not only is Lake Tahoe the USA’s second deepest lake, it’s also one of the highest elevation lakes in the country. Can you say best of both worlds? Because at Lake Tahoe, you have it. It even straddles the California-Nevada state line.
With a 72 mile long shoreline so scenic you’ll feel as though you’re driving through a film set when you arrive, you can choose the area you stay in depending on your proclivities. The south shore is known for being busy and fairly touristy, so as we know you like the best of the best, we recommend the north shore (peaceful and very upscale), or the west shore, which is more rugged and feels as though it’s from an earlier time.
For one of the best hikes in California, head to the Tamarack Express chairlift to enjoy a scenic ride up to the Skyline Trail. Your knees will thank you when you sink gratefully onto the chairlift, and the incredibly beautiful two mile trail at the top has some of the best views over both the lake and the Carson Valley.