We Hereby Declare These the 52 Best Hikes in California

One great trail for every weekend in 2017

By The Editors

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30 December 2016

We've got a whole bunch of weekends coming up in 2017.

To help you make the most of them, we put together a compendium of the 52 best hikes in California — that's one for every Saturday from now until December.

These trails have literally everything: California's tallest peak. Condors. Sea lions. Redwoods. Waterfalls. Mount Shasta. Wildflowers. (So. Many. Wildflowers.)

Your mileage may vary.

Especially if you opt for the spur trail down to the beach.

JANUARY

Trail: Lost Palms Oasis, Joshua Tree
Distance: 7 miles
What you get: A classic desert hike past cacti and palm tree— with a view of the Salton Sea, if you’re lucky

Trail: Murray Canyon Trail, Palm Springs
Distance: 6 miles
What you get: An out-and-back to seasonal waterfalls, under a canopy of California fan palms.

Trail: The Slot, Borrego Springs
Distance: 2 miles
What you get: An easy-to-access taste of a foot-wide slot canyon below a 40-foot canyon wall — without heading to Utah.

Trail: Snowshoeing Lassen Volcanic National Park
Distance: Varies
What you get: The attention of rangers as you criss-cross Lassen at its snowy best.

Trail: Amboy Crater, Mojave Trails National Monument
Distance: 3 miles will get you to the rim
What you get: A look inside a 10,000-year-old cinder cone volcanic crater.

FEBRUARY

Trail: Barker Dam Nature Trail, Joshua Tree
Distance: 1.5 miles
What you get: A cool-season chance to see this picturesque dam as it’s meant to be seen: with water inside of it.

Trail: Glendale Peak
Distance: 3.1 miles
What you get: A butt-burning hike on one of Griffith’s lesser hiked trails, providing views of downtown, Glendale, and on clear days, the snowcapped San Gabriels and the ocean.

Trail: Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve
Distance: Up to 7 miles
What you get: No solitude — but schedule your visit for peak bloom and pick your path among the seven miles of trails through spectacular poppy fields.

Trail: Sidewinder Canyon, Death Valley
Distance: 5 miles
What you get: A genuinely tough hike that the National Park Service warns is “physically and mentally a very demanding hike” through multiple slots.

MARCH

Trail: First Wildflowers Hike, Trione-Annadel State Park
Distance: 4 miles
What you get: Rangers will lead visitors on a tour of the earliest wildflowers in Sonoma.

Trail: Artists Palette, Death Valley
Distance: Brief jaunt
What you get: A chance to celebrate the reopening of the scenic drive, closed through mid-March for repairs, through the incredibly colorful rocks in this part of the park: Your Instagram will thank you.

Trail: Mount Diablo, Mount Diablo State Park
Distance: 13 miles
What you get: The best views of the East Bay (and perhaps at far as Yosemite!) of the year — plus weather more aligned with hiking in comfort than heat exhaustion.

Trail: Saddleback Butte Trail, Saddleback Butte Park
Distance: 4 miles
What you get: Blue skies, Joshua trees, and, if the timing/weather/gods align, a carpet of yellow coreopsis.

Trail: Magu Peak
Distance: 5.2 miles
What you get: A hike up from the beach that’s filled with sea breezes, wild flowers, unpolluted views of the coast and the redolence of sage.

APRIL

Trail: Telescope Peak Trail, Death Valley
Distance: 12 miles
What you get: A view of the highest (Mount Whitney) and lowest (Badwater Basin) points in the state — plus, if you’re lucky with the timing, wildflowers galore.

Trail: Fox Mountain
Distance: 12 miles
What you get: A remote peak in the San Gabriels with a natural spring, tall cedars and very little foot traffic.

Trail: Condor Gulch to High Peaks Loop
Distance: 5 miles
What you get: One word: condors.

Trail: Charmlee Wilderness Park, Malibu
Distance: Your choice of 8 miles of park trails
What you get: Sparkling Pacific views, plus a well-equipped nature center for the kids.

MAY

Trail: Pine Ridge Trail to Sykes Hot Springs
Distance: 10 miles
What you get: To relax in the hot springs after a pretty arduous hike — with the asterisk that the trail isn’t closed, as it was last year, by the Soberanes fire.

Trail: El Cajon Mountain
Distance: 11 miles
What you get: Views of the Pacific and these round sandstone boulders at the peak that make for fun climbing.

Trail: Charmlee Wilderness
Distance: 2.84 miles
What you get: An easy-breezy hike across from El Matador State Beach.

Trail: Gaviota Wind Caves
Distance: 2.1 miles
What you get: A steep climb to sandstone caves on the side of the mountains overlooking Gaviota State beach — pack a picnic for lunch on the beach below.

Trail: Rhododendron Trail, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Distance: 6 miles
What you get: Schedule this hike around the blooming of the titular blooming bushes — it can be spectacular.

JUNE

Trail: Caples Creek Trail, Eldorado National Forest
Distance: 4 miles
What you get: Fantastic wildflower viewing as soon as the snows are gone — think early-to-mid June.

Trail: Torrey Pines State Park
Distance: 3 miles
What you get: The best possible view of Del Mar and the Pacific, not to mention the pine forest.

Trail: Ontario Peak and Big Horn
Distance: 14 miles
What you get: The best way to get up the tallest peak in the San Gabriels provides encounters with bighorn sheep, a walk through the Kelly Camp and incredible views of pretty much everywhere.

Trail: Visitor Center to Inspiration Point, East Anacapa, Channel Islands National Park
Distance: 1.5 miles
What you get: The best vantage on the magical Channel Islands. Plus whales.

JULY

Trail: John Muir Trail
Distance: 211 miles
What you get: The crème de la crème of the Pacific Crest Trail, snaking along the tops of the Sierras from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney.

Trail: Lassen Peak Trail
Distance: 5 miles
What you get: A bird’s-eye view of the Devastated Area demolished when volcanic Mount Lassen erupted in 1922.

Trail: Rubicon Trail, Emerald Bay State Park and D.L. Bliss State Park
Distance: 9 miles
What you get: An unbelievable view of sapphire-blue Tahoe, a sandy trail, and the pleasures of hiking under the pines.

Trail: Ediza Lake, Ansel Adams Wilderness Area
Distance: 13 miles
What you get: Alpine lakes over 10,000 feet up, with the chance for further hiking to Cecile and Iceberg lakes as well.

Trail: Inspiration and Portuguese Point
Distance: varies
What you get: A great coastal hike in and out of sea caves and tide pools.  

AUGUST

Trail: Mount Whitney Trail, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
Distance: 18 miles
What you get: The view from the highest point of all of California, plus the satisfaction of having won the battle to get a permit (which you obviously kicked off way back in February).

Trail: Tahoe Rim Trail
Distance: 165 miles
What you get: A once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the best of Tahoe from the water’s edge.

Trail: Mount Baldy (San Antonio) and Mount Hardwood
Distance: 10 miles
What you get: Baldy is the region’s tallest peak and a rite of passage for any Angeleno, and steep enough that folks preparing for Everest come here.

Trail: Bumpass Hell Trail, Lassen Volcanic National Park
Distance: 3 miles
What you get: An easy boardwalk tour of mud pots and Lassen’s hydropthermal treats — just never, ever go off trail.

SEPTEMBER

Trail: Lost Coast Trail
Distance: 24 miles
What you get: Coastal redwood coves, crashing Pacific surf — the whole enchilada.

Trail: Stewart Trail to Alamere Falls
Distance: 7 miles
What you get: To see a waterfall empty onto an ocean beach.

Trail: Switzer Falls and Bear Canyon
Distance: 6.8 miles
What you get: A classic, shaded hike in the San Gabriels that includes a small waterfall and the historic Switzer Camp.

Trail: Big Pine Creek North Fork Trail, Inyo National Forest
Distance: 10 miles
What you get: Spectacularly beautiful lakes in the High Sierras — pick your favorite, though we’re happy to wind up at Second Lake.

OCTOBER

Trail: Tomales Point Trail, Point Reyes National Seashore
Distance: 10 miles
What you get: The superlative Point Reyes coastal experience — plus tule elk, if you’re interested.

Trail: Malibu Creek Trail
Distance: 8 miles
What you get: A riparian hike with elevation gains, swimming holes, fishing spots, climbing spots and a walk through the remains of the set where they shot M*A*S*H.

Trail: Salt Point Trail, Salt Point State Park
Distance: 2 miles
What you get: Crazy-dramatic coast views with minimal (50 foot) elevation gains.

Trail: Stevenson Memorial Trail, Robert Louis Stevenson State Park
Distance: 10 miles
What you get: Views from the peak of Mount Saint Helena, the highest point in Napa, from the bay to Mount Shasta.

Trail: Bommer Canyon Laguna Coastal Hike
Distance: 7 miles
What you get: A hike through sandstone caves and along a sage-lined ridge, providing stunning views of the Pacific and Laguna Beach (we made it a Dinner Plan).

NOVEMBER

Trail: Bluff Trail, Montana de Oro State Park
Distance: 5 miles
What you get: A trail run along the Pacific — with the chance to head down to the beach to explore the tide pools.

Trail: Big Laguna Trail
Distance: 13 miles
What you get: Lots of fall color from the redolent cedars, pines and oaks, along with stunning vistas and expansive meadows and lagoons.

Trail: Point Lobos Loop
Distance: 7 miles
What you get: Possibly the best coastal hike in the whole state. Also, sea lions.

Trail: Trabuco Canyon Loop
Distance: 12 miles
What you get: An arduous hike along a riparian path with lots of fall color courtesy of a mixed conifer forest.

DECEMBER

Trail: Kelso Dunes, Mojave National Preserve
Distance: 3 miles
What you get: A scramble across the sand to the peak with-a-view of prime dune country.

Trail: Calabasas Peak, Red Rock Canyon
Distance: 4.6 miles
What you get: A solid uphill hike along a red rock canyon that’s great for pets, trail running and activity dates (stop for lunch in Topanga Canyon afterwards).

Trail: Eureka Peak, Joshua Tree
Distance: 10 miles
What you get: Epic views across the Coachella Valley, plus a classic desertland experience.

Trail: Murphy Ranch
Distance: 3.8 miles
What you get: A historic hike into one of L.A.’s darker histories: the former hideout of a group of Nazi spies.

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