We Hereby Declare These the 52 Best Hikes in California

That's one for every weekend in 2017

By Diane Rommel

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04 January 2017

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: Mount Livermore Loop, Angel Island
Distance: 6 miles
What you get: The best views of S.F. and Marin — if you’re lucky with the weather

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: Murietta Falls Loop
Distance: 12 miles
What you get: The Bay’s “most brutal” hike — with a finale that’s either spectacular or meh, depending on recent rainfall. The best chances, though, are early spring.

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: East Bay Skyline National Recreation Trail
Distance: 32 miles
What you get: A whole new vantage on the East Bay, through five adjacent state parks — plus primo wildflower viewing.

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: Cypress Grove Trail at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
Distance: 0.8 miles
What you get: Pacific surf — plus a wander through one of two remaining stands of Monterey cypress trees

Trail: Bluff Trail, Fiscalini Ranch Preserve
Distance: 2 miles
What you get: A boardwalk trail for hikers looking for coastal views that’s ADA-accessible.

Trail: Trails to Mount Wanda
Distance: Varies
What you get: To walk in the footsteps of John Muir, whose home, north of San Francisco, is a National Park site — keep an eye out for guided moonlight hikes with rangers.

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: McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (pictured)
Distance: 0.6 miles
What you get: The best possible view of McWay Falls dropping 80 feet onto the beach below.

Trail: Tennessee Valley to Pelican Inn
Distance: 10 miles
What you get: A classic Marin county hike, with Pacific views, that ends in beer.

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: Lands End, San Francisco
Distance: 4 miles
What you get: The classic-of-all-classics tour of San Francisco’s wildest edge, with views of the Sutro Baths, Cliff House, Golden Gate, and more.

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

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: Pomo Canyon and Red Hill trails, Sonoma Coast State Park
Distance: 7 miles
What you get: Views of the Russian River, Pacific, and redwoods, along old California ranchland.

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: Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail
Distance: 30 miles
What you get: A right of passage for South Bay hikers: two nights in major redwoods territory, headed downhill to the ocean all the way.

Trail: North Gate Trail, Mount Shasta
Distance: 4 miles
What you get: Last chance of the season for views of Mount Shasta and some pretty serious glaciers.

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: Bohemian Grove Trail, Muir Woods
Distance: 2 miles
What you get: The perfect introduction to the world of redwoods for little hikers or anyone who finds walking difficult.

NOVEMBER

Trail: Bluff Trail, Montana de Oro State Park (pictured)
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: Dipsea Trail to Stinson Beach
Distance: 7 miles
What you get: Up the Dipsea Stairs in Mill Valley, down to Muir Woods, and up, up, up Cardiac Hill: This is the ultimate Bay Area trail running workout.

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

Trail: Stout Memorial Grove Trail, Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park
Distance: 0.7 miles
What you get: Bring a kid to this gorgeous redwood grove and you’ll end up with a little eco-warrior dedicated to their survival.

DECEMBER

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

Trail: Cataract Falls, Mt. Tamalpais State Park
Distance: 3 miles
What you get: A dog-friendly, kid-happy Mt. Tam trail with a waterfall, stream, and shady canopy.

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

Trail: Batteries-to-Bluffs to Marshall’s Beach
Distance: Minimal
What you get: The best sunset in town for the shortest days of the year.

All photos via Flickr. January by Tom Hilton. February by Adam Belles. March by Jason Hickey. April by In Awe of God's Creation. May by Anita Ritentour. June by Don Graham. July by Peretz Partensky. August by Miguel Vieira. September by Bureau of Land Management. October by Ryan Grimm. November by Brian. December by Rick McCharles

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