The Best Places to Go Hiking in and Around Redwood, California

Taking in the view from the summit of Mount Umunhum
Taking in the view from the summit of Mount Umunhum | © Ethan Dow / Unsplash
Photo of Mandi Keighran
12 November 2020

Redwood in north-western California is best-known for its towering trees, which are the tallest in the world. However, it’s also home to many more natural wonders – from wild riverways and rugged coastline to majestic woodlands and expansive prairies. There are more than 200 miles of hiking tracks through Redwood National Park, and hundreds more in the surrounding area that wind through this spectacular landscape – where to start?

Muir Woods National Monument

Forest, Park
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Muir Woods National Monument
© zrfphoto / Getty Images

Walk beneath the impressive old-growth coast redwoods—the tallest living things on the planet—in this primeval forest that has been protected as a National Monument since 1908. There are six miles of trails, ranging from a half-hour loop to more challenging trails that cross over into the neighbouring Mount Tamalpais State Park. While the trails in the Muir Woods are suitable for strollers and wheelchairs, the unpaved upper trails are narrow and steep. Keep an eye out for bats roosting in the cavities of the giant redwoods—there are 10 different species in the wood.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

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© Paulius Dragunas / Unsplash
This sprawling park covers 82,027 acres surrounding the San Francisco Bay Area and boasts more than 250 different trails over 140 miles of land from Marin to San Mateo. Discover harbour seals and a historic lighthouse on the easy Point Bonita Lighthouse Trail, or take in panoramic views on the more challenging Gerbode Valley Loop Trail. There are also four campgrounds in the Marin Headlands, offering the opportunity to bunk down beneath the stars. The most popular is the Kirby Cove Campground, which has unbeatable views over San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Russian River Valley

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MacRostie Vineyards Rolling Hills Fall Color, Russian River Valley AVA, California
© Richard Wong / Alamy Stock Photo
Meandering through Wine Country in Northern California, the Russian River offers plenty of opportunities for watersports, boating, riverside dining—and, of course, there’s ample hiking trails in the surrounding area. There’s a variety of trails to explore, and the best are found between Highway One and 101, and along the coastline of Highway One. For dog-friendly picnicking among the redwoods, head to Armstrong Woods, or take on the challenging 1,100ft (335m) climb of the main trail at Austin Creek State Preserve. Alternatively, explore the dramatic coastline on the Kortum Trail, which begins at Blind Beach.

Point Reyes

Natural Feature, Park
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Point Reyes, California
© Lex Zhao / Unsplash
If you’re searching for dramatic Californian coastline, you can’t go past Point Reyes—and the National Seashore has about 150 miles of hiking trails to explore. The best place to start is the Bear Valley Visitor Center, which has maps of the area and can suggest suitable hikes. The Point Reyes peninsula is a paradise for keen birders; close to half the bird species found in North America have been spotted here. The area is also home to tule elk and elephant seals, and it’s one of the best spots for catching a glimpse of the migrations of the California gray whale.

Mount Tamalpais

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Marin County hills during sunset
Marin County hills during sunset | © Radoslaw Lecyk / Shutterstock
For some seriously spectacular views, take on the 2,752ft (839m) Mount Tamalpais. There are three peaks, and multiple ways to get to the top. So, check a map before you set off. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see out to the Farallon Islands, the Marin County hills, Mount Diablo and San Francisco. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to see the snow-capped Sierra Nevada in the distance. If you want the views without the climb, opt for the scenic railway to the East Peak. There’s also mountain biking trails and rock climbing.

Big Sur Monterey

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CA02422-00...CALIFORNIA - Colorful sandstone along the the shores of the Pacific Ocean from Point Lobos State Reserve.
© Spring Images / Alamy Stock Photo
Monterey County has plenty of trails to choose from, for both beginners and experienced hikers. If you’re new to hiking, head to Jacks Peak County Park, where the easygoing Skyline Nature Trail and Iris Trail take in expansive views over Monterey Bay, Carmel Valley and Point Lobos. Elsewhere, pay a visit to Point Lobos State Reserve, which is often called “the crown jewel of the State Park system”. Keen hikers up for a challenge should take on Toro Park’s Ollason Peak; it’s particularly pretty in wildflower season. For overnight trips, Los Padres National Forest has some excellent campsites.

Sierra Azul Preserve

Hiking Trail
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View from the summit of Mount Umunhum
Taking in the view from the summit of Mount Umunhum | © Ethan Dow / Unsplash
This enormous wilderness area, encompassing more than 18,000 acres, is located just south of the town of Los Gatos, and boasts an incredibly diverse landscape. There’s peaceful woodland forests, expansive grasslands, and dramatic rockscapes. For adventure-seekers, there’s also ravines and riparian corridors to explore. The unmissable experience here is Mount Umunhum, which at 3,486ft (1.06km) is one of the highest peaks in the Santa Cruz mountain range. Ascend to the summit on one of the many trails and you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views from the Pacific to the Sierra Nevada.

Napa Valley

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Napa Valley California, Vineyards, Wine Grapes on Vine
© Chuck Mason / Alamy Stock Photo
This corner of California is famous for its wine. However, there are also abundant trails in state parks and the surrounding area waiting to be explored, many with beautiful vineyard views. A local favourite is the hike up Mount St Helena in Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, which offers views over the San Francisco Bay area from the top. For a truly memorable experience, pair hiking with wine tasting and lunch.
These recommendations were updated on November 12, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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