The Most Epic Hikes To Take In Northern California

Half Dome, Yosemite © Vicente Villamón/Wikipedia
Half Dome, Yosemite © Vicente Villamón/Wikipedia
Northern California is known for its magnificent mountains, gorgeous redwood forests and oasis-like lakes and rivers. If you’re looking for a memorable hike to take in the area, we’ve got you covered with our favorite spots to hit the trail.

Marin Headlands

Hiking up through the Marin Headlands offers gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Pacific Coast and the rest of the Bay Area. The Marin Headlands Trail is a moderately popular 10.1 mile loop near Mill Valley. This hike will take you through an assortment of colorful wildflowers blooming in the spring, and in the fall keep an eye out for hawks during the raptor migration. The trails are considered difficult, so come prepared; you can expect a number of activities available on the trail as well.

Marin Headlands, CA, USA

Stout Grove

Stout Grove is a densely-packed redwood grove located in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. This majestic 44-acre grove is considered the most scenic redwood forest in the world. It is filled with towering trees, many of which reach up to 300 feet high — and it is a sight to be seen. There is a half mile paved loop trail, mostly easy and flat, that will take you through the grove. The trailhead begins on the east side of Howland Hill Road and follows along the winding Smith River. The trail is off the beaten path from most tourist routes and is quiet and serene.

Stout Grove Trailhead, CA, USA

Half Dome, Yosemite

One of the most iconic hikes in the state is the hike up to Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. This trail is adventurous and arduous for most, leading up to 8,800 feet above sea level. The hike is 16 miles round trip, reaching a peak with sweeping views of Vernal and Nevada Falls, the Yosemite Valley and the High Sierra. The hike typically takes ten to 12 hours, with a set of cables to help hikers get through the last stretch. It is recommended that hikers come well prepared since the trail can be quite dangerous.

Half Dome, CA, USA

Desolation Wilderness

Desolation Wilderness is an area of Lake Tahoe in California and is often considered the most beautiful section, featuring plenty of hiking trails and gorgeous panoramic views of the lake and the mountains. Take a hike up to Dicks Peak, a tall mountain right in the middle of the wilderness. The standard route begins at Emerald Bay, following either the Eagle Falls Trail or the Granite Lake/Maggies Peaks Trail. The two trails meet after several miles at the Pacific Crest Trail, leading to Dicks Pass, which takes hikers to the peak.

Desolation Wilderness, North El Dorado, CA, USA

Lassen Peak

Lassen Peak was once the southernmost active volcano in the Cascade Range, last erupting in 1915. There is a trail leading from the parking area up 2.5 miles one way to the summit. The trail offers sweeping views of the park and the surrounding areas, including the spaces devastated in the last eruption, reaching as far as 200 miles to the east. The volcano is dormant but still considered active, and the trail is steep and rocky so hiking boots are recommended. Expect a round trip hike to take around three to five hours.

Lassen Peak, CA, USA

Siskiyou Wilderness

Siskiyou Wilderness is located in parts of Del Norte, Humboldt and Siskiyou counties, filled with forest-covered mountains, valleys and grasslands. There are three National Forests within the wilderness, including Six Rivers, Klamath and Siskiyou. The wilderness is moderately popular, with concentration on the major trails and mountain lakes. Hiking through the wilderness will take you through steep canyons, dense greenery and incredible views. Hikes available include everything from half day hikes to week long backpacking trips, upon some of which you will find complete solitude.

Siskiyou Wilderness, CA, USA

Point Reyes

Natural Feature
Not far north of San Francisco, Point Reyes National Seashore has around 150 miles of hiking trails for visitors to enjoy. Grab a trail map at the Bear Valley Visitor Center and customize a hike to suit your needs. You can make your way through the rocky headlands, sandy beaches, open grasslands, sweeping hills and forested cliffs, or take a walk down to the iconic Point Reyes Lighthouse. There are over 1,500 species of plants and animals to look out for along your trip, too — so keep your eyes open!
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