Although many of us have picked up new hobbies such as bread making or sewing while at home, it can be a good change of pace to get outdoors. If you’re looking for a safe way to get some sunshine, a hike through one of California’s many parks is a great option.
As lockdown restrictions begin to lift, prepare your hiking boots for some epic adventures. Central California offers an array of hiking spots, but most require a little planning before you hit the trails.
If you’re stuck for places to try, here are just a few of my favorite California trails.
Carrizo Plain National Monument
This park is one of California’s hidden gems. Located near California Valley, just a few hours from Los Angeles, the plains offers a unique variety of nature.
Centuries ago, the 204,000-acre park served as grassland where the deer and the antelope played — and some still live there today. New animals such as kit foxes and antelope squirrel now call the plains home. Wildflowers cover the landscape and it is home to a diverse set of plant life, many of which are endangered.
Hikers can traverse valleys, ridges and ponds along the San Andreas Fault. Some of the park’s most popular spots include grass lands, distant mountain views and Painted Rock, a rock formation with pictograph art. Guided tours to Painted Rock are available at this time, but may be limited or canceled due to nesting birds.
However, the most popular part of the park is Soda Lake, a normally dry lake bed that concentrates salt water as it evaporates, leaving a substance that looks like baking soda.
If you want to get a sneak peek at what calming views the park has to offer, check out my 360° video of the plains here!
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is one of California’s most well-known hiking spots, but there’s a reason for that. The park has been protected since 1964 and offers magnificent waterfalls, glaciers and breathtaking views of the High Sierras. Backpacking typical is a no-go until the snow completely melts, but trails open throughout the year as the season permits. You can check the Yosemite National Park website for up-to-date trail openings.
If you’re looking for a beginner hike with little elevation, I recommend the Mirror Lake trail. The two-mile hike typically takes about one hour to complete. The first mile is paved and the traversed elevation only reaches about 100 feet, though the lake is more than 4,000 feet above sea level. The trail follows Tenaya Creek and crosses two bridges before offering views of Mirror Lake and Mount Watkins. The view (and the photos) are well-worth it.
For more advanced hikers, I recommend the Half Dome Day Hike, which offers hikers views of Yosemite Valley from 5,000 feet up. To reach the summit, the hike does include a portion on metal cables, however, which also requires a permit. For a less daring hike, I recommend the Yosemite Falls Trail. A shorter two-mile, paved trail will take you to the base of the waterfall while a 7.2-mile trail takes you to the top of the falls.
Although it offers a variety of hiking trails, it is very popular in the summer. For that reason, reservations to enter the park are required starting May 21, so be sure to plan your journey accordingly.
Before you go, check out my video from our day trip to Lower Yosemite Falls and see various views firsthand!
Some higher areas in the mountains may still be snowbound and Tioga Road is still closed. Mariposa Grove usually opens by mid-March. Glacier Point Road is also closed (and as a note, it will be closed for the entire of 2022 for rehabilitation). Generally, plan a route that won’t take you above 6,000 feet and check with the rangers to see what is or is not open.
The spring snowmelt makes the waterfalls particularly pretty, especially in the Valley. While it’s generally not clear enough for backpacking without snow camping, there are plenty of day hike options.
Trails near Oakhurst and Raymond, California
Although they don’t boast the same fame that Yosemite does, there are some incredible trails in Oakhurst and Raymond.
If you want to see waterfalls, I suggest Corlieu Falls or Angel Falls. Both trails are moderate with great views of waterfalls and places to relax and soak in the water. Both trail heads have limited parking, so it’s best to go early in the day to get a good spot.
If you’re looking to mix it up, check out Pincushion Mountain. The trail is about five miles, and it can be steep and rocky so good boots are recommended. Along the way, you’ll see mountains, a river valley, and a wide-open sky. Just remember to take it slow and take some breaks along the way.
So, if you’re looking to get off the couch, try out one of these awesome California hiking trails. Be sure to bring plenty of water and check weather conditions before you go. And next time you’re planning a trek, check out for ThereGoesSaraRose.com more travel advice.