When you vacation in Northern California, you’ll be surrounded by phenomenal natural beauty, so it’s no surprise if you decide to embark on a day hike. No matter where your Northern California vacation rental is situated, you’ll most likely have plenty of wonderful hiking options nearby. Choose day treks that take you through magnificent thickets of redwoods, through primeval ferns, or toward spectacular lakes or waterfalls. Take a look at some of the top trail and hiking area suggestions.
1. Redwood Creek Trail in Redwoods National Park
This 16-mile hike leads you through a lush valley filled with giant redwoods, including one of the tallest trees anywhere on the Earth. The Libby Tree was declared the tallest tree anywhere when it was discovered in 1963; while one taller tree exists, its location hasn’t been publicly disclosed. The Redwood Creek Trail ends when you cross the bridge into Tall Trees Grove, where you’ll gasp in awe at the stunning giants surrounding you.
2. The Coastal Trail in Redwoods National Park
Nowhere is Northern California’s natural beauty more spectacularly revealed than when you come out of the old-growth redwoods of the Coastal Trail in Redwoods National Park to find yourself standing on a cliff over the Pacific Ocean, listening to the surf crashing below. This trail runs 9.2 miles from the trailhead at the mouth of Klamath River to the Flint Ridge Campground.
3. The McCloud River Trail at Mount Shasta
Mount Shasta offers hiking opportunities that range from incredibly easy 20-minute strolls suitable for people of all fitness levels to strenuous hikes that involve steep climbing. A delightful trail that lets you explore three waterfalls follows the McCloud River. Within a 3-mile loop, you can visit the energetic rock chute of the Upper Falls, play in the large, icy pool at the foot of the Middle Falls, and top it all off with the Lower Falls. The trail has recently been improved, and parts of it are wheelchair-accessible.
4. Mist Trail and John Muir Trail in Yosemite National Park
Both the John Muir Trail and the Mist Trail take you to Vernal Falls and Nevada Fall. If you start with the Mist Trail heading up and then take the John Muir Trail heading down, people in your party who are concerned about their knees will thank you. No matter the route, you can enjoy these two spectacular waterfalls while also getting glimpses of Yosemite Falls and Illilouette Fall. Pack a lunch at your vacation rental to enjoy on the slabs of granite that sit over Nevada Fall. Start your hike early in summertime to avoid the heat.
5. Look for Wildflowers at Point Reyes National Seashore
The Chimney Rock Trail at Point Reyes National Seashore takes you along the Marin County section of the Pacific coast with amazing views of Drake’s Bay. In the spring, you’ll find yourself surrounded by wildflowers, but don’t ignore the incredible ocean view. When you look out to the Pacific from January to May, you’re likely to see migrating whales. Bundle up for this hike, because even at a mere 1.6 miles, fog and wind, not to mention occasional fissures in the trail, can make it challenging. Don’t try to climb down the cliffs, however, as this hike offers no beach access.
6. Hike High in the Sierras to Crystal Lakes
High in the Sierras over Mammoth Lakes is Crystal Lake, where a 2.5-mile may prove challenging even to moderately experienced hikers, thanks to the elevation and all the switchbacks. The trailhead starts at Lake George, which is itself is worthy of many photographs, as is Crystal Lake, your destination. Bring a towel if you’re daring enough to take a dip in the icy water.
7. Visit a Primeval Era in Fern Canyon
In Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Fern Canyon takes you back in time as you hike between narrow canyon walls through huge ferns that were featured in movies like Jurassic Park 2. This special canyon is also a World Heritage Site and has been designated as an International Biosphere Reserve. Expect a couple of miles driving on dirt roads to reach the canyon, and then enjoy the one-mile loop trail that takes you past a waterfall and out of the canyon to bluffs overlooking the coast. Wear durable, waterproof shoes for this hike, since you’ll be crossing several creeks on your hike.
8. The Palomarin Trail to Alamere Falls
Alamere Falls is one of the rarest types of waterfalls in the world — a tidefall that falls directly into the ocean. This beautiful hike starts at the Palomarin trailhead and takes you on a trek of 8.4 miles. Some of the trails can get warm, so make sure you pack adequate water. To get to the main waterfall that falls straight on the beach, you’ll have a steep climb down. Plenty of loose gravel means you expect a little slipping and sliding, so give other hikers a little room. Pack a lunch at your vacation rental so you can enjoy it at the beach. If the Palomarin Trail seems a little too strenuous for those in your party, hike along the Point Reyes National Seashore’s Coastal Trail as far as Wildcat Camp, and then follow the beach south till you get to Alamere Falls.
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