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Hidden Hikes

This National Park Week, discover lesser-known treks and trails in California where adventurous hikers can go to decompress and explore wilderness. This list provides the perfect escape to off-the-beaten-path hikes with breathtaking scenery and lush surroundings.

Northern California

Morgan Hill’s Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve
Experience Morgan Hill’s remote ambiance of Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve offering expansive views of Mt. Umunhum along its 12-mile trail system. Keep an eye out for bald eagle sightings and explore the wildflower hotspots, especially during spring, while being mindful of deer, bobcats, and acorn woodpeckers. Opt for the paved Llagas Creek Loop Trail for a shorter, wheelchair-accessible hike alongside the creek, or embark on a longer loop through the park via the Mayfair Ranch Trail, Longwall Canyon, Bald Peaks, and Catamount trails.

The Presidio’s Tennessee Hollow Watershed Walk
Embark on the 1.5-mile Tennessee Hollow Watershed Walk through the Presidio's scenic landscape, tracing one of San Francisco's last remaining watersheds amid restored natural habitats. Beginning at Presidio Wall Playground, head north to encounter El Polín Spring, adorned with wildflowers and historical remnants of San Francisco's early neighborhoods, including the residence of healer Juana Briones, before reaching the Quartermaster Reach marsh and San Francisco Bay. Don't forget to download the guide for interesting historical insights and a helpful map.

New Trails on Filoli's Unexplored Natural Lands
The Bay Area’s Filoli Spring Creek trail loop debuts to the public on June 8, 2024, coinciding with the opening of the Lamchin Interpretive Center, designed to share the narratives of the Ramaytush Ohlone and the land's history. Starting midway along Filoli's one-mile nature trail, visitors can explore the scenic creek bed and historic flume, built over 100 years ago by industrialist William Bourn. Guests will enjoy seasonal experiences from winter mushrooms and newts to spring wildflowers and songbirds, with upcoming activities like guided sunset hikes and Service Learning days supporting Filoli's conservation efforts.

Hike to Black Sands Beach in Sausalito
Experience the beauty of the Marin Headlands and valleys on the Julian Trail in Sausalito, offering stunning vistas and a picturesque lookout. Continue your journey to discover Black Sands Beach, a rare gem along the California coast, where wildflowers bloom in abundance during the Spring season.

Hikes for All Ages in North Lake Tahoe
North Lake Tahoe offers majestic mountains and hiking trails for all skill levels. For a scenic hike overlooking Lake Tahoe, try the moderate Bayview Trail near Emerald Bay, winding through pine forests with stunning views. For family-friendly adventures, North Tahoe Regional Park features well-kept trails, including a ¾ mile interpretive Sierra forest nature trail, perfect for learning about Lake Tahoe's delicate ecosystem. 

Off the Beaten Path on Lewis Creek Trail
In the Sierra National Forest, Lewis Creek Trail offers an easy-to-medium hike with waterfalls, cascades, and shade, accessible from Highway 41. Hikers can reach Corlieu Falls, an 80 ft series of cascades, then continue to Red Rock Falls for a longer adventure. The Lewis Creek Trail welcomes leashed dogs, but caution is advised near slippery rocks.

Cline Family Cellars' Vineyard Hikes
Hilary Cline of Cline Family Cellars leads vineyard hikes up Hat Strap Hill, offering attendees a chance to explore the vineyard, learn about sustainable farming, and sample wine. The first tour, led by Hilary this past March, showcased early signs of Spring bud break. Dogs are welcome.

Vacaville's Hidden Tree Swings
Vacaville's hidden tree swings offer unique perspectives of the cityscape, with the Browns Valley swing providing panoramic views and opportunities for adventure like rock climbing. For a more moderate hike, visit Peña Adobe Park and enjoy swinging under the oak trees while admiring the tranquil surroundings. The trail is both kids and dog-friendly.

Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite
Walk in the splendor of ancient giant sequoias in the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias, located just off Highway 120 East (also known as the Tioga Road) and accessible year-round. This is one of three groves in the park to walk among these giants that can live to more than 2000 years old. It’s a 1.5 mile hike to reach the Tuolumne Grove but it will be well worth the work to enjoy these massively beautiful trees with a lot less crowds than the Mariposa Grove at the south end of the park. In the winter, this trek can require snowshoes. 

Central California

California’s Newest National Park: Pinnacles National Park
Pinnacles National Park, the nation’s newest park on California’s central coast, is known for its dramatic rock formations and diverse trails. These risk formations are so iconic that the entrance to Disneyland’s California Adventure theme park was modeled after them. The Bench Trail to Moses Spring to Rim Trail Loop offers a scenic 5-mile hike through native grasslands and iconic peaks, culminating in the breathtaking Bear Gulch Reservoir. Visitors during National Park Week can also enjoy vibrant wildflowers in bloom, enhancing the park's natural beauty.

Kaweah Oaks Preserve Near Visalia
Explore Kaweah Oaks Preserve, located minutes from downtown Visalia, offering a glimpse of the Central Valley's landscape from 200 years ago with its 322-acre Valley Oak riparian forest. With miles of trails suitable for all fitness levels, visitors can enjoy blooming wildflowers in spring and stunning views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and nearby national parks. The preserve's self-guided nature paths allow hikers to experience the sights and sounds of a simpler time, reminiscent of the area's Native American and early settler history.

Revealing Atascadero’s Charm Through Hikes
Atascadero has many things to offer, and hiking is definitely one of them. Discover the Jim Green Trailhead, a dog-friendly haven boasting vibrant wildflowers, catering to all skill levels. Stadium Park Trailhead offers a serene 2-mile loop, winding through majestic oak trees, providing ample shade for a tranquil hike. Atascadero Lake Park offers a refreshing and family-friendly experience, perfect for casual strolls.

Sunset Wine Country Hike in Paso Robles
Explore Paso Robles Wine Country on a 1.5-mile hike through CASS Winery's foothills, offering insights into sustainable vineyard practices and scenic vineyard vistas. Gain a deeper understanding of vine cultivation, terroir, and microclimate effects while experiencing landmarks like water recycling reservoirs and apple orchards, followed by a sunset view with wine tasting and optional cheese board.

Pismo Beach
Explore Pismo Beach's hidden trails nestled between the Pacific Ocean and Irish Hills, offering diverse experiences from Oceano dunes to lush Pismo Preserve. Discover Meadow Creek Trail and Monarch Butterfly Grove, or challenge yourself with Cliffside Trails, offering breathtaking coastal views. With 900 acres of oak woodlands, Pismo Preserve welcomes hikers, bikers, and horseback riders of all levels, providing free access to serene escapes like Pirates Cove for a tranquil exploration of nature.

San Luis Obispo County Trails
Embark on the Piedras Blancas Boucher Trail, a 1.9-mile path between the Piedras Blancas Light Station and Highway One, offering breathtaking views of wild and sea life. As part of the California Coastal Trail on State Park property, the trail provides opportunities to spot coyotes, birds, elephant seals, sea lions, and migrating gray whales in March and April. Nearby, Ragged Point Beach offers black sand shores, while the Bluff Trail in Montaña de Oro State Park features a 3.4-mile roundtrip hike showcasing coastal bluffs, tide pools, beaches, and a scenic rocky coastline.

Southern California

Dripping Springs Trail: Beauty in the Agua Tibia Wilderness
Southeast of Temecula Valley Wine Country, the Dripping Springs Trail in the Agua Tibia Wilderness offers a challenging hike with nearly 3,000 feet of elevation gain, rewarding hikers with views of mountains and vineyards. Campers can rest under the stars at Dripping Springs Campground, especially during Fall and Spring, when vibrant foliage and wildflowers adorn the area, providing a serene outdoor experience. A visitor pass is required for overnight stays in the backcountry

Discover Ventura County Coast's Hidden Hiking Gems
Ventura County Coast hides enchanting hikes, providing secluded trails, stunning views, and a retreat into untouched nature. Channel Islands National Park offers hidden hikes and a chance to spot the unique island fox, while Santa Monica National Recreation Area boasts ocean views, waterfalls, and diverse ecosystems. At Harmon Canyon Preserve, explore Ventura's first landscape-scale nature preserve.

Laguna Beach's Green Belt
Explore Laguna Beach's Laguna Green Belt, spanning 22,000 acres and offering numerous hiking options. Begin by exploring the wilderness parks, which cater to hikers of all skill levels, while adhering to Leave No Trace principles. Don't miss Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, featuring over 40 trails across 7,000 coastal acres, including highlights like Laurel Canyon Trail and The Willow Staging Area, where you may encounter rare wildlife and vibrant wildflower blooms in the spring.

Seeing Another Side of Southern California
Nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains, Conejo Valley offers a range of attractions, from towering peaks to serene parks and vibrant cultural hubs. Sandstone Peak, the highest point in the range, provides sweeping panoramic views of the valley, while the Sycamore Canyon Trail, a 5.9 mile moderately challenging out-and-back hike in Malibu offers picturesque landscapes, perfect for outdoor enthusiasts.

Hike Like a Local in Encinitas
Explore Encinitas' hidden gem, Spooks Canyon Trail in Olivenhain, haunted by the “White Lady” that floats above the ground. Accessible from Brookside Drive, the trail offers a horse-friendly path, creek crossings, and stunning views of Rancho Santa Fe. Descend into the canyon, adorned with wildflowers and the sounds of Escondido Creek, and enjoy a picnic in the serene park before extending the hike to Staircase Trail for panoramic ocean views.

Orange County's Only Redwood Grove
Discover the hidden beauty of OC Parks’ Carbon Canyon Regional Park Redwood Grove in Brea, home to Orange County’s only Coastal Redwoods, nurtured to thrive in Southern California's climate. These towering giants, growing up to 320 ft and over 2,000 years old, offer shade and tranquility in a picturesque setting, accessible via a 1.1-mile nature trail. Parking is available for $3 on weekdays and $5 on weekends, providing easy access to this exclusive gem just a short distance away.

Coastal Hiking Trails in Huntington Beach
Visit the 1,400-acre Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve located north of downtown Huntington Beach, offering five miles of trails through restored wetlands and home to over 200 bird species and marine life. Adjacent to Bolsa Chica State Beach, the reserve provides a perfect spot to watch the sunset after exploring. Huntington Beach Central Park boasts 365 acres of trails, including the World Trail with 18 exercise stations, and the Huntington Dog Beach Trail, allowing your pup to play in the waves post-hike.

Camarillo Climbs Worth Seeing
Camarillo’s neighboring Santa Monica Mountains National Park offers over 500 miles of trails, catering to all levels of hikers with coastal breezes and stunning ocean views. Just minutes away, Point Mugu State Park features the sought-after Chumash Trail, tucked away in the California hills and accessible from the Pacific Coast Highway across from Mugu Beach.

Irvine’s Turtle Rock Nature Center
Turtle Rock Nature Center in Irvine boasts a five-acre interactive center and a paved trail winding through native habitats, offering educational opportunities and serene walks. Visitors can also explore the Native plant garden and labyrinth during their visit.

Natural Wonders and Desert Super Blooms in Borrego Springs
Borrego Springs, a small town in San Diego County, is known for its natural wonders, including desert super blooms and pristine night skies, with over 110 miles of hiking trails. Options like Cactus Loop, Split Mountain, and Whale Peak cater to various skill levels, with accommodations like Borrego Valley Inn and Palm Canyon Hotel & RV Resort conveniently located nearby.


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