Earlier this year, when I was in Big Sur for an adventure summit with Bota Box, we would find ourselves on and around these very doable trails that would end at the most incredible places—and then we’d toast with a glass of wine. It was my kind of hiking.
And it got me thinking that my ideal day-hike is the kind that feels moderately strenuous—just enough that you get your heart pumping and feel a sense of accomplishment when you finish—and leads you somewhere with an incredible view that you can sit down and enjoy. It shouldn’t be so strenuous that you’d hesitate to bring along some comforts. And, ideally, it has at least some change in scenery—to the extent that it feels like you’re reaching a destination.
This was a particular favorite…
BIG SUR: Ewoldsen to McWay Waterfall Trail
You can’t go wrong in Big Sur—it’s such an incredible stretch of California’s coastland. The Ewoldsen Trail Loop begins just across from the McWay Waterfall: you climb through Redwood Groves and around rocky streams to take in sweeping views of the Pacific—each vista more beautiful than the last. It’s about 4-1/2 miles roundtrip.
Then, when you’re done, you can cross the street to walk the McWay Waterfall Trail (pictured). The waterfall trail is easily accessible from the road, but this iconic view of the waterfall that cascades down 80-feet onto the shore is not-to-be-missed. There are benches along the way where you can stop to relax. Bring along some binoculars (perhaps a Bota Mini—easy to toss into a rucksack without worrying about glass or a corkscrew) and watch for whales breaching off the coast.
And here are four more that fit the bill in Northern California…
*Note: Please consult a forest or park ranger and official trail map before setting out on any hike.
EL DORADO NATIONAL FOREST: Lake Margaret Trail (Kirkwood)
The options for great hikes around the Sierras, in the Lake Tahoe area, are even more far-reaching. There are day-hikes of every level. The 5-mile roundtrip loop to Lake Margaret should satisfy most, however: it has beautiful meadows, dramatic granite, fun water crossings, and a cold (but swimmable) lake.
POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE: Tomales Point Trail
This is a fairly flat trail, but it offers spectacular views of the water—Tomales Bay, Bodega Bay, and the Pacific Ocean. There’s also a chance that you’ll see Tule Elk along the way, as the herd is enclosed within the reserve. Conditions can change quickly as wind and fog roll in off the coast, but the drama of the crashing waves out at the point make for a very rewarding hike. You really get humbled by that sensation of being at land’s end.
PRAIRIE CREEK REDWOODS STATE PARK: Fern Canyon Loop Trail
This is a simple 1-mile trail loop near Orick, in Humboldt County. Check creek conditions for the drive in and then enjoy being surrounded by green. My understanding is that parts of Jurassic Park 2 were filmed here, so that combined with the ease of the hike would make this one a good loop to take with kids. You go from beaches and redwoods to 50-to-80-foot vertical walls covered in an incredible variety of ferns. If you want to extend the hike, you can come in via the 5-mile James Irvine Trail or continue on to Gold Bluffs Beach. There are plenty of options within the park.
KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARK: Mist Falls Trail
This one might be pushing it a bit for a day-trip, but not because it’s particularly hard—it’s just longer than the others I’ve mentioned. The first few miles of the trail can be crowded with people on paths that converge. Then, around mile three, you start to climb along the river, strewn with boulders, toward Mist Falls (at 4-1/2 miles in). The falls are are beautiful and do create a mist over the trail. From there you can turn back or continue to climb up for a view back into the deep canyon. Update: Just after writing this I learned that Kings Canyon NP has been closed due to the Rough Fire. Here’s hoping they can save the giant Sequoia-trees there and reopen the park soon so that you can visit.
And of course everything and anything around Yosemite National Park qualifies as spectacular—you can read here about one of our favorite day-hikes.
Obviously there are loads of beautiful places in California. Where else would you add? What are the most beautiful day-hikes you’ve been on?
This post is sponsored by Bota Box, the nation’s leading eco-friendly wine producer of premium 3-liter varietals. Each package is printed on 90% post-consumer fiber and is 100% recyclable; Bota Boxes create 85% less landfill waste than traditional glass bottles. Bota Box wine stays fresh for 30 days or more after opening, and has received 49 Gold Medals and 21 Best Buy ratings from Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
Have you tried Bota Box? Which varietal do you like best? Bring one along on your next adventure and tag your instagram #GoAdventure and #GoBota. (I know I’d love to see where you’re pulling off a trail! I’m @AshleyMuirBruhn.)