Best Hikes and Parks in California's PNW

Best Hikes and Parks in California's PNW

3 minute read. Mountaq Outdoors

Best Hiking Parks for Trails in California's PNW

If you love exploring the great outdoors, you’ll be amazed by the diversity and beauty of the hiking trails in California and the Pacific Northwest (PNW). From the rugged coastline of Oregon to the majestic peaks of the Sierra Nevada, there’s a trail for every skill level and interest. Whether you’re looking for a short day hike or a multi-day backpacking adventure, you’ll find plenty of options to choose from. To help you plan your next trip, we’ve rounded up some of the best hikes and parks for trails in California and the PNW below.

Yosemite National Park, California

Distance: Varies (1.5 to 12 hour trails)

Yosemite National Park is one of the most popular and iconic destinations in California, and for good reason. The park boasts stunning scenery, including granite cliffs, waterfalls, meadows, and giant sequoias. There are over 800 miles of trails to explore, ranging from easy strolls to challenging climbs. Some of the highlights include:

  • Half Dome: A bucket-list hike for many, this 14-mile round-trip trail takes you to the top of the famous Half Dome, where you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the valley and beyond. You’ll need a permit and a lot of stamina to complete this hike, as it involves steep switchbacks, exposed ledges, and a final ascent using cables.
  • Mist Trail: A classic Yosemite hike, this 7-mile round-trip trail takes you to two of the park’s most impressive waterfalls: Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall. You’ll get wet from the spray of the falls, so bring a rain jacket and waterproof shoes. The trail is steep and slippery, so be careful and watch your footing.
  • Tuolumne Meadows: A serene and scenic area of the park, Tuolumne Meadows offers a variety of trails for all levels of hikers. You can enjoy views of the meadows, rivers, lakes, and mountains, as well as wildlife and wildflowers. Some of the popular trails include Cathedral Lakes, Lyell Canyon, and Lembert Dome.

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon

Distance: Varies, (0.5 to 6 hours)

The Columbia River Gorge is a natural wonder that spans the border between Oregon and Washington. The gorge is home to over 90 waterfalls, including the famous Multnomah Falls, as well as lush forests, basalt cliffs, and historic sites. There are over 100 trails to choose from, offering spectacular views of the river, the mountains, and the cascades. Some of the highlights include:

  • Oneonta Gorge: A unique and adventurous hike, this 2.7-mile round-trip trail takes you through a narrow slot canyon filled with water. You’ll have to scramble over logs, rocks, and boulders, and wade through chest-deep water to reach the hidden waterfall at the end. You’ll need a good pair of water shoes and a waterproof bag for this hike, as well as a sense of fun and exploration.
  • Eagle Creek Trail: A scenic and popular hike, this 12-mile round-trip trail takes you along the edge of the gorge, passing by several waterfalls, including Punchbowl Falls and Tunnel Falls. The trail is narrow and exposed in some sections, so be cautious and use the cables provided. You’ll also need a Northwest Forest Pass to park at the trailhead.
  • Angel’s Rest: A rewarding and challenging hike, this 4.8-mile round-trip trail takes you to the top of a rocky bluff, where you’ll enjoy sweeping views of the gorge and the surrounding peaks. The trail is steep and rocky, with some switchbacks and scrambles, but the payoff is worth it. You’ll also get to see a small waterfall and a natural arch along the way.

Redwood National and State Parks, California

Distance: Varies (1 to 8 hours)

Redwood National and State Parks are a collection of four parks that protect nearly half of the remaining coastal redwoods in the world. These ancient trees are the tallest and among the oldest living things on Earth, reaching heights of over 300 feet and ages of over 2,000 years. Hiking among these giants is a humbling and awe-inspiring experience that you won’t forget. There are over 200 miles of trails to choose from, offering views of the forests, the coast, the prairies, and the wildlife. Some of the highlights include:

  • Tall Trees Grove: A secluded and spectacular hike, this 4-mile round-trip trail takes you to a grove of some of the tallest and oldest redwoods in the park. You’ll need a free permit from the visitor center to access this trail, as the number of visitors is limited to protect the fragile ecosystem.
  • Fern Canyon: A short and easy hike, this 1-mile loop trail takes you through a narrow canyon lined with ferns and mosses. You’ll feel like you’re in a fairy tale as you walk along the creek and admire the greenery. You might also recognize this trail from the movie Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World.
  • Coastal Trail: A long and scenic hike, this 70-mile trail follows the rugged coastline of the park, passing by beaches, cliffs, lagoons, and tide pools. You can hike the entire trail in sections or choose a shorter segment to suit your time and ability. You’ll enjoy views of the Pacific Ocean and the chance to see whales, seals, sea lions, and birds.
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