California Pictures (54 pictures)
Big Basin State Park: Skyline to the Sea trail Directions: Highway 1 to Waddell Beach (North of Santa Cruz). Park in the Waddell Beach parking lot. The trailhead is across the street, down the paved road, and at the end of the over-night hikers parking lot. Free. [This is the back way to get to Big Basin. To get to the park head quarters and the start for most of the trails, take Hwy 17 to Rte 9 to 236. There is a $6 vehicle day use for parking in the park.] Trails: There are _many_ trails in Big Basin. I did a big loop hike of Skyline to the Sea trail to Sunset trail to dirt road to Westridge trail. It was a 9 hour hike. The portion of the Skyline to the Sea trail that I did (the trail goes further into the park) was mostly an old dirt road. Where the road ended and it became a real trail was nice and I took the branch that went past two small waterfalls and up to the Sunset trail to its end. I then hiked 4.5 miles of dirt fire roads (in the sun) to Chalk mountain and the Westridge trail. The Westridge trail was a nasty equestrian trail that was not designed for hikers. It goes steeply up and down along the ridge for 4 miles before a steep decent for a mile back down to the Skyline to the Sea trail (and from there about 2 miles back to the beach. Area: The beautiful redwood forest (though you are not in the redwoods on the fire roads or Westridge trail). The falls are pretty. Picture When I did the hike: Thursday, July 16, 1999 Recommendation: I don't recommend doing the hike I did. Go to the park headquarters (and pay $6 for parking) and get a trail map and do some hikes in the interior of the park - there are some true redwood trails. You can reach the falls from interior hikes.
Big Basin State Park interior loop Directions: Hwy 17 to Route 9 to Route 236. Big Basin is midway through Route 236 (either direction). $5 per day. Trails: There a lots of trails in the park. For this hike, I stringed together a few trails to make a 5 mile loop. I started heading north from the park headquarters along the trail that parallels that creek. It's a nice section along here through the redwoods. I went from 1.5 miles to the junction for the Sequoia Trail (labeled junction) and took the hard right and started heading up and up (the only climb on this hike) for .9 miles to the road (Rt 236). After crossing the road, the trail continues down on slate rock for .2 miles to a T-junction (and then it's back to a dirt trail). You can take a short left to visit the uneventful Sempervirens Falls. The Sequoia Trail continues to the right and soon goes through the Watashi Campground. From the T-junction, it's 1.7 miles back to the park headquarters (the trees aren't that impressive along this section and you get a lot of road and people noise from the campground). Trail Length: This hike - 5 mile loop Area: Massive trees in the mountains. When I did the hike: Sunday, August 6, 2006 Recommendation: Big Basin is a really nice park near the San Francisco area. This first half of this loop was nice, but the walk through the camping area wasn't. Get a trail map and make your own hike. I'd stick to the west side of the park.
Muir Woods National Monument Directions: Hwy 1 to Panoramic Hwy (about 9 miles west of Hwy 101) and follow the signs for Muir Woods (about 4 miles from Hwy 1). Bathrooms and water (and cafe and park store). $3 per person or National Parks Pass Trails: After all my many visits to northern California (and even having spent the first 7 years of my life in San Jose), I made my first visit to Muir Woods. What a disappointment. I'm sure it didn't help that I had just spent a day and a half in the luscious northern redwoods, but the groves in this park just seemed so much thinner (as in number of trees) and not as massive as the redwoods I'm used to seeing. Muir Woods is actually a small sized park, but does have some longer hiking trails that branches off from the main trails and heads into the massive Mt. Tamplais State Park. The floor trails along the creek are paved and wheelchair accessible - a little over 1.5 miles worth. For my visit, I took the main trail (heading left over the 1st bridge) and then the branch for the Hillside Trail after about .4 miles. The Hillside Trail is a dirt trail that goes up and then along the hill for about .5 miles with the creek (and main trail) visible below - it is also well used. At the end of the Hillside Trail, you have your choice of heading left along the Ben Johnson Trail (dirt) or right down to the main trail for a loop back to the start. I headed left for about 30 minutes (and got away from most of the people) before turning around [time constraints]. The trail went up at a reasonable grade (not gentle, not hard) and was still going up when I turned around - note that it was not a loop trail back to the park (unless you want to do a really long hike). [The dirt trail is part of the redwoods, but again, it is thin redwoods and not through groves]. If you want to do a longer hike (using the trails into Mt. Tamplais SP) look at the trail maps posted at the entrance area [the free brochure on the park does not show the full routes of the dirt trails that go outside of the park]. Area: The redwoods near San Francisco When I did the hike: Tuesday, June 29, 2004 Recommendation: It's hard not to recommend the redwoods, but I'd only suggest this park if you didn't have time to go a little further south to Big Basin or a lot further north to Richardson Grove State Park (even though their trail system is disappointing, the grove is massive and impressive) or even further north to Humboldt and/or 3 the parts to Redwood National Park. Because Muir Woods is so close to San Francisco, it tends to be crowded - you definitely won't have the park to yourself, even if you go further than the main trails. If you've never been to the redwoods before and this is the only opportunity you have to visit them, then it would be worth a visit. But if you have been to other redwood parks, this might be a disappointment (says someone who absolutely loves the redwoods).
Hawk Hill and Point Bonita Directions: Hwy 1/Hwy 101 just to the north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Take the first exit/last exit before the bridge (Sausalito/Marin) and go west along the bay. The road becomes one-way heading west after Hawk Hill. Free. Trails: There are no true trails here, just a lot of places to roam around. Area: Some good views of Golden Gate Bridge and the ocean. Hawk Hill is a nice place to roam around, as is Point Bonita. Both have some old WWI and WWII batteries and you can see the lighthouse at Point Bonita. Picture When I did the hike: Friday, July 17, 1999 and Thursday, July 23, 1999 Recommendation: If you have an extra 30 minutes to an hour, do this (if the fog isn't too heavy). It's much better than your usual stop at either end of the Golden Gate Bridge. There's not much for a hike, though.
Pioneer Tree - Samuel P. Taylor State Park Directions: Hwy 1 to Olema, head inland on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard for about 6 miles to Samuel P. Taylor State Park. Take a right for the park entrance and park near the far end of the picnic ground. Flush toilets. $6 state park fee. Trails: Walk the road across the bridge and turn left and you head by the Redwood Grove Group Picnic area. Just past the road barrier, the trail starts to the right and heads up along side the creek (the branch a short ways to the right heads to the campground area). The trail meanders through 2nd growth redwoods, firs, and ferns and eventually reaches the Pioneer Tree - one of the few old growth trees in the park. The trail then descends and intersects with a gravel road/bike path (used to be a coastal railroad). Take a left and walk the road back to the trailhead. No hard climbs for the trail, but some up. Trail Length: 2 mile loop Area: Woods, mostly 2nd growth redwoods, couple of old growths. Picture When I did the hike: Tuesday, July 24, 2007 Recommendation: Unless you're killing time hoping for the fog to lift from the coast (like I was), skip this. There are much better redwood parks (the nearby Muir Woods is better than this).
McClures Beach - Point Reyes National Seashore Directions: In Point Reyes, take Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to Pierce Point Road (the first right inside the park) and take the road all the way to the end. Vault toilets at parking area. Free. Trails: It's a short .4 miles walk on a wide trail down through a narrow canyon to a good sized beach that has sea stacks (rock mounds in the ocean). There were some pretty wildflowers in the canyon when I was there. Trail Length: .4 miles down to beach Area: Small canyon, beach, ocean When I did the hike: Tuesday, July 24, 2007 Recommendation: One of the nice, easy places to visit in Point Reyes.
Kehoe Beach - Point Reyes National Seashore Directions: In Point Reyes, take Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to Pierce Point Road (the first right inside the park) and take the road to midway between Abbotts Lagoon and McClures Beach - keep an eye out for the trailhead sign on the west side of the road. Park along side the road. No facilities. Free. Trails: The narrow trail heads at a slight down through the wide marshy valley with bushes lining the trail most of the way. There were lots of birds in the valley. At the end is an up over a sand dune (and, yes, the trail is then sand) and a down on the other side of the dune to the beach - a bit of a huff-and-puff over the dune, there is a bench at the top to catch your breath at. The sandy beach is very long. Trail Length: .6 miles to beach Area: Bushes, beach, ocean When I did the hike: Tuesday, July 24, 2007 Recommendation: One of the nice, easy places to visit in Point Reyes.
Chimney Rock Headlands - Point Reyes National Seashore Directions: In Point Reyes, take Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to near the end. Where the road hooks to the right, look for a road that heads to the left and take that road to the end (not the drop-down gravel road, the parking area up top). Vault toilets at parking area. Free. Trails: The narrow trails heads a slight up from the end of the parking lot through the grasslands (no shade). After reaching the ridge, the trail is mild to the end, where there is a bench and good looks down on the many sea stacks (rock mounds in the ocean) including Chimney Rock. You can either head back the way you came or take a right and loop around the rest of the head for more ocean and sea stack views. The loop has some ups and downs and some concerns of going too close to the hazardous sea cliffs (my agrophobia wasn't thrilled with some spots, but I was able to hike the loop). Trail Length: 2.5 miles loop Area: Grassy headlands, ocean views from above Picture When I did the hike: Tuesday, July 24, 2007 Recommendation: The good ocean views of the sea stacks makes this a good hike to do. (The ocean views are better than those you get from the Point Reyes Lighthouse area.)
Bodega Head loop Directions: Hwy 1 to Bodega Bay. Turn left onto East Shore Road. At the stop sign take a right on to Bay Flat Road. Go well past the marina to the head parking lot. Free. Trails: There is a trail that goes along the ocean along the headlands above the ocean - can spend maybe an hour walking around. Area: Dry grassy area with some impressive ocean-crashing-into-the-cliffs views. Picture When I did the hike: Friday, July 17, 1999; Wednesday, July 25, 2007 Recommendation: If you have a little bit time to spare, a nice little place to visit.
Kortum Trail - Sonoma Coast Directions: Hwy 1 to just south of Jenner. Take the side road for Shell Beach and park in the parking area at the end. Can also access the trail from Wright's Beach (fee area) and Goat Rock Beach area. Vault toilets at parking area Free. Trails: I hike from Shell Beach towards the Goat Rock area - it was a very foggy day and the ocean views were limited to shadows and rare glimpses when there were breaks in the fog. The grass, dirt, and sometimes boardwalk trail stays fairly level as it heads along the grasslands above the ocean. There are lots of sea rocks off the shore. I turned around at the rock mounds at the rock mounds slightly inland as the trail headed up towards the road. There are wooden posts with arrows on them that mark the trail. There was surprising very little road noise as Hwy 1 is much further inland in this area. Shell Beach itself was also a nice beach to visit. Trail Length: 3.8 one-way, total 2.3 Shell Beach to Blind Beach 1.5 Shell Beach to Wright's Beach Area: Grassy open lands, ocean views, many sea stacks Picture When I did the hike: Wednesday, July 25, 2007 Recommendation: Hard to recommend from my experience since I had such a fog-heavy hike. It seemed like a nice trail and that the views would be great with a clearer day.
Vista Point - Sonoma Coast Directions: A few miles north of Jenner on Hwy 1, just past the switchback up, take a left for the Vista Point area. Vault toilet. Free. Trails: It's just a 1/2 mile paved (wheelchair accessible) easy loop at the top of a small mountain, but the views down the Sonoma Coast were wonderful (even though the fog limited a full many mile view). Trail Length: 1/2 mile loop Area: Grasslands on top of a small mountain, ocean views from high above. When I did the hike: Wednesday, July 25, 2007 Recommendation: A nice little sidetrip with a grand view.
Salt Point State Park Directions: Hwy 1 to Salt Point State Park. Take the Stump Beach exit off of Hwy 1 and park in the parking area. Or take the 1st park entrance on the left (visitor center) and head straight to the parking area at the end. Flush toilets at the parking area. Free. Trails: The 1.2 mile (one-way) Salt Point Trail goes from Stump Beach to Salt Point along the coast. From Stump Beach, go down to the small beach (in a cove), cross the little stream to the left and the trail goes up the cliff wall. From there you can stroll the rim and see beautiful views of the ocean crashing against the cliff as well as a nice view back at Stump Beach from above. There are a number rock mounds along the way that are fun to scramble up (but the trail itself is flat). Near the south end, you can scramble down to near oceanside for some neat tidal pool watching spots, if the tide is low. You can also go to the next parking area to the north (Fish Cove) and there are more trails along the rim and tiny beach coves (I was able to safely scramble down to one of them). Look for pelicans and sea loins resting on the sea rocks. Area: Beach and coastal views. Not many trees and mostly flat. Pictures When I did the hike: Friday, July 17, 1999; June 2000 (twice); Tuesday, June 29, 2004; Thursday, July 26, 2007 Recommendation: I love this place and have stopped there every time I've gone past it.
Schooner Gulch Directions: Hwy 1 to just north of the Schooner Gulch bridge, a few miles south of Point Arenas. You have to keep an eye out for the bridge sign and you might see some cars parked along side the road. There is a paved pull-off area for parking on the west side of the road (it's not marked what the area is for). No facilities. Free. Trails: Taking the left trail, it's a short walk down to a pretty little beach that is great for surf-walking. I really liked this beach. Taking the right trail, the trail heads straight for a bit on to the headlands and then hooks right (stepping over the "trail closed" sign) and heads down wooden steps. When I visited, the last 10 feet of the steps were washed out, but you could make it the rest of the way by carefully making your way over the rocks, dirt, and branches. This brings you to Bowling Ball Beach - a long beach. It was windy when I visited on Thursday and I didn't stay long as the sand was blowing everywhere (where as the bluffs protected the Schooner Gluch beach). I did stop by the next morning (with the tide out) so I could see the "bowling balls" - small, half-submerged rocks - but wasn't impressed (I had seen the massive Moeraki Boulders in New Zealand a few years before, so that might have influenced my impression of these beach rocks). Trail Length: Short. Area: beaches, ocean When I did the hike: Thursday, July 26, 2007 Recommendation: If you can find it, the Schooner Gultch Beach is worth a visit. The Bowling Ball Beach wasn't to my taste.
Big Hendy Grove - Hendy Woods State Park Directions: Take Hwy 1 to a little south of Mendocino and turn inland on Hwy 128 for about 20 miles to Hendy Woods State Park. Vault toilets at parking area (flush toilets in campground). $5. Trails: There are 3 loops trails through Big Hendy Grove, a good-sized (80 acres) old growth redwood area - the loops are one on top the other. A tiny bit of the start of the trail is wheelchair accessible (paved) and the rest is packed dirt. The trail is fairly level and it's a pretty redwood area worthy of meandering through. For the other grove in the park, you have to hike about 1.5 miles through thin trees that will completely underwhelm you after having spent time in the Big Hendy Grove. To get to the Little Hendy Grove, take the Eagle Trail (baring right at the junction for the campground) until it becomes the Little Hendy Trail with a loop through the small (20 acres) redwood grove. Trail Length: Big Hendy Grove: Discovery Loop - 1 mile Upper loop - 1.8 miles Back Loop - 2 miles Eagle Trail and Little Hendy Grove: 3 miles Area: Redwoods, trees When I did the hike: Thursday, July 26, 2007 Recommendation: If you have the time and are in the Mendocino/Fort Bragg area, the Big Hendy Grove is a pretty redwood area. Skip the Little Hendy Grove.
Russian Gulch Directions: Hwy 1 to just north of Mendocino. After entering the park, turn right and park at the small picnic area. $5. Trails: The thin trails meander through the headlands with some nice ocean views and a loop around a blowhole. There is also a trail on the headlands on the south side of the inlet (don't know how to access it, though) and you can take the road down to the small beach (it's right underneath the Hwy 1 bridge). Trail: Less than a mile Area: Headlands (grassy and bushy area above the ocean) Picture When I did the hike: Thursday, July 26, 2007 Recommendation: A nice little outing.
Jug Handle State Reserve Directions: On Hwy 1 between Fort Bragg and Mendocino, look for the Jug Handle State Reserve sign on the west side of the road and park in the small parking lot. No facilities. Free. Trails: I pulled into this little park on a whim and was glad I did so. It's a .5 mile loop along the headlands with access to a large beach. You can also make your way down (no official trail) to a precious isolated small beach. Trail Length: .5 mile loop Area: Headlands, beaches, ocean When I did the hike: Thursday, July 26, 2007 Recommendation: Worth a short little visit.
Jackson State Forest - Chamberlain Creek Falls trail Directions: From Fort Bragg, take 20 for about 17 miles to Jackson State Forest. Take a left on Country Road 200 (a loggers road), just past the Steam Donkey picnic area. Stay to the left for all of the forks and about 7 miles in from 20. Park to the side of the road next to the stairs going down. Free. Trails: Short little trail (about 1/2 mile) down to a stream and 50-foot waterfall. Area: Woods When I did the hike: Tuesday, July 21, 1999 Recommendation: Na. Small fall and hard to find.
Richardson Grove State Park Directions: Hwy 101 to Richardson Grove State Park. Take the turn off for the park entrance and take a left under the Hwy and park at the end of the road in front of the river for the Toumey Trail. Park at the visitor center for the nature loop. Flush toilets at visitor center. $5 Trails: Toumey Trail is a 1.9 mile hike up and along the hill across the river (season bridges over river at both ends). There were no redwoods along this trail, much to my great disappointment (thought I was doing a redwood hike). The nature loop is a short (about 1/4 mile) paved trail through an old-growth grove. There are a couple of other longer trails on the west side of the river (Toumey Trail is on the east side), but I haven't hiked them and don't know if they actually go through the redwoods or are similar to Toumey - the Durphy Creek Trail and Tan Oak Springs Trail can be combined for an about 4.5 mile hike. Area: Redwoods, trees, hills, small river When I did the hike: Toumey Trail: Saturday, July 18, 1999 nature loop: Friday, July 27, 2007 Recommendation: Definitely skip the Toumey Trail. The nature loop was a nice, short redwood hike, but you can skip this park as you are so close (20 minutes) to the Avenue of the Giants/Humboldt Redwood State Park and its many (and free) redwoods trails.
Chemise Mountain trail - South Lost Coast Directions: Hwy 101 to just past Gaberville. Turn left on Shelter Cove and drive about 8 miles. Turn left (the first left in a while) on Chemise Mountain Road. Drive 1.5 miles (paved road) to the Wailaki Campground. Park near the vault toilets (campsite #12). Free. Trails: There is one switchback early on and then it's a steady up as the trail gains 600 feet in the first .8 miles. At the 2nd junction (the trail from Nadelos Campground intersects with this trail early on), take a hard left and the trail continues at a milder up for .7 miles to the overlook junction. The overlook is a short hike up and has a view of the interior valley and its (tree capped) mountains - no ocean views. Back on the trail, if you continue a little bit ahead, there is a section with shorter bushes that if you find the right spot, you can get on your tiptoes and see if there is a reward for this hike. The view to the west of the ocean is supposed to be fantastic, but I was sorely disappointed to have a view only of the cottonfield of clouds that covered the ocean. Additional options: Chinquap Loop - a short ways past the overlook junction (or a mile south of the junction) is a right turn for the Chinquap Loop. Unlike the hike to the overlook, there are great (if not cloudy) coast views along the loop. The trail does drop down (so a climb out). The trail heads a steady down through the trees and tall brush, with occassional ocean views and reaches a good overlook spot of the ocean (still well inland). The loop continues to the left and goes by Nicks camp (a backcountry camping spot) - if you want a shorter hike, just go back up from the overlook and skip the loop. A little bit past the camp, the trail starts heading back up (and it is an up). The trail eventually T-junctions with the Lost Coast trail. Take a left and go an uneventful mile along the Lost Coast trail to completely the loop (total loop length: 2.7 miles). Lost Coast to Needle Rock - the Lost Coast trail continues to the south of the overlook along the ridge, still with very few ocean views (my 2nd visit also had cloud cover, but not as heavy as the 1st visit, so I did get to see bits of ocean - can only image that on a clear day that the views would be worth it). After about 1.5 miles from the overlook, there is a nice open area where you do get a good ocean view. From there, the trail heads down, down, down with switchbacks and in the trees (so no ocean views). After the long down, the trail is mild for a ways (still in trees). The trail heads a sharper down and reaches the wilderness/park boundary (with remains of a house to the left) and then goes through a couple of meadows (trees to the right). Then is a really steep down and grand views of the coast for miles to the south. I went down a little bit and stopped and sat (on the dirt trail) and enjoyed the view [there was an occupied house visible to the left]. This ended up being my turning around point as the trail was too steep for my taste and it was still a lot of down (and 2.5 miles further) to Needle Point and I didn't feel like make that return leg. It took me a little over 3 hours to reach my turning around point (I did the Chinquap Loop on the return leg (half loop)). Trail Length + Elevation: 1.5 miles, 800 feet (one-way) to mountain overlook 2.7 miles, 600 feet Chinquap Loop from overlook 5.5 miles, 2700 feet overlook to Needle Rock Area: Tress, mountains, maybe ocean views Picture When I did the hike: Friday, July 27, 2007 (mountain); Thursday, August 6, 2009 (longer hike and loop) Recommendation: Definitely not when the clouds are over the ocean. The Chinquap Loop is really nice, but I'd skip going further south along the Lost Coast Trail - the viewpoint I went to was pretty, but it was a lot of effort to return from that spot. Might be nice to do if you have two vehicles and park one at Needle Rock so that you don't have to hike the trail back.
Shelter Cove (Lost Coast, south end) Directions: Take Hwy 101 to Gaberville and follow the signs west to Shelter Cove. Take the road straight to almost the end - turn left into the parking area right before the beach (the couple of spaces straight ahead are handicap only). Toilets at the parking area. Free. Trails: Okay, it's not really a trail (what hints as one dead ends at a cliff drop off - you might be able to scramble down, but I didn't even try). After first climbing the rock at the head of the beach, hike the beach until you feel like turning around (I turned after 2 hours). Area: Long black beach in front of mountains. The Lost Coast goes for about 26 miles. Picture When I did the hike: Saturday, July 18, 1999 Recommendation: When you drive over the last hill and see the cove, man, awesome! It's worth a visit just for that and worth visiting once, but beach hiking isn't really my thing.
Point Gorda (Lost Coast, north end) Directions: From the south: Hwy 101 to Humboldt Redwood State Park off of Hwy 101 or Avenue of the Giants, take the Honeydew exit. Enjoy your pretty drive through the redwoods (you may want to make a stop at Tall Tree for a short visit of the redwoods) before the long, windy drive over the mountains. After crossing the one-lane bridge, take a right towards Petrolia. After many miles, there will be a fork with a sign saying Murtle Beach to the left. Go left along the narrow road to the beach parking. From the north: (constructing backwards) Hwy 101 to Ferndale. Go down Main Street in Ferndale to almost the end and turn right at the intersection where going straight is a dead end. A couple of blocks later on your left should be a large metal sign that says (I think) Petrolia. Take a left on that road and go forever and a day on a long mountainous road to Petrolia. Follow the sign to Murtle Beach. Free. Trails: Though not quite as stunning as Shelter Cove, your beach hike will have a destination: Point Gorda lighthouse. It is mostly a beach hike, but there are occasionally short trails above the sand (easier to find coming back than going). After crossing the creek in front of the cabins, there is a trail up to the left that goes to the lighthouse (or you can stick to the beach and cut up when you're in front of the lighthouse). It's 3 miles from the parking lot to the lighthouse. Bring a lunch and eat at the small, abandoned lighthouse. The hike back is tough as the wind is in your face. I spent about 4.5 hours here. Area: Long black beach in front of mountains. The Lost Coast goes for about 26 miles. Picture When I did the hike: June 2000 Recommendation: Though not a fan of beach hikes, I enjoyed it and lunch at the lighthouse was nice. Worth a trip once.
Franklin K. Lane Grove - Humboldt Redwood State Park Directions: Take Hwy 101 to Avenue of the Giants scenic drive. Just north Phillipsville (the first town on the south end of the drive) is a small parking lot on the east for the Franklin K. Lane Grove. Free. Trails: A nice, short loop through a redwood grove. Trail Length: .5 mile loop Area: Massive old growth redwoods When I did the hike: Friday, July 27, 2007; Friday, August 7, 2009 Recommendation: Sure. You wouldn't be in this area if you didn't want to see the redwoods. If you are rushed for time, stick to the groves around the Founders Grove area.
Founders Grove, Humboldt Redwood State Park Directions: Hwy 101 to Avenue of the Giants scenic drive to Founders Grove turnoff (midway through the drive). Flush toilets in parking area. Free. Trails: 1/2 mile loop through the redwoods. Stunning, but you likely won't have it to yourself. Can also do the .6 mile Mahan Plaque hike that starts in the middle of the Founders Grove loop. Area: Peaceful Redwoods Picture When I did the hike: June 2000; June 24, 2002; Friday, July 27, 2007; Friday, August 7, 2009 Recommendation: Even if it's crowded, it's worth a visit. Definitely do Avenue of the Giants drive.
Goosepen Loop - Humboldt Redwood State Park Directions: Take Hwy 101 to Avenue of the Giants scenic drive. Just north of Weott (midway through the drive), is a pulloff on the east side of the road (just south of the Founders Grove area) for the Goosepen Loop. Free. Trails: A nice, short loop through a redwood grove. There is a lot of road noise from Hwy 101, though. Trail Length: .5 mile loop Area: Massive old growth redwoods When I did the hike: Saturday, July 28, 2007 Recommendation: If you have time after doing other groves in the area, sure. I liked the Founders Grove, Rockefeller Loop, and Tall Trees areas better, though.
Rockefeller Loop - Humboldt Redwood State Park Directions: Take Hwy 101 to Avenue of the Giants scenic drive. Just north of Weott (midway through the drive) and past the Founders Grove area, take a left onto the road towards Honeydew. A short ways ahead is a sharp left down to the Rockefeller Grove. Can also access this area from the Bull Creek Trail. No facilities. Free. Trails: A nice loop through a redwood grove. Trail Length: .7 mile loop Area: Massive old growth redwoods When I did the hike: Saturday, July 28, 2007; Wed+Fri, Aug 5+7, 2009 Recommendation: Definitely. A good grove and a lot less people than the Founders Grove area.
Tall Tree, Humboldt Redwood State Park Directions: Hwy 101 to Avenue of the Giants scenic drive to Honeydew turnoff, just north of Founders Grove. Go 5 miles along the narrow road to Tall Tree turnoff (likely not crowded). Port-a-potties at parking lot. Free. Trails: There are longer trails here, but I only took short strolls through the beautiful, peaceful redwoods. This is an old growth section that contains some of the tallest trees in the world - both Tall Tree and Giant Tree are over 360 feet tall. The trails are typical of those you'd find a redwood area - wider, dirt with fern leaves (not dusty), and peaceful. [I tend not to call it "hiking the redwoods" as something that takes as much effort as "hiking" is missing out of the peacefulness of strolling through these majestic trees.] It's a beautiful redwood area without all the crowds. The trail near the parking area goes about a mile before intersecting with the road (it continues across the road up to the camping area, but I turned around at the road). The (seasonal) bridge over the creek next to the parking area is the only bridge across. There are several longer trails on the other side of the creek. You can go to the right for about a mile before the trail starts to climb. Area: Peaceful Redwoods Picture When I did the hike: June 2000; June 24, 2002; October 25, 2003; June 27, 2005; Wednesday, August 5, 2009 Recommendation: Wonderful. Well worth the short side trip.
Bull Creek Trail - Humboldt Redwood State Park Directions: Take Hwy 101 to Avenue of the Giants scenic drive. Just north of Weott (midway through the drive) and past the Founders Grove area, take a left onto the road towards Honeydew. Continue on the narrow road a few miles to the Tall Trees turnoff, on the left. Port-a-potties at the parking lot. Free. Trails: After finally finding a trail map for the area (a wooden one at a different area of the park), I figured out a nice longer hike to do through this wonderful area (instead of just short loops hikes). Cross the creek over the seasonal bridge and take a left on the gravel trail to Giant Tree (there is a sign with the tree's massive dimensions). Shortly past the tree is the Johnson Camp Trail. Take the left branch to for the Bull Creek Trail South. Thankfully, the trail returns to a natural soft dirt redwood trail. The trail continues through the redwoods for 3.5 miles to the creek junction. The trail is mild for a long ways and then a gentle up along a hillside and then a gentle down. After a mild bit, there is a harder up for a short ways and then a longer, gentler down. At the creek junction, take a left and a sharp down to the creek (and a bridge). Across the creek, you can take a side trip through the Rockefeller Grove - a pretty .7 mile loop walk. The Bull Creek Trail North heads left from the Rockefeller area and it's really not that pretty of a trail as it goes in and out of the trees (and are seldom in the midst of good redwood groves) and includes some portions next to the creek, along side the road, and even a short section where you actually have to walk on the road. It doesn't have any climbs, though, just some small ups and downs. After going through the picnic area, the trail goes back into the redwoods and the parking lot is just ahead. The trail does continue for a mile past the parking area to the campground and that is a wonderful area. Trail Length: a little over 7 miles, .7 more if you also do the Rockefeller Loop Area: Massive old growth redwoods When I did the hike: Saturday, July 28, 2007 Recommendation: It's a nice, longer hike through the redwoods. Hike the Bull Creek Trail South, cross the creek and do the Rockefeller Loop, and then return via the Bull Creek Trail South - skip the blah Bull Creek Trail North.
Chandler Grove - Humboldt Redwood State Park Directions: Hwy 101 to Avenue of the Giants scenic road. Take the road to just south of Redcrest (north of Founders Grove) and park at the signed AutoStop #7 (Chandler Grove). No facilities. Free. Trails: The short loop (actually 2 small loops sharing a middle edge) heads up along a slope and then down for a small outing. Being on a slope, the trees aren't dense. Trail Length + Elevation: .5 mile loop, 100 feet Area: Redwoods along a slope When I did the hike: Wednesday, August 5, 2009 Recommendation: Nope, skip it.
Drury-Chaney Grove - Humboldt Redwood State Park Directions: Hwy 101 to Avenue of the Giants scenic road. Take the road to near Pepperwood (north end of road) and park in the signed AutoStop #8 (Drury-Chaney Grove). No facilities. Free. Trails: This pretty, peaceful redwood hike is lollypop shaped in that it heads out, has a loop at the top and then heads back on the same trail. There is some road noise early on (from the Avenue of the Giants) and around the top of the loop (from Hwy 101), but it's not bad. Trail Length: 2.5 miles round trip, level Area: Giant, majestic redwoods When I did the hike: Wednesday, August 5, 2009 Recommendation: A really nice hike (despite road noise) in the redwoods.
Trinidad Head Trail Directions: Hwy 101 to Trinidad exit. Go through Trinidad and down to the bay. Park in the beach lot. (The restaurant at the harbor is good. I always make sure to stop in the morning and have a crab omlette [and bring a sandwich roll and stuff the leftovers in it and have that for lunch]. Mmmmm.) Free Trails: At the back, inland end of the beach lot is a trail that goes up (trail, walk up the road, and trailhead). The well defined trail goes along the rim of the Trinidad Head (it does involve elevation). There are benches along the way and some great views of the ocean and back towards the beach. Go up to the rocky out-crop and enjoy the view. Continue back along the trail and eventually end up at the coast guard station and a monument honoring an explorer who held the first mass in the area. There you'll have the choice of going back the way you came or walking the road back (where you'll have nice views of the harbor). Area: Hard packed trail through shrubs with the beach near by. Picture When I did the hike: June 2000; June 26, 2005 Recommendation: Wonderful place to watch the sunset and enjoy a short hike. Good for an hour or so. The Trinidad beach area is very pretty.
Patrick's Point State Park Directions: Hwy 101 to Patrick's Point State Park exit. Get a park map for the various trails and parking areas. $5 Trails: Agate Beach Trail: Just a short trail down to the beach. Palmers Point: a short trail to some nice coastal views. The rim trail also goes along a good chunk of the park, though through the trees mostly without views of the coast. There are a number of sidetrips out to points and coastal views. Area: Coastal park with a rocky beach. When I did the hike: Sunday, July 19, 1999; Sunday, July 29, 2007 Recommendation: The beach is great for rock collecting.
Granite Lake, Trinity Alps Directions: From Eureka, take 299 to Weaverville. Then take 3 north to Trinity Center. On 3 across the bridge, take a left on Swift Creek road (a one lane, unpaved road). Follow the signs to Swift Creek Trailhead (go straight at forks) - about 7 miles in. [Note _Hiking California's Trinity Alps Wilderness_ by Dennis Lewon is a great book if you plan on visiting the Alps more than once. It's got trail descriptions, length, elevation, maps, and directions.] Free Trails: A beautiful trail along creek that cascades down as you go up, and up, and up. It's not a steep hike, but the elevation is increasing the entire way. It's over 5 miles to the mountain lake. You start going on the Swift Creek trail. About a mile in, take the fork for Granite Lake. The trail climbs for a bit before leveling off to a more pleasant grade. Be sure to enjoy the scenery along the way. Stop for a moment to enjoy your first glance at the snow capped peak in the distance. Then groan with the (correct) thought that the base of that mountain is probably your destination. No, the pretty pond (or overgrown pond/marsh) you finally reach is not your destination. The lake is still about 45 minutes away with the steepest part of the trail still in front of you. The lake is a good-size mountain lake and you can see the falls that feed the lake. I wasn't able locate a direct access to the lake (bushes surround the lake) - I went a little further on the trail and it kept going up and farther away from the water. The hike back is, of course, much easier, but it seems like forever before you reach the car (and crossing the bridge does not mean that you're almost there - you have a mile to go). It took me about 3 hours to get to the lake. Note that horses are allowed on the trail (didn't see any, but they left some gifts behind). Trail Length + Elevation: 5.3 miles, about 2200 feet one-way Area: Pretty woods, pretty creek, pretty cascades, pretty mountain lake. Picture When I did the hike: June 2000; Sunday June 27, 2004 Recommendation: It's a long drive out there, but it's a wonderful trail. The lake for the Devil's Punchbowl is more stunning than Granite Lake, but the hike to Granite Lake makes this the trail I'd recommend if I had to choose between the two.
Canyon Creek Lakes trail, Trinity Alps Directions: Take Hwy 299 (goes from Eureka to Redding) to Junction City (8 miles west of Weaverville (a good kicking off point)). Go north on Canyon Creek Road (County Road 401) - wasn't a sign, but it's right across the street of the general store, shortly to the east of the bridge over the creek as you enter the town (Junction City is a very small town). Take the road a little over 13 miles to the end - it's paved all the way, but it is a narrow, windy road. There is a good sized parking lot at the trailhead and a vault toilet. It's a popular trail, so expect a number of cars to be there already. There is also a free campground a mile before the parking lot. [Note _Hiking California's Trinity Alps Wilderness_ by Dennis Lewon is a great book if you plan on visiting the Alps more than once. It's got trail descriptions, length, elevation, maps, and directions.] Free. Trails: It's 8 miles (one-way) from the trailhead up to the Upper Canyon Creek Lake, with about 2,600 feet gained. This is a very long day hike, probably much better for most as a 2-day hike (there are a number of camping areas along the trail). It took me about 5 hours to reach the upper lake (including stops at each fall and a longer break at the lower lake) and a little over 4 hours to get back. The trail is a one-person width trail that varies between packed dirt and rocks. The trail is mostly a gentle climb with a couple of steeper areas at spots (they'll have you huffing-and-puffing some, but they don't last long). The first fork of the trail comes about 2.5 miles in with a sign for the trail pointing up. The lower branch goes to the McKay Camp and The Sinks - you can skip those unless you want to camp there (The Sinks is a pile of debris from a massive rock fall - 1/2 mile from the McKay Camp). When you see the large waterfall coming down the mountain across the way, you're getting close the the Lower Canyon Creek Falls - you also are coming up to the first big climb with a couple of switchbacks. The Lower falls is right along the trail and 3.9 miles in (took me 1:45 to reach them). As much as I enjoyed them when I reached them, the Lower falls turned out to be the least impressive of the 4 falls along the trail (one of them wasn't listed on my map). The base of the Middle Canyon Creek Falls is about an hour away. Take a short side trip off the main trail to the base of the falls for a closer look at the most impressive of the 4 falls. After a climb next to the falls is the branch for the Boulder Creek Lakes trail - 6 miles in from the trailhead. Next up is the pretty falls that wasn't listed on my map. The old fork for the old way to the Lower Lake is no longer marked (they changed the trail for the way up a number of years ago as the old trail had a dangerous wet water crossing at the top of the falls) - if you do notice a trail heading right, ignore it and keep going straight. When the trail reaches the creek, the creek crossing is on fallen large trees (the first time I visited, the large trees didn't cover the entire way and had thinner that I didn't trust and ended up just getting my feet wet instead of using them; in 2007, the crossing was much better and I was able to comfortably use the trees and rock-hop across). The trail goes along to the base of the Upper Canyon Creek Falls. It took me 1:25 to get to the base of the Upper falls from the base of the Middle falls. The trail gets very fuzzy here as it somehow goes up the rocks to the Lower Canyon Creek Lake, which is at the top of the rocks. I tried following what looked to be a trail and the small rock mounds indicating the trail, but lost the trail several times (I came back down a different way, again starting with what looked like a trail, and again lost the trail and eventually found my way back to the real trail at the base of the falls) - so don't get frustrated if you lose the trail, just keep heading up. I took a break at the lower lake to enjoy the lake and rest. It's a pretty lake on the smaller size (but not real small). The trail to the upper lake goes high up the rocks on the west side of the lower lake (the side you should be on) - there is an isolated cove on the northwest side of the lower lake that requires going above it. Head directly left from the outlet end of the lower lake, heading up the rocky slope for the trail (look for cairns) before returning to heading parallel to the lake. The Upper Canyon Creek Lake is less than a mile away (my map indicated almost mile, but it felt like much less than a mile (maybe a half a mile)). The Upper lake is distinct with a sheer cliff wall for the border for most of the north end of the lake. It's also a little larger. There are also good views back down on the lower lake from the upper lake area. Rest and relax and enjoy yourself before heading back, where your body will start reminding you of how much work this all was. Area: Mountainous area along a large creek with 4 pretty waterfalls along the way up to 2 pretty mountain lakes. Note on the people: the trail is described as one of the more popular trails in the Trinity Alps, but it was not too crowded when I went on a Friday in late June. I encountered 4 people on the way up [with my usual early start (7:20 am)] and encountered several more people on the way back, but most of them were less than 5 miles in. Pictures When I did the hike: June 21, 2002; Monday, July 30, 2007; Saturday, August 8, 2009 Recommendation: You have to be in very good shape to even consider doing this hike in one day, and even then you will hurt afterwards. But it is a wonderful hike with 4 worthy waterfalls and 2 peaceful mountain lakes as rewards for your pain. It's one of my favorite hikes.
China Spring to Grizzly Lake, Trinity Alps Directions: Hwy 3 to the non-town of Callahan (no services - about 10 minutes south of Etna, which does have a Shell gas station), head west on Forest Highway 93 to Cecilville (again no services). Where you see the sign for China Gulch and Petersburg Ranger Station (really the only sign you'll encounter along the way), take a left and go for about 5 miles. After crossing the bridge, the one lane road turns dirt and there is a fork just past the bridge - take a right at the fork. There may or may not be a sign saying China Gulch trailhead that way. Head up the mountains on the dirt road on FR 37N07 and it's about 6 miles to the trailhead - there are a couple of branch off roads, but there were signs pointing the way to China Gulch or FR 37N07. Park in front of the trail sign/barrier - there is not a parking area after the road turns to the left. No facilities any where nearby. It took me 40 minutes to drive from Yreka (the closest city with chain hotels) to Callahan and 1 hour to drive from Callahan to the trailhead (including the long and slow 6 miles of logging road). It's a 3 hour mountain drive from Weaverville. It's 3 1/2 hours from Arcata, and that's taking Hwy 96 to Somes Bar and then East on FH 93 to Forks of Salmon and then south to Cecilville - but I highly don't recommend going that way. Make sure you have supplies and a full tank of gas before starting. Note: the Trinity Alps book I have referred to this as China Springs but the road signs call it China Gulch. [Note _Hiking California's Trinity Alps Wilderness_ by Dennis Lewon is a great book if you plan on visiting the Alps more than once. It's got trail descriptions, length, elevation, maps, and directions.] Free. Trails: I finally got to the trailhead early enough to actually attempt this hike (twice before (kicking off from Arcata and then from Weaverville) I had tried to do this hike, but got to the trailhead too late to start). As you can see from the directions from above, the trail starts in the middle of nowhere. And it's a long hike so you need to make sure you have 10 hours of daylight available before starting. The China Springs trail is a "short cut" trail over a mountain to the Grizzly Lake trail. The full Grizzly Lake trail is an 18.5 mile (one-way) multi-day hike to Grizzly Lake. The short cut trail intersects with the Grizzly Lake trail about 4 miles before the lake. The China Springs trail starts as an old road, but soon turns into a one-person width dirt trail. From the old road, you can somewhat see Thompson Peak in the distances ahead and to the left (it's the granite and snow, tree barren saddleback; Thompson Peak is the highest peak in the Trinity Alps) (Grizzly Lake rests below Thompson Peak). Those are the only looks you will get of Thompson Peak until you've been hiking about an hour on the Grizzly Lake trail (there are no views of Thompson Peak going up and down the short cut - the mountains you get glimpses of are not Thompson Peak). The grade is mild at first, but once you hit the first hard climb (trust me, you'll know it), it's up, up, up to the top. It is a little over a mile from the parking lot to the top and that took me about an hour to hike. [I had a delay while heading up as I heard rustling off to the right and stopped and looked. It was a bear. Then I saw her 2 cubs and I went (not in a good way), "Oh, great." After talking to them for a bit (go away bears), they eventually moved on and I then continued my trudge up.] After pausing at the top to catch my breath, I headed down the backside. It only took me 35 minutes to get from the top down to the trail junction, but I kept thinking while heading down, "I'm going to have to go back up this???" It's steep the whole 1.3 miles down. At the trail junction, head left and it's 3.5 mostly mild miles (some climbs, but after what you've just done, it will seem like nothing) to Grizzly Meadows - this took me 2:15 to hike. The trail is well defined, but because it is so far out of the way, there are some bushes that crowd the trail during some sections. The trail goes above Grizzly Creek (and eventually gets where you can see the creek) and you have water noise the rest of the way. Once you get your first good look at Thompson Peak, you still have a ways to go. From Grizzly Meadows, you can not see Thompson Peak. And once you see Grizzly Falls, your thoughts are, "I'm going to go to the top of that???" It's intimidating and not what I expected. In front of Grizzly Meadows is a large boulder field. The trail went into the boulder field towards the left and eventually disappeared - I only saw 2 rock cairns early into the field. With the way I went, I ended up surrounded on 3 sides by snow with no foot prints in it. After wandering around the boulder field for a bit and wondering if I was supposed to go above both the boulder field and snow field, I realized that even if I did figure out the way up, I wouldn't have enough time to get to the lake (figuring it would take at least an hour to get up there and another hour to get back down) and eventually gave up and went back to the meadow to rest a bit and change socks (ahhh) before heading back. No lake - the trail won yet again, arrgh. The way from Grizzly Meadows to Grizzly Lake is described as Grizzly Scramble (not a true trail) and supposedly is supposed to go to the left of the boulder field (with cairns) and then veers left before the base of the falls, up a talus slope up a side canyon. Be forewarned that it is steep and pictures will not prepare you for how intimidating the way looks. For overnighters (probably the better way to do this hike and visit the lake), there are camp spots in Grizzly Meadows. I did make good time going back and it took me about an hour to hike from the Meadows to the junction. It took a slow and steady (with lots of pauses) hour to get from the junction to the top of the short cut. And it took me 45 minutes to get from the top back to my car. I started at 7:45 am and finished at 4:50 pm. And so on the 5th attempt... Made it to the meadow with time and determination to finally reach the lake (no snow this time). The trail does go through the boulder field staying to the left (if you can't find the trail, don't go - heck, don't go anyways). Well before the waterfall, the trail will curve left and start heading steeply up the mountain side - this is no "scramble", it is more of a rock climb. A little ways up, I reached a questionmark - which way did the "trail" go? The right looked like the trail, but petered out quickly. The left did not look like the trail (there was a stream coming down), so I headed straight - to the right through the water was actually the correct way. So I headed up. By the time I realized this was not the way to go, I couldn't go back and had to pretty much rock climb (placing my feet and hands carefully) to get to the top - with lots and lots of prayers. Eventually (and thankfully) I made it to the top and it was an uneventful short bit to the right to reach the lake. It took a full 1:30 to get from the meadows to the lake. It was pretty, but definitely not worth the danger. I elected not to make the short wet water crossing at the top of the falls where there is more areas to explore and views to see - going up the scramble was enough stupidity for one day. Going down was as scary as I thought it would be - even going the correct way - and I said more prayers heading down. It took another 1:30 to get from the lake back to the meadow. Trail Length + Elevation: Total: 13 miles, 5,100 feet gained and lost 1.2 miles, 1,600 feet (up) trailhead to mountain ridge 1.3 miles, 1,500 feet (down) mountain ridge to Grizzly Lake Trail (also called North Fork Trail) 3.5 miles, 1,200 feet (up) trail junction to Grizzly Meadows .5 mile, 800 feet (up) Grizzly Meadows to Grizzly Lake (rock scramble) Area: Forest, mountains, meadows, waterfall, mountain lake Pictures When I did the hike: tried June 2002 and October 2003; Saturday June 26, 2004 (to the falls); 4th try: June 25 2005 again to the falls [a heavy winter meant the area above the falls was still completely snowed over and not worth the effort or risk (snow on the side slopes up) to get up there]; 5th try (successful) Tuesday, July 25, 2006 Recommendation: No, no, no, HECK no! It's a long tough hike and the "scramble" is simply dangerous. I considered simply removing this writeup so others wouldn't be tempted to try the hike, but am leaving it. If you do go, be careful.
Castle Crags State Park Directions: I-5 to the Castella exit (about 45 minutes north of Redding and 30 minutes south of Shasta). The park is just a short ways to the west from the highway. After stopping and paying the entrance fee (and ask for a trail map), take the windy, narrow road up to vista point parking area. There is a toilet at the parking area, but no water. $3 Trails: There are almost 28 miles of hiking trails in the park (including a section of the Pacific Crest Trail), but most people hike the 2.7 mile (one way) Castle Dome trail (Crags Trail). At the vista point parking lot, first take a short visit to the vista point for a view of the Crags (sharp granite peaks) and dome (the trail goes to behind the dome) and Mt. Shasta. The Castle Dome trail starts along the road just shortly before the parking area. It's a fairly wide (1 1/2 person width most of the way, some narrower and some wider parts) well used trail. At the couple of trail junctions, kept heading up. And it does go up almost the whole way. The trail is packed dirt early on and gets rocky the higher up you get (and pure rocks at some points). Pause and enjoy the views of the Crags and dome along the way. You won't get views of Mt. Shasta until you get closer to the dome (but still have a ways to climb). I stopped after about 2.5 miles, near the dome [I know, I was almost to the end, but I had set a hard time limit (started the hike in the afternoon), had to push myself to go as far as I did, it was a travel day - flown in to San Francisco that morning and had been driving until I got to the Crags, and had extremely little sleep] - it took me an hour and a half to get where I stopped. Going back was quicker, once I got past the rocks (but you have to be careful along some of the steeper dirt parts of the trail as it is easy to slip) and it only took an hour to get back to the car. I was rushing a little bit, so it would probably take most people longer to do this hike. Trail Length + Elevation: 2.7 miles, 2,250 feet (one-way) Area: Forest and interesting granite spike peaks. Note that because the park is so close to I-5, there are some road noise, especially early on into the hike. It's not that bad, but when the trains go by, their whistles are annoying. Picture When I did the hike: Friday, June 25, 2004 Recommendation: It's a neat place and I used the hike as a warmup for a big, big hike for the next day. Worth a visit.
Fern Canyon Directions: Hwy 101 to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Take turn off Hwy 101 that says Fern Canyon this way. (Note: there is sometimes elk in the meadow just off Hwy 101.) Take the narrow, unpaved road (packed dirt, not rutty) 8 miles to the Fern Canyon parking lot (it's a long 8 miles). There are 3 creek road crossings once you get past the campground (maybe uncomfortable in a compact car (but can be crossed)) - the 1st creek is the worst. Note: they closed the parking area that was right in front of the canyon a number of years ago (that open area right in front of the canyon entrance is the old parking lot, if you were wondering what it was) so you have about .3 miles more of a walk to reach the canyon. Vault toilets at the parking area. $5 per car or National Parks Pass [Once they didn't accept the NPP, but they've accepted it other times (it's a state park in addition to being a national park).] Trails: The Fern Canyon trail is a short (less than 1/2 mile) trail that criss-crosses the stream that goes down the middle of a 30-foot canyon, whose walls are covered with ferns. At the end of the canyon, the trail goes up and you can loop back to the parking lot (but it is better to go back through the canyon) or at the top of the canyon, you can go right and hike some pretty redwood trails. Prairie Creek SP has some pretty, unherald redwood trails. Combine Fern Canyon, the redwoods, and the beach, you can easily spend a wonderful day here. Area: Let's see, you've got the beach, you've got the Fern Canyon, you've got the mountains, and you've got the redwoods. What more do you need? Pictures When I did the hike: 15 times, most recently August 7, 2009 Recommendation: Awesome! The prettiest place I've ever been to. Highly recommend. My favorite place on earth.
Prairie Creek loop Directions: Hwy 101 to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Take turn off Hwy 101 that says Fern Canyon this way. (Note: there is sometimes elk in the meadow just off Hwy 101.) Take the narrow, unpaved road (packed dirt, not rutty) 8 miles to the Fern Canyon parking lot (it's a long 8 miles). There are 3 creek road crossings once you get past the campground (maybe uncomfortable in a compact car (but can be crossed)) - the 1st creek is the worst. Vault toilets at the parking area. $5 per car or National Parks Pass Trails: Using a combination of trails in Prairie Creek park you can make one of the prettiest loop hikes possible. Start with hiking through Fern Canyon (see above for that trail review). After climbing out of the canyon, take a right and a little bit later a left in following the sign for Friendship Ridge to West Ridge trails. You are now in the middle of the redwoods and will be for the next few hours. The trail does go up most of the way, but it is not a steep hike. It's a tradition redwood trail - one-person width, dirt (soft, not hard). After 3 miles, the trail intersects with West Ridge trail. Hook a left. There are a few benches along the next 1/2 mile. After a small up, the trail goes down the rest of the way, including some steep. After 2 miles, the trail intersects with the coastal trail - a bike trail. There is no beach access at the trail junction. I went a little ways to the left looking for a beach access before turning around and heading to the right where there is a beach access about 1/4 a mile ahead There are some impressive looking monster rocks ahead, prior to the true beach, and I walked around them and took a rest near them. I took my shoes off and walked the surf and sand the rest of the way back. Ahhh. The only problem was figuring out where I need to head up to the parking lot. Since I was strolling and stopping often to look at small, pretty rocks, I had no sense as to how far I had gone and was worried I had missed it (the sun was setting and the parking lot is a day use area). I ended up heading inland following what I thought was foot prints (it wasn't) and going through the shrub and dried-up swamp area before hitting the coastal trail and hiking back to the car - I had left the beach a good ways before I needed to. There is beach access from the parking area, but you can't see the parking area from the beach. Trail Length: Total: 8 miles .5 mile from Fern Canyon to Friendship Ridge Trail 3 miles from Friendship Ridge Trail to West Ridge Trail 2 miles from Friendship Ridge Trail to beach 2.5 miles on beach back to car Area: Fern Canyon, redwoods, mountains, beach When I did the hike: Sunday, October 26, 2003; Sunday, June 26, 2005; Sunday, July 29, 2007; Tuesday, August 4, 2009 Recommendation: Awesome! Fern Canyon, the redwoods, and the beach in one hike.
Prairie Creek loop 2 Directions: Hwy 101 to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Take turn off Hwy 101 that says Fern Canyon this way. (Note: there is sometimes elk in the meadow just off Hwy 101.) Take the narrow, unpaved road (packed dirt, not rutty) 8 miles to the Fern Canyon parking lot (it's a long 8 miles). There are 3 creek road crossings once you get past the campground (maybe uncomfortable in a compact car (but can be crossed)) - the 1st creek is the worst. Vault toilets at the parking area. $5 per car or National Parks Pass Trails: Similar to the loop described above, but a little shorter and not quite as steep. Start with hiking through Fern Canyon (see above for that trail review). After climbing out of the canyon, take a right onto the James Irvine trail. Remain on the James Irvine Trail for 1.5 miles. It goes gently and peacefully along a creek in the redwoods. Take a right on to the Clintonia Trail and go for a mile on this trail in the midst of the redwoods. The trail does climb some. Hook a right on to Miner's Ridge trail for 2 miles to the road. The last .5 mile of the trail is pretty blah as the redwoods recede as the trail goes in to a wide (but green) canyon and then the trail turns in to a gravel road for the last bit. At the road junction (Davidson Road), go left for a tad to the Gold Bluffs Beach camp area (there is a bathroom and water there if needed) and go through the camp to the beach. It's about 1.3 miles along the beach back to the Fern Canyon parking area. [I missed the parking area (it's hard to see from the beach, even when you are above the sand ridge) and went way past it as I was walking bare foot along the surf (ahhh) and had to back track some.] There is beach access from the Fern Canyon parking area, but you can't see the parking area from the beach. Trail Length: Total: a little over 6 miles .3 mile from Fern Canyon to James Irvine Trail 1.5 miles from James Irvine Trail to Clintonia Trail 1 mile from Clintonia Trail to Miner's Ridge Trail 2 miles from Miner's Ridge Trail to beach 1.3 miles on beach back to car Area: Fern Canyon, redwoods, mountains, beach When I did the hike: Monday, June 28, 2004; Friday, August 7, 2009 Recommendation: Awesome! Fern Canyon, the redwoods, and the beach in one hike. If you don't have time to do both loop hikes, do the previous one (north loop) as the redwood section is prettier.
Hidden Beach coastal trail Directions: From Klamath Overlook: From Hwy 101 near Requa take a right at the sign that says Klamath Overlook this way. Go a mile or two up to the Klamath Overlook Parking lot. The trailhead is to the south of the parking lot. (The trail loops below the lot and heads north). Toilet at parking lot. Shortest trail: continue north on Hwy 101 past Requa for a couple of miles. When you see the tourist trap on the right with Paul Bunyon and his ox (trust me, you'll know it when you see it), pull in the parking lot and park at the far (north) end. The trailhead is across the road (Hwy 101). From Yurok Loop: continue past the Paul Bunyon tourist trap a short bit - after the road curves and before the ocean, you'll see a parking lot to the left. Parking in that lot and the trailhead is at the far end (ocean side) of the lot. Flush toilets in the middle of the parking lot. Free. Trails: - From Klamath Overlook: A slender little trail that goes along the coast down to a small beach after about 2 miles. It's a nice little trail that has some spectacular views of the ocean (or views of the clouds - I've done it both with clear views and with an overcast). (beach description below) The hike back up to the car was no where near as bad as I thought it was going to be. On the way back, the trail ascended above the cloud line and the view of the cotton field over the ocean and cotton field down the shore with mountains peaking though was spectacular. The hike is not a pure up-down hike. There are some small ups and downs in the middle of it, with the steepest ones near the parking lot and near the beach. - Short cut trail: So you want to visit Hidden Beach, but don't have the time or energy to do the coastal trail? There is a quick and dirty way to go and reach the beach in 15 minutes and little effort. From the Trees of Mystery (tourist trap) parking lot, there is a .5 mile trail to the beach. It is definitely not as pretty of a hike as from the overlook (though there is greenery surrounding the trail - a section of it goes along telephone polls) and you get road noise from Hwy 101 until you near the beach and the ocean drowns out the road noise. It's fairly level (but not completely flat) with a small down to the beach at the end. - From Yurok Loop: My favorite way to get to Hidden Beach. Skip the interior part of the Yurok Loop - there's road noise and it's really not a pretty hike. But the outer part of the loop is wonderful with great beach views. Closer to Hidden Beach, you do get nice views down on the beach. - Hidden Beach: My 2nd favorite spot on earth (behind Fern Canyon). The small beach is wonderful. You do have to be a little careful as far as timing as the beach disappears in high tide. After the short down from the trail junction, there is a pile of drift wood in front of the beach to make your way across. On the beach, first explore the rocky area to the south and enjoy the views down the coast and wonder how the tree can grow on that rock and explore the rocky area to the north. Then take off your shoes walk barefoot along the short strip of soft (not painful rocky) black beach. You'll probably have the place to yourself - enjoy! Trail Length (one way): From Klamath Overlook - 2 miles, some elevation From Paul Bunyon shortcut - .5 miles, level except down to beach From Yurok Loop - 1 mile, mild hike Area: Shrubs and trees above the coast and then down to a precious little beach. Pictures When I did the hike: Sunday, June 25, 2000 (overlook hike); Sunday, October 26, 2003 (overlook hike); Monday, June 28, 2004 (short cut trail); Wednesday, July 26, 2006 (Yurok Loop); July 29 and 31, 2007 (Yurok Loop); Wed+Thur, August 4+5, 2009 (Yurok); Recommendation: Definitely use one of the trails to make you way to Hidden Beach if you are in the area. Try to time it for low tide - during hide tide, the beach is mostly underwater. I love this spot.
Tall Trees, Prairie Creek Redwood State Park Directions: You first need to stop at the Redwood Information Center just south of Orick on Hwy 101 to get permit (which includes the combination to open the gate for the Tall Trees Access road) - the Information Center opens at 9 am [and they tend to run out of permits early during the summer]. From the Info Center, head north on Hwy 101 a short ways to Bald Hills Road (there is a sign indicating Lady Bird Johnson Grove that way). Head up Bald Hills Road a ways to just past the Redwood Creek Overlook and take a left onto Tall Trees Access Road (should be sign indicating the road). Drive 7 miles long on the unpaved, single-lane road to the trailhead. [There are toilets at the trailhead and after 1 1/4 miles on the trail.] Free, but permit required. Trails: It's a steep, wide trail that descends 650 over the first 1 1/4 miles in going down to an old-growth Redwood grove that contains some of the tallest trees in the world (at one point, the 1st, 5th, and 6th tallest were considered to be in this grove). At the bottom of the trail is a 3/4 mile loop that goes past some neat looking moss-covered trees and then through the grove. Then it's a 1 1/4 climb out where you'll be greatful for the handful of benches along the trail. Area: Traditional redwood area (big trees with fern flooring) along a large hill. Picture When I did the hike: June 22, 2002 Recommendation: It's a pretty, well defined trail and I love the redwoods. If you are pressed for time, you can find gentler trails else where in Prairie Creek (and you won't notice the difference between a 330 foot tree and a 360+ foot tree). But if you want to plan for this hike, go early and enjoy the solitude of the redwoods (I was first in line to get the permit and had the place to myself until I hiked out, where I passed a number of people who were heading down). And keep in mind that it is a steep hike out [don't recommend doing this hike the day after a 16 mile day hike :) - my calves joined the rest of my body in loudly complaining after I got back to my car]. [And do take the scenic Newton B. Drury drive through Prairie Creek Redwood State Park (similar to Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt Redwood SP).]
Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Prairie Creek Redwood State Park Directions: Hwy 101 to just north of Orick. Take a right on to Bald Hills Road (should be a sign indicating Lady Bird grove that way) to the parking lot, about 2 miles ahead. Vault toilets at parking lot. Free. Trails: Short, simple 1 mile trail through old growth grove. Fairly flat. Area: Redwoods When I did the hike: June 23, 2002; Tuesday, July 31, 2007 Recommendation: If you are in the area, then you are here to see redwoods and any old growth grove is worth a visit and this is not far out of the way.
Damnation Creek - Del Norte Redwoods State Park Directions: Hwy 101 to Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park - about midway through the park. Look for white mile #16 road marker along Hwy 101 and park in the pullin area on the west side of the road (room for about 10 cars to pullin-park) - the area is just to the north of a sharp turn and drop/climb in the road. There is a sign for the trail at the north end of the parking area. No facilities Free. Trails: The trail starts as a beautiful walk through the redwoods and then starts heading down. It does stay in the redwoods until about 1/4 mile from the beach. At the junction a little ways along the trail, continue straight (even though to the left looks like the better trail). Not much further past that junction is the (old dirt) road junction - go straight across the road and slightly to the right as the one-person trail continues to head down, down, down. There are a number of switchbacks along the way (and it does take a lot of energy to hike back out). The trail comes out on top of an arch near the top of a long, narrow rock-beach. Take the sharp down to the right to reach the beach (some wood steps and some rock scramble). As you head to the ocean, look for the natural rock arch on the left that you can go through to explore the longer south side of the beach (note that there is no sand to the beach, just small rocks; so closed shoes (not sandles) are more comfortable). If the tide is low, you can go around the top of the arch mound instead of through the arch. There are some tide pools and seastacks along the beach. Trail Length + Elevation: 2.1 miles, drops 1000 feet Area: Redwoods, rocky coast Picture When I did the hike: Tuesday, August 4, 2009 Recommendation: I liked the first part through the redwoods, but didn't really like the rocky beach nor think it was worth the long hike out.
Enders Beach Directions: Hwy 101 to about 3 miles south of Crescent City - look for the Enders Beach Road sign (not easy to spot) that heads a sharp south from Hwy 101 (before/after Del Norte Redwoods sign). Take Enders Beach Road all the way to the small parking lot at the end, just past an overlook spot. No facilities. Free. Trails: First take a short walk up to the overlook for a nice coastal view from above. The wide trail down to the beach is actually an old coastal (dirt) road. It's an easy down and not hard on the return. At the junction, take a right and the beach is not much further ahead. The pretty, smaller sized beach is a mixture of sand and small gray rocks. There is a sea arch on the small rock mound just off the shore on the south end of the beach. Trail Length: .5 miles down to beach Area: Pacific coast When I did the hike: Monday, August 3, 2009 Recommendation: Nice little walk down to a pretty beach.
Stout Grove - Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park Directions: Hwy 101 to Crescent City. Head east on Hwy 199 to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Continue through the park to about 2 miles past to South Fork Road on the left. Turn onto that road and go over the 2 bridges. Right after crossing the 2nd bridge, take a left on to Howland Hill Road. The narrow road paved for only the first mile and is gravel the rest of the way (through well traveled - don't need a high clearance vehicle). After a little over a mile, take a right turn and drive a short ways down to the parking area for Stout Grove (ignore the pulloff area alongside Howland Hill Road with a sign for Stout Grove - it's a lot longer of a walk from there). Vault toilets. Free. Trails: A short loop through the redwoods, including Stout Tree - the largest redwood in Jedediah Smith State Park. Trail Length: .5 mile loop Area: Massive old growth redwoods When I did the hike: Wednesday, July 31, 2007 Recommendation: A nice little loop through an old growth grove.
Jedediah Smith State Park - Boy Scout Tree trail Directions: Hwy 101 to Crescent City. Head east on Hwy 199 to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Continue through the park to about 2 miles past to South Fork Road on the left. Turn onto that road and go over the 2 bridges. Right after crossing the 2nd bridge, take a left on to Howland Hill Road. The narrow road paved for only the first mile and is gravel the rest of the way (through well traveled - don't need a high clearance vehicle). After about 5 miles, look for a small parking area on the right side of the road for the Boy Scout Tree Trail. No facilities. Free. Trails: The trail is a peaceful redwood trail that goes one-way for about 3.5 miles with some ups-and-downs. The trail ends at a small, pretty waterfall. To get to the Boy Scout Tree (a monster redwood), take the short branch to the right (as you are heading towards the waterfall or to the left as you are coming back, if you missed the branch on the way going, like I did) a little ways before the waterfall. Trail Length: 7 miles round trip Area: Redwood forest Pictures When I did the hike: Sunday, July 19, 1999; Wednesday, August 1, 2007 Recommendation: Very nice true redwood trail.
Hatton Loop - Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park Directions: Hwy 101 to Crescent City. Head east on Hwy 199 to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. At the 2.84 mile marker is pulloff areas to the north and south side of the road. The Hatton Loop is on the south side. Flush toilets on the north side of the road. Free. Trails: Very short loop through the redwoods. Actually as climb to it. Trail Length: .2 miles Area: Massive old growth redwoods When I did the hike: Thursday, August 1, 2007 Recommendation: If you have time for both this and Simpson-Reed, sure. If you don't, this is the one to skip (a partial walk though Simpson-Reed is even better than this).
Simpson-Reed Interactive Trail - Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park Directions: Hwy 101 to Crescent City. Head east on Hwy 199 to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. At the 2.84 mile marker is pulloff areas to the north and south side of the road. Simpson-Reed is on the north side. Flush toilets on the north side of the road. Free. Trails: The Simpson-Reed Interactive Trail is a wide trail through the redwoods with interpretive signs along the way. At the junction, you can hook a right for the Peterson Memorial Trail half loop - the .5 mile loop will rejoin the Simpson-Reed trail. Trail Length: .7 mile loop Simpson-Reed .5 mile loop Peterson memorial Trail (access from Simpson-Reed trail Area: Massive old growth redwoods When I did the hike: Thursday, August 1, 2007 Recommendation: A very pretty redwood area.
Devil's Punchbowl Directions: From Crescent City (_long drive_) take Hwy 101 to Hwy 199 for about 25 miles (past Darlingtonia, before Grant's Pass). Near mile post 24.85, turn right on Little Jones Creek Road/Forest Service Road 16/ Forest Service Road 17N05 and say goodbye to pavement and hello to logging roads. Go almost 10 miles to the fork in the road and take Forest Service Road 16N02 for about 5 miles to the end of the road and the trailhead parking. Those 15 miles will take about an hour to drive. Free. Trails: Start with the mild Doe Flat trail (fairly flat) for about 3 miles to the Devil's Punchbowl branch to the right (there should be a sign marking the way. As you start your climb up Bear Mountain, remember that you chose to do this. The trail switchbacks all the way up Bear Mountain. After rounding the mountain and crossing the creek, you'll trudge (the only thing you can do after that climb is trudge) across barren granite rock while keeping an eye on the small stacks of rocks that mark the trail. Then you round the corner and say, "yes, it is worth it" as a small pretty lake with some trees and granite surrounding it appears. As precious as this lake looks, it is not your final destination. Make your way to the left around the lake and then head across more granite rock for about 15 more minutes. The Devil's Punchbowl is a magnificent, gem of a mountain lake (on the smaller side for a mountain lake) surrounding by granite walls on three sides. Spend some time here and enjoy the spectacular view. It's about 3 miles and 1,500 feet of elevation from the base of Bear Mountain to the lake. Area: Twiggy forest, rugged mountain, miles of granite, wonderful mountain lake Picture When I did the hike: Monday, July 20, 1999 Recommendation: Tough, tough hike with a great reward. The trail along the way isn't much to speak of (besides the killer hike up Bear Mountain), but the destination is awesome.
Feather Falls Directions: From Sacramento, take I70 north to Oroville. Go right on 162 to Forbestown Road. Take a right onto Forbestown Road then a left on to Lumpkin Road. Go a ways and follow the directions to the Feather Falls parking lot. Free. Trails: 5 1/2 miles, well defined trail to the 6th largest waterfall in the US. Area: Picture When I did the hike: Thursday, July 23, 1999 Recommendation: Yes! Impressive falls and a nice hike.
State Line Trail - Lake Tahoe Directions: Take Hwy 27 to Hwy 28 at the north end of Lake Tahoe to the town of Tahoe Vista (near the California-Nevada boarder). From Hwy 28, go north on Reservoir Drive (at the end of the casino parking lot, just to the east of the stop light). Take a right at the end of the road (Lakeshore Avenue) and continue on that road (through a residential area) to the gated road on the left - if the gate is close, park along side the road and walk up the road (it's a bit of an up, about 15 minutes walk); if it's open, drive up to the parking lot at the top. Vault toilet at the parking area. Free. Trails: There is a lookout point next to the parking lot and about 1/2 mile easy paved trail that loops around just below the top of the hill with various information signs along the way (including one about Mark Twain starting a forest fire). The views of Lake Tahoe are outstanding. Trail Length + Elevation: 1/2 mile, very mild (if the gate is close, the walk up the road is a little bit of a workout) Area: Trees, small hill, monster lake. Picture When I did the hike: Friday, July 20, 2007 Recommendation: The views are well worth the extra drive for this little hike.
Eagle Lake and Granite Lake Loop - Lake Tahoe Directions: In the Lake Tahoe area, take Hwy 89 to the southwest side of the lake to Emerald Bay State Park. Park in the Eagle Falls parking area or in the near by Emerald Bay Overlook parking area. Note that it is a very popular area and the parking lots can fill (though spots tend to open up if you wait a bit - more so at the overlook). $5 fee to park in the parking lots Trails: This is a very popular trail. You need to first register at the trailhead about your hike (no extra fee). From the parking lot, the well developed trail heads into the Sierra Nevada Mountains. There are rock steps most of they way and it is fairly mild to the small Eagle Falls (there is also a larger Eagle Falls next to Hwy 89). A mere mile from the trailhead is the very pretty Eagle Lake, in a bowl at the end of the valley you are heading up. There are some nice looks of Lake Tahoe and Emerald Bay along the way, so stop and look back every once in a while. Hook a right from the trail for the short side trip to get lakeside. It's a popular swimming hole and you'll likely have plenty of company. After enjoying the lake, head back up to the trail and the rocky, loose dirt one-person trail heads up and goes high above Eagle Lake with some good views down on the lake. After a bit, the trail turns left and heads a harder up and you lose views of the lake, but get shade as you are in the trees. Eventually the trees thin as you near the ridge and there is a rock out-crop to the right that is good for a short side trip for a good view of Lake Tahoe (no view of Eagle Lake, though). When you hit the peak of the ridge, it's a good turning around point if you are not doing the loop or going to Velma Lakes. From the ridge, the trail heads down some before leveling out for a short bit and then climbing again out the small valley (no lakes in that valley). A little ways past that ridge is the junction for the Granite Lake trail. I had hoped to reach the Velma Lakes, but started my hike too late (started about 1 pm) and had to turn around before reaching them - I went a little bit past the Dicks Lake junction (and a small pond trailside) and went off trail to the right to a rock with part of it chopped off and from there I was able to see 2 of 3 lakes in the far distance and wasn't impress with them (may have been different up close, may have not). There are some neat looking trees along the way, though as the trail has some small ups and downs (and it looked like it was going to be down to the lakes from my turning around point). The Velma Lakes are to the right from the junction. For the loop, take a left at the junction and the trail heads up, up, and up - there are no views down on Eagle Lake along the way. I didn't realize I had reached the apex of the ridge until I noticed that the trail had leveled and was actually heading slightly down. Near a rocky peak to the left is an open area with a great view down on Eagle Lake from high above. A short bit ahead is views of Lake Tahoe - and you'll have views of Lake Tahoe and 2 smaller lakes as as the trail switchbacks down, down, down all the way to Granite Lake. It was a nice little lake surrounded by trees (no where near as pretty as Eagle Lake). It's another mile from the lake down to Hwy 89 - there is one pretty view point of Emerald Bay (Lake Tahoe) along the way, but it's mostly an unexciting hike. Walk the road through the Bayview Campground to Hwy 89 and take a left and walk about .5 miles on the narrow shoulder of Hwy 89 (not fun) back to the parking area - it's down hill going north, so if you are doing the loop, do it the way I described (plus going up all those switchbacks wouldn't be fun). The two mornings later, I took an early trip out to Eagle Lake and was the first person there. It was absolutely stunning as the lake was so still that there were great reflections and with the solitude the natural sounds of the waterfall (across the lake), birds, and chipmunks were soothing. Trail Length + Elevation: Note that there is a good trail map at the start of the trail that shows the distances for the various trails. 1 mile, 400 feet to Eagle Lake 1.6 miles, lots of elevation Eagle Lake to junction 2.1 (more up, lots of down) junction to road 1.4 miles junction to Middle Velma Lake Area: Monster Lake Tahoe, trees, small lakes, mountains Pictures When I did the hike: Friday, July 20, 2007 Recommendation: Most definitely go to Eagle Lake. The loop hike (without Velma Lakes) is pretty, but you get most of the highlights by hiking to Eagle Lake and then on up to the ridge above the lake (for a shorter, but still hard hike).
Rubicon Trail - Lake Tahoe Directions: In the Lake Tahoe area, take Hwy 89 to the south west side of the lake to D.L. Bliss State Park entrance. Take the road through the park all the way down to the small parking lot at the end (Calawee Cove Beach - you may want to take a short side trip down to the beach before you start). The parking is very limited, so you may have to use a lot a little farther away. If the park is full for the day (they limit access), drive a little further south to Emerald Bay and park in the Emerald Bay Overlook parking area ($5 parking fee) and take the steep trail down (1 mile, 600 feet) to Vikingsholm and hike the opposite direction as described below. Flush toilets in the park and at Vikingsholm. $5 state park access fee. Trails: From the parking lot, you can take a .3 mile one-way side trip up to an Old Lighthouse - no good views along the way, it's an up all .3 miles, and the lighthouse is completely uninteresting (looks like an outhouse), so skip this. If you really want to see the lighthouse, hit it on the way back and take the signed branch for the lighthouse a little over 1/2 mile from the trailhead. Even though it is a lakeside trail, the Rubicon Trail is not a mild, level trail - it sometimes goes high above the lake and that first mile will seem like a lot longer than just one mile. But the views of Lake Tahoe are fabulous. After a mile, the trail does calm down some, but the good views go away for a while as you are in the trees for about 1/2 mile. Then it is back to the great views and the trails heads down (still well above the lake). After the trail switchbacks down a couple of times, the trail goes near (but still above) the rocky shore. Just when you think the trail is going to stay mild until Emerald Point, it takes a sharp up to go over a rock outcrop and has stone steps down the other side. From there, the trail does stay near the shore. A short ways ahead is a small cove slightly off of the trail with a pretty little beach - a good resting and feet soaking spot, both going and returning. The trail then heads inland across Emerald Point and comes out near the top of Emerald Bay (about 3 miles from the trailhead). In Emerald Bay, the trail stays a short ways above the shore with small (very small compared to early on for the trail) ups and downs. At the Boat Camp, one mile from Vikingsholm, continue on the road through the camp to the ramp. The trail continues from the ramp and is very mild along the shore the rest of the way to Vikingsholm, at the bottom of the bay. Vikingsholm is an old summer house done in Norwegian style (there are tours of the house with a fee) and has a park visitor center as well as a good sized beach. Emerald Bay is a very pretty area, but I liked the views along the Rubicon Trail outside of the bay better - and loved the little beach right before Emerald Point. Note that there will be lots of boat noise, especially on beautiful days and weekends. Trail Length: 4.6 miles one-way from parking lot to Vikingsholm Area: Monster Lake Tahoe, trees, beaches Picture When I did the hike: Saturday, July 21, 2007 Recommendation: Definitely. Very beautiful.
Five Lakes - Lake Tahoe area Directions: From Tahoe City (northwest side of Lake Tahoe), take Hwy 89 north about 3.5 miles to Alpine Meadows Road (a developed ski area, about the only left turn along that stretch of Hwy 89). Go for about 2 miles and keep an eye out for a trailhead sign to the right; there is a road to the left right before it. Park along side the road. No facilities. Free. Trails: There is nothing mild about the first little under 2 miles of this trail as it heads up, up, up, with little shade. And it is not scenic as you have plenty views of ski lifts. The trail eventually goes between 2 ski lift poles, but you still have plenty of more up to go. The trail finally levels out once it reaches the trees and it's a mild short ways ahead to the 5th lake, the largest of the 5. The trail does continue on from the 5th lake (and eventually hooks up with the Pacific Crest Trail), so don't be confused and continue on and think there is another lake ahead (there's not). The 5th lake is right off the trail and has trees on the east side and a small rock mound on the west side. You can walk around the east side to reach another of the 5 lakes that is adjacent to this one and see a 3rd one to the left (very small, pond-sized). You'd have to walk way off trail to reach one of the lakes (I didn't bother) and the first lake you can actually see from the trail if you keep a sharp eye out for it through the trees to the south of the trail (it's surrounded by trees and very uneventful) - the 5th lake was definitely the prettiest of the 4 of the 5 that I saw. Trail Length + Elevation: 2.1 miles, about 1000 feet one-way Area: Ski area, mountains, small mountain lakes Picture When I did the hike: Sunday, July 22, 2007 Recommendation: No. It's an ugly huff-and-puff up for 2 miles and the lakes really didn't impress me (probably didn't help that I went to the stunning Eagle Lake that morning) - though they look great in the pictures.
Summit Lake Directions: From I80, take the exit just west of Donner Pass (about 2 miles west from Donner State Park and 3 miles from Hwy 89 junction) - the exit should have a brown sign noting PCT access (Pacific Crest Trail). Follow the PCT signs to the parking area. Vault toilets at the parking area. Free. Trails: The mild trail heads west from the parking area through the trees, going next to a small pond. After 3/4 mile, the trail intersects with the PCT - take a left on the PCT. The trail soon goes through steel tunnels under I80 and then continues through the trees to a junction about 1/4 mile ahead. Take a right at the junction, following the signs for Summit Lake. The trail now has some ups along the way (but no huff-and-puffers). A mile ahead is another junction and take a right for Summit Lake (leaving the PCT). The lake is 1/2 mile ahead. It's an uneventful tree-surround lake with no great background views. There is a small shore at the far end of the lake. Note that being so close to I80 for most of the way, there is lots of road noise. Trail Length: 2.5 miles one-way Area: Trees, mountains, small lake When I did the hike: Sunday, July 22, 2007 Recommendation: If you have the time, it's a pretty little hike through the trees. The lake itself wasn't that pretty.
Loch Leven Lakes Directions: Take I80 to near Cisco Grove (the midst of the Sierras) and take the Rainbow Road exit and head west or take the Big Bend exit and head east on Hampshire Rocks Road - the trailhead is about midway between the two exits. Look for a parking area (about 12 spaces) on the north side of the road with a toilet at the west end. The trail starts on the other side of the road. Vault toilet at the parking area. Free. Trails: The trail starts immediately heading up, as it will do for the next over 2 miles. You'll also get lots of road noise from I80 for those 2 miles. The terrain varies between solid rock, small rocks, and loose dirt - it's sometimes difficult to see which way the trail is going over the rocks. At one point, the trail will level out some, with small ups and downs. Then it is back to heading up and the trail goes over (active) railroad tracks [I couldn't resist putting some pennies on the track on the way up and picking up the flattened pennies on the way back]. The trail continues up past the tracks, including some switchbacks. It took me about 1:15 to get to the ridge. Once you reach the ridge, the road noise goes away. The trail is mild for a bit through the trees and then drops down to the first lake (Lower Loch Leven Lake). It's a pretty little lake (the smallest of the 3) in a small granite rock mound (not mountains) bowl. After all that work, find a nice feet soaking spot (I liked the spot just off the trail next to a tree) and rest for a bit. A down-and-up 1/4 mile ahead is the wonderful Middle Loch Leven Lake - the largest of the 3. There are a number of small islands in the middle of the lake and plenty of feet-soaking resting spots along the shore to enjoy the pretty lake. The middle lake is the destination for some people, but I definitely recommend continuing on (after a rest) to the upper lake, a mile and more up ahead. The trail continues level along side the middle lake to the top of the lake. Then it goes slightly away from the lake behind a rock mound. A couple of orange blazes on the rocks helps guide you through a tricky spot of the trail. Then is a hard up over the rocks and then the trail is mild the rest of the way to the High Loch Leven Lake, a small but precious lake with an island in the middle. You have to work your way over some rocks to find a nice lakeside spots, but it is a wonderful place, especially when you have it to yourself. There was even a family of ducks swimming in the lake when I was there that added to the atmosphere. Note that all 3 lakes are popular swimming holes. Trail Length + Elevation: 3.7 miles, 1300 feet one-way to upper lake Area: Sierra Nevada Mountains, 3 mountain lakes Picture When I did the hike: Monday, July 23, 2007; Sunday, August 9, 2009 Recommendation: Absolutely. I loved these precious lakes, especially the upper lake.
Tuolumne Sequioa Grove - Yosemite National Park Directions: In Yosemite National Park, go to the junction of Big Oak Flat Road and Tioga Road (north of Yosemite Valley). Head east for a short bit and the parking area of Tuolumne Grove is on the left (north) side of the road (note that despite the name, it is well west of the Tuolumne Meadows area). $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: It's an old road (but paved) that heads down (so it's up on the way back) 400 feet for about a mile to a small sequioa grove - with the most impressive sequioa being the first one you see (on the left). Take a right at the trail branch and an old "drive through tree" goes across the road and you can walk through it (of course, today's cars are too wide) - it's actually a sequioa stump with the tunnel carved through it (so they didn't carve up a living tree). Just passed that is a nice little nature loop through the trees - it's a narrow dirt trail, which is a nice change after the road. Note that though in the same family, Sequioas are different from Coastal Redwoods - Sequioas are shorter (everything's relative) but fatter and have a softer bark. Trail Length + Elevation: 2 miles, 400 feet round trip Area: Forest area Picture When I did the hike: Friday, July 28, 2007 Recommendation: Unless you have no other chance to visit the Sequioas, no. It's a very small grove and not a scenic hike to get to it.
Lukens Lake - Yosemite National Park Directions: On Tioga road, about 2 miles east of the turn off for White Wolf. There is no road sign for the lake trail, but there is a parking area on the south side of the road (the trailhead is on the north side). $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: Blah hike in the woods to a small, blah lake. Trail Length + Elevation: 1.5 miles round trip Area: Woods, trees surround lake (no distance views) Picture When I did the hike: Thursday, August 1, 2006 Recommendation: No. Boring and not scenic.
May Lake - Yosemite National Park Directions: Along Tioga Road to the May Lake turnoff (shortly before the Olmsted Overlook (roadside view point); not too far from Tuolumne Meadows). Head up the narrow (have to pull over when cars come the other way) paved road about 2 miles to the trail head on the east side of the parking lot. Vault toilets at the parking lot. $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: If you are lucky, you might have some pretty reflections on the ponds next to the trail head. The trail heads up gradually for about a mile and then it's a steeper up to the ridge. There are great distance views behind of a good section of the park. The lake is just ahead from the ridge (you don't get a view of the lake until you reach it). Make your way to the lake and find a nice resting spot (or spots) and enjoy the pretty views. You can find resting spots between the trees heading along the west side of the lake - the views here are of May Lake and Mt. Hoffman looming above it. Take a walk to the south east side of the lake and enjoy more views of the lake with trees behind it and rock mounds in the distance. Note that there is a High Sierra Camp along the south west side of the lake. [But there weren't many people the 2 times I visited - the crowds tend to stay in the Yosemite Valley area.] Trail Length + Elevation: 1.4 miles, 400 feet one-way Area: Rocky area with few trees, good sized mountain lake with trees on one side and a mountain on the other. Picture When I did the hike: Friday, July 28, 2006; Thursday, August 1, 206 Recommendation: My favorite lake in the park.
Cathedral and Sunrise Lakes - Yosemite NP Directions: Tioga Road to the Tuolumne Meads area. Park along side the road near the Cathedral Lakes trailhead (west of the gas station). $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: I stringed together a couple of trails to make a half-loop long hike. The rock and dirt trail heads up most of the way (some milder spots, some steeper spots) to the junction for Lower Cathedral Lake (about 3.2 miles in). With about 20 minutes from the junction, you'll start having views of the distinctive Cathedral Peak. After the junction, take a right for .5 miles to the Lower Cathedral Lake. It's a beautiful lake and I took the extra time to walk all the way around it (with rests at spots) - a view of Lower Cathedral Lake with Cathedral Peak looming behind it makes it worth going around to the far side of the lake. When you're ready to move on (I spent an hour at this lake), head back to the junction and it's .5 miles and a bit more up to the Upper Cathedral Lake. Though I didn't walk all the way around this lake (there's not a trail), I did spend time at both the southeast and northeasts ends - again the northeast will give views of the lake with Cathedral Peak behind it. The trail then continues heading up, and up, and up. At the apex is majestic distance views 360 degrees of the Sierras. And then it's down, down, down for a bit. At the end of the down is a very large meadow and then the trail heads through it for a while. At the trail junction, continue straight and then hook a left in to the High Sierra Camp - it was about 3 miles from the Upper Cathedral Lake to the Sierra Camp. Note that up to this point, the trail you had been on was part of the John Muir Trail, which is a combo trail that horses use (the rest of the way is horse free). Make your way to the far end of the camp (the trail is not well marked through the camp), use the outhouse if you need to. Shortly after the outhouse, head right and start heading up (again, not well marked - ask someone if you aren't sure you're on the trail) - this is the last of the big climbs (there is a small one out from the Lower Sunrise Lake). About 30 minutes ahead is the Upper Sunrise Lake. There is a small sand shore on the east side of the lake, but not much shoreside access besides that. I took an off-trail side trip to visit the Middle Sunrise Lake, the prettiest of the not-that-spectacular 3 Sunrise lakes. Back on the trail, the Lower Sunrise Lake is not too far ahead. The trail crosses over the outlet stream for the lower lake and the trail out is a hard right just past the outlet. There are good resting spots along the lower lake, but you are probably going to have company (but not crowded) as it is a well known (shorter) day-hike destination and a swim hole. The trail heads up out of the Lower Sunrise Lake bowl for about 10 minutes and then the next about 1.5 miles is pure down hill. At the trail T-junction, take a left and go down, down, down (steep enough that I wouldn't want to be heading up it). The last about .5 miles levels out and is mild the rest of the way. The trail ends at the Sunrise Lakes trailhead (near Tenaya Lake - a pretty place to visit and rest). Catch the hikers shuttle back to the Cathedral Lakes trailhead (or you could take trail that goes behind Tenaya Lake and the parallels the road, but that's 7.6 more miles). Trail Length + Elevation: Total about 11 miles, ?? feet (a lot) 3.2 miles, 1,000 feet to Lower Cathedral Lake junction 1 mile to and from junction to lake .5 miles junction to upper lake about 3 miles upper lake to Sierra camp about 1 mile Sierra camp to Lower Sunrise Lake about 2 miles Lower Sunrise Lake to road Area: Trees, mountains, mountain lakes, meadows Pictures When I did the hike: Saturday, July 29, 2006 Recommendation: Only up to Cathedral Lakes (and maybe then up to the trail's highest point with the wonderful view of part of the Sierras). Both Cathedral Lakes are definitely worth visiting (the rest was a lot of effort for what it was worth). You can skip the Sunrise Lakes.
Dog Lake and Lambert Dome - Yosemite National Park Directions: Tioga Road to Tuolumne Meadows area. Take a left (north) on the paved road for the stables. Park where you can (stable lot is good, but may be full). You can also park in the Dog Lake parking area near the Tuolumne Lodge (but that's not the way I did it). $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: There are 2 separate destinations, but its a semi-short hike altogether and Dog Lake isn't too much extra effort. You should see a rock and dirt trail parallel to the stables, but below them. After a little bit, the trail intersects with another trail that runs north-south. Take a hard left and start heading up. After about a 1 mile, you reach a small meadow and another trail junction - the way to Lambert Dome is to the right. Continue straight for about .3 miles and a little more up and then take a right for the side trail to Dog Lake. Find a nice spot at the lake to feet soak. It's a good sized lake surrounded by trees. Nothing exciting, but there are views of domes in the distance. Back at the Lambert Dome junction, take a left (heading from Dog Lake) and a little further ahead is probably my favorite section of this hike. There is a small pond right behind Lambert Dome that I enjoyed a visit at (sitting on a log at the east end of the pond, near the trail). After about .5 miles from the junction (mostly level and then some down towards the end), there is a T-junction and the way up Lambert Dome is to the right. Once you reach the top of the dome, head up as high as you feel comfortable with (I didn't go to the top) and enjoy the views. Head back the way you came. Note you can continue on the trail towards the road after getting back the the Lambert Dome junction, but the trail ends at the road and there is no trail back along the road, which means you would have to walk back to the start area on a heavily used road with that does not have much of a shoulder. Trail Length + Elevation: 1.4 miles, 600 feet to Dog Lake about 1 mile, 250 feet Dog Lake to Lambert Dome about 1.5 miles back to start Area: Trees, mountains, dome Pictures When I did the hike: Friday, July 28, 2006 Recommendation: Not really. Though Lambert Dome was the only dome I went up. If you have the extra time, go ahead and do it. But don't feel you're missing something if you skip it.
Elizabeth Lake - Yosemite National Park Directions: Tioga Road to the Tuolumne Meadows area. Turn into the Tuolumne Meadows Campground area (just east of the gas station). Tell the campground attendant that you are there for day-hiking to Elizabeth Lake (and hopefully he'll give you directions). You'll want to park in front of the restrooms near campsite #B49. The trailhead is on the other side of the road and a tad to the left. $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: The trail heads up for the first 30 minutes, but it's not a steep grade. Then it's mild the rest of the way to the lake. It's a nice mountain lake, but not spectacular. Explore the area as you wish. There weren't too many spots to rest and soak your feet lakeside, but with some effort you should be able to find a place. Trail Length + Elevation: 2.4 miles, 900 feet one-way Area: Mountains, woods, mountain lake When I did the hike: Sunday, July 30, 2006 Recommendation: If you are looking for a shorter hike with a mountain lake, this could be your hike. If you had only time for one hike in the area, I'd do the Cathedral Lakes.
Middle Gaylord Lake - Yosemite National Park Directions: Tioga Road to just before the park entrance station - the parking area is on the left (north) side of the road. $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: It's only a mile to the first lake, but man, what a killer of a hike. It's a tail-kicker going up, up, steeply up with no switchbacks until near the top. But once you hit the ridge, the view is spectacular. You're presented with a gorgeous mountain lake below, a wide meadow dotted with small ponds, and granite peaks above - and that's not including the view behind you. The lake is so pretty that you want to rush down (and it's a steep drop of 200 feet - fun on the way back) and spend a lot of time there. I rushed down and as soon as I neared the lake, I was attacked by mosquitoes. I put a ton of OFF on and they were still swarming (though not bitting). Their presence made my visit to the lake nothing more than a quick walk along the east shore as I was going to continue on to Upper Gaylord Lake. Shortly after the lake, the trail took a hard right and I could see it heading up along a creek. But the destination that I had my eye on was ahead and slightly to the right to the bowl of a granite peak that I thought would have a lake at the base (and the trail looked like it wasn't going near that area), so I broke a taboo and headed off the trail through the meadow to the mountain basin, trying to keep to rocks as much as possible to lessen any damage I was causing. It was worth it as there were 2 precious little lakes in the basin (Granite Lakes). The bugs weren't as bad there (though still present) as I was able to spend some time wandering around and resting and enjoying the lakes. I tried again stopping or walking around Middle Gaylord Lake, but the mosquitoes were so bad that I quickly left. Trail Length + Elevation: 2 miles, 700 feet round trip (plus more length to Granite Lakes) Area: some trees, mountains, meadows, mountain lakes Picture When I did the hike: Tuesday, August 2, 2006 Recommendation: It's has such pretty views that it's hard not to recommend it, but the bugs were really bad.
Yosemite Falls - Yosemite Valley Directions: In the Yosemite Valley area, park where you can (if you arrive early, you should be able to park along the road near the trailhead) and take the shuttle to stop #7 (to visit the lower falls first) or #8 (true start of trail). Note that the shuttle only travels clockwise (so you don't want to take the shuttle to get from stop #8 to #7). Restrooms at the top of the Lower Falls trail. $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: I first made a short visit to the lower falls - it's a easy 1/2 mile level loop and it's about a 1/2 mile on a dirt trail from the top of the loop to the start of the Upper Yosemite Falls trail. The trail immediately starts switchbacking up (with no views) and continues switchbacking up for a good while (about 45 minutes worth) - it's a rocky trail along this section. The switchbacks ends for a little while and the trail turns to dirt (including a steep up in the dirt). There is a view point of the valley (but not the falls) along this section (Columbia Rock), but if you were looking for a shorter hike, don't stop there as a good view of the falls not much farther ahead - and the trail is mild to that point. After a straight section, the trail makes a sharp turn and you should notice near there a trail branch heading down to the right - take the short side trip to a good overlook of the falls (and you can also see the 2 middle pools from that spot) - not for the faint of heart though as there is a steep drop off. Right after the corner is some of the best views of the falls and a good resting spot as the climbing is about to begin again. It took me a little over an hour to get to this point. The trail then switchbacks up and up and up for the next 2 miles. And it's not an easy up as the trail is set flat stones and you have to be careful not to slip where there is dirt on them. But you do get great side views of the falls (though you lose them for the last .5 miles). It took me a little less than 3 hours to get to the top of the falls. The top area really isn't that exciting, but you should go the extra .75 miles to Yosemite Point (elevation 6,936 feet) where you get great views of Yosemite Valley, including seeing Half Dome - it took me a little less than an hour to reach the point from the falls top. Note that the falls can dry up in the late summer. Trail Length + Elevation: 3.7 miles, 2700 feet (one-way) from trail head to top of falls extra .75 miles and bit of up (not switchback, though) top of falls to Yosemite Point Area: trees, rocks, massive waterfall, valley views Picture When I did the hike: Wednesday, August 2, 2006 Recommendation: It's tail-kicker of a hike, but is worth the effort. If you don't want to do the full hike, go to the view of the falls (past Columbia Rock) for good shorter hike (but still not easy).
Panorama-Nevada Falls half loop (Yosemite Valley) Directions: Go to the Yosemite Lodge in Yosemite Valley and advance purchase a one-way (I think it's slightly cheaper than a round trip ticket) for the tour bus to Glacier Point. The bus leaves from the front of the lodge (and you can park in the lodge parking lot - purchase of a ticket makes you a lodge "guest" for the day). $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass $20 for shuttle to Glacier Point Trails: So for a mild, relaxing day, I took a hike that was mostly down hill. This 8.5 mile hike drops 3,200 feet and only gains 760 feet. And since this was the only thing I had planned for the day, I took my time and took long breaks along the way. After an uneventful bus ride, the shuttle drops you off at Glacier Point. Glacier Point is a tip at the top of the south valley wall and has great views of the valley, Yosemite Falls, Nevada and Vernal Falls, and a number of domes including Half Dome. Glacier Point is an out of the way spot worth a visit even for those who aren't going to hike. After spending a bit of time at the Point, I headed to the trailhead (a short ways ahead from the shuttle stop and well before the overlook areas - look for the wooden post with sign markers - the Panorama Trail starts by heading back behind a rock pile before swining left) and started heading down. It's mostly an open 2 miles down as a fire a number of years ago (no burn scars left) took out most of the trees. There are a couple of switchbacks and the trail isn't steep. As you get close to the end of the first 2 miles, keep an eye to the left for a very short branch that goes to an overlook where you can look down on Illiouette Falls (really the only place you can see the falls). Shortly after that spot is a bridge that goes over Illiouette Creek just prior to the top of the Falls - there are nice resting spots creekside on the other side of the bridge. Next up is the only climb of the hike - you gain 760 feet in less than a mile, so it is a bit of an up. It is mostly forested along this section of the hike. Then it is mild for a ways with some great valley views (between breaks in the trees) along the way, including of the backside of Half Dome. And then down for a bit. At the end of the down is a junction with the John Muir Trail - head straight and the stream above Nevada Falls is just ahead (and you'll likely start encountering people). I found a nice resting spot at the creak and soaked my feet for a bit. A short bit after the creek is another junction and hook a left (straight is the trail to Half Dome). This part of the trail is the same nasty set stone that I encountered on the Yosemite Falls hike. But it is also the gem of the hike with majestic views of the large Nevada Falls right next to it - find a spot or 2 along the way down to stop and simply watch the falls for a bit - the best view of the falls is slightly off the trail. After the descent ends, it's mild for a bit to the Emerald Pools. There were lots of people at the pools (including some ignoring the "no swimming" policy). With the crowds, I didn't stay at the pools too long. Next up is the nasty part of the hike. After looking down from the top of Vernal Falls, the trail heads to the left and then down next to the falls with granite stone steps - really fun as the mist from the falls like results in wet stone steps. But there are pretty views of the falls along the way (as well as lots of people). I found a nice view point of the falls at the bottom and took another break. The last mile of the hike is uneventful as it's back to a dirt trail and is only a slight grade down. Wait for the shuttle and take it back to Yosemite Lodge. Trail Length + Elevation: Total about 8.5 miles, 3200 feet down Glacier Point to Valley floor - 2 miles, 1200 feet down to Illiouette Falls - 3.2 miles, 760 feet up and then some down Illiouette Falls to top of Nevada Falls - 2 miles, 1550 feet down top of Nevada Falls to top of Vernal Falls - 1.2 miles, 1050 feet down top of Vernal Falls to shuttle stop Area: Valley views, waterfall views, mountains, open areas, and trees. Picture When I did the hike: Friday, August 4, 2006 Recommendation: It's a nice, fairly easy hike and goes by some very pretty waterfalls (but costs a pretty penny for the shuttle). Glacier Point alone is worth visiting for the views of Yosemite Valley.
General Sherman Tree - Sequoia National Park Directions: Route 180 to Sequoia National Park, taking a right on to Generals Highway. Drive to the General Sherman parking area. For handicap access to the tree (there are steps on the trail from the main parking area), drive a little further south on Generals Highway and you'll see a pullover area on the left indicating handicap parking. $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: If you visit Sequoia National Park, this is probably the "must do" walk (it's too short to be a hike). From the parking lot, it's .5 mile walk on a paved trail down hill to the General Sherman Tree, the world's largest tree (mass-wise - the Coastal Redwoods are taller, but thinner). After visiting the tree, head back to the trail junction a short ways back and continue slightly up and to the right and you should soon be on a dirt trail going through the Sequoias - this is the start of the pretty Congress Loop. Most of the people simply visit the Sherman Tree, so you can even find some solitude along this trail (I had a nice, peaceful lunch at the base of a Sequoia along this trail with a little brook drowning out any residue noise from the crowds). There are a couple of connector branches between the two sides of the loop, so you don't have to do the full 2 miles loop if you don't have the time. Trail Length: .5 miles to Sherman Tree (some elevation) 2 mile (or shorter) loop Congress Trail (fairly level) Area: Hilly with huge trees Pictures When I did the hike: Friday, August 4, 2006 Recommendation: A must if you're in the area. The Congress Trail makes a very nice addition, and more true to nature, to the tourist spot.
General Grant Grove - Sequoia National Park Directions: Route 180 to Sequoia National Park, take a left on to Generals Highway. The turnoff for the grove is on the left side of the road just past the Village area (on the right). $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: A paved trail (not really wide like the Sherman trail) that goes by a number of huge Sequoias, including the General Grant tree, the 3rd largest (mass-wise) tree in the world. There is also an old cabin midway through the loop. This loop also had my favorite spot in the park (granted I didn't do an extensive visit to the park - only a day) - the Wyoming Tree, near the end of the loop. I sat next to that tree for a bit and read and then returned later in the early evening and stayed for a while longer (after my disappointing dinner at Panoramic Point - there was a heavy hazy over the canyon that probably diminished what was described as a spectacular view). Trail Length: .5 mile loop Area: Hilly with huge tress When I did the hike: Friday, August 4, 2006 Recommendation: I really liked this little loop.
Mt. Whitney Directions: Hwy 395 to Lone Pine. At the stoplight, head west to the Whitney Portal. There are vault toilets as the portal and a store at the portal. There are vault toilets at the campgrounds along the trail, but they are sometimes closed due to overuse. The building to pickup your hiking permit is to the south of town at the intersection of 395 and 136. Fee: $15 (see Logistics) Logistics: Due to the high use of people wanting to peak the highest point in the continental US, there are quotas for daily use of the trail (100 day hike permits and 50 overnight permits per day) [you won't find much solitude on this hike]. The permit is required and must be visible as you go on your hike. Applications need to be submitted during February for the summer permit lottery and then after April on a per availability basis. See the Mt. Whitney website (http://www.fsfed.us/r5/inyo for the proper forms and current fax number. Additional warning: Obviously you need to be in great condition to attempt to do this hike in a day (or even multi-day). Altitude sickness is a serious concern for this hike. If you can, spend a couple of days in altitude prior to the hike to help get acclimated to being in elevation and lessen the risk of altitude sickness. Also to lessen the risks of altitude sickness, don't rush up the mountain and take long breaks every couple of hours - it's a full day hike and the goal is to reach the top - and drink plenty of water and eat well. If you do start feeling some symptoms of altitude sickness (dizziness, nausea, headache), stop and rest. If the symptoms get worse, turn around and plan the hike for another day - the mountain isn't going anywhere and the last 2.5 miles of the hike can be dangerous if you are not alert. If you are hiking with others, keep an eye on their health as well. If you don't hike wearing a hat, you'll want to have good lip balm with SPF of 30 or higher (and make sure you use it every few hours - same with good sunscreen). Once you get above the treeline, (unless it's solid overcast) you'll be in high altutide sunlight for several hours. If you've never had a fried lip, they are extremely painful and take a week or two to heal. Trails: Welcome to a killer day hike. It's easily the longest hike I've ever done. To do this hike in a day, you have to start early. And I mean early. Due to the usual summer threat of afternoon thunderstorms, you need to peak by noon. I started at 2:55 am. That means the first 3 hours are hiking by headlamp. The trail is a wide, 2-person width packed dirt trail and full of switchbacks. The first bit of fun comes 1/2 mile in with a rock-hopping crossing of a stream by headlamp, with a sound of a waterfall near by - lots of fun for the nerves with the fear of a slip. The next few miles will switchback up with the sound of a large waterfall nearby (which had me concerned the entire way that it would be another rock-hop crossing in the dark). My concern was unfounded as the trail crosses the creek well above the falls and the way across is on logs with a flat top (it's not a set bridge as they do wobble some, but nothing scary like the rock-hopping in the dark). The trail goes by (but above) Lone Pine Lake - which you won't see until the way back down due to the darkness. After a short section of switchbacks, you'll cross a stream (rock hop, but not scary) and go next to one of the campgrounds (Outpost Camp). After another stream crossing is another small section of switchbacks and you reach Mirror Lake (access slightly off trail, but not as far as Lone Pine Lake) - probably still too dark to see. The trail makes longer switchbacks and then levels off and you are above the treeline in the Trailside Meadow. I reached this area around 5:30 am. In the middle of it (with a short switchback section) the sun came up and I had a great sunrise with a view down the entire valley. With the sun up, you can look down to the right and see Mirror Lake below. After a short rest near a pretty spot at the top of the meadows, with snow and waterfalls to the left, the trail continues up to the right with another series of short switchbacks. After another crossing of the stream, you can look down on Consolation Lake to the left - if you stay overnight at Trail Camp, it would probably be a nice sidetrip to visit this lake. Up ahead (and not too much elevation gained) is the Trail Camp. Take a nice long rest at the pretty small lake next to the camp and enjoy the views. Rest some more because the 96 switchbacks from hell are just ahead. You really can't give a true picture of the 96 switchbacks. You just keep going up and up and up and back and forth and back and forth. And when ever you pause to rest and look up, you'll see people way way above you still switchbacking. It took me almost 2 hours to get up the switchbacks. And then it is over a tad (and I did encounter a short snow patch during this stretch) to the trail crest where I took another long break and enjoyed the views. You don't do much climbing over the next 2 miles (in fact, you actually loose some elevation over the next short bit), but they are a little harrowing as you have a steep drop off to the left. The trail goes behind the crags with great views of the valley (with it's mountain lakes) to the left and occasional peeks of the valley to the right (from which you came). I did encounter a longer (with a steep start) snow patch with about .5 miles left (and actually turned around briefly before going back and making myself go through it). The trail then winds its way up the backside of Whitney (it's not steep and you aren't really switchbacking). When you see the building, you are almost there. The small building is a storm shelter. Celebrate reaching the top and get someone to take your trophy picture (there were about 30 other people at the top when I peaked). Including all the pauses, short breaks, and longer rests, it took me exactly 8 hours to get to the top (10:55 am). I stayed at the peak for about 25 minutes before heading down (there were clouds in the area, though it never rained on me). I took several long breaks (again at the trail camp, at the trailside meadow, and at Mirror Lake) and made it back to the trailhead in a little over 6 hours (including making a quick hour of the last 2.5 miles as I wanted to get to the toilet). I finished at 5:30 pm - a little over 14 1/2 hours after I started. Note that you don't get views of Mt. Whitney until near the end - if you know where to look, you may be able to see it if from the Trail Camp or on the switchbacks (it's up the high valley to the far right, look for the peak with a building at the top). Trail Length + Elevation: 11 miles, 6,131 feet (one way) Whitney Peak elevation: 14,496 feet 2.8 miles, 1,595 feet start to Lone Pine Lake 1.5 miles, 680 feet Lone Pine Lake to Mirror Lake 2 miles, 1,399 feet Mirror Lake to Trail Camp 2.2 miles, 1,738 feet 96 switchbacks from hell 2.5 miles, 719 feet top of switchbacks to Mt. Whitney summit Area: Big mountains. Trees for the first couple of miles (not that you can see them in the dark) and then above the treeline the rest of the way. Couple of small mountain lakes. Pictures When I did the hike: Monday, July 31, 2006 Recommendation: It's a once in a lifetime event. The area is pretty and there is a strong sense of accomplishment when you reach the top. If you can arrange the logistics and are in shape, it's worth doing. Once.