Hooked on Hiking: Southern California: 50 Hiking Adventures

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Hooked on Hiking: Southern California: 50 Hiking Adventures

Table of contents :
Cover......Page 1
CONTENTS......Page 6
1 LA JOLLA CANYON LOOP......Page 10
2 ESCONDIDO CANYON & FALLS......Page 12
3 INSPIRATION POINT TRAIL......Page 14
4 FOOT TRAIL & GEOLOGY TRAIL......Page 16
5 VETTER MOUNTAIN LOOKOUT......Page 18
6 MOUNT WATERMAN......Page 20
7 BURKHARDT TRAIL TO THE DEVIL’S CHAIR......Page 22
8 STURTEVANT FALLS......Page 24
9 MONROVIA CANYON FALLS......Page 26
10 CASTLE ROCK TRAIL......Page 28
11 ERNIE MAXWELL SCENIC TRAIL......Page 30
12 HOLY JIM FALLS......Page 32
13 EL MORO CANYON LOOP......Page 34
14 MONTECITO OVERLOOK......Page 36
15 SAN YSIDRO TRAIL......Page 38
16 INSPIRATION POINT......Page 40
17 BLUFFS TRAIL......Page 42
18 PAINTED ROCK INTERPRETIVE TRAIL......Page 44
19 TWIN LAKES......Page 46
20 RANCHERIA FALLS......Page 48
21 ZUMWALT MEADOW LOOP......Page 50
22 MIST FALLS......Page 52
23 REDWOOD CANYON......Page 54
24 BIG BALDY......Page 58
25 WEAVER LAKE......Page 60
26 MUIR GROVE......Page 62
27 LITTLE BALDY......Page 64
28 TOKOPAH FALLS......Page 66
29 CONGRESS TRAIL......Page 68
30 CRESCENT MEADOW & THARP’S LOG......Page 72
31 NEEDLES LOOKOUT......Page 74
32 LITTLE LAKES VALLEY......Page 76
33 BLUE LAKE......Page 78
34 MOSAIC CANYON......Page 80
35 KEANE WONDER MINE......Page 82
36 GOLDEN CANYON TO RED CATHEDRAL......Page 84
37 TEUTONIA PEAK......Page 86
38 KELSO DUNES......Page 88
39 WALL STREET MILL......Page 90
40 RYAN MOUNTAIN......Page 92
41 LOST HORSE MINE......Page 94
42 MASTODON PEAK LOOP......Page 96
43 MURRAY CANYON TRAIL......Page 98
44 DESERT VIEW TRAIL......Page 100
45 WEIR & LOWER DOANE VALLEY LOOP......Page 102
46 BORREGO PALM CANYON......Page 104
47 GHOST MOUNTAIN/MARSHAL SOUTH HOME......Page 106
48 STONEWALL PEAK TRAIL......Page 108

Citation preview

HOOKED "HIKING SOU T H E R N CALIFORNIA C A L I F OR N I A SOUTHERN 5 0 H I K I NG A DV E N T U R E S

A wise person person once said that a culture can be measured measured by by the the resources resources itit chooses chooses to to preserve. preserve. If If that’s that's true, then then the the state state of of California California is is an an immense immense credit credit to American culture. culture. The Golden State State is blessed with an abundance abundance of of parks and preserves, including more than 20 20 units units of of the the National National Park Park System, System, 18 18 national national forests, forests, 137 137 federally federally designated designated wilderness areas, areas, 275 275 state parks, and thousands of of county county and regional parks. This huge mosaic of parklands This huge mosaic of parklands celebrates celebrates California’s California's diverse diverse landscape, landscape, which includes the highest peak in the contiguous Whitney, in the contiguous United States States (Mount Whitney, southern southern Sierra Sierra Nevada, Nevada, at at 14,495 14,495 feet) feet) and and the the lowest point in the western hemisphere hemisphere (Badwater, in Death Valley, at 282 feet feet below sea sea level). The state contains 20,000 square square miles of desert, desert, nearly 700 miles of Pacific coastline, an unaccountable wealth of of snow-capped snow-capped peaks peaks and and alpine alpine lakes, lakes, aa smattering smattering of of islands, islands, and and even even aa handful handful of of volcanoes. volcanoes. California tallest California also also boasts boasts its its share share of of the the world’s world's tallest living living things, things, the the towering towering coast coast redwoods. redwoods. And itit is is the only state that is home to the world’s world's largest largest living trees (by volume), volume), the giant sequoias. We can also brag of of having having the the planet’s planet's oldest oldest living living things, things, the the ancient ancient bristlecone bristlecone pines. pines.

Quite simply, California is a land of superlatives, and using this deck is one way to get out and explore it. What’s great about the trails you hold in your hand is that they are suitable and fun for almost everybody. Bring along your children, your grandma, or even your spouse who thinks the “great” outdoors is all about mosquitoes and poison oak. Every trail in this deck was chosen because it offers a good payoff, a reason for going besides just for the exercise. These 50 trails will lead you away from pavement, exhaust fumes, and crowds, to places where you’d rather be: sparkling waterfalls, scenic viewpoints, and peaceful forests. And fortunately, this is Southern California, so all the right ingredients for hiking nirvana are here, from a nearly perfect year-round climate to a wide variety of terrain, from deserts to mountains to coast. No matter where you may be, it’s only a short drive to somewhere spectacular—often only a few minutes. If you live in downtown Los Angeles, you can leave your house in the morning and be hiking alongside a crystal clear mountain stream before noon, or even climbing a peak higher than 9,000 feet. If you live in the suburbs of San Diego, just an hour on the highway will put you in the heart of Anza-Borrego Desert, where you’ll be in the good company of cactus and the bighorn sheep. Residents of Bakersfield and Fresno can be standing in a high mountain meadow in the southern or central Sierra Nevada in the time it takes most people to commute to work. With this abundance of riches in your backyard, there’s no reason not to get out and explore.

With a few exceptions, most of the hikes in this deck are less than 6 miles round-trip. Depending on your pace and number of stops, most hikes will take 2 to 4 hours to complete. In general, the hikes are not very steep, although some of them will surely give you an aerobic workout. Read the text on the back of the cards to get a feel for each trail before you set out, just so you know what you are in for. The routes themselves are marked on the maps, with the starting point clearly labeled. When you do head out, remember to tread lightly and gently on this magnificent land. The basics are simple: Leave no trace of your visit. Pack out all your trash. Don’t collect specimens of plants, wildlife, or even pine cones. Never carve into the trunks of trees. When you’re following a trail, don’t cut the switchbacks just to save time. Leave everything in nature exactly as you found it, because each tiny piece has its place in the great scheme of things. If you choose to, you can go the extra mile, too. Pick up any litter that you see on the trail, and teach children to do the same. Carry an extra bag to hold picked-up litter until you get to a trash receptacle, or just keep an empty pocket for that purpose in your day-pack or fanny sack. If you have the extra time or energy, join a trail organization in your area or spend some time volunteering in your local park. Any small effort you make to help this beautiful planet will be repaid to you, many times over.

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LA JOLLA CANYON LOOP ESCONDIDO CANYON & FALLS INSPIRATION POINT TRAIL FOOT TRAIL & GEOLOGY TRAIL VETTER MOUNTAIN LOOKOUT MOUNT WATERMAN BURKHARDT TRAIL TO THE DEVIL’S CHAIR STURTEVANT FALLS MONROVIA CANYON FALLS CASTLE ROCK TRAIL ERNIE MAXWELL SCENIC TRAIL HOLY JIM FALLS EL MORO CANYON LOOP MONTECITO OVERLOOK SAN YSIDRO TRAIL INSPIRATION POINT BLUFFS TRAIL PAINTED ROCK INTERPRETIVE TRAIL TWIN LAKES RANCHERIA FALLS ZUMWALT MEADOW LOOP MIST FALLS REDWOOD CANYON BIG BALDY WEAVER LAKE

26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50

MUIR GROVE LITTLE BALDY TOKOPAH FALLS CONGRESS TRAIL CRESCENT MEADOW & THARP’S LOG NEEDLES LOOKOUT LITTLE LAKES VALLEY BLUE LAKE MOSAIC CANYON KEANE WONDER MINE GOLDEN CANYON TO RED CATHEDRAL TEUTONIA PEAK KELSO DUNES WALL STREET MILL RYAN MOUNTAIN LOST HORSE MINE MASTODON PEAK LOOP MURRAY CANYON TRAIL DESERT VIEW TRAIL WEIR & LOWER DOANE VALLEY LOOP BORREGO PALM CANYON GHOST MOUNTAIN/MARSHAL SOUTH HOME STONEWALL PEAK TRAIL RAZOR POINT & BEACH TRAIL LOOP BAYSIDE TRAIL

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KIN N CANY NATIO PARK

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LA JOLLA CANYON LOOP

POINT MUGU STATE PARK DISTANCE: 5.5 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 2.5 hours or overnight SEASON: year-round DIFFICULTY: moderate

This loop in bucolic La Jolla Canyon makes a great dayhike or easy backpacking trip, with spring wildflowers and year-round coastal views. The route begins on a wide gated road at the trailhead, then climbs gently to a wet-season waterfall at 0.8 mile out. The canyon narrows as you ascend, and at 1.2 miles, go right at the fork (left will be the return of your loop) on La Jolla Valley Loop Trail. The trail levels out and meanders to a second junction, where you go left and wander past a small tuleand cattail-lined duck pond. Shortly beyond the pond, you’ll arrive at La Jolla Valley walk-in camp. Campsites are hidden among clumps of tall coastal sage scrub. Mariposa lilies, morning glories, monkeyflower, brodiaea, paintbrush, and blue-eyed grass surround you. From the camp, bear left on a dirt road, the continuation of La Jolla Valley Loop Trail; it soon narrows to a double-track path through the grass. Continue straight past the next few junctions to finish out your loop where the path rejoins La Jolla Canyon Trail. Go right to head back to your car. From U.S. 101 in Agoura Hills, exit at Kanan Rd. and drive 12.5 miles to Hwy. 1/Pacific Coast Hwy. on the Malibu coast. Turn west (right) and drive 14.8 miles to the La Jolla Canyon trailhead parking area on the right (1.0 mile west of Big Sycamore Canyon Campground).

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ESCONDIDO CANYON NATURAL AREA

DISTANCE: 4.2 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 2.0 hours SEASON: year-round DIFFICULTY: easy

The highest waterfall in the Santa Monica Mountains is accessible on this short and easy hike. Start at the Winding Way parking lot, just off Pacific Coast Hwy. It's 1.0 mile on this paved road past fancy Malibu homes to the actual trailhead, but the payoff is a charming sylvan footpath in Escondido Canyon. At the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy sign, veer left, heading into the canyon. Walk upstream, ignoring side trails and keeping close to the creek, which you'll cross a half-dozen times. The level path is mostly shaded by leafy sycamore trees. At 1.5 miles, you'll spy the waterfall in the distance, tucked into a box canyon. Fifteen minutes later you'll be standing at the base of the lower tier of Escondido Canyon's limestone fall, admiring the moss and horsetail ferns. A couple of rope swings hang from a sycamore tree. The rotten-egg odor is sulfur from the nearby spring. If you're adventurous, don't stop here. That big cataract you saw a half mile back is accessible by scrambling up a trail on the right side of the falls. A cautious 15-minute ascent will get you to the base of this 150-foot limestone tier. To return to your car, retrace your steps. From U.S. 101 in Agoura Hills, exit at Kanan Rd. and drive 12.5 miles to Hwy. 1/Pacific Coast Hwy. on the Malibu coast. Turn left (east) and drive 1.4 miles to Winding Way East. Turn left, then an immediate left again into the well-signed lot.

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INSPIRATION POINT TRAIL

WILL ROGERS STATE HISTORIC PARK DISTANCE: 2.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 1 hour SEASON: year-round DIFFICULTY: moderate

Most folks come to Will Rogers State Historic Park to tour the home of the “Cowboy Philosopher,” or watch a polo match on the estate grounds. Rogers’ humble abode was a gigantic 31-room ranch house built in the 1930s and done up cowboy-style. Rogers’ estate is also the trailhead for the 2.0-mile loop to Inspiration Point. Try to pick a clear day, when the marine layer and smog won’t block the view. Pick up the trail near the park entrance kiosk. After a gentle climb over 0.75 mile, you’ll reach an obvious junction. The left fork is the Backbone Trail, which leaves Will Rogers State Park and enters Topanga State Park. Turn right for Inspiration Point. In moments you’ll reach the high point and enjoy its inspiring views of Los Angeles, the Santa Monica Mountains, and the Pacific Ocean. On a clear day, you can pick out Catalina Island, 20-plus miles away. Backtrack to the junction with Backbone Trail and go right and downhill to loop back. You’ll come out by the stable area, where you can say hello to the horses before heading back to your car. From Santa Monica, drive north on Hwy. 1 to Sunset Blvd. in Pacific Palisades. Turn right onto Sunset Blvd., drive 4.5 miles, and turn left onto Will Rogers State Park Rd. Drive 1.0 mile to the park entrance. The trail begins by the entrance kiosk.

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FOOT TRAIL & GEOLOGY TRAIL

VASQUEZ ROCKS NATURAL AREA TOTAL DISTANCE: 3.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 1.5 hours SEASON: November–April DIFFICULTY: easy

The geologic formations at Vasquez Rocks were formed around 20 million years ago by earthquake activity on the Elkhorn Fault. Massive colorful rock slabs jut out at various angles from earth to sky, the largest towering nearly 150 feet high. If these rocks look familiar, it might be because they’ve starred as a backdrop in a multitude of Hollywood productions. Hiking here is a very casual affair. Although there are established trails, you will naturally stray from them, because each of the slanted outcrops invites you to climb to its summit and explore its nooks and crannies. Begin hiking on Foot Trail through the sandstone slabs. Halfway through the hike, turn left onto Pacific Crest Trail, also called the Geology Trail, following it back to the parking lot. The park gets its name from Tiburcio Vasquez, an 1850s bandit who used it as his personal hideout. He did dastardly deeds but was considered a local hero. Legend has it that in the 1850s, a major shootout occurred between Vasquez’s gang and the local sheriff’s posse near the tallest rock formation in the park. From the junction of I-5 and Hwy. 14 near Santa Clarita, drive northeast on Hwy. 14 for 15 miles to Agua Dulce. Take the Vasquez Rocks/Escondido Canyon exit and drive north for 2.2 miles to the park entrance. Turn right and park in the first parking lot, where the Foot Trail begins.

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VETTER MOUNTAIN LOOKOUT

ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST TOTAL DISTANCE: 3.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 1.5 hours SEASON: April–November DIFFICULTY: moderate

Vetter Mountain is a San Gabriel Mountains summit that even children can attain. At the top is a classic old-style fire lookout tower and a stupendous view, with more than 20 named peaks visible. Begin at the Charlton Flat picnic area, on the left side of the road across from the start of Wolf Tree Nature Trail. The nondescript path is between two “No Parking Any Time” signs about 40 yards before the old pump house building, in a small ravine. The trail alternates between forest and meadows. The final half-mile to the top is the steepest, with many switchbacks. After the ascent, you’ll come out at a dirt road. Turn left and walk the last 100 yards to the lookout tower at elevation 5,903 feet. On summer weekends, the building is usually open and volunteers are on hand to answer questions. Vetter Mountain has served mostly as a fire lookout station, but during World War II it had a brief stint as a lookout tower for spotting enemy aircraft. From I-210 in La Cañada, take Hwy. 2/Angeles Crest Hwy. northeast for 23.3 miles to Charlton Flat. Turn left onto the road to Charlton Flat picnic area, then bear right at the fork. Continue through Charlton Flat for 0.5 mile to a closed gate just before the Forest Service pump house. The trailhead is on the left side of the road, at the turnaround area before the gate between the two “No Parking Any Time” signs. Park in any of the picnic area spots.

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MOUNT WATERMAN

ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST DISTANCE: 5.4 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 3 hours SEASON: May–November DIFFICULTY: challenging

You’ll feel like a real mountaineer when you summit 8,038-foot Mount Waterman, as this peak’s vista of the Angeles High Country is magnificent on a clear day. It’s easy to see why some hikers call this region “the poor man’s Sierra Nevada.” The trail gains 1,300 feet, but it does so very gradually. After the first mile, the vista opens wide at the saddle on the ridge. Look north toward the Mojave Desert, Lancaster, and Palmdale. South is the San Gabriel Wilderness. The trail continues to ascend over carefully graded switchbacks to a junction at 2.1 miles. Turn right and it’s another easy 0.6 mile to the summit, but when you get there you’ll see that Waterman’s top is so wide, there are actually three summits. Head left for 0.25 mile, toward the southwest, and you’ll find the highest point. Pull out a map and identify Twin Peaks, Strawberry Peak, and Mt. Lawlor. You won’t need a map to pick out Los Angeles in the distance. Keep your eyes peeled on this trail—lucky hikers often spot one or more of the region’s small population of Nelson bighorn sheep. Retrace your steps to reach your car. From I-210 in La Cañada take Hwy. 2/Angeles Crest Hwy. northeast for 34 miles to the signed trailhead for Mount Waterman Trail on the right side of the road, east of the Mount Waterman ski lift operation and west of Buckhorn Campground. Park in the pullout across the road from the trailhead sign.

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BURKHARDT TRAIL TO THE DEVIL’S CHAIR

DEVIL’S PUNCHBOWL NATURAL AREA DISTANCE: 7.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 3.5 hours SEASON: year-round DIFFICULTY: challenging

The Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area is proof that you’re in earthquake country, where faulting and erosion have shaped a bizarre landscape. See it up close by following the Burkhardt Trail from the parking lot, which soon joins an uninspiring dirt road. Where the road splits, take either fork (they rejoin shortly), and after 0.9 mile of steady climbing, you’ll reach a sign for Devil’s Chair Trail. Turn left and the scenery greatly improves. The trail crosses Punchbowl Creek, following a mellow grade into a pine forest. As you slowly gain elevation, you also gain views of the round gorge of the Devil’s Punchbowl, and a long sweep of rock-strewn desert. At a junction with a trail coming in from South Fork Campground, head left and begin the final stretch to the Devil’s Chair. The last 50 yards of the path, which descends a precipitous backbone ridge, is encased in a tunnel of fencing. Have a seat on the rocky promontory known as the Devil’s Chair and enjoy the surreal desert scene before you, then head back the way you came. From Hwy. 14 near Palmdale, take the Hwy. 138 exit east for 16 miles to Pearblossom. Turn right onto County Rd. N-6 (signed as Longview Rd.) and drive south for 7.5 miles to the Devil’s Punchbowl entrance. The road makes several turns, but all junctions are signed for the park. From the park entrance, continue 0.25 mile to the nature center parking lot. Burkhardt Trail begins on the south side.

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STURTEVANT FALLS

ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST DISTANCE: 3.2 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 1.5 hours SEASON: Year-round DIFFICULTY: moderate

Sturtevant Falls is the jewel of lush Big Santa Anita Canyon, but even when the waterfall is reduced to a trickle, this is still a wonderful hike. Leave your car at Chantry Flat and head downhill into the canyon, following the Gabrielino National Recreation Trail. The first 0.6 mile follows a paved road, but once you reach the canyon bottom, cross Roberts Footbridge over Winter Creek and head right onto a wide dirt path, hiking upstream to Sturtevant Falls. (Don’t take the left turnoff for Winter Creek Trail.) Gabrielino National Recreation Trail meanders under the shade of oaks and alders along Big Santa Anita Creek. The stream is tamed somewhat by a series of small check dams, forming oddly pretty artificial waterfalls and glassy pools. At a junction at 1.3 miles, Gabrielino Trail forks left and heads uphill, but continue straight along the creek for another 0.3 mile to Sturtevant Falls. You’ll cross the creek a couple times before Sturtevant Falls suddenly reveals itself, dropping 60 feet over a granite cliff into a perfectly shaped rock bowl. When the water level drops, a pebbly beach around the pool is exposed, offering space where you can sit and compose a few love sonnets, or spread out a picnic. Retrace your steps to return to your car. From I-210 in Pasadena, drive 7.0 miles east to Arcadia. Take the Santa Anita Ave. exit and drive 6.0 miles north to the road’s end at Chantry Flat. The trail begins across the road from the first parking area as you drive in.

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MONROVIA CANYON FALLS

MONROVIA CANYON PARK

DISTANCE: 1.6 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 1 hour SEASON: year-round DIFFICULTY: easy

Monrovia Canyon's Falls Trail is an easy hike—nearly level the whole way and less than a mile in length. It starts at the picnic area near the park nature center, located at the far end of the park road. Walk through the picnic area and look for the signed single-track trail to Monrovia Canyon Falls. At the first junction, head right. Almost immediately you pass several check dams, which make small waterfalls of their own. Keep walking along the creek, heading gently uphill. Crowded with alders, oaks, and ferns, the canyon is lush and shaded. In less than 30 minutes of gentle climbing, you're near the base of the 50-foot-high falls, which are split in the middle by a granite ledge. Monrovia Canyon Falls is fed by a perennial spring, not just by snowmelt and rainfall, so the waterfall flows dependably year-round. Turn back the way you came to reach your car. Note: The park is closed on Tuesdays. From 1-210 in Monrovia, take the Myrtle Ave. exit and drive north to Foothill Blvd. Turn right onto Foothill Blvd., go through two stoplights, and turn left onto Canyon Blvd. Drive 1.5 miles to the park (bear right where the road forks). Leave your car at the far end of the park road, near the picnic area and nature center.

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CASTLE ROCK TRAIL

SAN BERNARDINO NATIONAL FOREST DISTANCE: 2.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 1 hour SEASON: May–November DIFFICULTY: moderate

The Castle Rock Trail is located across from aptly named Boulder Bay on Big Bear Lake. In addition to a fascinating assemblage of rounded rocks, the trail features large ponderosa and Jeffrey pines and a sandy, soft treadway. The trail climbs steeply right away, gaining a total 700 feet over its one-mile length, so most hikers do some huffing and puffing along the way. As you ascend, you’ll enjoy tremendous views of the lake (turn around to see them), and hear loud Stellar’s jays protesting that you’re in their territory. After just under a mile, you’ll reach a rocky overlook point. Here the main trail becomes a spider web of “use” paths. Continue uphill on the most defined path. Easily distinguishable Castle Rock is just to the east and slightly off the trail, just before the grade descends. Return to your car on the same path. Consider the Native American legend surrounding the granite turrets of Castle Rock: When the wind is right, you may hear the cry of the Native American princess who waits on the rock for her lover. From the dam on the west end of Big Bear Lake, drive 1.0 mile east on Hwy. 18 (Big Bear Blvd.) to the signed Castle Rock trailhead on the right, by the Big Bear City Limit sign. Drive 50 yards farther east to the parking pullout on the lakeside of Hwy. 18. (Coming from Big Bear Lake, look for the pullout on your right, after Papoose Bay Estates.)

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ERNIE MAXWELL SCENIC TRAIL

SAN BERNARDINO NATIONAL FOREST DISTANCE: 5.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 2.5 hours SEASON: May–November DIFFICULTY: easy

The village of Idyllwild has big mountains, granite rock formations, giant-size conifers, and the clean air of high elevation. Dozens of trails await exploration, although most come with a hefty climb. An exception is Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail, which has only a 600-foot elevation change along its gently undulating path. You won’t have many far-reaching views. Instead, the beauty is close at hand. The path leads downhill at the start, contouring through a forest of Jeffrey, ponderosa, and coulter pines, with firs and incense cedars scattered among them. Practice your tree identification as you hike. You’ll notice Jeffrey pines by their sweet scent, which is reminiscent of vanilla or butterscotch. Incense cedars have shaggy bark and smell like pencils. Strawberry Creek meanders past. At your feet, you’ll find ceanothus, manzanita, and bush lupine. Where the trees thin out, raise your eyes toward the sky and you’ll get peeka-boo views of Lily Rock, a big white dome at 7,500 feet in elevation, and Tahquitz Peak, a steeple-like granite summit at 8,828 feet. The trail comes to an unceremonious end at a dirt road. Just turn around, enjoying the forest all over again. From I-10 in Banning, turn south on Hwy. 243 and drive 27 winding miles to Idyllwild. Turn east onto N. Circle Dr., which becomes S. Circle Dr. and then Fern Valley Rd. Follow Fern Valley Rd. to Humber Park, a total of 2.0 miles from downtown. The trailhead is at the lower end of the parking lot.

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HOLY JIM FALLS

CLEVELAND NATIONAL FOREST DISTANCE: 2.5 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 1.5 hours SEASON: year-round DIFFICULTY: easy

Holy Jim Falls was named for a resident nineteenth-century beekeeper, who had a bad temper and a colorful way with language, so everyone called him Cussin’ Jim. But conservative map makers who plotted Trabuco Canyon in the 1890s found his nickname in bad taste, so they changed it to Holy Jim. Although the drive to the Holy Jim Trailhead is an adventurous 5.0 miles on a dirt road, the hike is mellow. Trabucon Canyon is one of the garden spots of Orange County, filled with oaks, alders, and spring wildflowers, and cut by a coursing stream. The hike follows Trabuco Canyon Road for a half-mile past some charming cabins, then joins the narrow Holy Jim Trail, which crosses the creek several times as it heads upstream. After the first mile, the trail steepens. Just beyond an enormous oak tree, multiple paths branch off. Stay on the main route by continuing upstream for about 40 yards, then cross the creek again. Immediately after crossing, follow the trail’s right fork, which follows the stream to a handsome 30-foot waterfall. Retrace your steps back to your car. From I-5 in Laguna Hills (north of San Juan Capistrano), exit onto El Toro Rd. and drive 6.0 miles east. Turn right onto Live Oak Canyon Rd. and drive 4.0 miles (2.0 miles beyond O’Neill Regional Park). Turn left onto Trabuco Canyon Rd., just past Rose Canyon Rd. (The dirt road is usually suitable for passenger cars, but high clearance is recommended.) Drive 5.0 miles to the parking area for Holy Jim Trail.

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EL MORO CANYON LOOP

CRYSTAL COVE STATE PARK DISTANCE: 5.2 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 2.5 hours SEASON: year-round DIFFICULTY: moderate

Birds, butterflies, and bunnies await hikers in Crystal Cove State Park’s El Moro Canyon. Many hikers prefer a simple out-and-back on El Moro Canyon Trail, but loop lovers will want to follow what the park calls its Red Route. Walk from the ranger station parking lot down the road about 25 yards and turn left onto the fire road, signed for El Moro Canyon. After 0.7 mile, veer left to stay on El Moro Canyon Trail and head up the tree-lined canyon. Rabbits, songbirds, hawks, quail, and roadrunners are frequently seen. Butterflies flit among the coastal scrub, including the anise swallowtail and red admiral. At 1.6 miles, turn right on East Cut Across Trail; follow it for a mile to Moro Ridge Trail, and turn right again. Be sure to take the 0.25-mile detour off Moro Ridge Trail to Emerald Vista (a left fork just before Moro Ridge begins to descend steeply), a superb coastal overlook. On clear days, you can pick out Catalina and San Clemente Islands to the west. Continuing on Moro Ridge Trail, a right turn onto BFI Trail takes you downhill on a steep grade. BFI Trail connects with El Moro Canyon Trail, which will take you back to the parking lot. From Corona del Mar, drive south on Hwy. 1 for 3.0 miles to the El Moro Canyon entrance to Crystal Cove State Park on the inland side of the highway. Park near the ranger station, then walk downhill and turn left onto the dirt road.

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MONTECITO OVERLOOK

LOS PADRES NATIONAL FOREST DISTANCE: 3.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 1.5 hours SEASON: year-round DIFFICULTY: moderate

Introduce yourself to the Santa Barbara front country with a hike on East Fork Cold Springs Trail to the Montecito Overlook. This trail surprises you with lush foliage, leafy alder trees, wildflowers, and cool temperatures. Begin at the rusty National Forest Service signpost on Mountain Dr. Head away from the road into shady Cold Springs Canyon. At the trailhead, the creek crosses Mountain Dr. Eventually, you must get to the main trail on the east (right) side of the creek, and continue with the stream on your left. After 0.25 mile from the trailhead, the east and west forks of Cold Springs Creek converge at a small waterfall. Another trail crosses the creek and leads up the West Fork of Cold Springs; stay on the East Fork Trail and continue up the canyon. After 1.0 mile, the trail leaves the stream and begins a steeper grade uphill. It’s a half mile to the overlook. When the trail reaches a T-junction at a fire road, you’ve reached Montecito Overlook, elevation 1,650 feet. Follow the fire road a few hundred feet to your right for the best view. Return on the same trail. From Santa Barbara, drive 4.0 miles south on U.S. 101 and take the Hot Springs Rd. exit. Turn left onto Hot Springs Rd., drive 2.5 miles, turn left onto Mountain Dr., and continue for 1.2 miles to the Cold Springs trailhead. Park off the road near the point where the creek crosses the road. A National Forest Service sign marks the trail.

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SAN YSIDRO TRAIL

LOS PADRES NATIONAL FOREST DISTANCE: 3.6 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 2 hours SEASON: year-round DIFFICULTY: moderate

San Ysidro Creek offers year-round waterfalls and many small cascades that can be reached with an easy walk. Start hiking on the signed San Ysidro Trail by the stables at San Ysidro Ranch. You’ll pass blooming lantana, bougainvillea, and geraniums. This stretch seems suburban, but the landscape gets wilder as you head out. The first mile changes from single-track to pavement to wide fire road and then back to single-track, always following San Ysidro Creek. Almost entirely shaded by oaks and bays, the trail stays cool even in summer. You might see rock climbers ascending the sandstone outcrops. At 1.5 miles the trail climbs a steep slope on a railinglined series of rocky stairs. A quarter mile farther the trail crosses another fork of San Ysidro Creek. After crossing, watch for a left cutoff trail that leads 30 yards to a sandstone waterfall. Set in the back of a box canyon, the cliff face of the 60-foot-tall falls displays an array of lichen, mosses, and ferns that appear yellow, green, peach, and gold against the cascade’s gray sandstone. Enjoy this fine spot, then retrace your steps. From U.S. 101 in Montecito, take the San Ysidro Rd. exit and drive 1.0 mile east to E. Valley Rd./Hwy. 192. Turn right and drive 0.9 mile, then turn left onto Park Ln. Drive 0.4 mile, then bear left onto E. Mountain Dr. and head 0.3 mile to the end of the street and park alongside the road. The trailhead is on the right side of the road.

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INSPIRATION POINT

LOS PADRES NATIONAL FOREST DISTANCE: 4.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 2 hours SEASON: year-round DIFFICULTY: moderate

The trail to Inspiration Point is sure to inspire you with its swimming holes, wildflowers, and ocean vistas. From the Tunnel Road trailhead, follow the gated continuation of the road, heading uphill on pavement for .75 mile. After a few minutes of ascent, you’ll enjoy your first ocean view. Cross a bridge over Mission Creek and continue straight; the road turns to dirt. In a few hundred feet bear left at a sign for Jesusita Trail. Keep to your left as the path cuts down to Mission Creek, which has many fine swimming holes. Cross the creek, then ignore the “use” trails on your right and instead bear left on the main Jesusita Trail. Get ready for a switchbacking climb up to Inspiration Point, one mile away. Tall sandstone outcrops in the distance serve as take-off points for hang gliders. When you reach Inspiration Point at 1,750 feet, you are rewarded with sweeping views of the Pacific Coast, Santa Barbara, and the Channel Islands. Return the way you came. From U.S. 101 in Santa Barbara, take the Mission St. exit east for just over a mile, crossing State St. Where Mission St. ends, turn left onto Laguna St. and drive past the Santa Barbara Mission. Turn right onto Los Olivos in front of the Mission, then bear left onto Mission Canyon Rd. for 0.8 mile. Turn right onto Foothill Blvd. and drive 0.1 mile, then turn left onto the continuation of Mission Canyon Rd. Bear left onto Tunnel Rd. and drive 1.1 miles until it ends. Park on the side of the road.

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BLUFFS TRAIL

MONTAÑA DE ORO STATE PARK DISTANCE: 3.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 1.5 hours SEASON: year-round DIFFICULTY: easy

The Bluffs Trail at Montaña de Oro State Park is a prime coastal walk, every step filled with oceanfront beauty. The level trail contours along the top of Montaña de Oro’s shale and sediment bluffs, with views of rocky offshore outcrops, colorful cliffs and arches, and the blue Pacific. From various points along the trail, hikers can view hidden coves, crashing surf, and basking seals. The trailside grasslands explode in a brilliant display of orange poppies, coast lupine, and other wildflowers from March to May. This extravagant show is the reason for the park’s name, which is Spanish for “Mountain of Gold.” The bluffs are ancient marine terraces, formed by the coast rising and jolting upward from geological activity. Hundreds of thousands of years ago, as the warmer climate melted glaciers, the sea rose and cut into the land, creating beaches and bluffs. Further geologic action moved the earth’s plates, lifting the beaches to form the terraces. Bluffs Trail ends without fanfare at a barbed wire fence marking private property. This is your turnaround point. From U.S. 101 in San Luis Obispo, take the Los Osos exit and head west on Los Osos Valley Rd. Drive 12 miles (the road changes names to Pecho Valley Rd.) to the Montaña de Oro entrance, then continue 2.5 miles to the small parking area on the right side of the road, 100 yards beyond the visitor center on the left. Bluffs Trail begins at the parking area.

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•1 Q PAINTED ROCK 1OINTERPRETIVE TRAIL CARRIZO PLAIN NATIONAL MONUMENT DISTANCE: 1.5 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 1 hour SEASON: November-February DIFFICULTY: easy

Carrizo Plain is considered to be one of California's largest grassland ecosystems. It's best known for its abundant wildlife and vast open space. Tule elk, pronghorn antelope, and coyotes are commonly seen here. In spring, wildflowers fill the grasslands. Painted Rock Interpretive Trail leads to 55-foot-tall Painted Rock. The interior of this sandstone amphitheater has some of the most significant Native American pictographs in the country. Both Chumash and Yokut Native Americans hunted and traded in this area as late as the mid-nineteenth century, and Painted Rock served as a sacred ceremonial site. While visiting, please do not touch the paintings or climb on the rock. Retrace your steps to the trailhead. While the monument is open year-round, Painted Rock is closed from March 1 to July 15 to protect nesting birds, but you can register for a guided hike on Saturdays in April and May. The rest of the year, you are free to wander on your own. Also note that Carrizo Plain is a long 50-mile drive east of Santa Margarita, and there are no services along the way. From San Luis Obispo on U.S. 101, drive north for 10 miles and take the Santa Margarita/Hwy. 58 exit. Drive east on Hwy. 58 for 48 miles to the Soda Lake Rd. turnoff. Turn right (south) and drive 13.5 miles to the Painted Rock Trail and visitor center turnoff. Turn right and drive to the visitor center, then turn left and drive 2.0 miles to the trailhead.

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TWIN LAKES

KAISER WILDERNESS DISTANCE: 6.4 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 3.5 hours SEASON: June–October DIFFICULTY: challenging

The route to Twin Lakes comes with a climb, but if you’re willing for some exercise, your reward is a spectacular day-hike to two scenic alpine lakes. Begin your trip at the trailhead on Kaiser Pass Road. The trail climbs 800 feet from its start to 8,980-foot Kaiser Ridge, but fortunately red firs and lodgepole pines provide welcome shade. You’ll finish the ascent at 2.0 miles, where the trail crosses over the ridge at Potter Pass. To the east is a sublime view of the Minarets and Mt. Ritter. It’s a great spot to stop and catch your breath. Then it’s downhill for 0.5 mile to a junction for the two granite-lined Twin Lakes. Turn left and reach the lower lake at 3.0 miles. Make sure you visit the Upper Twin Lake as well, 0.2 mile farther and even lovelier. Upper Twin Lake is backed by a wall of granite and has an island in its center. Find a private spot on the lakeshore and call it your own. The return trip is the reverse. Another good route to these lakes is from the trailhead near Sample Meadow Campground, farther east on Kaiser Pass Road. If you’re willing to drive farther, this trail has less of a climb. From Fresno, drive northeast on Hwy. 168 through Clovis for 70 miles to Huntington Lake. Turn right onto Kaiser Pass Rd. and drive 4.8 miles. A large parking area is located on the south side of the road; the trail begins on the north side.

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RANCHERIA FALLS

SIERRA NATIONAL FOREST DISTANCE: 2.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 1 hour SEASON: May–October DIFFICULTY: easy

Rancheria Falls National Recreation Trail is so nicely groomed, hikers travel it every summer wearing only tennis shoes. This smooth and wide path follows a gentle uphill grade to glistening Rancheria Falls. The sunny route leads through an understory of gooseberry, chinquapin, and colorful wildflowers—purple lupine, pink larkspur, and fiery red Indian paintbrush. Occasional fir trees provide shade. You’ll share the trail with a mélange of butterflies and noisy cicadas. Your first breathtaking glimpse of Rancheria Falls comes about 100 yards before you reach it. The waterfall plummets 150 feet over a wide rock ledge, then continues down-canyon in a long, boisterous cascade. During high water, as Rancheria Creek’s flow hits smaller ledges below its lip, the water pushes off and sprays outward like fireworks exploding. At the trail’s end, climb over the rocks and pick your viewing spot. Even if there’s a small crowd here (typical in summer because of Rancheria Falls’ proximity to popular Huntington Lake), you can usually find a private spot downstream. Enjoy a picnic, then retrace your steps. From Fresno, drive northeast on Hwy. 168 through Clovis for 70 miles, past Shaver Lake. At 0.5 mile past Sierra Summit Ski Area (and 0.5 mile before reaching Huntington Lake) take the right turnoff signed for Rancheria Falls (Rd. 8S31). Follow the dirt road 1.3 miles to the signed trailhead at a sharp curve in the road. Park off the road.

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ZUMWALT MEADOW LOOP

KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARK DISTANCE: 1.5 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 1 hour SEASON: May–October DIFFICULTY: easy

This trail along the South Fork Kings River is suitable for all abilities, with pleasant surprises at every turn. Many hikers bring fishing rods and try their luck in the river, but for most, the scenery alone is the draw. From the parking area, walk downstream along the river, cross the picturesque suspension footbridge, and turn left to head back upstream. The Zumwalt Meadow Loop begins at an obvious fork, and you can hike in either direction. If you bear right, the path traverses a field of jumbled rocks that tumbled down from the Grand Sentinel (8,504 feet) on your right. From here you’ll have awe-inspiring views across the meadow to the cliffs on the north side of the canyon and 8,717-foot North Dome. Loop back on the north side of the trail and you enter a meadow filled with thick, waist-high ferns. Walk downstream, with the meadow on your left. When the trail reaches a marshy area, cross the wooden walkway, and sadly, you’ve finished. Take the short connector trail back to the footbridge and your starting point. Got time? Keep meandering west on River Trail, which heads downstream from the bridge for 1.6 miles to Roaring River Falls. When you’ve had enough, simply retrace your steps. From Fresno, drive 55 miles east on Hwy. 180 to the Big Stump entrance to Kings Canyon National Park. Continue east on Hwy. 180 for another 37 miles to the parking area for Zumwalt Meadow on the right, shortly before Cedar Grove.

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MIST FALLS

KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARK DISTANCE: 8.2 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 4 hours SEASON: May–October DIFFICULTY: moderate

Although it’s 8.2 miles round-trip to Mist Falls, this gentle trail has only 650 feet of elevation gain. The scenery is so gorgeous that the miles will fly by. From the east end of the parking lot, the Mist Falls Trail weaves through oak, pine, and cedar forest and past giant boulders. The roar of the South Fork Kings River is a pleasant accompaniment. At 2.0 miles, bear left at the junction near Bailey Bridge and climb slightly, rising above the river. A mile farther, turn around and check out the Kings River canyon, framed by 9,000-foot peaks. The silhouette of the Sphinx, an odd-shaped granite spire flanked by Avalanche Peak, is the epitome of Sierra drama. At 4.0 miles, after a few switchbacks, you’ll overlook the famous spray of Mist Falls. Spur trails lead to the waterfall’s base, but use caution. If the Mist Falls Trail is crowded, return via this alternate route: Backtracking from the falls, at the 2.0-mile trail junction, turn left and cross Bailey Bridge. Walk 0.8 mile, passing Bubbs Creek Trail, then turn right onto River Trail, which has great views. Just downstream of the trailhead, a bridge crosses the river to the parking lot. From Fresno, drive 55 miles east on Hwy. 180 to the Big Stump entrance to Kings Canyon National Park, then continue east on Hwy. 180 for another 39 miles to the Road’s End parking area, six miles past Cedar Grove Village. The trailhead is located near the wilderness ranger station.

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REDWOOD CANYON

KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARK DISTANCE: 4.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 2 hours SEASON: May–October DIFFICULTY: moderate

You’ve visited the General Sherman Tree, the Washington Tree, and the General Grant Tree—the three largest trees on earth by total volume—but now you’d like to see giant sequoias thriving in an unaltered, asphalt-free woodland? You’ve come to the right place: Redwood Canyon in Kings Canyon National Park. From the parking area, Redwood Canyon Trail (also called Redwood Creek Trail) leads downhill to a junction at 0.3 mile. Continue right, past huge sequoias and a dense background of dogwoods, firs, and mountain misery. Keep an eye out for orange paintbrush, pink wild rose, and deep purple lupine. And ponder this: Each sequoia you see here is one in a population of fewer than 60,000 trees. Be sure to hike the full 2.0 miles to the Redwood Creek crossing. Some of the best tree specimens are here; others are just before it, near the Sugar Bowl Loop Trail junction. (Look for the Sugar Bowl turnoff on the right; immediately past it are 10 giant sequoias, clustered together like ancient friends.) From Redwood Creek, the return trip follows the same route uphill, but you get to see those marvelous trees all over again. From Fresno, drive 55 miles east on Hwy. 180 to the Big Stump entrance to Kings Canyon National Park, then turn right and follow the Generals Hwy. toward Sequoia National Park. Drive 3.0 miles to Quail Flat and turn right onto the dirt road to Redwood Saddle (Redwood Mtn. Rd.). Drive 1.5 miles to

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BIG BALDY

KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARK DISTANCE: 4.6 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 2.5 hours SEASON: May–October DIFFICULTY: easy

The trip to Big Baldy comes with million-dollar views of Redwood Mountain, Buena Vista Peak, Little Baldy, Buck Rock, and the Great Western Divide. And the 600-foot ascent is so nicely spread out over 2.3 miles, most of the time you don’t even realize you’re climbing. The trail begins in a dense, Christmas-scented fir forest but quickly exits the trees and winds along the rim of Redwood Canyon. The big chunk of granite to your right is Buena Vista Peak. You’ll notice cross-country skiing markers on the trees; this path is so level that it makes an excellent winter trail. Initial vistas are to the west, but you’ll have occasional glimpses through the trees of Silliman Crest to the east. Nothing compares to the view from Big Baldy’s 8,209-foot summit, where the panorama opens up to sweeping vistas of the High Sierra peaks and the Great Western Divide. A bonus: Because the trail’s first mile faces west, this is a great path for watching the sunset. Head back the way you came to reach the trailhead. From Fresno, drive 55 miles east on Hwy. 180 to the Big Stump entrance to Kings Canyon National Park, then turn right and follow the Generals Hwy. toward Sequoia National Park. Drive 6.5 miles to the Big Baldy trailhead on the right, shortly before the turnoff for Big Meadows on the left. Park alongside the road.

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WEAVER LAKE

GIANT SEQUOIA NATIONAL MONUMENT DISTANCE: 4.2 or 7.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 2 hours or 4 hours SEASON: May–October DIFFICULTY: moderate

Easy-to-reach Weaver Lake makes a perfect family backpacking destination or day hike. There are two hiking routes: Many choose the 2.1-mile trail from Fox Meadow, but for a longer hike (and to avoid driving on a very rough dirt road), park at the trailhead just west of Big Meadows and hike 3.5 miles to the lake. Starting from the Fox Meadow trailhead, pass through red fir forest and meadows before crossing Fox Creek, home to spring wildflowers. Soon after, the longer trail from Big Meadows comes in from the right. From this junction, turn left and climb to a second trail junction at 0.7 mile. Turning right leads to Jennie Ellis Lake; go left for Weaver Lake. At 1.8 miles, bear right at a third junction to reach shallow but pretty Weaver Lake at 8,700 feet, set at the base of Shell Mountain’s high, rounded ridge. Try your luck fishing or, if you’re brave, go swimming. Retrace your steps to return to your car. From Fresno, drive 55 miles east on Hwy. 180 to the Big Stump entrance to Kings Canyon National Park, then turn right and follow the Generals Hwy. toward Sequoia National Park. Drive 7.0 miles and turn left onto Forest Service Road 14S11 (Big Meadows Road). Drive 3.0 miles and park at either the Big Meadows trailhead or 1.5 miles farther at the Fox Meadow trailhead.

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MUIR GROVE

SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK DISTANCE: 4.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 2 hours SEASON: May–October DIFFICULTY: easy

The Muir Grove Trail is largely ignored except by campers at Dorst Campground, so you have a better chance of seeing giant sequoias in solitude here than elsewhere in Sequoia National Park. The path is lovely every step of the way, nearly level, and highlighted by wildflowers from May to July. After crossing a wooden footbridge near the camp, the trail enters a forest of red firs, white firs, sugar pines, and incense cedars. Prolific ferns create their own miniature forest, especially after a wet winter. Near the creeks, wildflowers explode into bloom: columbine, cow parsnip, leopard lilies, lupine, and Indian paintbrush. The route undulates west, then curves around a deeply carved canyon at 1.0 mile out. (Just off the trail to the right is a granite slab with an inspiring view.) At 1.9 miles, enter Muir Grove, a pristine stand of huge sequoias made even more enchanting by a thick undergrowth of blue and purple lupine. You may suddenly find yourself whispering, and not know why. It’s that kind of place. Head back the way you came. From Fresno, drive 55 miles east on Hwy. 180 to the Big Stump entrance to Kings Canyon National Park, then turn right and follow the Generals Hwy. toward Sequoia National Park. Drive 17 miles and turn right toward Dorst Campground. Drive through the campground to the amphitheater parking lot; the trail begins at a footbridge between the lot and the group campground.

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LITTLE BALDY

SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK DISTANCE: 3.5 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 2 hours SEASON: May–October DIFFICULTY: moderate

Little Baldy, Big Baldy, Buena Vista Peak . . . along this stretch of Generals Hwy. there are so many granite domes to climb that it’s hard to know where to begin. Little Baldy Trail is an excellent starting point—easy enough for most people to accomplish, and with stupendous views. The summit of Little Baldy’s dome is at 8,044 feet, and the trail’s long moderate switchbacks make the 650-foot elevation gain from the trailhead quite manageable. Start your trip at Little Baldy Saddle, right along the highway. You’ll climb from the start, but you’re compensated with a fine view of Big Baldy about a quarter mile in (look over your left shoulder). As you ascend, the trail gets rockier, and Jeffrey pines, the harbingers of the high country, make an appearance. Before you know it, you’re on top of Little Baldy’s summit, with a front-row view of far-off peaks. Look for the jagged spires of Castle Rocks to the southeast and the massive Silliman Crest and Great Western Divide to the east. Tokopah Valley is slightly southeast, and far to the south is Mineral King Valley and distinctive Sawtooth Peak. To return to your car, head back the way you came. From Fresno, drive 55 miles east on Hwy. 180 to the Big Stump entrance to Kings Canyon National Park, then turn right and follow the Generals Hwy. toward Sequoia National Park. Drive 18 miles to the Little Baldy Trailhead, on the left, a mile beyond Dorst Campground.

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TOKOPAH FALLS

SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK DISTANCE: 3.4 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 2 hours SEASON: May–October DIFFICULTY: easy

Tokopah Falls is hands-down the best waterfall in Sequoia and Kings Canyon. To witness the peak water flow, hike in late spring or early summer. This trail is deservedly popular, so head out early to avoid crowds. It’s also popular with yellow-bellied marmots—cute and charming members of the squirrel family that sun themselves on boulders or stand up to whistle at you. From the trailhead, the 1.7-mile path crosses bridges over tiny creeks and travels through meadows overflowing with orange columbine, yellow violets, and purple nightshade. After 1.5 miles, you get awesome views of the Watchtower, a 1,600-foot glacially carved cliff, and the Tokopah Valley, with 1,200-foot-high Tokopah Falls pouring down its smooth back curve. The final quarter mile requires you to wedge between rocks and duck under a granite ledge. Hike to the trail’s end amid a jumble of granite and marvel at the cacophony of cascading water, but don’t get too close—Tokopah flows fast and can be dangerous. Retrace your steps to return to the campground. From Fresno, drive 55 miles east on Hwy. 180 to the Big Stump entrance to Kings Canyon National Park, then turn right and follow the Generals Hwy. toward Sequoia National Park. Drive 25 miles and turn left at the sign for Lodgepole Campground. Continue 0.75 mile to the Log Bridge area of Lodgepole Camp. Park in the lot just before the bridge, and walk across the bridge to the Tokopah Falls trailhead.

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CONGRESS TRAIL

SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK DISTANCE: 3.2 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 2 hours SEASON: May–October DIFFICULTY: easy

Starting near the famous General Sherman Tree, the Congress Trail loop is a much-traveled route through Giant Forest’s prize grove of sequoias. The General Sherman Tree receives the lion’s share of visitors, because it’s recognized as the largest living thing (by volume) on earth: taller than a 27-story building and 102.6 feet across. Since 2007, you can no longer park near the General Sherman Tree, so start at the Wolverton Road trailhead. A half-mile walk takes you to the General Sherman, where everyone pays homage. Leave its side and the crowds lessen substantially. Pick up the Congress Trail and you’ll find many more mammoth trees to gape at, including the General Lee Tree, the McKinley Tree, and the Lincoln Tree. Perhaps the most intriguing sequoia is an unnamed, fallen tree that crosses the trail a half mile before the end of the loop. A sign states that this tree suddenly fell on a still and clear evening in June 1965. Rangers working two miles away heard a tremendous noise and “knew that a giant had fallen.” Two huge clusters of sequoias near the trail’s end, the House and Senate groups, are particularly photogenic. Be awed and humbled, then head back the way you came. From Fresno, drive 55 miles east on Hwy. 180 to the Big Stump entrance to Kings Canyon National Park, then turn right and follow the Generals Hwy. toward Sequoia National Park. Continue 27 miles, past Lodgepole, to the signed turnoff on the left for Wolverton. Turn left and drive one mile to the

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CRESCENT MEADOW & THARP’S LOG

SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK DISTANCE: 2.2 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 1 hour SEASON: May–October DIFFICULTY: easy

Deemed “the gem of the Sierras” by John Muir, picturesque Crescent Meadow is filled with blooming wildflowers, surrounded by giant sequoias, and situated nearly side by side with the equally impressive Log Meadow. From the parking area, follow the paved trail and cross Crescent Creek to skirt the southern edge of Crescent Meadow. Take the right fork toward Log Meadow, then weave your way through a network of junctions, always following the signs for Tharp’s Log. Big ferns line the path, massive sequoias stand guard at the meadow’s edge, and small trout swim in Crescent Creek. At Log Meadow’s northern edge lies Tharp’s Log—a firehollowed sequoia that served as Hale Tharp’s homestead for almost 30 summers, from 1861 to 1890. Inside the log, hikers can see Tharp’s bed, fireplace chimney, and dining room table. From here, continue west along the Crescent Meadow/Tharp’s Log Trail and loop back to the parking lot on Crescent Meadow Trail. From Fresno, drive 55 miles east on Hwy. 180 to the Big Stump entrance to Kings Canyon National Park, then turn right and follow the Generals Hwy. toward Sequoia National Park. Drive about 30 miles to just past the Giant Forest Museum, then turn left onto Crescent Meadow Rd. and drive 3.5 miles to the Crescent Meadow parking area. (Alternatively, from the Ash Mountain Entrance Station, drive north on Generals Hwy. for 17 miles to Giant Forest.)

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NEEDLES LOOKOUT

GIANT SEQUOIA NATIONAL MONUMENT DISTANCE: 5.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 2.5 hours SEASON: May–October DIFFICULTY: moderate

This might be the most perfect easy hike in the southern Sierra—it has just enough of a climb to provide a workout and is chock-full of visual rewards. The trail starts at a sign with a 1930s photo of the fire lookout, perched at 8,245 feet atop the pinnacle-like Needles rock formation. “Precarious” is the word that comes to mind, but the lookout has stood its ground for nearly 80 years. The trail soon leaves the forest and comes to two wooden benches, perfect for gazing at the Kern River Basin. From here, the trail undulates through firs and ponderosa and sugar pines, occasionally passing over granite slabs and sandy stretches. The big surprise: rounding the corner to see the lookout tower straight ahead, perched high up on the Needles’ far western spire. The trail ends at a series of stairs and catwalks that ascend to the lookout. If the tower is open (generally Wednesday to Sunday 9 A .M. to 6 P.M.), get ready for an unforgettable view that includes Lloyd Meadows and the southern half of the Golden Trout Wilderness to the north, and the Dome Lands Wilderness to the southeast. It’s a sight you’ll long remember. Enjoy the view, then retrace your steps. From Porterville, drive 46 miles east on Hwy. 190, which becomes Western Divide Hwy., to Forest Service Road 21S05, 0.5 mile south of Quaking Aspen Campground. Turn left onto Rd. 21S05 (The Needles Rd.) and drive 2.8 miles to the trailhead.

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,90

0

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LITTLE LAKES VALLEY

JOHN MUIR WILDERNESS DISTANCE: 5.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 2.5 hours SEASON: May–October DIFFICULTY: easy

Little Lakes Valley has easy hiking, good access, and exquisite high alpine beauty. The Mosquito Flat trailhead is at 10,300 feet in elevation, so you start your trip with your feet in the high country—there’s no huffing and puffing to get there. With little effort, you can gaze at multiple alpine lakes, meander alongside melodious Rock Creek, and enjoy the dramatic backdrop of Mt. Mills, Mt. Dade, Mt. Abbott, and Bear Creek Spire. To avoid crowds, start your hike early in the morning, and plan for a weekday visit. From the Little Lakes Valley trailhead, make a short ascent to a junction at 0.3 mile. Stay left, following signs for Morgan Pass. From the next couple miles, the trail hardly gains or loses elevation. One gorgeous lake after another appears alongside the trail: the first is Mack Lake at 0.5 mile, followed by Marsh Lake, then heart-shaped Heart Lake at 1.5 miles. A quarter mile farther is larger Box Lake, then 0.3 mile past Box Lake is Long Lake (2.0 miles from the trailhead). Follow the trail to the far end of the Long Lake and then retrace your steps for a 5.0-mile round-trip. From U.S. 395 in Bishop, drive north 24 miles to Tom’s Place and the Rock Creek Rd. turnoff on the left. Follow Rock Creek Rd. southwest for 10.5 miles to its end at the Mosquito Flat parking area. The trail begins on the west end of the parking lot.

Mosaic Canyon

Rd.

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90 800 0

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DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK

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BLUE LAKE

JOHN MUIR WILDERNESS DISTANCE: 6.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 3 hours SEASON: May–October DIFFICULTY: challenging

Getting to Blue Lake is a workout, via a steep and rocky trail (wear good hiking boots). But you’ll be rewarded by gorgeous alpine scenery, including the sight of 10,400-foot Blue Lake framed by Mt. Thompson and the Thompson Ridge. The first mile is deceptively easy. Follow Sabrina Basin Trail from Sabrina Lake, climbing gently along the aspen-lined lakeshore (the trees display vivid fall colors in late Sept. and early Oct.). At 0.5 mile you pass a John Muir Wilderness boundary sign, and as you begin to ascend, you can turn around and see the desert to the east. At Sabrina Lake’s western edge, Sabrina Basin Trail enters some very tight, steep switchbacks, but a noisy waterfall across the canyon provides welcome distraction. The rock-lined stairway climbs on for a solid mile, so your only choice is to sweat it out. You gain the ridge and the trail levels out for the last mile to the lake, until a final brief climb to the water’s edge. Your vista opens up to Thompson Ridge and Thompson Peak. Behind you are the reddish crags of the Piutes. Although Blue Lake is a popular destination, there is more than enough shoreline for everybody to spread out and have their own space. When you’re ready, head back downhill the way you came. From Bishop on U.S. 395, turn west onto Line St./Hwy. 168 and drive 18.5 miles to Lake Sabrina. Day-use parking for Sabrina Basin Trail is at the end of the road.

Mo

37 00

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DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK

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MOSAIC CANYON

DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK DISTANCE: 1.0–3.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 1–2 hours SEASON: November–April DIFFICULTY: easy

Mosaic Canyon is one of the crown jewels of Death Valley—a “geologic outdoor museum” with gemlike marble walls carved out of noonday dolomite. If you have hiked in nearby Golden Canyon, don’t bypass this trail because you think you’ve seen similar sights. Mosaic Canyon’s smooth pastelcolored rock is stunningly different. The trail is simple to follow, with just enough easy scrambling to make it seem like a real adventure. Kids have a ball here. From the trailhead, the route enters the canyon almost immediately. In some places, the walls narrow to 10 feet, then suddenly open into large “rooms” lined with water-polished marble. In the first 0.25 mile, you’ll see the unique rock formation known as mosaic breccia: a gorgeous mix of red, white, black, and gray fragments that appear to be cemented together. A few hundred feet beyond the breccia, the canyon opens out to a wide alluvial fan that’s not quite as fascinating as the narrows. Many people turn around here, but if you continue onward, you can reach a second narrows area, 1.2 miles from the trailhead, which shows off more stream-polished marble. Eventually the canyon becomes impassible at a dry waterfall. Turn around to return to the trailhead. From Stovepipe Wells, drive west on Hwy. 190 for less than 0.25 mile and turn left on Mosaic Canyon Rd. Drive 2.2 miles to the trailhead parking lot at the end of the road.

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Red Cathedral

800

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300

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35

KEANE WONDER MINE

DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK DISTANCE: 3.2 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 2 hours SEASON: November–April DIFFICULTY: challenging

This tough but worthwhile trail begins 100 feet from the Keane Wonder Mill, which processed gold and silver ore from the Keane Wonder Mine. In its most productive years (1909–1911), the mine generated 74,000 tons of gold, silver, and lead ore, worth about $700,000. From the mill, head up the steep, rocky slope to see the mile-long aerial tramway, which carried ore down the mountainside in large buckets, some of which still dangle over the canyon. The trail makes a beeline uphill, but you can stop to catch your breath and enjoy big views of Death Valley and the Panamint Mountains. Take advantage of the many short spur trails, which lead to mine shafts and high overlooks. Don’t enter the shafts, though, as they can collapse. At the top of the tramway, you’ll find cabin ruins, rail tracks, wire cables, and the upper tramway station, which is remarkably well preserved. Head back the way you came to return to the parking area. From Furnace Creek Visitor Center in Death Valley, drive 10 miles north on Hwy. 190 and turn right onto Beatty Cutoff Rd. Continue 5.7 miles and turn right at the Keane Wonder Mine turnoff. Drive 2.8 miles (on a rough dirt road) to the parking area. Alternatively, from Stovepipe Wells, drive 14 miles east on Hwy. 190 (bear right at the fork for Scotty’s Castle) to the left turnoff for Beatty Cutoff Rd. Follow the directions as above.

a Cim Rd.

5040

MOJAVE NATIONAL PRESERVE

5080

start & finish p

0 504

51 20

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53

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508

40

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0 548

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5,755 ft

51

520

5560

Teutonia Peak 56

00

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MOJAVE NATIONAL PRESERVE WILDERNESS

53

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contour interval 40 feet

N

36

GOLDEN CANYON TO RED CATHEDRAL

DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK DISTANCE: 2.5 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 1.5 hours SEASON: November–April DIFFICULTY: moderate

Many hikers say there are too many roads and too few trails in Death Valley National Park. The Golden Canyon Trail is Mother Nature’s revenge for this state of affairs, taking the place of a paved road that was destroyed by a flash flood in 1976. Be sure to pick up a free interpretive brochure at the trailhead or visitor center so you’ll understand what you’re seeing as you hike up Golden Canyon’s flat alluvial fan of colorful volcanic rock, sand, and gravel. The cliff walls are the layers of ancient lakebeds, tilted upward on their sides by ancient fault activity. They glow in shades of gold— from yellow to orange to apricot—in startling contrast to scarlet Red Cathedral, which looms in the background. To see Golden Canyon at its best, visit first thing in the morning or right around sunset. Not only will the crowds be elsewhere, but at the edges of the day, the colors are vibrant. At 1.0 mile out, you’ll reach the last interpretive trail marker (number 10). Continue on, bearing left for Red Cathedral. Continue for 0.3 mile to the huge cliff, colored red by large quantities of iron compounds. Retrace your steps to return to your car. From the Furnace Creek Visitor Center in Death Valley National Park, drive southeast on Hwy. 190 for 1.3 miles to Badwater Rd. on the right. Bear right and drive south for 2.0 miles to the Golden Canyon parking area on the left.

0

Cottonwood

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255

0 260 2650

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29 00

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27

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K e l s29 o

270

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To Kelbaker Rd.

D u n e s 600

2

26 00

26

250

2650

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MOJAVE NATIONAL PRESERVE WILDERNESS

2600

.5 miles

26

.25

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2550

so Kel

es Dun

Rd.

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Rd. 00

p 2450

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MOJAVE NATIONAL PRESERVE WILDERNESS

00 28

Q IT TEUTONIA 01 PEAK MOJAVE NATIONAL PRESERVE DISTANCE: 4.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 2 hours SEASON: November-April DIFFICULTY: challenging

A draw for geometry and geology enthusiasts, Cima Dome's big claim to fame is that it's the most symmetrical dome of its type in the country. And what type is that? A batholith—a molten mass of igneous rock that cooled and hardened beneath the earth before being exposed by erosion. At almost 70 miles square, the dome is so big that when you're on it, it looks like you're standing on a broad, flat plain. But when you're on top of the dome's narrow, pointed summit—Teutonia Peak, at 5,755 feet—there's no mistaking that you're on the apex. The wind blows hard and the desert vistas are head-swiveling. From the Teutonia Peak Trailhead, the first mile is level and pleasant, leading through pifton pines, cholla cacti, and a forest of Joshua trees, some as tall as 25 feet and as old as 400 years. These attract the yellow Scott's oriole, which nests in the Joshuas' foliage, as well as ladderbacked woodpeckers. The last half-mile requires a bit of huffing and puffing to reach a notch just shy of Teutonia's summit. Dedicated peak-baggers can scramble the last short stretch to the boulder-covered summit, or just sit at the saddle and enjoy the panoramic desert views. Head back the way you came. From Baker, drive east on I-15 for 25 miles to the Cima Rd. exit. Turn right onto Cima Rd. and drive 12 miles to the sign for the Teutonia Peak trailhead on the right.

0 438

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4360

Wall Street Mill 4400

4460

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Bar ker Da mR

4260

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JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK

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d.

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4500

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To Hidden Valley Campground

0 4460

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42

QQ KELSO OO DUNES MOJAVE NATIONAL PRESERVE WILDERNESS DISTANCE: 3.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 1.5 hours SEASON: November-April DIFFICULTY: moderate

Unquestionably the most popular place in Mojave National Preserve to watch the sun set, Kelso Dunes are the second highest sand dunes in California at 700 feet. Gold in color, the dunes also show traces of pink and black, thanks to grains of rose quartz, feldspar, and black magnetite. The colors are best at sunset, or early in the morning, when you might also spot the tiny tracks of birds, lizards, kangaroo rats, and kit foxes. In spring the dunes blossom with sand verbenas and desert primrose, but creosote bush, dune grass, burrowbush, sand mat, and galleta grass grow yearround. From the parking area, start hiking on the established trail toward the dunes. When it diminishes (constantly shifting sand makes maintaining a formal trail impossible), just head toward the closest dune. Climb high enough and you'll get views stretching to the Granite and Providence Mountains, plus the thrill of leaping or tumbling back downhill through soft sand. Some hikers try to cause miniature sand avalanches with their feet, which occasionally—when the air temperature and humidity are just right—results in a harmonic booming sound. It's hard to leave this strange, special place, but when it's time, just head back the way you came. From 1-15 in Baker, turn south on KelbakerRd. and drive 42 miles, past Kelso. Turn right at Kelso Dunes Rd. and drive 3.0 miles to the dunes parking area.

00 44

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Ryan Mountain 5,460 ft

0

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5100

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JOSHUA TREE WILDERNESS

39

WALL STREET MILL

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK DISTANCE: 1.5 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 1 hour SEASON: November–April DIFFICULTY: easy

Fascinating remnants of Joshua Tree’s gold mining heyday lie along this trail, including an old house foundation, a windmill, a few rusting trucks, and a stamp mill. Follow the sandy road from the parking area and veer left when you spot the ruins of a farmhouse, once home to William Keys, one of Joshua Tree’s most famous “desert rat” gold miners, and his wife. After exploring the grounds, backtrack to the road and follow it northeast across the desert. Look for a rusting old truck off to the left, followed by a tall windmill on the right. The trail curves north and narrows before reaching a granite marker on the left that states: “Here is where Worth Bagley bit the dust at the hand of W.F. Keys, May 11, 1943.” (Keys shot Bagley in an argument over the use of this road, which passed over Bagley’s land on its way to Keys’ mill.) At the end of the trail, you’ll discover the ruins of Keys’ two-stamp mill, which processed gold ore from 1930 to 1966. To return to your car, simply retrace your steps. From Hwy. 62 in the town of Joshua Tree, turn south onto Park Blvd. Drive 14.2 miles and turn left at the turnoff for Hidden Valley Campground. Immediately turn right and drive 1.7 miles, past the campground, following the signs for Barker Dam. Continue past the left turnoff for Barker Dam and turn left onto the next (unsigned) dirt road. Drive 0.25 mile to the parking area.

50 48

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To Keys View Rd. 00 46

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RYAN MOUNTAIN

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK DISTANCE: 3.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 1.5 hours SEASON: November–April DIFFICULTY: moderate

The view from Ryan Mountain’s summit is one of the finest in Joshua Tree National Park, reachable by an easyto-follow trail. The 5,460-foot peak boasts a panoramic view that includes Queen Valley, the Wonderland of Rocks, Pinto Basin, Lost Horse Valley, and Pleasant Valley, as well as the high peaks of far-off Mts. San Gorgonio and San Jacinto, which are snow-covered in winter. Winter weather can be cold and blustery on Ryan Mountain, so dress warmly. Between May and September, it can be hot, still, and extremely uncomfortable; make sure you get an early morning start. Spring and fall are the best times to visit. From the parking area, the trail travels through boulders and Joshua trees, ascending a moderately steep 1,000 feet. You’ll want to stop every few minutes to look around at the increasingly widening desert views. At the summit, you’ll get a full 360-degree panorama: mountains on one horizon, miles of desert on the other. Ryan Mountain’s summit register is usually buried in a pile of rocks. If you find it, be sure to add a few pithy remarks of your own. To return to the trailhead, retrace your steps. From Hwy. 62 in the town of Joshua Tree, turn south onto Park Blvd. and drive 15.8 miles to Cap Rock junction. Turn left to stay on Park Blvd. and drive 2.5 miles to the trailhead on the right.

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336

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK

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Cottonwood Spring Campground

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Mastodon Peak 3,371 ft

2880

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Wood Spring

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41

LOST HORSE MINE

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK DISTANCE: 4.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 2 hours SEASON: November–April DIFFICULTY: moderate

You get the full “desert experience” on Lost Horse Mine Trail, including mountain vistas, high desert flora, an old gold mine, and a well-preserved stamp mill. At the trailhead, take the left fork to the mine. The rocky trail climbs and dips for 1.9 miles, offering views of Pleasant Valley and the Hexie Mountains to the east. Just past the 1.0-mile point, you’ll spot a dark brown mine building perched on the hillside. Follow the road to its base, then climb one of the steep use trails for a closer view. The most successful gold mining operation in what is now Joshua Tree National Park, the Lost Horse Mine included a total of six working levels, which produced more than 9,000 ounces of gold. Above and below the 10-stamp mill, which operated off and on between 1893 and 1936, you’ll find several fenced-off mine shafts, cyanide tanks, and a winch used to lower men and machinery into the 500-foot main shaft. Climb the hill directly behind the mill for views of the Queen Valley, Lost Horse Valley, Pleasant Valley, and the eastern stretch of the park. Head back the way you came to return to the parking area. From Hwy. 62 in the town of Joshua Tree, turn south on Park Blvd. and drive 15.8 miles to Cap Rock junction. Bear right on Keys View Rd. and drive 2.4 miles. Turn left onto the dirt road signed for Lost Horse Mine. Continue 1.1 miles to the parking area.

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AG UA CA L I E NT E INDIAN R E S E RVAT I O N

N

A I) MASTODON 41^ PEAK LOOP JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK DISTANCE: 2.8 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 1.5 hours SEASON: November-April DIFFICULTY: moderate

This loop trail provides a fascinating look at the human and natural history of Joshua Tree. It begins at Cottonwood Spring Oasis, a trickling spring surrounded by fan palms and cottonwoods. Follow the trail signed for Lost Palms Oasis and Mastodon Peak past tall ocotillo plants, yucca, and small cacti. At the 0.6-mile junction, head left toward Mastodon Peak. When you reach the Mastodon's base, you'll note that it does resemble its prehistoric namesake. To bag its summit, head right, toward the back side of the peak, then scale its large boulders for a view that extends all the way to the Salton Sea, shimmering some 30 miles away. It's a short, fun scramble and completely worth the effort, but may be too risky for small children. Climb back down and continue on the loop past the Mastodon Gold Mine and the Winona Mill Site, where a small town was built for miners and ore-processing workers. Very little is left besides a few concrete house foundations and some planted cottonwood and eucalyptus trees. From here, continue to a fork in the trail. To the right is Cottonwood Spring Campground; the left fork returns to Cottonwood Spring Oasis. From Indio, drive east on I-10 for 25 miles. Turn north onto Cottonwood Spring Rd. and drive 8.0 miles to Cottonwood Spring Visitor Center. Turn right and drive 1.2 miles, passing the campground entrance, to the day-use parking area at Cottonwood Spring Oasis.

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MURRAY CANYON TRAIL

AGUA CALIENTE INDIAN RESERVATION DISTANCE: 4.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 2 hours SEASON: November–April DIFFICULTY: moderate

The natural beauty of Palm Springs—not its ubiquitous manmade swimming pools and golf courses—is what you’ll find on the Murray Canyon Trail. Murray Canyon is the “wild” side of this very manicured resort town. Begin hiking at the east side of the picnic grounds between Murray and Andreas Canyons. After the initial open desert terrain, you enter Murray Canyon, where the trail narrows. Lining the canyon are 100-foot-tall slanted outcrops of red rock. The stream widens as you continue, and the streamside reeds, willows, washingtonia palms, and wild grape grow in greater profusion. Hundreds of barrel cacti cling to the canyon walls like spiny foot-high creatures. They fatten in spring after sucking up water from winter rains. At 1.5 miles, ignore the left turnoff for Coffman Trail (sometimes spelled “Kaufman”) and continue for another 15 minutes over boulders until you reach a waterfall sculpted out of granite. The fall has two cascades about 50 yards apart, each with a mirror-like pool at the base. Several more cascades are farther back in this canyon, earning these falls the name “Seven Sisters.” From Palm Springs, drive south through the center of town on Hwy. 111/Palm Canyon Dr. Turn right onto S. Palm Canyon Dr. and drive 2.8 miles, bearing right at the sign for Palm Canyon/ Andreas Canyon. Stop at the entrance kiosk, then drive about 200 yards and turn right for Murray Canyon. Drive past the Andreas Canyon trailhead and continue to the Murray Canyon picnic area.

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CLEVELAND NATIONAL FOREST

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DESERT VIEW TRAIL

MOUNT SAN JACINTO STATE PARK DISTANCE: 1.6 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 1 hour SEASON: year-round DIFFICULTY: easy

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway whooshes you from Palm Springs’ desert floor to Mount San Jacinto State Park at 8,516 feet. Every half-hour, circular tram cars carry their passengers from cacti to clouds and, in the winter, from desert heat to snow. After enjoying outstanding desert views on the ride, you arrive at the upper station, emerging into the mountain environment of Mount San Jacinto State Park. A world apart from the desert below, this is a land of big conifers interspersed with meadows, wildflowers, and creeks. Follow the paved path downhill from the tram station, then pick up the signed “Nature Trail” on your left. Stay left and the path will deliver you to Desert View Trail, where you head left again. The trail traces a path through a beautiful old-growth forest until it opens out at a dizzying overlook of Palm Springs and the Indian Canyons, 6,000 feet below. Continue on the loop and turn right on Nature Trail to head back to Mountain Station. From Banning, drive 12 miles east on I-10 and take the Hwy. 111/Palm Springs exit. Drive 9.0 miles south on Hwy. 111 and turn right onto Tramway Rd. Drive 3.8 miles to the tramway parking area. Buy your ticket at the tramway station (weekdays 10 A .M –8 P.M ., weekends and holidays 8 A .M .–8 P.M .) and ride the tram to its end at Mountain Station. Disembark and follow the paved path downhill. Go left to Nature Trail and Desert View Trail.

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ANZABORREGO DESERT STATE PARK

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p Borrego Palm Canyon Campground

To Visitor Center & Borrego Springs

45

WEIR & LOWER DOANE VALLEY LOOP

PALOMAR MOUNTAIN STATE PARK DISTANCE: 3.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 1.5 hours SEASON: year-round DIFFICULTY: easy

For most first-time visitors, Palomar Mountain State Park comes as a big surprise. At 5,500 feet in elevation, the mountain air is cool, the conifers are big, and San Diego’s suburban sprawl seems far, far away. A good introduction to the park is this loop hike on three trails: Doane Valley Nature Trail, Weir Trail, and Lower Doane Trail. From the parking area at Doane Pond (which is often busy with young anglers), head away from the pond on Doane Valley Nature Trail, which crosses the park road. Shortly veer left onto Weir Trail, following pretty Doane Creek under the shade of big pines, firs, and cedars. Cross the creek about one mile out (soon after the Baptist Trail junction), then pick up Lower Doane Trail as it loops back around a meadow. You’ll likely see deer and mountain quail and hear a variety of birdsong, and you’ll surely notice the “holey” handiwork of resident woodpeckers in the big old trees. Where the trail nears Doane Valley Campground, cross the creek again and make a sharp right switchback, joining Doane Valley Nature Trail. With a final left turn the nature trail will close out your trip, bringing you back to the trailhead in another .75 mile. From I-15 north of Escondido, take Hwy. 76 for 21 miles. Turn left onto Rd. S6 and drive 6.5 miles. Turn left onto Rd. S7 and drive 3.0 miles into the park. Drive past park headquarters; turn right and park in the lot by Doane Pond.

0 275

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Blair Valley

ANZABORREGO DESERT STATE PARK

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46

BORREGO PALM CANYON

ANZA-BORREGO DESERT STATE PARK DISTANCE: 3.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 1.5 hours SEASON: November–April DIFFICULTY: easy

Hiking this trail feels like a trip from the desert to the tropics. The path begins on a sandy, rocky plane dotted with cacti and ocotillo, and ends in a cool, wet oasis. Before you go, pick up a brochure at the park visitor center to identify the desert plants along the trail, including cheesebush, brittlebush, pointy catclaw, and chuparosa. Start at the Borrego Palm Canyon trailhead near the campground of the same name. In only 20 minutes of walking, hundreds of palm trees will come into view. This canyon has more than 800 mature native palms—the largest of more than 25 groves in the park and one of the largest palm oases in the United States. Continue back into the canyon, heading over and around a few boulders. In short order you’ll be amid the shade of the palms, and in the wet season, standing at the base of a boulder-lined waterfall. Tiny maidenhair ferns grow around the water’s edge, and hummingbirds hover in the air. When you’re ready to head back, simply retrace your steps. From Julian, drive east on Hwy. 78 for 19 miles to Hwy. S3/ Yaqui Pass Rd. Turn left (north) onto Hwy. S3/Yaqui Pass Rd. and drive for 12 miles to Borrego Springs. Turn left onto Hwy. S22/Palm Canyon Dr. and continue 1.0 mile to the signed junction just before the park visitor center. Turn right and drive 1.0 mile to Borrego Palm Canyon Campground. The trailhead is at the west end of the campground.

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CUYAMACA RANCHO STATE PARK

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47

GHOST MOUNTAIN/ MARSHAL SOUTH HOME

ANZA-BORREGO DESERT STATE PARK DISTANCE: 2.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 1 hour SEASON: November–April DIFFICULTY: easy

Marshal South was a writer who wanted to live off the land. He moved to the Anza-Borrego Desert with his wife, Tanya, in the 1930s. The couple built an adobe home on top of Ghost Mountain, where they lived with their children for more than 16 years. Marshal South Trail goes to the South homesite on top of Ghost Mountain with only a 400-foot rise over a mile. The 2,800-foot elevation is hospitable to a wide variety of high-desert plants. The cool air of Blair Valley cultivates a surprising array of desert foliage, including tall stands of ocotillo, yucca, and cholla. At the top of Ghost Mountain you can see the remains of Marshal South’s intricate water storage system, a few foundation walls, some rusted and bent mattress frames, and the remains of what might have been a terraced garden. It may have been wildly impractical to live in this remote desert environment, but from this scenic hilltop you can possibly understand why South chose such a spot. Ghost Mountain is truly lovely, with 360-degree desert views. Head back down the way you came. From Julian, drive east on Hwy. 78 for 12 miles to Rd. S2. Turn south and drive 6.0 miles to the left turnoff for Blair Valley Camp. Turn left (east) and drive 1.4 miles on the dirt road; bear right at the fork. Drive another 1.6 miles; bear right again and drive 0.5 mile to the Ghost Mountain/Marshal South Home trailhead.

To Reserve entrance

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48

STONEWALL PEAK TRAIL

CUYAMACA RANCHO STATE PARK DISTANCE: 4.0 miles round-trip HIKING TIME: 2 hours SEASON: year-round DIFFICULTY: moderate

Stonewall Peak, at elevation 5,730 feet, is one of San Diego County’s most visited summits. The peak’s trailhead is near a popular campground, and the trail is pleasant, with a 900-foot elevation gain spread out across 2.0 miles. The biggest selling point comes at the top—a spectacular view of San Diego County. The peak overlooks the Stonewall Mine, which yielded more than two million dollars worth of gold in the 1880s. It also towers over a large chunk of the Cuyamaca Mountains, including nearby Cuyamaca Peak, Lake Cuyamaca, Palomar Observatory, and the Anza-Borrego Desert. Dozens of switchbacks whisk you to the summit, easing the grade of the ascent. There are no junctions to negotiate; no decisions to make. The final 50 yards to the rocky summit are cut into an exposed stone ridge, with granite stairs and a handrail to keep you from going over the edge. The peak’s white granite cap seems to jut into open space. Retrace your steps to head back to your car. From San Diego, drive east on I-8 for 40 miles to the Hwy. 79 exit. Drive north 11 miles on Hwy. 79, then turn left into Paso Picacho Campground. After passing the kiosk, bear right and park in the picnic area lot. Walk across the highway to the trailhead, which is directly opposite the campground entrance.

Cabrillo

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contour interval 50 feet