If you’ve ever browsed my Flickr, you know I spend half my life clambering around hiking trails in California. So what are my favorite spots?
- Mishe Mokwa Trail to Sandstone Peak
This trail is located in the Santa Monica Mountains near the border of Los Angeles and Ventura County. About six miles today, it’s a pretty unique trek offering views of the valley, the Pacific and the mountains to the east. If you know your geography you’ll catch views of mention Balancing Rock, and Split Rock. Sandstone Peak is the highest point in the Santa Monica mountain range. It’s worth it.
2. Kelso Dunes
Now this is a great spot for taking photos. You’re truly in a desert – away from the concrete city streets and busy beach. 4-mile hike up and over sand dunes in the Mojave National Preserve. It is the largest field of eolian sand deposits in the Mojave Desert, composed of light-colored quartz and feldspar that have eroded from the granitics of the San Bernardino Mountains. It’s a pristine area because it’s closed off to motor vehicles and only accessible to pedestrian hikers.
3. Barker Dam
Barker Dam in Joshua Tree was originally constructed by early cattlemen way back in 1900. This area is a favorite because it offers a variety of sites and activities for hikers. You can see many desert wildlife, including birds and even Desert Bighorn Sheep. There is a short trail from a nearby parking lot. A short distance to the west, you can see Native American petroglyphs. It’s also a good bouldering area with hundreds of rocks for climbing.
4. Rancho Palos Verdes Shipwreck Hike
The goal of this hike is to check out the Greek freighter Dominator, which ran aground at Palos Verdes point in 1961. If you’ve never seen a shipwreck, it’s an impressive site to behold. The rusted hulk of this shipwreck is scattered along a half mile of the shoreline. Be warned that it is a coastal hike, so it is over rocks the entire time and can be a bit of a slow scramble. The shoreline is tranquil and always changing, with tide pools and rock formations, and great views. Make sure to go at low tide and wear sturdy shoes or you will find your feet getting quite wet.
5. Bridge to Nowhere
Check out this feat of engineering, the arch bridge that was built in the San Gabriel Mountains in 1936 north of Azusa, California. This trip is recommended for advanced hikers, as the bridge is only accessible via a 10-mile round-trip hike or on horseback. The frequency with which the trails get washed out means that they are rough in places. The twists and turns can be exhausting so make sure to hydrate. First, although you can hike this year-round, there are different precautions you should take depending on when you want to hike here. This canyon has a long and storied history of deadly and destructive flash floods and you do not want to be here when that water comes barreling down this narrow canyon. If you hike in the warmer months, carry extra drinking water and be sure you eat snacks along the way.
Once you cross these hikes off your list, you’ll have an educated view of the diverse landscape of Southern California. Maybe you’ll meet a friend or two along the way.