Best wildlife trails in California

869,750 Reviews
Explore the most popular wildlife trails in California with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.
Map of wildlife trails in California
Top trails (6560)
#1 - Potato Chip Rock via Mt. Woodson Trail
Lake Poway Park
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(5948)
Length: 7.6 mi • Est. 4 h 2 m
One of the most popular trails for photo ops and scenic views of the Pacific Ocean, this steep and narrow hike up to Potato Chip Rock and Mount Woodson summit is a must-do for locals and visitors alike. Located in northern San Diego county, the Mount Woodson trailhead starts at the end of Lake Poway Road at Lake Poway and offers hikers, climbers and trail runners a challenging trail up to the famous potato chip boulder and Mount Woodson Summit. This is a great place for a good workout and training for long hikes and runs. This is a very exposed trail so please bring plenty of water and sunscreen. Lake Poway PARKING IS FREE during the week- (weekends and holidays it's $10.00 for non- Poway residents)Show more
#2 - Vernal and Nevada Falls via the Mist Trail
Yosemite National Park
hardYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow Star(2962)
Length: 8.8 mi • Est. 5 h 1 m
Note: As of September 2020, The park has decided to reroute this trail and make a one way loop which starts shortly after the bridge below Vernal Falls and continues on the John Muir Trail after the top of Nevada Falls and back down to the bridge. Additionally, the trail has been reported closed between 7am-4pm during the week. During the winter months, portions of the John Muir Trail in Yosemite are closed. Visitors can still visit the falls, but you must return on the stairs, instead of returning on the John Muir Trail. Hike to two breath-taking waterfalls along Yosemite Valley's most popular hiking trails. If you only have time for one hike while in Yosemite look no further: the Mist Trail is the hike for you. It is no wonder why this trail is one of the most popular trails in Yosemite Valley. You will hike so close to 2 massive waterfalls that it will be very difficult to avoid the mist from the falls. The best time to hike this trail is in Spring or early Summer, while the snow runoff is high and the falls are full of water. The Mist Trail starts at Happy Isles trailhead (YARTS shuttle stop #16, and within walking distance of Curry Village and parking lot). After a brief stroll along the river, you climb a pretty steep initial accent until you reach the footbridge, which offers the first glimpse of Vernal Fall in the distance (and a water-fountain and restrooms). You will then continue up to Vernal Fall, past Emerald Pool, and alongside Nevada Fall until you reach the high-point for this hike. Then take the alternate route down along the John Muir Trail to see views of Nevada Fall and Liberty Cap in the distance before meeting back up with the Mist Trail near the footbridge. The route back is slightly longer, but offers a change of scenery and is easier on the knees. Before hopping back on the YARTS shuttle, treat yourself to some ice cream or a refreshing drink at the small stand, or head over to Curry Village for a larger variety of choices. Show more
#3 - Mission Peak Loop from Stanford Avenue Staging Area
Mission Peak Regional Preserve
hardYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(3676)
Length: 5.8 mi • Est. 3 h 47 m
Note from the East Bay Regional Park District: There is very limited parking at Stanford Avenue Staging Area. It is best to park at Ohlone College to access Mission Peak: 43600 Mission Blvd to Anza Pine Road. Enjoy the spectacular views of the South bay as you climb up to Mission Peak. Although steep, the views of the Bay Area are very rewarding. On a clear day hikers can see the skylines of Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose. This is a moderate to strenuous trail with a constant uphill climb until you reach the summit. The trail is a well maintained gravel base until the last half mile. From this point the trail is hard pack dirt and rocky. Difficulty would definitely increase during the rainy season. The Stanford Avenue staging area is also the western access to the Ohlone Wilderness Trail, a 29-mile hiking and riding trail through some of southern Alameda County's most beautiful wilderness, and provides access to Mission Peak's 2,999 acres. Ensure that you have plenty of water before embarking on this hike, as there are very few spots to locate shade. The trail may be shared with equestrians, and dogs are allowed. There is no fee for parking, however on a busy day you may be required to park a little west, on one of the side streets. Dogs are allowed on leash in developed areas/under voice command in undeveloped areas of the park.Show more
#4 - Upper Yosemite Falls Trail
Yosemite National Park
hardYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow Star(2583)
Length: 7.6 mi • Est. 4 h 30 m
Enjoy the thrilling views of looking down from the top of Yosemite Fall. Yosemite Fall, dropping 2,425 feet to the bottom of the valley from the top, is one of the most visited places in Yosemite National Park. The fall consists of three sections: upper falls, middle cascade and lower falls. While most people visit lower falls only, upper falls is definitely worthy of visiting for its eye-opening views and hiker's self-satisfaction of reaching it. The trail to Upper Yosemite Fall is about 4 miles one way, gaining approximately 3,000 feet in elevation along the way. Once you get to the top of the valley, you can go to Yosemite Fall Overlook, a small platform near the mouth of Upper Yosemite Fall, to enjoy the thrilling views of looking down from above. The trailhead is located in the Sunnyside campground (Camp 4) near Yosemite Lodge. It generally takes 6 - 8 hours for average hikers to complete the roundtrip hike. The trail is generally open for the whole year, but can be difficult to hike in winter due to snow, especially beyond Columbia Rock. Show more
#5 - Alamere Falls via Coast Trail from Palomarin Trailhead
Point Reyes National Seashore
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(1951)
Length: 12.2 mi • Est. 5 h 53 m
Alamere Falls is a tidefall waterfall that flows into the ocean in Point Reyes National Seashore, northwest of San Francisco in Marin County. This popular Bay Area coastal hike can be reached via the Coast Trail from the Palomarin Trailhead. The parking area can be accessed at the end of Mesa Road outside of Bolinas. The trail offers great views of the Pacific Ocean - including the Farallon Islands on a clear day - as well as Bass and Pelican lakes. This is a well-marked coastal trail to Alamere Falls. When you get to the falls walk just past the top fall, cross over it and down to the other falls. Beach access is on the right down a manageable but unstable cliff. Do not attempt to go down during high tide as the shale rock is slippery and rogue waves can drag visitors into the surf. Long pants and sleeves are recommended as Poison Oak does grow along the trail. The trail is maintained by the National Park Service so check out one of the visitor centers for additional information. Be careful not to miss the optional unmarked shortcut trail to the falls. It's about 4 miles up. There's a little rock climbing involved at the end. The climb down to the falls is not maintained by the National Park service. It can be very dangerous. Please be cautious and wear the correct clothing and shoes. Many people get hurt and have to be airlifted out because they can not make the hike back out.Show more
#6 - Eaton Canyon Trail
Eaton Canyon Natural Area Park
easyYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(3420)
Length: 3.5 mi • Est. 1 h 42 m
Visitors need a timed entry reservation to hike in this park. No same-day reservations or walk-ins allowed. Please visit the park site to reserve your spot or for more information: https://www.ecnca.org/ Eaton Canyon Trail is a relatively easy hike to a 40-foot waterfall with views of the San Gabriel Mountains and Santa Monica Mountains. Its proximity to Pasadena, Altadena, and Santa Monica make this a very popular trail for casual hikers in Los Angeles. The trailhead can get very crowded on the weekends and those hot California summer days - but it's worth a visit even if you have to fight through crowds - especially when spring wildflowers carpet the lower portions of the canyon floor of the Eaton Canyon natural area. There is also an excellent nature center at Eaton Canyon Park near the trailhead, with great exhibits and many free presentations for those who are interested. This family-friendly Southern California trail will be easy for most, although it gets more rugged the closer you get to the beautiful waterfall. The trail only has a few hundred feet of elevation gain, but there are several stream crossings and areas of boulder-hopping and rock climbing on the way to Eaton Canyon Falls. Nevertheless, this trail is manageable for most people.Show more
#7 - Vernal Falls
Yosemite National Park
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow Star(2502)
Length: 4.0 mi • Est. 2 h 16 m
The Mist Trail from its junction with the John Muir Trail (just above Vernal Fall footbridge) to the top of Vernal Fall is closed Monday–Friday, 7 am to 4 pm, for trail work (the trail may occasionally be closed overnight). Use the John Muir Trail for access to Vernal and Nevada Falls (and beyond). For more information, please see https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/conditions.htm Note: Due to public health and safety concerns, descending the Mist Trail steps from the top of Vernal Fall is prohibited from 9 am to 4 pm. To return to the trailhead, continue hiking uphill to Clark Point (500 feet additional elevation gain), then down the John Muir Trail. The trail from the top of Vernal Fall to Clark Point is a steep uphill climb and has no shade. For more information, please check here: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/vernalnevadatrail.htm. Yosemite National Park is open to those with reservations beginning on Thursday, June 11. See the park website for more info: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/covid19.htm Show more
#8 - Solstice Canyon Loop
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(2147)
Length: 3.2 mi • Est. 1 h 50 m
This is an incredibly picturesque, mostly shaded canyon hike in the Santa Monica Mountains. The Solstice Canyon Trail is a popular, well-maintained route with some spur-trail opportunities for more adventurous travelers. Some of the highlights include the oldest still-standing stone building in Malibu, a small waterfall and creek, and several ruins - including the ruins of a moderate mansion. From the gate, follow the service road that runs along the right side of the creek. Bear right at the dirt road that takes you up to the 2 odd looking buildings that house the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. To the right of the second building, take the Rising Sun Trail. This trail heads up the ridge, with great views of the ocean, then drops down into the somewhat mysterious Tropical Terrace. This is actually the ruins of a home build in the 1960s, and burned in 1982. There are exotic plants, lovely pools, a 30 foot waterfall (if there has been rain recently), and a hidden statue of the Virgin Mary just before you cross the creek heading into the ruins. This is really a fun place to explore! You can carefully scramble up the rocks on an extremely steep trail to get above the waterfall to a number of lovely pools. The return route is a pleasant shady service road that runs parallel to the stream.Show more
#9 - Mount Tallac Trail
Desolation Wilderness
hardYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow Star(2291)
Length: 10.9 mi • Est. 6 h 23 m
There is parking alongside the street. A wilderness permit is required. You must purchase the permit before arriving to the Mt. Tallac Trailhead. Day hikers may pick up the permit at the self-service area. The jewel in the crown of mountains which ring Lake Tahoe, Mount Tallac promises unparalleled views from its summit 9,735ft above sea level. Unparalleled vistas await the Tahoe hiker on a memorable journey to this beautiful peak. This route takes you to the top via the most direct summer route through lush forest, along scenic ridgelines, past small alpine lakes and across blazingly colorful wildflower strewn high-altitude meadows. Sure the 3,500ft elevation gain is greater than you might experience on most day hikes, but both the journey and the destination are worth every single thigh-burning step. The summit is very rocky and can be confusing. Make sure you have a good understanding of your whereabouts so you can easily find your way back down. Sunscreen is a MUST. Totally exposed for long sections.Show more
#10 - Echo Mountain via Sam Merrill Trail
Angeles National Forest
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(3618)
Length: 5.4 mi • Est. 3 h 8 m
This trail is good for running but can be crowded. This route is the Lower San Merrill trail towards Lake. At the beginning, take the second trail further back towards mountain. At the top, turn right for Echo Mtn. Alternatively, turn left for Sierra Saddle (turn left again once you hit the paved road and the sign for Sierra Saddle should be on the right; you can take the paved road back up to backtrack to Echo Mtn after you reach the tables—adds on 4 miles). Show more
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