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Where to Hike in California: 15 Hiking Spots in California for Beginners

hiking spots in california for beginners

Going hiking is usually discouraging because most people expect it to be exhausting and difficult, but not all hikes have to be hard. Before going for the challenging trails in California, it’s always good to start with short and beginner-friendly hikes to build your skills, stamina, and confidence.

To make your introduction to hiking fun, we’ve put together a guide for hiking spots in California for beginners. Check out the top 15 hiking spots that will be a breeze for beginners below.

1.   Sand Dollar Beach Trail 

Where: Los Padres National Forest, Jolon

How Long: 0.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 32m

Starting off our list is the Sand Dollar Beach Trail, known for its beautiful scenery that will encourage you with every step you take. As one of the best hiking spots in California for beginners, it only takes about twelve minutes to complete some might say you’re only taking a walk.

The out-and-back trail is pretty easy to hike and is even suitable for children. What’s more, you can take your dog with you as long as you have a leash. Once you get to the end of the trail, you’ll be met with the view of a sandy beach that will make your day. 

hiking spots in California for beginners

Staying at Big Sur? Check out some cool accommodations here.


2.   Castle Rock Trail 

Where: San Bernadino National Forest

How Long: 2.7 miles

Elevation Gain: 250m

If you’re up for a longer, beginner-friendly hike, the Castle Rock Trail is a perfect choice. The 2.7-mile hike is worth it because, in the end, you get an eagle’s-eye view of Big Bear and the Big Bear Lake. The rocky, out-and-back trail takes about 90 minutes to complete.

The Castle Rock Trail is a pretty popular hiking area, so you should expect to see other hikers while going on your journey. What’s more, dogs are allowed and can even be off-leash in some areas. Although hiking takes a lot of energy, the view is a nice touch at the end. 


Staying somewhere near San Bernadino National Forest? Check out some cool accommodations here.


3.   Fern Canyon Loop Trail

Where: Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

How Long: 1.1 miles

Elevation Gain: 36m

The next hiking trail on our list of hiking spots in California for beginners is the Fern Canyon, a 1.1-mile trail close to Orick. It is a pretty easy route, even if you’ve never hiked before, and it takes a little less than 30 minutes to complete. Aside from hiking, people visit Fern Canyon for birdwatching and camping.

The kid-friendly loop trail has beautiful views, allowing you to connect to nature through wildlife and gorgeous waterfalls. Dogs are not allowed, so you’ll have to leave your furry friend at home. There’s nothing hard about Fern Canyon, except perhaps the drive to get there.


Looking for a place to stay at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park? Check out some cool accommodations here.


4.   Twin Peaks Trail  

Where: Silverset Park

How Long: 1.9 miles

Elevation Gain: 201m

You should add the Twin Peaks Trail to your list of beginner-friendly hiking spots in California. Located near Poway, this is a fun hike that lasts for over an hour. It’s generally considered an easy route and is an excellent choice if hiking with friends.

When going to Twin Peaks Trail, you can take your dog with you on a leash for an even better hike. It’s a pretty popular hiking area, so you can meet others who are exploring. Once you get to the top of the loop trail, you’ll be glad you decided to go. But while you’re there, keep a lookout for snakes!

where to hike in california

Staying at Poway? Check out some cool accommodations here.


5.   El Moro Canyon

Where: Crystal Cove State Park

How Long: 2.9 miles

Elevation Gain: 246m

If you’re planning a hike between March and November, you should check out the short loop trail in the El Moro Canyon. Be careful not to go for the standard hiking trail as that’s twice as long and not a good idea for beginners.

Instead, the short loop trail will take you on a fun hike that ends at Laguna Beach. Within an hour and about 20 minutes, you can finish the hike and enjoy the beach in between. It’s also pretty popular for birdwatchers and horse riders. 


Staying at Crystal Cove? Check out some cool accommodations here.


6.   Lembert Dome Loop

Where: Yosemite National Park

How Long: 3.7 miles

Elevation Gain: 258m

Probably one of the longest hiking spots for beginners in California, The Lembert Dome Loop trail is the best way to experience nature, forests, and wildlife at its finest. If you want to hike for a longer time, this trail takes about an hour and 50 minutes to complete.

The Lembert Dome Loop is always bustling with hikers because of the fantastic views you can see while hiking. Dogs aren’t allowed on the trail, and it’s a bit long for children. Also, you have to pay a fee before you get in. If you want to hike on this trail, it’s best to do so between June and October.

Sand Dollar Beach Trail 

Staying near Yosemite National Park? Check out some cool accommodations here.


7.   Overlook Trail Leading to McWay Falls 

Where: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park 

How Long: 1.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 59m

California has only two tide falls, and you can view one of them by trekking the Overlook trail. This short loop hike is located near the Big Sur in California and will take about half an hour to get to McWay Falls and enjoy the gorgeous view.

When looking for beginner-friendly places to hike between September and December, the Overlook trail is the perfect choice for you. It is also famous for birdwatching and walking and is accessible by wheelchairs and strollers. You have to pay a fee to hike on this trail, but it’s worth it because of the beautiful waterfall.


Staying near Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park? Check out some cool accommodations here.


8.   Eaton Canyon Falls Trail 

Where: Eaton Canyon Natural Area Park

How Long: 3.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 159m

The Eaton Canyon Falls Trail is next in our beginner hikers’ guide to California. The 2-hour-long easy hike ends with a 40-foot waterfall and a small pool with a breathtaking view. Not only this, but you can also view the Santa Monica Mountains and the San Gabriel Mountains – it suddenly makes the 3.5 miles of hike worth it!

The trail is very popular among casual hikers and trail runners, and it’s open every day. Any beginner can get hooked on hiking with this route as it offers wildflowers, caves, and a river making up attractive views. You can also bring your dog as long as you have a leash and avoid this hike on sweltering days.


Staying near Eaton Canyon Natural Area Park? Check out some cool accommodations here.


9.   Antelope Loop Trail

Where: Antelope Valley California Poppy State National Reserve 

How Long: 5.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 181m

We also recommend the Antelope Loop Trail to any beginner who wants to start hiking in California. Don’t let the 5.5 miles discourage you because this is a wildflower trail, making it a super easy trek with beautiful views. The loop trail takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes to complete.

You can view poppies, fiddlenecks, forget-me-nots, red maids, filaree, silver puffs, fringe pods, and sun cups when hiking. If you want to enjoy the flowers in full bloom, you can visit between March and May. It’s also a kid-friendly trail, but no dogs are allowed.

Hiking Spots in California for Beginners

Staying near Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve State Natural Reserve, CA? Check out some cool accommodations here.


10. La Jolla Beach Trail 

Where: La Jolla, California

How Long: 2.3 miles

Elevation Gain: 51m

If you’re looking for one of the best hikes in San Diego for beginners, the La Jolla Beach Trail will do the trick. Although La Jolla has different trails for all hikers and their skill levels, the Beach Trail is best suited for newbies. It takes a little less than an hour to complete.

What’s great about the trail is the beach, as you can see some unique surfing spots, picturesque views, and even seals! It’s accessible by strollers and wheelchairs, and you can even bring your kids. But you’ll have to leave your dog at home.


Staying at La Jolla? Check out some cool accommodations here.


11.Jack’s Peak and Skyline Trail 

Where: Jack’s Peak County Park

How Long: 0.8 miles

Elevation Gain: 37m

Another easy route that beginners will eat up is the Jack’s Peak and Skyline Trail, taking only about 20 minutes to complete. If you’re unsure how to start hiking in California, this is a great start. Despite being so easy, the trail rewards you with a gorgeous view from Jack’s Peak.

The short hike is not on the beaten path, making it a perfect hiking trail for those who want some quiet. You can bring your dog too, as long as they are on a leash. The best time to visit the Peak and Skyline Trail is April to September.


Staying near Jack’s Peak County Park? Check out some cool accommodations here.


12.Eagle Lake Trail

Where: Lassen National Forest

How Long: 1.9 miles

Elevation Gain: 140m

Another one of the top hiking spots in California for beginners with their dogs on a leash is the Eagle Lake Trail. The 1.9-mile trail will reward you with a breathtaking view of the Lake Tahoe Basin when you get to the top. It’s an out-and-back trail that takes about an hour to complete. 

If you want to get the most out of this trail, you should visit between May and October. Explore the creeks, granite peaks, waterfalls, lakes, and lush vegetation as you go through the route. Once you get to the end, you can take a swim in Eagle Lake or hang out at the shore before going home. 


Staying near Lassen National Forest? Check out some cool accommodations here.


13.Torrey Pines Beach Trail Loop 

Where: Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

How Long: 2.3 miles

Elevation Gain: 111m

There’s nothing more satisfying than dipping your feet in the water after a hike, and the Torrey Pines Beach Trail Loop will give you just that. The 2.3-mile trail takes a little over an hour to complete and is located near Del Mar in California.

Also, if you live close to the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, you’ll be pleased to see many other trails apart from this one. You can move to moderate and strenuous options as you improve your hiking skills. 

where to hike in california

Staying near Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve? Check out some cool accommodations here.


14.Runyon Park to Indian Rock

Where: Runyon Canyon Park

How Long: 3.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 237m

The next hiking spot in our guide is the Runyon Park to Indian Rock, which is an out-and-back trail near West Hollywood in California. Beginners will be pleased with this hike which ends with a fantastic view of the park from Indian Rock. 

Although Indian Rock is one of the lesser points in the park, you can go for more challenging routes when you’re ready. The hike takes an hour and 45 minutes to complete, and you can bring your furry friend with you. 


Staying near Runyon Canyon Park? Check out some cool accommodations here.


15.Western States Trail to Calcutta Falls

Where: Auburn State Recreation Area

How Long: 2.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 82m

One of the most popular hiking spots in California for newbie hikers near Auburn is the Western States Trail to Calcutta Falls, and it’s the final addition to our list. The out-and-back trail takes less than an hour to complete and has great views of wildflowers, a river, and a waterfall.

Whether you’re going hiking, running, or trail walking, this fantastic 2.2-mile route is a great choice. The Western States Trail is even easier and more enjoyable from April to September, and you can bring your dog as long as you have a leash. 


Staying near Auburn State Recreation Area? Check out some cool accommodations here.


Jona of Backpacking with a Book

Hi there, I’m Jona! I’m in my early 30s and is currently based in Ha Noi, Vietnam.I primarily write poetry and short stories in Cebuano and lengthy travel essays in English. Blogging has become an outlet to think out loud. I live the life I set for myself. I try to live an unapologetic life. For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at backpackingwithabook@gmail.com. Find me somewhere else!

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