1. The Mist Trail, Yosemite
Distance: 3 miles round trip to Vernal Fall, 7 miles round trip to Nevada Fall.
Elevation: 4,000 feet (1,200m)
Time: 2 – 5 hours
Technically this is part of the Half Dome Trail, but The Mist Trail is awesome just on its own. As you ascend up you’re staring face-to-face at Vernal Falls, one of the most epic waterfalls in California. If you continue on, you’ll make it to Nevada Falls. Along the way you cross over the Merced River, at certain spots it’s perfect to take a break, eat a snack, and jump in the water!
2. Julia Pfeiffer Burns, Big Sur
Although the winter storms of 2017 wreaked parts of Big Sur, parts are still open (detailed breakdown of road conditions below) and Julia Pfeiffer Burns is our favorite spot for quintessential views of Central CA. It’s a little more work to get here from the south, but this eliminates crowds/tourists. There’s a variety of trails that offer forests, redwoods, panoramic coastline views, wildlife and an 80-foot waterfall that drops from granite cliffs into the Pacific Ocean. Elwodsen Trail is by far our favorite but check it may or may not be open.
As of October 2017 Caltrans announced the opening of Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge which connects 62 miles south of Carmel on Highway 1 so you can enter from the North. You can still drive in from the south as there’s detours and alternative routes (ie: Nacimiento-Fergusson Road detour around Mud Creek slide), but Mud Creek is expected to reopen summer 2018. Based on when you’re reading this you can get live road conditions from CalTrans. Go to the CalTrans website, enter 1 (the highway number) and search. You can get the same information on mobile devices with internet browsers – or by phone at 800-427-7623
3. Big Pine Lakes via The North Fork of Big Pine Creek, Inyo National Forest (John Muir Wilderness)
Distance: 9.2 miles round trip
Elevation: 3,600 feet
Time: 5-7 hours
Here at The Nomadik, we believe this area is one of California’s best kept secrets. Many visitors going to this part of CA head to Yosemite or Tahoe, a select few make it to Sequoia and/or Kings Canyon National Park. This is just a bit north and has some of the most beautiful combinations of mountains and lakes we’ve ever seen. It’s a popular backpacking spot, but some of the closer lakes you can do in day hike! You’ll get serenity along with epic views of the jagged sierra mountains coming straight down into the alpine lakes!
4. Fern Canyon, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
Distance: 1.1 miles
Elevation: 120 feet
Time: 1 hour or less
Fern Canyon is a surrealistic and amazing display of primal ferns growing in a narrow 50-foot-deep vertical walled canyon. The floor is nearly all creek bed which helps provide a contrast of water, gravel, stumps and downed trunks. Fern Canyon was used for several scenes in the movie Jurassic Park 2: Lost Worlds (1997) and the BBC series Walking with Dinosaurs (2000) for very good reason.
5. Kelson Dunes, Mojave National Preserve (go at sunset!)
Distance: 4 miles
Elevation: 700 feet
Time: 1-3 hours
This majestic desert is located about 3 hours from LA and the dunes are enormous. Desert and sand dunes aren’t top of mind when you think of exploring California. But, after seeing this landscape at sunset you just mind change your mind! The summit is a T-shaped area that’s relatively small, but offers jaw-dropping 360-degree views. That coupled with the variety of colors that comes with desert sky sunsets is guaranteed to blow your mind.