Planning an adventurous hiking getaway? In this post, we’ll cover a selection of some of our top favorite and probably the best mountains in California, for the ultimate hiking trip. Climbing to the peaks of California is one of the best ways to experience its amazing nature. With nearly 8,000 named mountains and some of the most famous national parks on the planet, California offers a unique adventure for any type of hiker.
So without further ado, here are some of the best mountains in California – for your next hiking getaway:
1. Mount Whitney: The Highest Mountain In the Contiguous US
Only 3 hours drive from LA, down at the southern tip of the Sierra Nevada range, is the tallest mountain in the contiguous US. What does that mean? Simple, Mount Whitney is the highest point in the lower 48 states. (see picture above)
Can’t wait to reach the peak? Well, you’ll require a permit to climb it, but it’s WORTH IT. With an elevation of 14,505 feet and amazing climbing trails that range from moderate to tough, Mount Whitney soars way above all the other mountains in California.
Located in the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, a hike to the top of Mount Whitney will require you to be in a very good fit, especially altitude conditioning. You’ll need to wake up early and start your journey before sunrise if you plan to reach the summit and return back at the end of the day.
The most popular trail to the highest point in the lower 48 states is an 11-mile route that starts at the Mount Whitney Portal. This is a 12 to 14-hour round trip hiking adventure – only for experienced hikers in superb condition.
2. Mount Shasta: The Great White Pyramid
This beautiful beast is not the tallest peak in the state, but it is probably the most popular mountain in California. At approx. 14,000 feet tall, Mount Shasta is situated in the center of CA’s iconic great black forests.
Surrounded by small communities like Eureka, Red Bluff, Anderson, and Redding, Mount Shasta is known as the Great White Pyramid. Why? Simply because it’s covered with shiny white snow nearly 365 days a year (mainly its peak).
The inspiration you’ll get from climbing Mount Shasta can be mind-blowing, and many of the visitors come mainly to find that spiritual out-of-this-world experience.
The mountain offers lots of hiking trails, but due to the snow (which is there year yearlong) – there aren’t any easy routes. You’ll need to have some basic climbing experience. A moderate (and beautiful) trail that runs a bit above 7,000 feet high is the Gray Butte Trail. It starts at the Panther Meadows Campground, goes through the Mountain Hemlock Trees, past the Lower Peak, and up to the Upper Peak of Gray Butte.
Watch this clip to get a glimpse of Mount Shasta:
3. Mount Tamalpais State Park: The Mecca of Mountain Biking
At just 2572 feet tall, this lovely mountain is known for its amazing outdoor activities. Mount Tamalpais is probably the most beloved playground in the San Francisco Bay Area. You’ll find cool activities like redwood forest walks, coastal hiking, hang gliding, fishing, and more.
Aside from the usual hiking, climbing, or bouldering activities, Mount Tamalpais (or “Mount Tam” as everyone calls it) is the “mecca” of mountain biking. They say, that it’s here at Mount Tam where it all started. There’s a maze of awesome trails specially crafted for bikes and equestrians, but you better get a map – as it can get a bit confusing…
Mount Tam has steep slopes on all its sides, as it towers over the neighboring towns. You’ll have amazing views of the towns, forests, waterfalls, beaches, sunsets, the ocean cliffs, and so much more, practically from every corner of the mountain.
As for the hiking options, there are trails starting from easy to intermediate. The “Old Railroad Grade” trail is easy and one of the most popular trails that lead to the summit.
4. White Mountain Peak: The Oldest Trees on the Planet
Towering at 14,246 feet high, this unique beast is the 3rd highest mountain in California. White Mountain Peak is a part of the Inyo-White Mountains that are composed of some of the oldest sedimentary rocks in the state. You could even find fossils there that are almost 600 million years old.
Due to its location in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada, White Mountain Peak has extreme desert-like conditions, with hardly any shade, so climbing to the top can be brutal. (not recommended for family or kids)
Most visitors drive to the summit with a car, but if you do decide to hike your way up – expect a challenging 10-mile trail. At the peak, you’ll be rewarded by spectacular views of the Sierra Nevada range and Owens Valley.
By the way, the desert-like conditions at White Mountain Peak are also the reason why you can see there some of the oldest trees on the planet, like the ancient Bristlecone Pines. One of these trees is 4,700 years old.
Watch this hiker as he climbs White Mountain Peak:
5. Mount San Gorgonio: The King of Southern CA
Known as the “Old Greyback”, this 11,500 feet tall guy is the highest mountain in Southern California. Mount San Gorgonio is a beloved hiking spot with a few challenging routes that lead up to the peak.
The most favored (and shortest) trail is the Vivian Creek route, with only 8 miles of hiking (16 miles total for the loop). It is a bit steep, but you’ll end up with beautiful views of San Jacinto and Riverside County.
If you prefer a longer and rockier trail, go for the South Look route. It’s an 11-mile trek (22 miles total for the loop) that takes you through the stunning wilderness of the San Bernardino Mountains. You’ll pass by some beautiful mountain streams and lakes. We recommend taking some camping gear and staying overnight.
If you’re really into hiking and mountains and are planning to stay in California for a longer period of time, you should definitely check some Mountain View apartments for rent. The mountain views that can be found are breathtaking.
The best time to be hiking in California’s mountains is during the Spring and Summer, but these amazing beasts will have you any time of the year, so go ahead and enjoy the trek!
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