Let's Hike California

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Hiking California in Summer is a great time to be in the outdoors, but in the Fall you can discover the beauty and variety of California State Parks, with fewer visitors. And now discovering California State Parks is a bargain. The State Parks' annual pass in the Fall is $35 per year, reduced from $70. So get your annual pass in the Fall. The pass is also easier to use. It's a "hangtag" that can be hung from the car rear view mirror or displayed on the dash. It can be used on any vehicle.

The pass is a ticket to explore the beauty of State Parks in California. Visitors can discover trails and pathways through beaches, hills and alongside rivers. It's a great opportunity to enjoy the outdoors with friends and family and get away from city and cement. To ensure your hike is enjoyable, it's important to wear proper shoes fit for hiking, wear a hat for sun protection, and bring drinking water. An early morning start offers hikers both cooler temperatures and a better change of seeing wildlife. For a safe and pleasant outing, be sure to check the weather forecast.

Hiking Northern California State Parks

Caswell Memorial State Park in San Joaquin County - Offers visitors a leisurely ramble along the Stanislaus River. Various trail loops allow walks from 5-2.5 miles over relatively level terrain. The stately Valley Oaks that grow over the trails once sheltered the Yokut people, and welcomed the first European explorers with a familiar sight - the mighty white oaks of their homelands. Take the Austin Road exit west from Highway 99 at Manteca and continue seven miles until the road ends at the park entrance. Call: 209/599-3810 for more information. This is a Watchable Wildlife site.

Pacheco State Park Merced County - Is a destination for hikers. The trail up to Spike's Peak is 2.5 miles of stunning views. Returning by way of the Pig Pond trail takes hikers near the old adobe ruins of the original San Luis Conzaga Rancho, and a cowboy's line shack from the Miller and Lux era. Pacheco State Park is located between Los Banos and Gilroy on Highway 152 at Pacheco Pass. Take the Dinosaur Point Road exit south from the highway and turn right almost immediately at the park sign. For information call: 209/826-6283.

Henry W. Coe State Park, Santa Clara County - Has earned its reputation for steep terrain, but the park also features some delightful but less physically demanding trails. A good example is the Forest Trail and Springs Trail loop that makes a leisurely walk for about 2-3 hours along oak-studded ridges and through mixed woodlands. A self-guiding trail brochure available at the park headquarters Visitor Center introduces the shrubs and trees in the area. Take East Dunne Avenue from Highway 101 in Morgan Hill, the road goes directly into the park after a winding climb of about 30 minutes. Call: 408/779-2728 for more information, during the winter the visitor center is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

From Henry Coe's new Hunting Hollow entrance east of Gilroy, the Hunting Hollow Trail follows a little creek bed with a lovely stand of old sycamores. Take Leavesley Road east from Hwy. 101 in Gilroy, turning left (north) on New Avenue, and east again on Roop Road. Roop turning into the old Gilroy Hot Springs Road. Continue on Gilroy Hot Springs Rd., the Hunting Hollow entrance will be on your right, 3.3 miles beyond the sign for the Coyote Lake turnoff. Call 409/779-2728 for more unformation. The park is a Watchable Wildlife site.

Mount Diablo State Park, Contra Costa County - Has several trailheads at a variety of elevations that offer hiking opportunities, varying from easy walking to moderate to strenuous.

A visitor's first stop should be the Summit Visitor Center where hikers can get an orientation of the park and detailed information about the trails. Maps are available at a nominal fee. The visitor center is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Just below the Visitor Center, the Fire Interpretive Trail offers a short, easy hike. It circles the summit and is a short loop, about 7/8 miles that features dramatic views of the park and surrounding Bay area. The Juniper Trail is also accessible from Summit Road and is about three miles long. It also affords great views of the surrounding countryside.

A different kind of hike is at Curry Canyon Trail on South Gate Road, It starts out at a lower elevation and follows a fire road into Curry Canyon on the east side of the park. The trail includes sections of a riparian corridor. For more information, call: 925/837-0904. The park is a Watchable Wildlife area.

China Camp State Park, Marin County - Has many trails, but it is one of the only parks with multi-use single-track trails. The presence of bicycles and horses may be disconcerting to new hikers looking for more solitude. There is however, a short ¾ mile flat loop walk called the Turtle Back Nature Trail that is open only to foot traffic. The trail skirts the edge of an old island on the shore of San Pablo Bay. Today, pickleweed marsh has replaced open waters and the trail gives a close-up view of the salt marshes that harbor such endangered species as the Salt Marsh Varves Mouse and the Clapper Railer, while the upland side of the trail reveals oaks, bays and grassland communities. For more information, call: 415/456-0766 or 415/893-1580.

Mount Tamalpais State Park, Marin County - Has several opportunities for easy loop trails. The most spectacular loop is the Verna Dunshee Trail on the East Peak of the mountain. It is a ¾ mile loop that circles the 2,571-foot summit and offers unparalleled views of the San Francisco Bay region. It is well worth the drive to the top of the mountain. There are other loop trails in the 2-4 mile range starting from the Pantoll or Rock Spring trailhead. For more information, call: 415/388-2070 or 415/258-2410. The park is a Watchable Wildlife site.

Tomales Bay State Park, Marin County - Has a splendid trail from Heart's Desire Beach to Indian Beach that can be done in a one-mile loop. For more information, call: 415/669-1140.

Hiking Southern California State Parks

Los Angeles Area

Leo Carrillo State Park, Los Angeles/Ventura Counties - 28 miles northwest of Santa Monica on the Pacific Coast Highway, is a great place for a hike. Visitors should park in the parsking lot and walk under the highway, and on to the sand. Continuing up the hill, visitors can stroll along the bluffs for a view of the kelp forest below, then onto the second staircase for a stroll through the sea tunnel, if the tide allows. A picnic in the cove can be a special treat. For more information, call the park: 805/ 986-8591.

The Trippe Ranch entrance to TTan Fans Stop Hereopanga State Park, Los Angeles County - leads to an assortment of beautiful hikes. The entrance is located off Entrada road, of Topanga Canyon Boulevard, south from the 101 Freeway or north from the Pacific Coast Highway. Visitors can choose from a half-mile nature loop to extensive hikes all the way to Will Rogers State Historic Park (10 miles). There are towpaths to Eagle Rock, with views of the Santa Monica Bay, the San Gabriel Mountains, and Los Angeles. The fire road trail is a 2-1/2 mile round trip hike. The Musch Trail, through the chaparral, is a 4-1/2 mile round trip hike. The trails can be combined into a loop for a 3-1/2 mile hike. Park maps are available on weekends at the park entrance station for $2. For more information, call: 310/455-2465.

Santa Barbara/Ventura Area

Point Mugu State Park, Sycamore Canyon, Ventura County - Offers visitors a stroll through sycamore tree. From Oxnard n Highway 101, take the Pacific Coast Highway south through Oxnard for 15 minutes to Port Mugu State Park. Make a left into Sycamore Canyon. From the day use parking lot, walk straight back in the campground to the fire gate. Continue back as far as you like into the canyon and return the way you came. A tip for a family hike fun up and back game. Pick three significant features that do not move on the way up the trail and see who can find them first on the way back. For more information, call: 805/986-8591. This is a Watchable Wildlife area.

San Buenaventura State Beach, Ventura County - Is a great place to walk along the coast. From Freeway 101 take the Seaward Exit, turn right on Pierpont Boulevard. There's a paved bike trail/walkway that runs along the beach to the Ventura Pier, on the Surfer's Point, and ending at Emma Wood State Beach. The trail is about 1-1/2 miles long. From the trail, hikers enjoy the beach as well as the hills above the city. in the evening, sunsets can be spectacular. For more information, call: 805/648-4127 or 805/899-1400.

A bike trail/walkway also links
El Capitan State Beach with Refugio State Beach - Santa Barbara county. Both parks are located north of Santa Barbara on Highway 101. The trail is on a bluff overlooking the ocean with views of the Channel Islands. For more information, call: 805/968-1033 or 805/899-1400.

San Diego Area

San Onofre State Park -
Has six, ¼ mile hiking trails from the bluff to the beach. Visitors can choose a trail to the beach, then choose a different trail back. The bluff area is a coastal sage habitat area, which offers great views of the ocean below. Hikers transition from the sandstone bluffs to the warm, sandy beach below, which offers 3-1/2 miles of coastline for beachcombing.

There is parking at each trailhead with restrooms and drinking water available. ThGet Your Dive Gear Here Onlineere is signage at the park about the trails that lead to the beach. The beach is open from 6 am to 8 pm in winter. For more information, call: 949/492-0802.

Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego County - Has many scenic trails overlooking the beach. From Freeway 5, take the Carmel Valley road exit and proceed west on Carmel Valley Road, turn left on Highway 101. The Guy Fleming Trail is a short, relatively easy hike that runs through Torrey Pine trees and associated chaparral. From the trail, hikers enjoy spectacular sunsets in the evening. For more information, call: 858/755-2063. This is a Watchable Wildlife site.