Outside Magazine Lists the Best Hikes in Northern California National Parks. Here’s Our Take.

Photo by Saketh Garuda

A list of the best hikes in every National Park in America was compiled by Outside Magazine, including the three in Northern California. The comprehensive list was an incredible testament to the beauty of National Parks in the U.S.A., but did they get the NorCal hikes right? Let’s take a look at what they said and provide our own opinion on the matter.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

We all know that Lassen is the best hidden gem on the West Coast, and is chocked full of great hikes. Here’s what Outside Magazine rated as its best hike in the park:

The Expert: Sabrina Jurisich, Redding, California hiker
The Hike: Kings Creek Falls Trail

Walk along Lower Kings Creek Meadow past California red firs that are permanently bowed from heavy snow in the winter (yearly snowpack can be as deep as 15 feet). The end of this 2.3-mile loop has an overlook of Kings Creek Falls, cascading 30 feet down. 

Active NorCal’s Take:

Of the best hikes in Lassen, the Kings Creek Falls Trail (currently closed by the Dixie Fire) absolutely ranks in the top 3. But for our money, the hike to the top of Lassen Peak has to top the list of hikes in the park. The combination of summiting an active volcano, one that erupted just over 100 years ago, combined with seeing views of the entire park from the top, make it our favorite.

Read more about the hike to the top of Lassen Peak

Redwoods National Park

Northern California is world-renown for housing some of the oldest and largest trees on the planet, and most of them sit in the Redwoods National Park. There are many hikes in this park that can get you to the forefront of the beautiful redwood trees. Let’s see what Outside Magazine ranked as the best hike in the park:

The Expert: David Baselt, Redwood Hikes creator
The Hike: Boy Scout Tree Trail

You’ll be immersed in a large tract of coastal redwood forest on this 5.6-mile out-and-back. In Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park (managed jointly with the National Park Service), start early in the morning from the Boy Scout Tree Trailhead. At mile 2.5, you’ll encounter the Boy Scout Tree, a massive double redwood discovered by a local troop leader. The hike ends at Fern Falls. 

Active NorCal’s Take:

Flickr/Kirt Edblom

Determining the best hike in the Redwoods National and State Parks is a little difficult, since the National Park traverses through multiple regions and State Parks. The Boy Scout Tree Trailhead in the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park should certainly be high on the NorCal redwood bucket list, but for our money, the James Irvine Trail, which makes its way through Fern Canyon, is the best hike you’ll find.

Walking through Fern Canyon, hikers are greeted with 40-50 foot high walls covered in five fingered ferns, sword ferns, and delicate lady ferns. The area is so gorgeous that Steven Spielberg used it as a location in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. This hike should be on every NorCal bucket list, and that’s why it’s our best hike in the Redwoods National Park.

Learn more about the Illustrious Hike to Humboldt’s Fern Canyon

Yosemite National Park

Not only is Yosemite National Park one of the most famous parks in America, it’s definitely one of the top outdoor experiences in NorCal. There are so many hiking options in this massive park, let’s see what Outside Magazine chose as their favorite:

The Expert: Frank Dean, Yosemite Conservancy president
The Hike: Valley Loop Trail 

Yosemite’s trails are chocked with crowds, but you’ll have the Valley Loop Trail to yourself for 11.5 miles. From Lower Yosemite Fall, the trail traces old wagon roads through meadows, with views of El Capitan.

Active NorCal’s Take

It’s hard to contradict the president of the Yosemite Conservancy, but that’s exactly what we’re about to do. Dean chose to list a remote hike, which is understandable, but to get the full Yosemite experience, trekking to the top of Half Dome is a must-do hike.

Rising nearly 5,000 feet above Yosemite Valley and 8,800 feet above sea level, Half Dome is a Yosemite National Park icon and a great challenge to many hikers. The 14- to 16-mile round-trip hike to Half Dome is not for you if you’re out of shape or unprepared. The most famous – or infamous – part of the hike is the ascent up the cables. The two metal cables allow hikers to climb the last 400 feet to the summit without rock climbing equipment.

Learn more about the Thrilling Hike to the Top of Yosemite’s Half Dome

What did we get wrong? Let us know in the comments!

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California
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