Whether you’re a beginning hiker or advanced trekker, the Pacific Coast region offers a wealth of hiking trails. In fact, there are some that are perfectly suited just for you. For many hikers, the preferred destination is the Pacific Crest Trail, one of America’s first National Scenic Trails. But what if you prefer something less strenuous? Fortunately, there are places with spellbinding views and the natural beauty it’s so famous for.

Big Sur, California

Extending nearly 90 miles along the rugged California Coast, Big Sur is often considered to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. What’s more, it’s also one of the best hiking destinations on the Pacific Coast. Take for example its breathtaking ocean views all along Highway 1 between Carmel and San Simeon. That’s not to mention the vast Los Padres National Forest that appears to act as a fortress-like sentinel for the California Central Coast. Be that as it may, there are a few drawbacks in visiting this beautiful spot. Of course, the most obvious and annoying is the amount of sightseers and traffic that clog Highway 1. Moreover, the traffic is exceptionally bad on weekends and holidays.

Hiking Trails In Big Sur

Be that as it may, the most popular hiking trails are found near the small community of Big Sur. For instance Andrew Molera State Park, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Ventana Big Sur and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. In fact, the latter is world-renowned for its moderate, .6-mile Overlook Trail. Here you can see McWay Falls, one of the most photographed attractions in Big Sur. On the other hand, don’t overlook Pfeiffer State Park for hiking trails. Equally famous is Bixby Bridge, about half way between Carmel and Big Sur. However, the southern sections of Big Sur should not be ignored. Indeed, you may prefer the 500-acre Carmel Valley Ranch, Garrapata State Park and the must-see Point Lobos State Reserve. Point Lobos is not only closer, it has several trails for any level of hiking ability. What’s more, Point Lobos is so beautiful, it’s known as the “greatest meeting of land and sea”.

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Dana Point, California

Orange County is easily best known as the Southern California home to Disneyland. But this sun-drenched county is also famous for a segment of the California Coastal Trail. However, don’t overlook Salt Creek Beach Park near Monarch Beach. While the beaches of Huntington, Newport and Laguna get most of the attention, Monarch Beach in Dana Point also ranks among the best destinations. That’s because it borders Dana Point State Marine Conservation Area and Dana Point Headlands. So you may ask, what’s so special about Dana Point? It’s a mid-sized surf community with vistas that some say can compare with Big Sur. If that’s not enough for you, Dana Point is also the “dolphin and whale watching capital of the world”. After all that hiking, grab a bite at Bourbon Steak, inside the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach. However, you should make a reservation in advance before your arrival.

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Oswald West State Park, Oregon

Situated about 10 miles south of the City of Cannon Beach, Oswald West State Park is home to a stretch of the Oregon Coast Trail. Named after the 14th Governor of Oregon, the state park encompasses 2,448 acres but currently is open for day use only. Nevertheless, with no entrance fee, four miles of spectacular coastline and miles upon miles of family-friendly hiking trails, Oswald West State Park is, quite simply, as good as it gets. Visitors should also hike along the trails at Cannon Beach, arguably Oregon’s most popular Pacific coastal destination. In fact, Oswald ranks at or near the top as Oregon’s best coastal destination. On the other hand, make sure you bring layers of clothing as the weather may be change. After all, you’ll be hiking in one of the world’s last remaining rainforests.

Point Reyes National Seashore, California 

Located about 30 miles northwest of San Francisco in Marin County, Point Reyes National Seashore is the only National Seashore on the Pacific Coast. What’s more, you can enjoy some of the most spectacular views in Northern California. Occupying more than 71,000 acres, this park preserve is well noted for its amazing backcountry campsites, approximately 150 miles of Pacific hiking trails, an abundance of marine life and some of the cleanest beaches in California. Other notable hiking spots at Point Reyes are Tomales Bay and Inverness. After a day full of hiking, you can extend your visit by staying in nearby communities like Mill Valley and Corte Madera.

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Shi Shi Beach, Washington

Despite the likelihood of crowds over summer, Shi Shi Beach is as one recent visitor described as “unforgettable, amazing and breathtaking”. A part of the sprawling Olympic National Park in northwestern Washington state, Shi Shi Beach features a moderate, out and back trail. Further beyond, it leads simply to the beach or a bit further to the highly recommended Point of Arches rock formations. Day hikers must purchase a $10 Makah Recreation Pass that can be purchased at several businesses in Neah Bay and is valid for the entire calendar year. Olympic National Park itself is a haven for hikers, with 101 hiking trails. Among the top trails to hike there are the 4.1-mile Mount Storm King and 3.4-mile Hurricane Hill.

About The Author

Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who served as the National Travel Writer for CBS from 2012-2019. More than 900 of his stories still appear in syndication across 23 CBS websites. This includes CBS New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. During his peak years, Randy had a reported digital audience reach of 489 million and 5.5 million monthly visitors. Additionally, his stories have appeared in the Daily Meal, CBS News, CBS Radio and Engadget. He earned a Media Fellowship from Stanford University in 2012.

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