Whether you’re a beginning hiker or an advanced trekker, the Pacific Coast region offers a wealth of hiking trails that are perfectly suited just for you, your friends or loved ones. For many hikers, the preferred destination is the legendary Pacific Crest Trail, one of America’s first National Scenic Trails that extends 2,650 miles from the desert and Sierra Nevada regions of California, through the Cascades of Oregon and Washington and then into British Columbia, Canada. But what if you prefer equally scenic hiking trails spellbinding views of not only the Pacific Ocean but also 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. It’s also, quite easily, one of the best hiking destinations on the Pacific Coast, with breathtaking ocean views all along Highway 1 between Carmel and San Simeon, and the vast Los Padres National Forest that appears to act as a fortress-like sentinel for the California Central Coast.
Hiking Trails In Big Sur
Many of the most popular hiking trails are found near the small community of Big Sur, such as Andrew Molera State Park, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Ventana Big Sur and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, world-renowned for its moderate, .6-mile Overlook Trail to view its famous McWay Falls, one of the most photographed attractions in Big Sur, along with the equally famous Bixby Bridge. However, the northern section of Big Sur should not be ignored, with the 500-acre Carmel Valley Ranch, Garrapata State Park and the must-see Point Lobos State Reserve, which landscape artist Francis McComas once called it the “greatest meeting of land and sea”, all blessed with several hiking trails to meet any level of ability.
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Dana Point, California
Orange County is easily best known as the Southern California home to Disneyland, the world-famous park named the “Happiest Place On Earth”. But this sun-drenched county just south of Los Angeles is also famous for its sandy beaches that run along a small segment of the California Coastal Trail. While the beaches of Huntington, Newport and Laguna get most of the attention, Monarch Beach in Dana Point also ranks among the best destinations on the Pacific Coast for hiking. That’s because it’s bounded by the Dana Point State Marine Conservation Area and Dana Point Headlands
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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 coastal destination.
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. Occupying more than 71,000 acres, this park preserve is well noted for its amazing backcountry campsites, approximately 150 miles of 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.
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.
About the Author:
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who has covered national/international travel for CBS Local and all things San Francisco for CBS San Francisco. He is a Media Fellow of Stanford University and a member of the Freelance Council of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW).
He is a lifelong resident of Santa Cruz County, in California.