Hiking in California can be one of the most rewarding experiences of all time. Having easy access to all those gorgeous trails means you get a built-in (and free!) activity to enjoy as often as you like.
Nearly everywhere in the state offers some type of hiking. Deciding which area suits you bets will depend on what type of hiking you enjoy, and how close to your destination you'd like to live.
We'll look at the best spots in a little more detail so you can decide which suits your hiking style best.
San Jose: Redwoods and Sequoias
This tech town is just minutes away from some of the most majestic trees in California. The Sequoia is the world's most massive tree by volume, and the Redwood is the largest tree by height. San Jose gives you easy access to travel to parks like Big Basin and Muir Woods, where you can get an up-close and personal view of these marvelous giants.
From Senador Mine to Coyote Peak, the variety is enough to make anyone appreciate a good walk in the woods.
Malibu: Shining Seas and Adventurous Trails
From Solstice Canyon to Escondido Falls, Malibu is a treasure trove for hiking. Plus, you're a hop, skip, and a jump from Topanga Canyon, where your view from the top includes the Santa Monica, Santa Susana, and San Gabriel Mountains.
You may have to contend with a few tourists if you decide to call this area your home base for hiking, but the Santa Monica Mountains are also well-maintained and preserved. There are plenty of routes that stray from the beaten path when you're ready to take on something new. And when you're really ready to push yourself, head out to Mount Baldy for a day trip you'll never forget.
Carmel: Sea Lions and Big Sur
Marine life, coastal birds, sea cliffs, and smugglers coves are all waiting for you in Carmel. Many trails in this area offer epic panoramic views of the shore and let you experience a variety of wildlife everywhere you look.
This coastal area also puts you just over a half-hour away from the iconic Big Sur, a natural paradise that's made even more memorable by the ever-changing terrain. Explore the wildflowers on a day trip or reserve a camp spot and extend your trip for more adventure.
Fresno: Inland Hiking and Yosemite
Fresno has several hiking trails, most of which feature rivers and lakes. These paths tend to be paved and made for hikers who are at the beginner level. Fresno's real value for hikers lies in its location just over an hour away from Yosemite.
Yosemite National Park boasts stories-high waterfalls, dramatic peaks, and towering trees. There's a reason people in every corner of the earth have heard of Yosemite and keep the park packed all summer long. This is an extraordinary place with a wondrous variety of hikes to keep you wandering unendingly.
San Diego: Stars and Flowers
Known for its Laguna Mountains, San Diego is filled with trails for every skill level. Whether you're looking for an easy hike filled with bright blooms or a challenging night trek that'll leave you breathless under a twinkling sky, countless wide open spaces will make you see this state in a very new way.
This city is also big on wildlife rescues, which is just one reason why the San Diego Zoo is one of the most famous in the world. No matter where you settle in or around this city, you're sure to have ample opportunity to learn more about native wildlife and the threats they face regularly.
Deciding Which Hiking Destination Will Be Home
If you prefer to hike short distances regularly, you might want to settle down near Malibu, where hiking is right outside your front door. But if you're willing to travel a little further and regularly find yourself with a few days to spare for hiking, stationing yourself near Big Sur or Yosemite would afford you a variety of long hikes and extended adventure.
When you consider where you want to live in California, remember that there's no wrong answer if you're an avid hiker. You'll never be too far from various terrain options and skill levels wherever in the state you choose.