Greetings readers and hikers, I hope this has been a happy, fun and successful year for you all! As is tradition on this site, for the last post of the year we present a list of the highlights from the last 365 days. It was a banner year for NHLA – we passed one million total page views, set a single-day record for traffic, started a relationship with Sports Chalet, continued to network with other sites and publishers promoting hiking, such as the “Longest Straw” crew. More than one hundred hikes – from Santa Barbara to the high desert to Joshua Tree to the Anza-Borrego Desert – were written up and here are the best of them. Enjoy!
#14) Devil’s Punchbowl
Definitely one of the best short hikes in all of Southern California, the Devil’s Punchbowl showcases unusual geology, panoramic views of the high desert and the towering north slope of the San Gabriel Mountains.
#13) Rattlesnake Canyon
Steep but scenic, this is one of Santa Barbara’s most popular hiking trails. Your efforts for 1,700 feet of climbing are rewarded with outstanding ocean and mountain views.
#12) Butler Peak
Home to the highest lookout tower in the San Bernardino National Forest, the hike to Butler Peak leads through lofty pine forests with views all around.
#11) Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve
It’s hard not to like the little mountain town of Julian. Case in point: this large pocket of open space, where you can lose yourself in the wide open fields and rolling hills.
#10) Romero Canyon
Excellent ocean vistas, mountain views and shaded oak woodlands are among the highlights of this popular Santa Barbara hike.
#9) West Mesa Loop
Alpine meadows, oak and pine forests, excellent mountain views and the historic Airplane Monument make this hike one of the best in all of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.
#8) Horsethief Creek
In the dry transition zone between the Coachella Valley and the Santa Rosa Mountains, Horsethief Creek is a pleasant surprise, offering a truly remote hiking experience and a variety of geological and botanical scenery.
Want to escape the crowds on Santa Cruz Island? The middle portion of this largest of the Channel Islands is lightly traveled and Del Norte Trail Camp is a perfect day hike destination (or, as its name suggests, a camping destination).
This remote and rugged area of north San Diego County challenges hikers but also rewards them with excellent views of the Palomar Mountains, the Santa Rosas, Garner Valley and more.
#5) Mt. Wilson/Devore Camp Loop
Mt. Wilson as a reverse hike? Why not? This 11-mile loop descends via the Kenyon Devore Trail and returns via the Gabrielino and Rim Trails, providing passage through Mt. Wilson’s remote north slope.
#4) Ryan Mountain
With 360-degree summit views including San Gorgonio and San Jacinto Mountain, there’s a reason why Ryan Mountain is Joshua Tree’s most popular summit
History and phenomenal views come together in this hike, which explores the route of the Mt. Lowe Railroad. The Sam Merrill and Echo Mountain Trails provide vistas of the L.A. Basin while the Castle Canyon Trail explores some of the area’s geological features. In between is Inspiration Point, where almost all of So Cal is visible.
#2) High Point
The highest point in the Palomar Mountains offers predictably exciting scenery. Supposedly a fire 200 miles away in Santa Barbara was once spotted from this lookout and when you experience the views from the summit, it’s not hard to believe.
#1) Mt. Hawkins Loop
The best NHLA hike of 2014 is this outstanding 13-mile loop in the Angeles National Forest. Visiting both South Hawkins and Mt. Hawkins, this epic route provides amazing views of the L.A. Basin, the high desert, San Gabriel Canyon and more.
Well, it’s been a great year and thank all of you readers for making this site your go-to resource for information about hikes. Let’s all get out there and have a great 2015!