Preparing for Southern California’s toughest hikes: Five practical tips

Many people casually hike in Southern California – and there are plenty of routes that novices can tackle with relatively little struggle.

For those that are after a bit of a challenge, the region also has a lot to offer in terms of hikes that will leave you sore, tired and your muscles aching. But there’s something great about the feeling of accomplishment – you’ll always have the bragging rights of mastering those routes.

Mt. Baldy, Cucamonga Peak and iconic Mt. Whitney are essential not only for Los Angeles-area hikers but outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world. If you’ve got grand plans to tackle any of So Cal’s hardest hikes, here are five tips to help you prepare.

1. Get fit

It sounds obvious but there are plenty of occasions where you’ll see people really struggling on a hike, turning around and giving up or worse still, getting themselves into danger. No one wants to be in that position.

So research the difficulty of each hike and figure out if you have the levels of fitness needed. For example, Half Dome in Yosemite National Park is one of the most iconic mountains in California. The hike itself is difficult – but the “craziest part”, according to California Through My Lens, is that after seven miles of ascent, you have to pull yourself up the cables in order to reach the summit.

2. Start smaller and work your way up

One of the best ways to get fit is starting at a level you’re comfortable with and working in increments to expand that. Start with easier routes such as Keller Peak, a great training hike with outstanding views. Those with their sights on Whitney might consider White Mountain; it’s the easiest 14,000-foot peak in California. But, as the Last Adventurer says: “You will also have to acclimatise, and you will have to prepared with plenty of water, food, and you will have to be ready to deal with a lot of sun exposure during the climb.” Nothing good comes easy.

3. Have the right equipment – and break it in

If you’ve been hiking for a while, you’ll know how important a good pair of boots are. They keep your feet comfortable and protected, which is vital because, as the Secret Traveller says, your feet are your most important asset when you’re out trekking. So don’t be foolish and set off in a new pair of boots without breaking them in. Some hikes present unique obstacles that require specific gear, such as Mt. Baldy’s infamous “Devil’s Backbone” – a precarious stretch that will make you thankful for hiking poles.

4. Train with a friend

A lot of the toughest hikes could take a full day – or longer. And whilst it’s nice to enjoy your own freedom, it’s also nice, and safer, to go with a friend. If you don’t know anyone in your immediate circle who can join you, take to social media or sites such as MeetUp and you will find many other like-minded individuals.

If you’re heading off on your own, make sure you let someone know your route and destination.

5. Take your camera

 Southern California has some of the greatest views in the world and you can experience many of them easily – by driving higher or simply enjoying the view while eating.

But the best photos are worth the extra work and if you’re already going on a tough hike, it’s likely you’ll be passing some great photo opportunities. So take a quick break and capture the moment.

If you’re really into getting the perfect photo, you should take the following photography gear. Just remember to allocate a bit more time into your hike.

  1. Camera and one wide-angle zoom lens
  2. Extra batteries and memory cards
  3. Filters
  4. Small tripod
  5. Chest-mounted camera case

(Source: Cratfsy)

Have you trekked any of the toughest hikes in Southern California? What tips would you have? Let us know.


  1. Great info. It may sound obvious but it is often overlooked. With regard to bringing a camera, I would add to also bring proper lens cleaning solution & cloth. I borrowed a friend’s Sony Alpha A6000 to test it out on a hike instead of lugging my DSLR and almost all the photos were ruined by greasy fingerprints on the lenses.

    The camera was missing a lens cap. And even though I cleaned the lens before the hike, and even though I was careful not to touch the lens, it still got ridiculously gummed up with fingerprints just by handing the camera over to others whenever I was going to be in the photo. Part of the problem was the design of the Sony A6000. It’s not a easy camera to hold and everyone was grabbing it by the lens. Had I thought to bring the low weight lens cleaner and cloth, I could have cleaned the lens instead of letting all my photos get ruined.

    Anyway, thanks for the info.

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