View from Eureka Peak, Joshua Tree National Park

Top 16 of ’16!

Kern River, Sequoia National Forest, CA
View of the Kern River from the Packsaddle Cave trail (#5)
Barker Valley, Palomar Mountains, San Diego County, CA
Barker Valley, Palomar Mountains (#11)
Mine Gulch, San Gabriel Mountains, CA
Mine Gulch (#9)
La Jolla Trail, Figueroa Mountains, Santa Barbara, CA
Sunset from the La Jolla Trail, Figueroa Mountains (#6)

Thank you readers for a terrific 2016! It was another landmark year for NHLA with more than 180,000 people visiting the site and receiving awards from outlets such as HealthListed and FeedSpot. The food drive/hike event “Will Hike For Food: Rocky Peak” helped the West Valley Food Pantry help those in need. More than 100 new hikes were written up and posted on the site, including trails in areas such as San Luis Obispo and southern Sierras…a bit of a journey from L.A. perhaps, but still easily accessible to adventurous hikers. Without further ado, we bring you the top 16 hikes of 2016. Best wishes everyone for a happy, safe and successful 2017 on and off the trails!

#16) Sisar Canyon to White Ledge Campground

The entire 16-mile Sisar Canyon/White Ledge Loop is popular among backpackers (and ambitious day hikers.) A good goal for those who aren’t up to the whole thing is the out-and-back to White Ledge Trail Camp, featuring excellent views of the Ojai Valley and an attractive stroll under oaks alongside a seasonal stream.

#15) Gene Marshall Trail to Upper Reyes Trail Camp

This hike explores the remote back country of northern Ventura County, traversing steep ridges and ducking into thick oak and pine woodlands.

#14) Bishop Peak

The Central Coast is a destination that should not be overlooked by L.A. hikers. Bishop Peak offers outstanding views of San Luis Obispo’s coastal plain, plus attractive woodlands and unusual geological formations.

#13) Combs Peak

The highest point in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Combs Peak is located in an isolated corner of San Diego County. A peaceful jaunt on the Pacific Crest Trail leads to a steep ascent to the summit, whose prominence enables views in all directions.

#12) Davy Brown/Willow Springs Loop

Hikers who don’t mind bushwhacking through poison oak will be treated to a memorable, challenging trip on the north slope of Figueroa Mountain. This five-mile loop visits lush canyons, alpine meadows and pine forests in this scenic corner of Santa Barbara County. Just remember to wear long pants and sleeves.

#11) Barker Valley

One of three reverse hikes to make this list, Barker Valley is a remote destination in the eastern Palomar Mountains of San Diego County. This corner of the Palomars has a desert feel that contrasts the more wooded higher slopes to the west, but when the trail drops into shaded Barker Valley, it truly feels like an escape. With a long drive on a dirt road required to reach the trail head, this is a hike where getting there is half the fun.

#10) Eureka Peak

Joshua Tree National Park’s fourth tallest summit offers wide-ranging desert and mountain views. Sure, one can drive almost the whole way up, but the vistas of San Gorgonio, San Jacinto and the Coachella Valley are all the more memorable when they are earned with a nearly 10-mile hike.

#9) Mine Gulch

This trip dives into the heart of one of the most rugged corners of the San Gabriel Mountains: the headwaters of the East Fork between Mt. Baden-Powell and Mt. Baldy. Panoramic mountain views and secluded canyons are among the highlights of this hike.

#8) Sugarloaf Mountain

Its rocky trail and lack of a true 360-degree panorama from the summit may hurt its reputation, but with excellent desert and mountain views and beautiful pine forests on the way up, this, the tallest San Bernardino Mountains peak outside of the San Gorgonio Wilderness should not be missed.

#7) Tecuya Mountain

Why isn’t this mountain better known among L.A. hikers? For that matter, why don’t the San Emigdio Mountains get the same love as the San Gabriels or San Bernardinos? Just over an hour from the Santa Clarita Valley and easily doable as a day trip from Los Angeles, Tecuya offers a 360-degree vista of the San Gabriels, Cuddy Valley, the San Joaquin Valley, the Tehachapi Mountains and more.

#6) La Jolla Trail to Upper Ballard Camp

Rolling meadows, a secluded creek, pine-crested mountains and with a little luck ocean views are a few of the highlights of this short but memorable trip in Santa Barbara County’s Figueroa Mountains. To be sure, this destination is a bit of a drive for most L.A. area hikers, but worth the effort to reach.

#5) Packsaddle Cave

In addition to the Central Coast, another new area explored this year was the southern Sierras. Packsaddle Cave might not be a household name outside of the Kern River Valley, which itself isn’t a household name, but with mountain views, secluded canyons and the cave itself–and without the crowds of Yosemite–this is one hike that should not be missed.

#4) Corte Madera Mountain

This website doesn’t have anything against Yosemite–really, it doesn’t–but the fact is that much of what is loved about that park can be found in spots closer to home, with fewer crowds and red tape. Case in point: Corte Madera Mountain, often called the Half Dome of San Diego County. How does it stack up against its famous counterpart to the north? With views in all directions, both oak and pine woodlands, bizarre geological formations and almost guaranteed solitude–not too badly.

#3) Mt. Wilson Trail

Sometimes the time-tested ways are best. The original Mt. Wilson Trail is still regarded by many as the preferred route, more than a century and a half after “Don Benito” built it.

#2) San Bernardino Peak

Though it’s not as tall as neighboring San Gorgonio Mountain, San Bernardino Peak’s prominent, pointy shape is recognizable throughout the Inland Empire and can often be seen from Orange County and Los Angeles on clear days. As the westernmost major summit in the range, it features a trail with almost entirely unobstructed views.

#1) San Gorgonio Mountain via Vivian Creek Trail

Just like Mt. Wilson, the original is sometimes the best. The Vivian Creek Trail is the oldest route to Southern California’s tallest mountain (and until the Lake Fire restrictions are lifted, the only legal one). Nonstop views on the entire way up and, needles to say, from the top–plus bragging rights–make this difficult hike more than worth it.

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