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Best mountains to hike in CA?

I would like to take several amazing backpacking adventures this Spring and Summer.

Does anyone have a mountain they have climbed/hiked that they recommend?


Many thanks!

14 Replies

You have the entire Sierra Nevada with all sorts of degrees of difficulty.  Mt. Whitney would be an outstanding example - accessible by trail (no technical difficulties whatsoever) and also by the Mountaineers Route (a class 3 scramble) and two classic East Face routes (5.6, rope and protection required).  I believe there are also more difficult routes more recently established. The biggest obstacle these days is getting a permit - all of these routes are very popular.

Same thing for Half Dome in Yosemite; getting the permit is a significant obstacle.  Aside from that, grab a current Sierra Nevada guidebook and choose among the many less frequented peaks.

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There is so much. 

You can start with the 9 National Parks which include Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Lassen, Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia.  Also PCT National Scenic trail runs the length of California and links the last 4 of those so you could section hike part of that.  The JMT shares much of the same route in the Sierras linking the last 4.  There is also the Tahoe Rim Trail and the High Sierra Trail.  The Lost Coast is another popular trail.  For spring, Death Valley and Joshua Trees provide desert scenery.  There are numerous undesignated trails in all these and many other scenic areas.  The popular areas and trails require permits and fees which are usually have a quotas and need to be reserved well in advance.  In the past for many popular areas a number of first come first served wilderness permits were available by visiting the local NP/NFS wilderness office the day before.  However the pandemic has changed that process so you will need to check the rules for the particular area.  See for information on particular National Forests and for information on particular National Parks.  See for federal properties reservations.  For CA state properties see .   

Briefly, these are wild areas and while they can be fairly well traveled at peak times and popular car accessible places can get very crowded, often they are not.  For all wideness trips you should be able to be self sufficient within your group being able to navigate and protect yourself and be equipped for variable weather and other conditions like avalanche, snow melt run off, electrical storms and wildfires depending on the season and area.  You should also be able to provide yourself with basic first aid and know about the water source situation in the area you travel.  It is generally necessary to filter or otherwise purify all wild water.  Ticks and mosquitos can be problematic as can poison oak  which is common in sub alpine and coastal areas.   Generally you need to have a valid CA fire permit and you must observe any fire restrictions that are in force.  You should be aware that bears, mountain lions and rattle snakes live in many of CAs wilderness areas and while they are not generally a threat you should educate yourself on the actual dangers, take reasonable precautions and be aware of your surroundings.  In some areas you are required to carry and store your food in a designated bear proof canister.  In all bear area you need to hang or otherwise protect the bears from your food.  Rodents can also be an issue.

correction...The JMT shares much of the same route in the Sierras linking the last 3.  

Despite the fact that I'm within time to edit the post,  this site is broken and always says...

"Sorry unable to create the action you requested"  Tried with Firefox and edge.

I vote for all of the above!  Sierras!  Or is it..the Sierra?  I'm always confused about the correct use of singular/plural of the Sierra Nevada.

REI Member Since 1979

@Philreedshikes  "Sierra" means mountain range or mountains so Sierra is intrinsically plural in Spanish if you want to get technical.    The Sierra Nevada basically means the snowy mountains.   However,  unless you are speaking Spanish it is perfectly reasonable to anglicize to "the Sierras" so long as you are clear on the context.  Just be aware that it is not a unique name and there are many other mountain ranges know as Sierra "Something" around the world including several known as the Sierra Nevada, variously in Mexico, Chile and Argentina and Spain.  Referring to any of those,  as "the Sierras" would probably be wrong.


"Sierra" refers to the teeth of a saw.

"Nevada" - snow covered

The Sierra Nevada

The High Sierras

"The Sierra" don't fly.

Language is funny, revealing.


@Former community member Interesting.  I looked it up and indeed "sierra" does mean both "mountain range" and "saw" in Spanish. I had not heard that before.

Sorry but everyone says "the sierras"  so that ship has sailed, technically correct or not.  Language evolves.


I say "Sierras". I walked by Mt Guyot last year. I'll walk near another this year. Attention to detail, Old One.


@Former community member Oops sorry. I misread your post.   And I came across more insistent than I actually apologies for that too.

However, I disagree..."The Sierra" is also fine.

I'm doubtful that "sierra" in this context, the Sierra Nevada in the US, refers to the teeth of a saw but to the associated meaning of "mountain range". The connection between the two meanings is obvious but I suspect it is generic, unlike, say,  the Sawtooth Range in Idaho.  Possibly "Sierra" is only used when the mountain range has a "saw" like vista...linear and pointy...but I have not come across that qualification.

The Mt Guyot I am familiar with is this one...

and I have camped at Guyot Creek which is very nice.

However my moniker is boringly the creation of a name generator and not that mountain.  I am neither particularly old (nor young) nor a flat topped seamount strange as that may seem.