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10 of the Most Scenic Hikes on the West Coast
January 19, 2020
There really isn’t anything more rewarding than a hike with a killer view at the end. Being out in nature, breathing fresh air, and getting exercise all at once is pretty awesome and when you throw in a panoramic view of mountains, the ocean, or canyons, you really can’t top it. And although there are countless gorgeous views to be seen on hikes along the West Coast, there are some hikes with views that will truly make you want to pinch yourself. You’ll have to put in some work but the vistas at the end of these treks are totally worth it.
Here are 10 hikes on the West Coast with views that are unbelievably beautiful.
1. Hike to Artist Point in Yosemite
Avoid the crowds at the popular tourist spot at Tunnel View and take the short hike to Artist Point in Yosemite National Park instead. The in-and-out trail is an easy 2 miles with less than 500 feet of elevation gain. When you reach the valley clearing, there is a giant boulder for you to relax and take in the stunning views of Yosemite Valley. You’ll want to park at the Tunnel View parking lot and start on The Pohono Trail for half a mile. After a few switchbacks, you’ll reach a junction—take a left on the old stagecoach road until you reach the valley in another half a mile. You’ll recognize the famous view immediately.
2. Hike to Glen Alpine Falls and Grass Lake near Lake Tahoe
This scenic hike, located just south of Lake Tahoe, is crazy gorgeous in the spring when wildflowers are blooming—but you really can’t go wrong whenever you choose to go. You’ll be surrounded by mountain views with alpine forests, lakes, and waterfalls—basically, every turn is a photo-op. Park at the Glen Alpine Trailhead next to Lily Lake and head west on the Glen Alpine Creek Trail, take in the views of Lily Lake on your left. Continue for a mile and a half before you reach that Instagram-worth Alpine Falls. One more mile west and you’ll have more beautiful sights at Grass Lake—enjoy some lunch and take in your surroundings before you head back the way you came for a 5-mile roundtrip hike.
3. Hike the Andrew Molera State Park Loop near Big Sur
Redwood groves, coastal bluffs, and secluded beaches surrounded by driftwood? Yes, please. This 8.8-mile loop trail is located 4.5 miles north of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park off Highway 1 and starts at the Andrew Molera State Park parking lot. First, you’ll cross the Big Sur River either by foot or a seasonal bridge where you’ll reach the River Trail. Walk along gorgeous meadows then up into oak and redwood forests. Take a right at the junction onto Creamery Trail where you’ll be greeted by the beach—take your time to explore before heading back up to River Trail and taking a right at the Bluffs Trail junction. Get your camera ready because the ocean bluffs are literally breathtaking and you’ll want to have photo proof of this magic. Take your time exploring Panorama Trail where you’ll notice a slight path to the left leading you to a secluded beach where you’ll probably have the entire place to yourself. You’re welcome.
4. Hike to the Top of Otay Mountain
If you’re looking for a challenging hike with epic 360-degree views, this is it. At the top of Otay Mountain, you’ll be mind-blown with the views of San Diego, Tijuana, mountains, and the ocean. If you wanted to hike the entire trail, you’re looking at a moderately-difficult 15.3-mile roundtrip excursion. However, you can also opt to drive up the mountain and catch the trail at a different point to shave off some mileage. Go for a day hike or set up camp for the night, either way, be sure to bring plenty of water.
5. Hike to the Summit of Saddle Mountain near the Oregon Coast
Saddle Mountain, located just 13 miles west of Cannon Beach, Oregon, is a popular but difficult hike with a 360-degree view at the top that will have you thinking deep thoughts about spirituality. The hike is 5 miles round trip but expect a 1,900-foot elevation gain that will definitely have your lungs pumping. When you reach the summit, on a clear day you’ll see the Pacific Ocean and miles of the Oregon and Washington coastline to the west and Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and even Mt. Bachelor on a clear day. From Hwy 26, take the Saddle Mountain exit and follow the road until you reach the trailhead.
6. Hike to All Ten Waterfalls at Silver Falls State Park near Salem
Located just outside of the state’s capital Salem is the small town of Sublimity—home to Silver Falls State Park. Inside Oregon’s largest state park, visitors can hike 24-miles of trails and take in the glory of the park’s 10 impressive waterfalls—half of which are over 100 feet high. Between the waterfalls, lush forest, and rock formations, you’ll feel like you’re in a whimsical fairytale land. Head 30 miles east from Salem on either Hwy 22 or Hwy 214 and follow the signs for Silver Falls State Park.
7. Hike Misery Ridge at Smith Rock
Smith Rock is a popular rock climbing spot because of the mind-boggling rock formations jutting out of the earth. The strange landscape surrounded by a winding river in Central Oregon is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state and for good reason—the views are other-worldly. Misery Ridge is a moderate 3.8-mile loop trail with views of Monkey Face and Crooked River. From Bend, head north on Hwy 97 and take the Terrebonne/Smith Rock exit and follow signs to the Smith Rock State Park Welcome Center.
8. Hike to the Lighthouse at Cape Disappointment
At the very southwestern tip of Washington is the picturesque Cape Disappointment. Once an old military site, Cape Disappointment is far from disappointing. Located at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River, this peninsula juts out into the Pacific Ocean with forest-covered cliffsides that drop right into the crashing waves below. Trails weave you through dense rainforest with fir trees and lush, green ferns where you’ll reach a secluded beach called Dead Man’s Cove then work your way up to a still-working lighthouse that was opened in 1848.
9. Hike Dog Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge
This is a hike that will definitely get your heart pumping and your legs burning but the 6.5-mile roundtrip trail ends with remarkable views that will be etched in your brain forever. Located off Hwy 14 on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area is Dog Mountain. Start off with an easy hike through forest before making the difficult, switchback ascent to the summit where you’ll end with outrageous views of the winding Columbia River. Come in the springtime to add brightly-colored wildflowers to the mix but be sure to get a parking permit first.
10. Hike Hoh Rain Forest Loop in Olympic National Park
If you want to feel transported away to a mystical and majestic land, just hike the Hoh Rain Forest Loop. Located on the west side of Olympic National Park, this short 1.4-mile loop trail walks you through a lush canopy of trees, ferns, and mosses—you’re completely surrounded by green which gives the trail a truly enchanted feel. It’s a great hike to step out of the normal grind for just a moment and be in awe of nature.
Written by Ashley Brewer for Knockaround.