The Most Difficult Hiking Trails in California

By Rob Cramer on February 13 2020 in Travel

A view from the top of Telescope Peak in Death Valley National Park.
A view from the top of Telescope Peak in Death Valley National Park.
  • Grizzly Creek Trail ascends 5,400 feet
  • Hikers require a permit for the trail to Half Dome
  • Telescope Peak rises 11,049 feet above sea level and the trail ascends 3,000 feet

California is one of the most popular travel destinations for hikers. The state is filled with mountains, hills, deserts, and stunning forests. Hikers can experience a wealth of nature in the state's national parks. Both Yosemite National Park and Death Valley National Park are filled with world-class hiking trails. California has hiking trails for all skill levels, but some of the trails in the state are only for the most skilled hikers.

Mount Baldy Loop

Mount Baldy

The hike to Mount Baldy is extremely difficult, and it will take you all day. The trail ascends a staggering 3,990 feet, and many hikers have failed to complete the eleven-mile round trip. Hikers have to deal with numerous hazards along the way such as altitude sickness and difficult terrain. Do not attempt the hike in winter unless you are an experienced mountaineer. On a clear day, hikers are treated to picturesque views that span all the way to the Mojave Desert.

Telescope Peak Trail

Telescope Peak is the tallest point in Death Valley National Park. The trail to the peak is grueling and extremely challenging. The trail is fourteen miles round trip, and it takes most hikers seven hours to complete. You will need to acclimate yourself to the high elevation. The trail ascends 3,000 feet. Hikers get to experience an abundance of wildflowers and stunning views on this hike. Telescope Peak is 11,049 feet above sea level, and on a clear day, you can see as far as the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Half Dome Trail

The hike to Half Dome from Yosemite Valley is one of the most difficult in the USA. The sixteen-mile hike can be very rewarding thanks to stunning views of the High Sierra and Yosemite Valley. Along the way, you can take in the beauty of Vernal and Nevada Falls. Most hikers complete the trek in about twelve hours. However, you need to be prepared. Get a permit before you go, and make sure you train. Thousands complete the hike every year, but some hikers are injured and need to be rescued by park rangers.

Grizzly Creek Trail

Even extremely experienced hikers have difficulty completing the hike to Grizzly Falls in less than twelve hours. Grizzly Lake and the Trinity Alps offer picturesque views. The fourteen-mike hike is one of the most grueling in all of Northern California. If you hike the Grizzly Creek Trail you will be treated to amazing views of granite formations. Hikers can also take in views of a breathtaking waterfall and glacier. The trail ascends 5,400 feet.

Northern and Southern California

There are challenging hiking trails all over California. Grizzly Creek Trail in Northern California has drastically different scenery than the desert-like trails in the south. Death Valley National Park is home to the strenuous Telescope Peak Trail. Travelers visiting Yosemite National Park might attempt the difficult trail that leads to Half Dome. Mount Baldy is 10,064 feet, which makes it the highest peak in Los Angeles County. The Mount Baldy Loop can be a chore for even the most experienced hikers. The Devil's Backbone portion of the hike has steep drops on both sides.

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