2020 First Day Hikes Park List
This New Year’s Day 2020, California State Parks will participate in the 10th Annual First Day Hikes at parks across the state. This national-led effort encourages people to experience the beautiful natural and cultural resources found in the outdoors with a seasoned guide so that they may be inspired to take advantage of these treasures throughout the year.
Dedicated docents, volunteers and staff will show visitors the wonders of California’s state parks. Distance and rigor will vary per hike/activity, so visitors are encouraged to check out details of start times and description of hikes. For a complete list and detailed information on the California State Park’s First Day Hikes, please visit the First Day Hikes webpage.
Visitors are encouraged to share their experiences on social media using the hashtags: #HikeInto2020, #FirstDayHike and #CAStateParks.
In alphabetical order by County
(Updated December 18, 2019)
El Dorado County
Monument Trail to Monroe Ridge Trail: The hike offers an easy way to access the James Marshall Monument, and is the burial site of James W. Marshall, the discoverer of gold in Coloma, January 24, 1848, which started the Gold Rush of 1849. The hike then continues on to the Monroe Ridge Trail. This trail offers views of the community of Lotus in the valley below, and a view of the Coloma Valley and South Fork of the American River. The elevation is 700 feet above sea level at the museum. However, it changes to 1,276 feet above sea level at the highest point on the trail. Meet at the park museum at 10 a.m. This is an easy hike up to the monument, then strenuous to moderate on Monroe Ridge Trail. Children should be age 13 or older. No pets or strollers please. Boots are recommended. Bring a water bottle, snack and wear layered clothes. Heavy rain will cancel. For cancellation information, call (530) 622-3470.
Monument Trail: The Monument Trail offers an easy way to access the James Marshall Monument and is the burial site of James W. Marshall, the discoverer of gold in Coloma, January 24, 1848. An easy 1/2-mile hike up to the monument, then all downhill. Children should be a minimum of 9 years. Bring a water bottle and wear layered clothing. Boots recommended. No pets permitted. Meet in front of the park museum at 11 a.m. For cancellation information, call (530) 622-3470.
Nightmare Gulch Trail: Hike into Nightmare Gulch with a side trip into the well-hidden “Secret Silent City.” The strenuous route begins with a scramble over three ridges to enjoy the fabulous views, with an elevation gain/loss of approximately 3000 feet. This hike is not for beginners, and dogs are not allowed on this guided hike—no exceptions. Wear layered clothing and bring plenty of water and snacks/lunch; hikers are responsible for their own health and safety. Meet at 9 a.m. in the dirt parking lot on the east side of Hwy 14, ¾ mile north of Abbot Road in Cantil. Participants will be back by approximately 4 p.m.; only heavy rain will cancel. For cancellation information, we will post on our Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RedRockCanyonStatePark.
The McVicar Trail and the Cache Creek, Marsh and Ridge Trail Loop: Hikers will experience grasslands, oak woodlands, willow and cottonwood riparian habitats and the tule marsh habitat of the Anderson Marsh Natural Preserve. Hikers may encounter a variety of migrating and resident birds and other wildlife. Participants on both hikes are welcome to walk partway and make an early return at their own pace. Both hikes begin at noon at the park off Highway 53, between Lower Lake and Clear Lake. Children of all ages are welcome. Participants should wear sturdy shoes and a hat. Bring water, snacks and binoculars if you have them.
Steady rain will cancel – to confirm or check for cancelation information, call (707) 995-2658 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our Facebook page.
Kelsey Creek Trail: The hike will be an easy hike about 1.5 miles in length on the improved, relatively flat, Kelsey Creek Trail. We will also walk along the shore of Clear Lake to view: Western and Clark's Grebes, American White Pelicans, assorted ducks, cormorants, gulls and if we are lucky, an American Bald Eagle or two. Meet at 9 a.m. at the visitor center parking lot. Dress for the weather and have sturdy walking/hiking shoes. Bring water, snacks, binoculars and a camera. No pets please. Call (707) 279-4293 for cancellation information.
Los Angeles County
Saddleback Butte Peak Trail: This is a 5-mile, moderate-to-strenuous hike with 1,000 feet of altitude gain that will offer incredible views across the Mojave Desert. Layered clothing highly recommended; it can be very windy at the top. Meet at Saddleback Butte State Park visitor center at the day-use area at 9 a.m. Location: 17102 East Avenue J, Lancaster (corner of 170th St E and East Avenue J, 19 miles east of Hwy 14, near Lake Los Angeles). Please bring water, sun protection, comfortable hiking shoes, layered clothing, snack and optional lunch to enjoy in the park’s picnic area after returning from the hikes. Children of all ages are welcome. No pets allowed. For cancellation information, check www.Facebook.com/SaddlebackButte.
Hike Across the Park: This 4.3 mile, 1 ¾-hour easy-to-moderate hike is about three hours roundtrip; 1000 foot of elevation gain to an incredible view across the Mojave Desert. This is a great winter’s hike. We will meet at the visitor center at the park day-use area at 10 a.m. Location: 17102 East Avenue J, Lancaster (corner of 170th St E and East Avenue J, 19 miles east of Hwy 14, near Lake Los Angeles). Please bring water, sun protection, comfortable hiking shoes, walking stick, layered clothing, snack and optional lunch to enjoy in the park’s picnic area after returning from the hikes. Children of all ages are welcome, no pets allowed. For cancellation information, check www.Facebook.com/SaddlebackButte.
Dowen Nature Trail: This ½, ranger-led interpretive tour along the nature trail is an easy hike that will offer a chance to learn about the unique natural and cultural history of the local area. This loop has a mild elevation gain and will take about an hour to complete. It is wheelchair/stroller accessible. Meet at the visitor center at the park day-use area at 11 a.m. Location: 17102 East Avenue J, Lancaster (corner of 170th St E and East Avenue J, 19 miles east of Highway 14, near Lake Los Angeles). Please bring water, sun protection, comfortable hiking shoes, layered clothing, snack and optional lunch to enjoy in the park’s picnic area after returning from the hikes. No pets allowed. For cancellation information please check www.Facebook.com/SaddlebackButte.
Northridge Trail to Mt. Livermore, return Sunset Rail. Learn about the cultural and natural history of Angel Island, while hiking to the 788-foot summit of Mt. Livermore, including 140 trail stairs, switchbacks and moderate hills via the Northridge Trail. We will have time for lunch at the summit with 360-degree views of the Bay Area. Hike will happen, rain or shine! In case of inclement weather or poor trail conditions, route may be altered. Great views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate, weather permitting. This moderately difficult hike is 4.5 miles on hiking trails and dirt roads, including trail stairs (not stroller-friendly). Minimum age for children is age 6. Water, lunch, sturdy hiking shoes or boots and layered clothing. No pets please. Meet at the Ayala Cove ferry dock on the island at 10:30. Hike will last until about 2:45 p.m.For ferry schedules & ticket information visit www.angelislandferry.com (Tiburon) or www.blueandgoldfleet.com (San Francisco). Bring water bottle, lunch, rain gear if needed (hike will happen rain or shine), dress in layers. For more information, check Tours.Angelisland@parks.ca.gov.
Shoreline Trail: Want to celebrate the New Year in a profound way? Then come with us to ring in the New Year under the open sky as we observe the beauty of the rising sun over the tranquil waters of the San Pablo Bay. Join naturalist Harold Hirsch for this 3-mile sunrise hike to welcome the first new golden light of the 2020 year. Refreshments will be served afterwards. Meet at China Camp Ranger Station, 101 Peacock Gap Trail, San Rafael CA 94901 at 6:45 a.m. The minimum age for children is 10. No pets please. Please wear appropriate hiking clothes. Warm layers suggested. Bring a headlamp and a water bottle. Rain will cancel the event. Cancellation announcements will be posted on the FOCC website homepage.
Registration is required for events at this park. Please obtain free tickets at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/first-day-hikes-tickets-83925333933.
Rock Spring Trail to East Peak: Choose between 3-4 docent-led guided hikes that start at Rock Spring Trailhead near the Quarry Parking Lot on East Ridgecrest Road and follow different routes to East Peak and back. Kids with good hiking experience and endurance welcome. No pets. Meeting time and place for all hikes is 9:30 a.m. at Rock Spring Trailhead. Hikes are moderate to strenuous (7-8 miles round trip). As you arrive at the parking area, check in at the information table to choose the hike you prefer and meet your hike leader. Wear warm layered clothing, sturdy hiking boots and bring water, snacks and lunch. Meet at the Rock Springs parking lot 15-20 minutes prior to the 9:30 a.m. start time to organize into groups. This hike is for children age 14 and older. Bring reusable water bottles, snacks, bagged lunch, hiking shoes/boots, hiking poles, warm layered clothing. No pets please. Hike is scheduled rain or shine. Register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/first-day-hikes-tickets-83925333933. For more information, check the park event web page. This hike is made possible through a collaboration with Friends of Mount Tam, which provides knowledgeable hike leaders.
Gravity Car Barn: Just wanting to drive up the mountain and enjoy the history and the views?: The Gravity Car Barn at East Peak at the end of East Ridgecrest Road will be open for you to learn about the rich history of this mountain. Light refreshments will be provided at the barn thanks to our cooperating association, Friends of Mt Tam. The event will happen rain or shine, although hike’s length and time could be reduced in case of heavy downfall. We will update this post with weather details and event updates closer to the date. Keep posted.
Verna Dunshee Walk: Great for people who enjoy a relaxed time, the guided walk around the accessible Verna Dunshee trail—one of the most scenic trails in the Bay Area—is an easy, laid-back walk approximately 1 mile in length.Meet at the Verna Dunshee trailhead (near the East Peak Restrooms) at 11 a.m. All ages welcome and pets on leash. Bring reusable water bottles, snacks, bagged lunch, walking shoes and warm layered clothing. For cancellation information, check the park event page.
Pacheco Adobe Hike: Learn about the history of the area while observing migratory winter wildlife such as birds of prey and tule elk. This is an easy-to-moderate hike of ½ mile to the adobe. Meet at 10:30 a.m. at the Pacheco State Park day-use parking lot. There is no age restriction and pets on leash are welcome. Wear layers and boots are recommended as the trail might be muddy. Rain may cancel. Call the Four Rivers Sector Office for information at (209) 826-1197.
Los Banos Creek Reservoir unit: South Rim Trail: Hikers will see rolling grasslands, a view of Los Banos Creek reservoir with the mountain range as a backdrop. You may see such wildlife as birds of prey, coyotes, bobcats, black-tailed deer and elk. This is an easy 1.7-mile hike. All ages are welcome but pets are not permitted. Meet at the South Rim Entrance gates at 12:30 p.m. Dress in layers and wear boots for muddy ground. Rain may cancel. Call the Four River Sector Office at (209) 826-1197 for information.
San Luis Creek path: Hikers will see rolling grasslands, a view of Los Banos Creek reservoir with the mountain range as a backdrop. Possible wildlife you may see includes birds of prey, coyotes, bobcats, black-tailed deer, and elk. This is an easy 1.5 mile hike on a paved path. Dress in layers. All ages welcome along with pets. Meet at 2 p.m. at the San Luis Creek boat launch. Rain may cancel. Call the Four River Sector Office at (209) 826-1197 for information.
East Ridge Trail: This is Moderate-Strenuous hike that climbs elevation continuously to a ridgeline in an oak woodland/ riparian system and then follows the ridgeline for 2 miles before descending steeply into the redwood forest. The hike will end with a jaunt through the Armstrong Grove before ending at the start next to the Visitor's Center. Docent Larry will discuss Animal Tracking and Plant Identification as appropriate along the hike. Meet at 9 a.m. in front of the Visitor Center. Children 10 or older are welcome with a adult. No pets please. Wear layers and gear for the weather and bring water. For more information email email@example.com.
Discovery Loop Trail: Explore the majestic Big Hendy Grove and learn about the coast redwood forest and its unique ecosystem. These gentle giants reach heights of over 350 feet and support the diversity of plant and wildlife in an intricate web of connectivity. The easy 1-mile Discovery Loop Trail is the most recent addition to our ADA compliant trail system with a series of bridges and boardwalks that traverse the contour of the forest floor and allow people of all levels of mobility to experience this cathedral of trees that stand as pillars to our past. All ages are welcome but service dogs only. Dress in layers. Hiking boots are recommended. Meet at the day-use picnic area at 11 a.m. For cancellation information call (707) 895-3059.
Laguna Point: Learn about the gray whale migration as well as other cultural and natural history of the parks while taking in all the beauty the Mendocino Coast has to offer. Meet at the park visitor center at 11 a.m. RSVP at https://mendocino-area-parks-association.networkforgood.com/events/17717-first-day-hikes-2020-at-mackerricher-state-park. Dress in layers. Bring water, snacks and binoculars for whale watching. Children welcome as are dogs on leash. Rain can cancel. For information go to the Mendocino Area Parks Association website at www.mendoparks.org.
Mendocino Headlands Trail: Learn about the gray whale migration as well as other cultural and natural history of the park while taking in all the beauty the Mendocino Coast has to offer. This is an easy 1-mile hike. Meet at the park visitor center at the Ford House in the Town of Mendocino at 1 p.m. RSVP at https://mendocino-area-parks-association.networkforgood.com/events/17720-first-day-hikes-2020-at-mendocino-headlands. Dress in layers. Bring water, snacks and binoculars for whale watching. Children welcome. Dogs are permitted on a leash. Rain can cancel. For information go to the Mendocino Area Parks Association website at www.mendoparks.org.
Dune Preserve Boardwalk: Enjoy a casual ¼-mile guided walk along the Asilomar Dunes Preserve boardwalk. Meet at the Hearst Social Hall. Walks are scheduled at 11 a.m., 12 p.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. This easy walk is for all ages but children must have parent or guardian supervision. Dogs must be on leash. Dress in layers. Rain can cancel. Check the park website at www.parks.ca.gov/asilomar for information.
Coastal Trail: Enjoy amazing scenic views, bracing salt air and abundant seashore wildlife as we walk along the spectacular coastline in an easy-to-moderate 2-mile walk. All ages are welcome but children must have adult supervision. Dogs must be on leash. Bring water and wear layers. Meet at the Hearst Social Hall at 9 a.m. Rain can cancel. Check the park website at www.parks.ca.gov/asilomar for information.
Osborn Hills Loop/Prescott Hill Cross cut trails: This hike will be a short and sweet out and back loop that will get your heart-pumping. This is a moderate 2-mile distance with moderate elevation gain and loss. Meet at 9 a.m. at the main parking lot. Children must be age 7 or able to walk 2 miles. Dogs on leash ae welcome. Bring sturdy walking shoes, water, snacks, and warm layers, as it can be quite cold/snowy. Inclement weather will cancel. To check for cancellation information, check the parks Eventrbrite or Facebook.
Loop Trail: We’ll look for birds, bobcats, butterflies and buckwheat. Enjoy a beautiful morning on the trails and in the canyon at Crystal Cove State Park. This 3-mile moderate hike has a steep trail in some places. Children must be 8 or older. Meet at Berns Amphitheater (School-State Park entrance, follow signs to the campground) Crystal Cove State Park, 8471 N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651 at 9 a.m. Dogs are not permitted on trails (not even in a purse.) There is a $15 day-use fee. Please bring water, sun protection, hat, comfortable hiking shoes, layered clothing and snack. Rain will cancel. Park closed the day after rain so if in doubt call (949) 494-3539 or checkwww.crystalcovestatepark.org.
Russell Peak Trail: RSVP now for one of two hiking options at Lake Perris. Option A is a 2-mile loop while Option B is a 1.5-mile lakeside stroll. Expect to see small animals and possible deer or coyote. Red-tailed hawk is also around the area. Meet at the Hunter’s parking lot located at the east end of the park near the group camp, Lake Perris State Recreation Area, 17801 Lake Perris Drive, Perris, CA at 9 a.m. for both hikes.Please register on the “Eventbrite” link under the Event Page on Lake Perris SRA’s Facebook,https://www.facebook.com/pg/Lakeperris/events/?ref=page_internal. Bring water, closed-toed shoes, jacket, hat, sunscreen and your walking stick. Children are welcome but no dogs please.If you have any questions check the park Facebook page.
Lake Natoma Nature Photography Hike: Award-winning photographers Kathy Kayner and Gene McKinnon will co-lead this easy 3-hour hike along the south shore of Lake Natoma, within the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area. The hike begins at 8:00 am at Willow Creek and heads north to a secret wildlife viewing area before returning to Willow Creek. There will be many photo opportunities for those who choose to bring a camera! Physical requirements: Easy hike, but you must be able to walk 3.5 miles (total). The minimum age for children is 12 years (but must be supervised). Dogs must be friendly and on leash. Bring water and wear layers and walking shoes.
There is no cost for this hike. To RSVP, send an email or text to, or call, Jim Cassio: President@folfan.org or (707) 975-5376. Be sure to give Jim the names and cell phone numbers of all those going on the hike, along with their email addresses. Jim will confirm your RSVP. A park pass for the day, directions to the meet-up spot, hike prep info, and weather/cancellation up-dates will be sent to those who RSVP. This hike is made possible through a collaboration with the Friends of Lakes Folsom & Natoma.
San Benito County
Road Runner Trail: Join us for a strenuous 3-mile hike with the potential to see lots of wildlife. Meet at 10 a.m. at the Mudstone Ranch. No strollers please. No pets allowed. Bring water, snack, layered clothing and wear hiking shoes. For cancellation information, go to social media: @hollisterhillssvra; web: ohv.parks.ca.gov/hollisterhills; email Hollister.Hills@parks.ca.gov or phone (831) 636-2065.
San Diego County
Alcoholic Pass Trail: Experience and discover the prehistory, history, and present-day journey of those who have used this trail for food, water, work and fun on this 2-mile hike of approximately four hours. This is a strenuous but relatively short hike over steep, rocky terrain. Meet at 10 a.m. at the north end of Di Giorgio Road for carpooling to the trailhead. Children 8 and older please. No pets. Bring water, snacks, hiking boots, sun protection and hiking stick (optional.) Call the visitor center at 760-767-4205 for cancellation information.
Borrego Mountain West Butte: Join volunteer naturalists for a moderate 3-mile (roundtrip) hike to the top of one of our smaller peaks, but with great views! There will be some walking on narrow ridges and scrambling on rocks toward the summit on this moderate hike over rocky terrain. Meet at 9 a.m. just off Highway 78 at the intersection of Buttes Pass Road, 1.5 miles east of Borrego Springs Road. Minimum age for children is 8 and they must be able to hike the distance. No pets please. Bring water, snacks, hiking boots, sun protection and a hiking stick (optional) and wear hiking boots. Heavy rain can cancel. For information, call the visitor center at (760) 767-4205.
Stone Bridge #5: Join volunteer a naturalist on a 2 1/2 mile round trip hike along a wash to an exquisite natural sculpture/dry waterfall. We will traverse a short slot canyon, see early desert blooms and very interesting rocks and rock formations. Bring water, sun hat, food and hiking poles for the short steep trail from the road down to and up from the wash. Meet at Hellhole Canyon parking lot at 9am to carpool. This hike is limited to 11 participants. No children or pets please. Reserve your space at the visitor center at (760) 767-4205. Heavy rain can cancel. Call the visitor center for information.
Seaside Beach Walk: Enjoy the new year beginning with a 20 minute visit to the tide-pool, followed by a brisk 50-60 minute walk on the beach, beginning at the South end of Seaside, walking to the new Dunes restoration on the north end, then returning along the beach. Interpretive level is moderate. We will discuss the critters and plants that inhabit the sandy shore, while staying on the lookout for possible whale sightings. All ages are welcome, but the sand is not stroller-friendly, and there will be some uneven terrain. Bring water, sunscreen, a hat, jacket, binoculars (if you have them) and wear closed-toed shoes. Meet at 7 a.m. at Lifeguard Stand 10 at the south end of the beach. Park in the lot at Cardiff State Beach, 2526 S Coast Hwy 101, Solana Beach, CA , just south of the North Cardiff or Reef lot. Fee is $15.00/day. Parking is available along the highway as well. Difficulty level Easy, but walking in sand may be difficult for some. For cancellation information check the park calendar.
Westside Trail to Green Valley Falls: This moderate hike will be 4 miles past meadows and through oak woodlands with Green Valley Falls as the goal at the halfway point of the hike. Watch for mule deer and wild turkeys along the way with a chance of spotting a bobcat in this area. Please bring plenty of water and snacks and a camera; wear sturdy shoes, and dress in layers because of our changeable mountain weather. The hike begins at 9 a.m. Meet at the Visitor Center. Minimum age is 14. No pets please. Rain cancels the hike. For cancellation information check the Cuyamaca Rancho SP Facebook page or Instagram.
Boucher Loop Road: Hikers will be get a view of the entire San Diego County and more at the lookout. This is an easy 1.67-mile round trip. Children should be 4 or older. Dogs are encouraged on a leash. Meet at the Silvercrest Picnic Area parking lot at 10 a.m. Bring a warm jacket and wear sturdy shoes. Rain may cancel. Check our Palomar Mountain State Park Instagram or Facebook page for cancellation information.
Six Possible Trails: Home of rarest pine tree in North America Trails. Trails to hike will be determined by nature hike leader according to group size, ability, etc. Possible trails include:
- Guy Fleming Trail - easiest trail, relatively level, forested, along ocean bluffs, two ocean overlooks, sandstone formations, shade, spring wildflowers, drinking water and parking.
- Parry Grove Trail - secluded with steep entry/exit (118 rugged steps), and Native plant garden at trailhead with canyon overlook.
- Razor Point Trail - Dramatic views of gorge, badlands, spring wildflowers, a few picturesque trees and ocean overlook.
- Beach Trail – Descends 300 feet to beach level, many switchbacks and stairs to beach.
- High Point Trail – 100 stairs to panoramic views of Reserve, ocean, lagoon and inland.
- Broken Hill Trail – longest trail, features chaparral, few trees, and scenic overlook.
These are easy-to-moderate hikes. Leave from the visitor center at the Torrey Pines Lodge at 10 a.m. or 1 p.m. Stay on officially designated trails. No smoking or fires. No food in the Reserve – you may picnic at the beach, do not take any food or drink on any trail except to carry it to the beach. Water is recommended. No pets, no vehicles allowed on the trails, no collecting or picking. Park only in designated parking lots. Keep small children with an adult at all times. Stay away from the bottom of the cliffs. The Reserve closes at sunset. For cancellation information, check www.torreypine.org.
San Luis Obispo County
Oso Flaco Lake: Join park staff for a hike around Oso Flaco Lake. Enjoy a mellow paced stroll along the boardwalk as we explore the area to learn about the local plants and animals. This is an easy one-hour 2.5-mile hike. Meet at 2 p.m. at 3098 Oso Flaco Lake Road Arroyo Grande, CA 93449. Bring water, binoculars, hat, sunglasses, and camera and dress in layers. The minimum age for children is 5. No pets are permitted in the park. In case of rain, updates can be found on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OceanoDunesDistrictPismoBeach/
Pismo Dune Preserve: Join park staff for a hike through the Pismo Dunes Natural Preserve while learning about the dune landscape and the unique adaptations of the plants and animals that call this place home. This is a strenuous 2-mile hike over uneven sandy terrain. Meet at 10 a.m. outside of the Pacific Dunes Ranch located at 1205 Silver Spur, Oceano, CA, 93420 for this 1-hour hike. Please park in the gravel lot outside of the campground. We will walk to the preserve together as a group. Bring water, binoculars, hat, sunglasses, camera and dress in layers. The minimum age for children is 5. No pets are permitted in the preserve. In case of rain, updates can be found on our Facebook Page, https://www.facebook.com/OceanoDunesDistrictPismoBeach/.
San Mateo County
Guided Elephant Seal Walks: Año Nuevo means “new year.” What better way to start 2018 than with a moderate 3-mile hike. Tours are from 8:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. It is strongly recommended to purchase reservations in advance at ReserveCalifornia (800) 444-4445 or www.reservecalifornia.com. Cost is $7 per person. Visit a large colony of Northern elephant seals and watch the bulls defend their territory, while pregnant females ready to birth their pups. Please meet at the Marine Education Center. Layers, sturdy shoes and rain gear strongly advised. No pets, umbrellas or strollers. The walk will happen, rain or shine—hopefully not rain! The hike is recommended for all ages; children must be accompanied by a parent. For more information, please call (650) 879-2025 or see the parks website at www.parks.ca.gov/anosealwalks.
Equal Access Seal Tours: Año Nuevo means “new year.” What better way to start 2018 than with an easy 1.5-mile (wheelchair-accessible boardwalk) hike. Tours begin at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Advance reservations are strongly recommended at ReserveCalifornia (800) 444-4445 or www.reservecalifornia.com. Cost is $7 per person. Visit a large colony of Northern elephant seals and watch the bulls defend their territory, while pregnant females ready to birth their pups. Please meet at the Marine Education Center. Layers, sturdy shoes, and rain gear is strongly advised, no pets (Service dogs admitted with previous notice). Due to limited space, each person with mobility needs can bring up to two guests/assistants. No umbrellas or strollers. The walk will happen, rain or shine—hopefully not rain. The hike is recommended for all ages however, children must be accompanied by a parent. For more information, please call (650) 879-2025 or email Ano.EqualAccess@parks.ca.gov.
Mills Creek Trail: Take a journey back in time on this easy 2.5-mile stroll along Mills Creek Trail to discover the lives of early pioneers and farming families who first settled here in the 19th century. Meet at 10 a.m. at the Burleigh Murray parking lot located on Higgins-Purisima Road 1.5 miles east of Highway 1 near Half Moon Bay. Children age 7 or older accompanied by an adult are welcome. No pets please. Bring water, wear good walking shoes and dress for the weather. Rain can cancel. Call 650-726-8814 for cancellation information.
McNee Ranch: Gray Whale Cove Trail: Join us for an easy 2-mile hike along the scenic Gray Whale Cove Trail. Discover ocean views, coastal plants, wildlife and historic site remnants from the Ocean Shore Railroad and WWII-era bunkers. Meet at 10 a.m. at the Gray Whale Cove State Beach parking lot on Highway 1 just south of Devil’s Slide. This is an easy hike and children age 7 are welcome with an adult. No pets please. Bring water, wear good walking shoes and dress for the weather. Rain cancels. For cancellation information 650-726-8814.
Preserve Nature Trail: Enjoy an easy 2-mile hike along the California coast into the Pescadero Marsh with popular spots for good bird watching. Meet at 10 a.m. at Pescadero State Beach central parking lot Highway 1, approximately ¼ mile north of Pescadero Creek Road in Pescadero. This is an easy hike and children age 7 and older are welcome with an adult. No pets please. Bring water, wear good walking shoes and dress for the weather. Rain could cancel. Call 650-726-8814 for cancellation information.
Light Station Grounds: Take a trip back in time while exploring the rocky coast of California on this .75-mile hike. Learn about historic shipwrecks and the significance of the lighthouse, which helps to guide vessels to their final destination today. Children accompanied by an adult welcome. Meet at 10:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. at the park picnic area across from the hostel Pigeon Point Light Station, State Historic Park, 210 Pigeon Point Road, off Highway 1 Pescadero, CA, 94060. Bring water and snacks and wear layered clothing (cold, windy and perhaps sunny conditions.)No pets or smoking please. Service dogs welcome. For cancellation information, call (650) 879-2120.
Santa Barbara County
Bluff Tail: Join us for an approximately 2.5-mile round trip easy hike along the bluffs and beach from Carpinteria State Beach to Carpinteria Bluffs Preserve. Hikers will stop at the seal rookery, tar pits and enjoy coastal views. Optional beach access at the end of the trail is via a short but steep pathway. We will meet at the Carpinteria State Beach Visitor Center at 10 a.m. Please bring water, snacks, sturdy shoes, and sun protection. Cameras and/or binoculars recommended. All ages welcome. Dogs on leash permitted. For cancellation information, call (805) 684-2811, ext. 0.
Santa Cruz County
There is a $10 vehicle day-use fee for most Santa Cruz District parks. First Day Hikes are free.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park: (Park headquarters is located at 21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, CA 95006. For cancellation information on all Big Basin Parks, call (831) 338-8861. There are no pets allowed on these hikes. For cancellation information, call(831) 338-8861, or check the park website. Hikes made possible by the Mountain Parks Foundation with California State Parks.)
Buzzard’s Roost: Join docents for a moderate 5-mile hike to Buzzard’s Roost. We’ll take an early 9 a.m. hike in hopes of seeing things that might be hiding later in the day and share our findings as we go. We’ll watch the environment change as we climb and enjoy the view from the top. Hikers should be able to do a steady uphill grade for 2.5 miles (elevation gain about 1,200 ft.), but we’ll go at a pace that allows us to enjoy what we see. Children should be age 6 or older. No pets allowed. Meet at the park headquarters office. Wear good walking shoes, dress in layers and bring snacks.
Ocean View Summit: Escape the crowds on this 6-mile loop through shaded forest to a hilltop view of the coast. Join Docent Steve Stolper as we climb the Meteor Trail through the trees, gaining 600 feet before emerging at Ocean View Summit. After a relaxed lunch, we descend back into the forest and return to headquarters. Bring at least one liter of water, lunch, snacks and appropriate clothing. Recommended for children 6 or older. No pets allowed. Meet at the park headquarters at 10 a.m.
Mt. McAbee Outlook: A6-mile, 3.5-hour moderate hike to McAbee Outlook. We'll stop at the top and enjoy the lovely ocean views, returning through a beautiful old-growth redwood forest. Learn about the different habitats as you watch the environment change as we climb and enjoy the view. Recommended for children 6 or older. No pets allowed.Bring plenty of water, snacks and good hiking shoes. Meet at the park headquarters at 10:30 a.m.
Sempervirens Falls Trail: Join us on a 4-mile hike of moderate difficulty to visit Sempervirens Falls, old-growth redwoods, Ohlone grinding rocks, the birthplace of Big Basin and more! Bring water and snacks. Wear good hiking shoes and layers. Recommended for children 6 or older. No pets please. Meet at park headquarters at 11 a.m.
Redwood Grove Loop Walk: How do these grand redwoods grow to be so old? So tall? How are they important to humans? Join us for this fun and informative easy guided half-mile stroll through a magnificent old-growth redwood forest. Meet the famous Mother Tree, the Father of the Forest and the incredible Chimney Tree on this 90-minute walk. Stroller and wheelchair accessible. This easy hike is suitable for all ages. Bring walking shoes and water. Meet at park headquarters at 1 p.m. Heavy rain cancels.
Castle Rock Loop Trail: Join us on an adventure to the Castle Rock formation. On this interactive journey, we will discuss the various park ecosystems, Ohlone history, black oak ecology, wildfire and more! This is an easy 1.2–mile hike. Minimum age is 10 for children. No pets please. Please bring water, closed-toe shoes, a camera and snacks. Call (831) 291-8273 or Instagram: @castle.rock.state.park for information on cancellation. Meet at 11 a.m., Robert C. Kirkwood Entrance at 15451 Skyline Blvd. Los Gatos, CA, 95030.
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park: (Heavy rain can cancel hikes. For cancellation information, call the visitor center phone (831) 335-7077 or check Facebook:@HenryCowellRSP | Instagram:@Henry.Cowell.Redwoods.SP. No pets please. Hikes made possible by the Mountain Parks Foundation with California State Parks.)
Meadow Trail to River Trail: Birding: Join us for a morning avian stroll to hear and see some of the amazing birds that reside in our park, from hawks to songbirds and waterfowl, and maybe even a woodpecker or two. Meet at 8 a.m. at the main parking lot of Highway 9 near Felton. This is a moderate 1.5-mile hike. Recommended that children be age 6 or older. Children must be calm and quiet to not disturb or scare the birds. Bring water, snack and binoculars (there will be some for loan.)
Fall Creek – Lime Kilns Trail: Hike through a young, 100-year-old forest to examine evidence of the logging history and discover how the Bay Area was built on this 4-mile, 4-hour hike. Join us at one of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park’s hidden treasures and explore the beauty of Fall Creek. Meet at 9 a.m. at the Fall Creek parking lot approximately ½ mile up Felton Empire Road from the Highway 9 Intersection in Felton. This is a moderate 4-mile hike. Children must be able to complete the four-hour hike. No pets please. Bring water and snacks and wear warm clothing (it can get cold in the morning.) Rain cancels.
Fall Creek Unit, New Acquisition Loop: Come explore the new Sandhills acquisition at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. See the hidden treasures and unique geology, plants and animals of an amazing and fragile ecosystem. Don’t miss out on this special opportunity to see a relatively unknown part of this magnificent park. Meet at 11 a.m. at the Probation Center parking lot, 3650 Graham Hill Road, Scotts Valley, CA 95060. Bring water and snack. Wear sturdy hiking shoes and layers. This hike will be a moderate hike of 3 miles. Children must be able to complete a 2-hour hike.
Redwood Loop: Come and walk through the majesty of an old-growth redwood forest. Hear the story of the redwoods and learn what makes these tallest trees in the world so special on our way to Cable Car Beach and back. This is an easy hike of 1.5 miles. Meet at 12 p.m. at the visitor center located in the day-use area, 101 North Big Trees Park Road, Felton, CA 95018 off Highway 9 in Felton. All ages welcome. Bring water and wear extra layers.
Amphibian Adventure: River Trail and Eagle Creek Trail: Join us for a ramble along the San Lorenzo River and Eagle Creek Trail to search for amphibians! Learn about the native and non-native species found in our forest. This is a moderate hike of 2 miles. Children must be able to hike the full distance. Wear warm layers, hiking shoes and bring water. No pets please. Meet at the park visitor center at 2 p.m.
Children’s Story Circle: Join the Children's Story Circle under the Redwoods! Featuring three different books for different ages, all about the coastal redwood forest. Stories will be repeated. Drop in anytime from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. and stay as long as you wish. An ideal introduction for children to stoke their enthusiasm and curiosity before you walk the loop through the grove of ancient trees. Bring warm layers and water. Meet at visitor center. If raining, program will move into visitor center. No pets please.
Monarch Trail, Moore Creek Trail and Dune Trail: There’s a whole lot more than just butterflies at Natural Bridges. On this 2-hour, 1-mile hike, experience the ‘backcountry’ of the beloved park. Witness the diversity of more than five distinct habitats and the animals that rely on life in the nooks and crannies of Natural Bridges. Meet at the visitor center at Natural Bridges State Beach, 2531 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, CA 95060 at 2 p.m. Children 8 years and older accompanied by an adult welcome but no pets or strollers please. Bring binoculars (limited amount available to borrow), water, snack, hat, warm layers and rain protection. Scheduled rain or shine. Call (831) 423-4609 ext. 8 or firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
Old Tree Trail: Stroll through an old-growth redwood grove in search of the “Old Tree” that’s over 1,200 years old, discover the banana slug’s vital role in this flourishing forest and learn about the marvelous Marbled Murrelet and how park visitors can help save these endangered birds. This is an easy 1-mile hike. Children should be 10 or older accompanied by a parent. Meet at 2:30 p.m. at Portola Redwoods State Park Visitor Center, 9000 Portola State Park Road, La Honda, CA 94020 off Highway 1. Bring water and snacks. Wear closed-toe shoes, warm layers and bring a camera. Call (831) 291-8273 or email Brandon.Caskey@parks.ca.gov for cancellation information. No pets please.
Promenade and pier: Learn about Seacliff State Beach and its fascinating history on this 1-mile, one-hour stroll to the Aptos Creek Bridge and back. Get the lowdown on the Concrete Ship, great storms from 1889 to the present, "The Madman of Seacliff,” and much, much more. This is an easy 1-mile hike. Children ages 10 and up are welcome. Bring water and wear layered clothing. Meet at 11 a.m. at the visitor center, Seacliff State Beach, 201 State Park Drive, Aptos, CA 95003. Call (831) 685-6444 or email email@example.com cancellation information. No pets please.
History under the Trees: Porter House and Mill Site: Delve into forest history—and prehistory—with a walk to ghost towns and fossils deep in a redwood forest. This is a moderate 4-mile hike. Children should be 10 years of age. Meet at 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. at George’s Picnic Area next to the steel bridge before the Winter Gate, Aptos Creek Road, off Soquel and State Park Drive, Aptos, CA 95003. Bring water and snacks. Wear walking shoes and layers. No pets please. For cancellation information, call (831) 685-6444.
Englesman Loop: This challenging guided three-hour 7-mile hike will explore the natural and cultural history of the upper hills of Wilder Ranch State Park.
Meet at 9 a.m. at the day-use parking lot, Wilder Ranch State Park, 1401 Coast Road, Santa Cruz, CA 95060. Children should be age 16 and accompanied by an adult. No pets please. Wear layered clothing, good walking shoes, and bring water, snacks and lunch and binoculars. Rain cancels. Please call the Interpretive Center, (831) 426-0505 for cancellation information.
Guided Tour and Tea: Learn the inside stories of Fort Ross, featuring a guided tour through the fort compound, behind locked doors, including an introduction to surrounding neighborhoods and the Kashia Pomo, Russian and Ranch eras. Following our hour-long tour, let’s sit down at the samovar for a cup of hot tea before you hit the road. Meet at 2:30 p.m.at the Fort Ross Visitor Center. This is an easy hike and children are welcome. There is a $10 per person fee plus California State Park parking fees apply. Tour led by Fort Ross Conservancy’s bilingual (English and/or Russian) guide Hank Birnbaum. Pair this tour with a morning Salt Point First Day Hike. For more information please visit these Fort Ross Conservancy events and park map links, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (707) 847-3437.
The hike will travel through redwoods and mixed evergreens to the top of Sonoma Mountain for beautiful valley views. The whole hike is 9 miles and strenuous. Meet at 10 a.m. at Jack London State Historic Park in the ranch parking lot, 2400 London Road, Glen Ellen. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes, bring water, lunch, binoculars and hiking poles if you have them. No pets please. Children should be at least 15 years of age. Check the park website for cancellation information. Rain may cancel.
Gerstle Cove-Stump Beach First Day Hike: The most exciting time of the year to see the wild beauty of the Sonoma Coast is midwinter, as the waves boom to shore, the dark clouds roil out over the Pacific Ocean and (thanks to our November rains) the first wildflowers begin to peep up. Even when the sky is moody and gray, the ocean is alive. What better way to begin the year than this bracing hike right at the water's edge and then safely view the heavy breakers rolling in. We will meet at the large day-use parking area at Gerstle Cove (restrooms available) at 10:30 am. This is a mostly level easy hike on marine terraces north all the way to Stump Beach, which is 1.2 miles each way (with optional carpool return shuttle). We will pass by the honeycomb geologic sandstone formations (tafoni) Salt Point State Park is famous for, and stop briefly by an arched rock. If weather permits we have the added option to descend a narrow steep trail to Stump Beach and lunch perching on driftwood logs at the beach and then hike up a steep draw and through the woods (and up and over some downed trees) to a scenic overlook, plus see the waterfalls at Phillip's Gulch Creek. Plan for at least 3 hours round trip and a bit longer if we are able to ford Miller Creek at Stump Beach and continue north. Please bring your own water, a bag lunch, binoculars, cameras, layered clothing, sunscreen, headwear, hiking boots (be prepared for some possible brisk wind and seaside moisture) and if desired, optional hiking sticks. Not recommended for kids under 8. Sorry, no dogs are permitted on Salt Point State Park trails, or on the beach. California State Park parking fees apply. Salt Point State Park brochure & map link. For more information, please email email@example.com or call 707-847-3437. For rain cancellation info, please email or call (707) 321-5783. Limited cell phone and Wi-Fi reception on the north Sonoma Coast..
Bald Mountain Trail: Celebrate the New Year with a hike to Bald Mountain. This minimum 5.5-mile, five-hour hike includes a strenuous climb of 1,525 feet, featuring fantastic 360-degree views of Sonoma Valley, Napa Valley, and San Francisco on the tallest peak in Sonoma County. Clear days extend the views southwards to San Pablo Bay and east into the Sierras. The route will be decided by the leader depending on weather, trail conditions, and group. Meet at the White Barn Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, 2605 Adobe Canyon Road, Kenwood, CA 95452-9004 at 10 a.m. Parking fees apply. Wear comfortable shoes and dress in layers. Bring water, snacks, layers, sunscreen, a hat and hiking poles or something to sit on if desired. The minimum age fochildren is 9. No pets please. To check for cancellation information go to the park web page.
Multiple Trails: Join certified California Naturalist Carolyn Greene for a civilized New Year’s Day hike – not too long, not too early, not too steep, and not too fast. We’ll head up Steve’s South Trail to Richardson with a possible extension to Lake Ilsanjo. Meet at 10 a.m. for this two-hour hike at the Warren Richardson Trailhead parking area at the end of Channel Drive. We’ll cover 3-5 miles with a 450-feet elevation gain. Wear hiking shoes, layers appropriate for weather; bring water and a snack, trekking poles and 2020 hopes to share. Some trails are rocky and uneven. Hike returns to parking area. Rain or wind will cancel. No advance reservations needed. Dogs not allowed. Restrooms and water at the parking area. Directions: from Montgomery Drive, turn onto Channel Drive and follow the road in approximately ½ mile: pay day-use fee ($7 per car, $6 for seniors 62+) or display California State Parks Pass. Continue on Channel Drive for 1 mile to main parking lot. Please see the Trione-Annadel State Park website for more details about the park and click “Park Events” to also receive information about our hike leaders.