- Hiking road trip in Southern California to Central California offers breathtaking views and diverse trails for every hiker’s level of experience.
- Palm Desert is the perfect starting point with trails like Mt. Eisenhower, Murray Hill Loop, and Palm Canyon Trail, each offering unique views and difficulty levels.
- Mount Whitney and Yosemite National Park are must-visit destinations on the road trip, with challenging hikes and stunning scenery that cater to all hikers’ preferences.
Hikers will find endless picturesque trails across the United States that are totally bucket list worthy. With that being said, more specifically, from Northern California to Southern California, there are hikes with breathtaking views, perfect for a California hiking road trip.
Check out the ultimate Southern California road trip with some of the best hiking opportunities in the state.
The Ultimate Southern California to Central California Hiking Road Trip
The ultimate Southern California to Central CA hiking road trip spans from Palm Desert to Yosemite National Park.
Stop One: Palm Desert
Indian Canyons near Palm Springs California
California is indeed a desert, so starting off in Palm Desert is the perfect way to experience just the beginning of what California has to offer. There are plenty of mountains and trails in the desert that are just waiting to be explored.
From Mt. Eisenhower, Murray Hill Loop, and Palm Canyon Trail, there is sure to be something for every hiker. These trails all range in difficulty level and distance, but that is what makes Palm Desert a perfect place to begin this hiking road trip.
Mt. Eisenhower is a somewhat difficult hike but offers some breathtaking views from the top. It is around 4.3 miles from the trail and is best accessed through the Living Desert Zoo.
Murray Hill Loop
Murray Hill Loop is a good option for beginner and intermediate hikers as there is an option to extend the loop from 3.7 miles up to around 7.1 miles. The full trails over 7 miles would take roughly 5 hours to complete. It is always a good idea to keep an eye on the time when going on these hikes, especially when in the desert canyons.
Palm Canyon Trail
Palm Canyon Trail gives hikers the perfect start to their journey as it is only 2 miles long but offers fantastic views of the canyon. A small creek runs through the trail, and it is a great way to see the rock formations and be immersed in the desert.
Stop Two: Mount Whitney
Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park
This mountain is a well-known hike and more than just Californians come to complete this trail. Though this can seem like a very big jump from the first location of Palm Springs, hikers rival about how amazing it is. This is a difficult hike being 20 miles long, so some people break it up into multiple days to be able to enjoy it more.
For the average hiker, it will take around 7-8 hours to complete, but for those who are very avid, it can be completed in around 5 hours. During the route of the trail, there is around 6,000 feet in elevation gain. Though this sounds like a lot, throughout the hike, it is gently gained around 550 feet per mile which does not make it very dramatic.
Once hikers make it to the top, the view of High Sierra is truly incredible.
Hikers generally say that July, August, and September are the best months to do this hike because there is the least likelihood of snow or ice to be on the trail.
If Mt. Whitney is too advanced, there are also smaller mountains near it that are available to hike as well, making this a good stop number two. Red Mountain hike, Lone Pine Lake hike, and Cottonwood Lakes hike are good options to consider besides just Mt. Whitney.
Stop Three: Yosemite National Park
Half Dome mountain peak in Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite Valley has a number of day hikes that are a great way to conclude the California road trip while still seeing grand views. They offer easy, moderate, and strenuous hikes to choose from which can entice all kinds of hikers to give it a visit. From 1 mile to 14 miles, there is a hike for everyone found here.
It is thought that winter is the best time to visit Yosemite because hikers still get to experience the amazing scenery but with fewer crowds. Having said that, Yosemite is a great place to visit year-round because the scenery of nature will be in full effect.
Hiking in Southern California all the way up to Central California offers hikers (and road trippers) countless opportunities to enjoy the scenery and soak in nature. But don’t stop at Yosemite!
For those hikers looking for even more of a challenge, California also offers the Pacific Crest Trail, a long-haul adventure that can be customized (make it as long or as short as you’d like) for each hiker.
Travelers can also continue through to Northern California, where there plenty more scenic hikes to enjoy.