The best 20 California hikes SFGATE staffers discovered in 2021 – SF Gate

The best 20 California hikes SFGATE staffers discovered in 2021 – SF Gate

In 2021, SFGATE’s staff hiked California up, down and sideways.

We hit the trails through redwood forests, along coastlines and into desert oases, and for our efforts, we were rewarded with glorious displays of sunlight, bubbling hydrothermal features and a rare waterfall crashing into the sea. Whether you’re highly experienced or new to nature, looking for the best of the Bay Area or drawn to landscapes lesser-known and farther-flung, we’ve got just the hike for you.

Below, you’ll find a collection of our 20 favorite hikes we’ve discovered (or rediscovered) this year. Each links out to a larger feature story with a lot more detail. They’re listed geographically from north to south but we’ve declined to rank them, as they’re each incredible in their own way. 

A map detailing the locations of SFGATE’s favorite hikes of 2021.

Charles Russo/SFGATE

In the morning during the summertime, conditions on the Damnation Creek Trail are just right to catch a glimpse of this stunning natural phenomenon. 

Nate Berg

Damnation Creek Trail

Location: Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

Most California hikers have at some point entered a forest and noticed light filtering through trees. But this jaunt through coast redwoods takes it to a new level. As photographers can attest, the light show here is as astounding as it is reliable, and California parks editor Ashley Harrell saw it with her own two eyes. 

The light was “shooting through the canopy in a circular pattern resembling an exploding firework,” Harrell wrote, “with the glowing rays illuminated by fog in every direction.” 

The photos are unreal. 

The author poses with Hyperion, the world’s tallest tree. She later learned that when many people walk and stand in the same spots near redwoods, they can damage the understory and roots systems.

Ashley Harrell

Tall Trees Trail

Location: Redwood National Park

Early on in the year, Harrell hiked to Hyperion, the tallest tree in the world. She doesn’t recommend the journey in its entirety, but she did endorse the first part of the schlep, which takes hikers to the Tall Trees Grove, the most treasured and seldom-visited area of Redwood National Park.

“Stretching up from a carpet of massive ferns and sorrel, many of the redwoods on the loop exceed 350 feet,” Harrell writes. For thousands of years, the sky-high ecosystem has …….