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Staff's Favorite Hikes and Places

Upper Yosemite Falls Trail, Yosemite Valley CA 

  • Difficulty: Moderate 
  • Mileage: 7.6 miles Out and Back (12.23 km) 
  • Elevation Gain: 3,231 feet (985 m) 
  • Ave. Time to Complete: 6 - 8 hours 
  • Best time of Year to Hike: Spring/Summer 

The Upper Yosemite Falls trail is located in the heart of Yosemite Valley, the trail zig zags it way up the west side of Yosemite Falls. This hike definitely is worthy of its place on my top trails list. I suggest you start this hike early to avoid the crowds, and to have ample time to take in the views. 

You begin the hike at the base of Yosemite Valley and follow several sets of switchbacks that eventually summits on the east face of El Capitan and in perfect view of Yosemite Falls. The trail can be loose and rocky with some exposure to cliffs, so please be mindful of your footing

Along the trail I recommend you take a pitstop at Columbia rock, here you will be greeted by sweeping views of the valley below and a great vantage point to see Half Dome and Cathedral Rocks. Maybe spot to rehydrate and chop on a quick snack. The trail continues up another set of switchbacks until you arrive at the top of Yosemite Falls. There you can see the majestic Merced River and its jaw dropping deluge of water. I usually take time to commune with nature at the top of the falls and just enjoy the view for a while

The way back down can be tough, so take your time. If you choose to do this trail, you will not be disappointed. The trail will make you work for it, but if you forge on the reward is spectacular. 

AllTrails Info / Track: Upper Yosemite Falls

Icehouse Canyon Trail to Cucamonga Peak, Rancho Cucamonga CA 

  • Difficulty: Hard 
  • Mileage: 11.6 miles Out and Back (18.7 km) 
  • Elevation Change: 4,314 feet (1,315 m) 
  • Ave. Time to Complete: 8 - 10 hours 
  • Best time of Year to Hike: Spring 

 The trail is really long and can be packed with hikers. Start very early in the morning (5-6 am) to make it back down the mountain before nightfall. Another important note is that you will need a US Forest Service Adventure Pass to park your car at the trailhead. These can be bought as daily, monthly, and annual passes. You can find them at Mt. Baldy Ranger Station and most outdoor recreation stores like Nomad Ventures and REI. 

Icehouse Canyon Trail to Cucamonga Peak is a beautiful trail that ends at the top of Cucamonga Peak, which is part of the SoCal Six Pack of Peaks Challenge. The trail begins in Icehouse canyon at the base of Mt. Baldy, it begins with a mellow path that follows a stream up the canyon. Soon you will hit switchbacks that will continue for several miles and for most of the way you are shaded by large Ponderosa Pine Trees. About 4 miles in you will reach Icehouse Saddle Junction, where 5 different trails converge. This is a great place to take a break and have a snack.

When leaving the junction be mindful that you are going down the right trail. Head towards Cucamonga Peak. The trail will eventually pass the tree line and you will enter the alpine region, this is when the trail becomes more difficult and dangerous. The trail will turn from hardpack dirt to loose shale. There will be switchbacks with extreme exposure and footing can be tricky. I relied heavily on my trekking poles for this portion. Be mindful of loose rocks that can tumble down the mountain from hikers above.

Eventually, you will pass all the switchbacks and approach the summit. Nearing the summit, the trail turns into a straight shot to the top. Once you’ve made it to the top you will be greeted by a vast view of Southern California and Mt. San Jacinto to the east. You will also find a summit sign and a hiker box at the top. It's really nice to take a photo with the summit sign and write your name in the notebook that lies inside the hiker box. The summit is a great place to relax and eat lunch. On your way back down the mountain, take your time and focus on your footing. The loose shale on the switchbacks can be treacherous. Icehouse Canyon Trail to Cucamonga Peak is a spectacular hike that traverses a variety of terrains and geographical regions, and the views at the top cannot be beat. 

Cuyamaca Loop Mountain Bike TrailMt. Laguna 

  • Difficulty: Moderate (Blue Diamond Trail)
  • Mileage: 16.4 miles Loop (26.4 km) 
  • Elevation Change: 1,745 feet (531.9 m) 
  • Ave. Time to Complete: 4 - 6 hours 
  • Best time of Year to Bike: Spring / Summer  

 Where my mountain bikers at! This trail is great, especially if you just want a casual ride that isn't too demanding or if you’d like to bring your family or newer riders along. This mountain biking trail is located in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park near Mt. Laguna. There are also other trails that branch out from the main loop, each with their own unique path into the San Diego backcountry.

For navigation, I recommend using the TrailForks app or MTB Project. Since this is a lengthier ride, its best to bring along food and liquids to keep you fueled. Cuyamaca loop is a wonderful cross-country trail that gifts bikers with great vistas and various terrains. The trail is well maintained and mostly smooth; for most of the trail you will have a nice view of Stonewall Peak. This trail is great for newer mountain bikers and those wanting to have a long relaxing ride.