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Editors' Picks: Best Hikes

Via’s sure-footed staff shares their favorite places to hit the trail.

hiking trail, editors' picks
Photo caption
Don your hiking boots for some of our best loved trails in the West.


Bear Valley Trail, Point Reyes National Seashore, Calif. I've hiked it—four miles to Arch Rock at the coast, four miles back—perhaps 50 times. Not tired of it yet. —Dan Warrick, senior editor

The Andrew Molera Loop overlooking the ocean at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, near Big Sur, Calif. —Kim Velsey, Events editor

The Matt Davis Trail on Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County, Calif. From the ranger station at Pan Toll you tramp along the side of the hill through oaks, then come out onto open grassy hills with all of Stinson Beach curving beneath you.

In spring, the mountainside is dotted with lupine, forget-me-nots, Douglas irises, and poppies. Down, down the hill to one of the local restaurants, bustling with the weekend crowd. A short trek along Highway 1 leads to the aptly named Steep Ravine trail. Follow alongside a creek beneath cool shady redwoods, cross a bridge, climb a ladder, and arrive back at the rangers' station. —Leslie Endicott, senior editor

The steep climb up to and along central Oregon's Tam McArthur Rim (five miles round trip) is worth it for gorgeous views of Mount Bachelor, the Three Sisters, and Broken Top. You'll feel you've reached the top of the world. —Anne McSilver, managing editor

Windy Hill in Portola Valley, Calif. It's pretty accessible from where I live and a good mini-escape for medium-length or shorter hikes through grassy knolls and forested grounds. —Megan Ma, intern

A snowshoe hike through a forest of giant sequoias in California's Sequoia National Park, beginning and ending at the General Sherman Tree. —Christopher Hall, writer

It was my first and last visit to Canyonlands National Park in Utah. My best friend and I arrived late in the afternoon, having devoted most of the day to driving through (and walking only a little of) the very hot and dry Arches National Park. Canyonlands was almost an afterthought.

Near closing time we entered the park's Island in the Sky District visitor center and learned about the shortest, easiest hike in the district: the Mesa Arch Trail, which can be completed within an hour. Not having seen many photos of the park—or having much knowledge about it—we took the trail. The surroundings weren't notable, especially after the superlatives of Arches. The trail's destination was a rock arch, but the true gift of the hike was the sight through this arch: It acted as a window into the rest of the park, opening our eyes to its immensity of space, depth, and color. The view was a complete surprise, for which nothing could have prepared us. Somehow the trail zigzagged in a way that kept us from seeing what we were there to see, and we had to wait for this special ending. —Tannie Soo Hoo, publication coordinator

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in Southern California is picturesque desert complete with a postcard-like oasis. —Miriam Wild-Smith, intern

Consider this my favorite hiking moment of all time. My wife and I were spending a few days in California's Napa Valley one summer. We went for a short hike in Bothe-Napa Valley State Park a few miles north of St. Helena. We turned a corner and came to a small clearing with a dead (though still standing) tree in the middle. Eight to 12 feet above the ground, a pileated woodpecker perched on a branch. Its size and cartoonishness stunned me. We watched in silence for at least 10 minutes. —Bruce Anderson, editor

A three-hour-long power hike to the top of Yosemite Falls—had to get up and back before our ride left. —Ron Evans, senior editor

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This article was first published in July 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.