The views of California’s mountains are some of the most breathtaking in the world. The incredible raw beauty, mixed with a little bit of adventure, is what sets these mountain ranges apart from all others.
For many people living in Southern California, it can be difficult to appreciate just how beautiful these mountains are because they are often shrouded in smog or hidden behind buildings and highways. It is only when you venture up into the hills that you genuinely start to appreciate their grandeur.
The article highlights 15 stunning mountain views around California, including Mount Baldy, Lake Tahoe, and Yosemite National Park.
1. Mount Baldy
Mount Baldy is one of the most underrated mountains in California. It is not nearly as popular as places like Mount Whitney, but it offers just as spectacular a view. A hike up to the summit takes around five hours, but you are rewarded with some incredible views on top. At 11,400 feet high, the air is noticeably thin at the top, making it more difficult to enjoy yourself while taking your pictures or selfies, but once you make it back down, you realize that all good things come at a price.
2. Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe might seem underwhelming compared to mountains like Mount Shasta or Mount Whitney, but its history and breathtaking views make it an undisputed queen of Northern California. The lake itself is surrounded by three mountain ranges, which all offer different experiences. The Sierra Nevada Mountains to the west are one of the most famous places in California for skiing and snowboarding. The granite peaks are steeped in history as it was where many settlers first started to explore this part of America.
3. Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park also features some jaw-dropping scenery, but at a relatively high price tag if you want to enjoy it up close and personal. Thankfully there are plenty of beautiful pictures taken by visitors available online that can give us all an appreciation for what makes Yosemite so unique. It’s pretty strange how its raw beauty still manages to capture the imagination every time someone looks at the photos – even though we know that what they are looking at isn’t real.
4. Kings Canyon National Park
Kings Canyon is considered the lesser-known cousin of Yosemite, but it offers some exceptionally stunning views in its own right. Unfortunately, the park is located about 5 hours north of Los Angeles, which means it receives significantly fewer visitors than other more popular parks like Yosemite or Sequoia. Many people even mistake this for Sequoia due to how similar their names sound after being shortened over time by the locals.
5. Mount Whitney
Mount Whitney is not just a massive mountain in Southern California that attracts countless hikers every year; it’s also one of the highest peaks in the entire United States, standing at an incredible 14,505 feet. That’s more than 1,000 feet higher than the Empire State Building. The hike up to the summit can be done in less than two days, but you need to properly prepare for it and start at around midnight if you want any chance of making it to the top while there is still light outside.
6. Mount Shasta
The views from Mount Shasta are unlike anything else found in California, and they will be forever burned into your memory thanks to even a single glance at them so long as your eyes are open. To make things even better, they are relatively easy to get too with 28 miles of hiking trails leading up to its peak, which sits at an incredible 14,179 feet high. It has made it one of the most popular destinations for hikers in California. If you’re looking to get a good night of sleep before your journey up the mountain, I would recommend staying in McCloud and visiting one of its many historic lodges and restaurants, all within walking distance of each other.
7. Castle Crags State Park
Castle Crags is located about 2 hours north of San Francisco, and it offers some amazing views not just because of where it’s located but also because of how it looks. Hiking around this area can be done at any time of the year, but I would recommend going during autumn when you can see the famous golden leaves that adorn this place with their splendor. The park is known primarily for its unusual rock formations as well as its breathtaking scenery. Castle Crags State Park was used as the backdrop for the climactic battle scene in one of my favorite movies: Willow.
8. Black Mountain
Black Mountain can be found in the Santa Lucia Mountains, and it happens to be one of the highest peaks in the range. The distinctive dark color that makes up its slopes comes from a unique type of rock known as Greenstone, which is only found on this mountain and a few nearby ones. This incredible sight has been used several times throughout history for various Hollywood films. Still, most notably, it stood in for Mordor in Peter Jackson’s epic adaptation of Lord of the Rings.
9. High Sierra Trail
The High Sierra Trail is 1of my favorite hikes I have ever done so far simply because it offers some fantastic views at such an incredible elevation. It features more than ten different mountains, all taller than 14,000 feet high, and it takes up to 7 days for professional hikers and parks rangers to finish the entire trail. I, however, prefer doing only a few selected portions of the trail instead of committing myself to spend so much time on it as many of those mountains require some serious training before you can even think about climbing them.
10. Sierra Crest
The Sierra Crest is a fantastic trail that runs across the top of one of California’s most beautiful mountain ranges. Hiking across this trail to reach its highest points can be very dangerous due to all the loose rocks you will find along with it. Still, if you are ready for such a challenge, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed by what lies before your eyes when you arrive at these majestic peaks. Among other things, this trail also offers some great camping spots every night. It’s crossed and excellent open grass fields where you can relax and enjoy the views with the ones you love after a long day of hiking.
11. Cuyamaca Peak
Cuyamaca Peak is a trendy area for hikers, but most prefer going to the nearby Stonewall Peak instead of venturing up to its highest point. The views from atop this mountain are indeed charming, but they aren’t nearly as good as those you can find at Cuyamaca’s summit, which happens to be about a mile higher than Stonewall. What makes it even more impressive is that while this trail is only 5 miles long, gaining an additional 400 feet in elevation between start and finish will surely leave your legs burning afterward. However, I guarantee it will be worth every single step you take towards reaching this incredible place.
12. Black Butte
Black Butte is also one of my favorite hikes simply because it offers some breathtaking views of its surrounding areas and the whole Mount Shasta region. Although it’s only about 4 miles away from where I live, I never got around to hiking it until very recently, and after I did, I realized just how beautiful this place is. It’s located in a tiny little area called Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area. It consists mainly of waterfalls and forests, making Black Butte seem out of place with its natural wonders. However, getting there is worth it as long as you don’t mind walking for about 3 hours down an old abandoned road to get to the trailhead.
13. Needle’s Eye
The Needles are an exciting mountain range located along the border between California and Nevada. This area consists mainly of very high peaks that seem to shoot straight out of the ground devoid of vegetation, making them look like a bunch of needles from afar.
The highest point in this range is The Needles High Point, which happens to be only about 3 miles away from where I live, but it took me more than half a year after moving here before I got around to hiking it. Although it probably isn’t the most challenging peak you can find in this famous range, you should expect a great workout while going up and down this one if you don’t want to spend too much time cheering on your friends when they finish it while you’re still trying to catch your breath.
14. Pyramid Peak
Pyramid Peak is a mountain in Tahoe which offers some of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen. It’s not nearly as tall as most other mountains in this area, but most people fail to notice it because most of its west side is covered by trees from where they overlook it from above. However, once you reach its eastern side after climbing over 3000 feet up from the bottom of the canyon, the whole lake will suddenly appear before your eyes, and all you can see is blue water everywhere around you with no signs of civilization whatsoever except for a few boats dotting its surface now and then. This particular hike was the hardest I have ever done and by far the most rewarding.
15. Castle Peak
Castle Peak is yet another famous mountain located in California’s excellent Tahoe National Forest. It isn’t nearly as high as its surrounding peaks, but it happens to be one of my favorites simply because it offers some incredible views both during sunrise and sunset. If you want to avoid hiking it during hot days, come here instead after a fresh snowfall when everything around looks like something out of a fairy tale with all these completely white mountains rising into the sky around you. Although this trail might seem daunting at first due to how long it is (over 10 miles), keep in mind that once you reach its summit, you will be able to see almost all of Lake Tahoe’s shoreline stretching into the distance before you with no one else around except for you and your friends at this fantastic place.
To conclude, the reason why I love hiking so much is that it gives me a chance not just to spend some time with my close friends or family members, but also because it forces me to be utterly alone with my thoughts and reflect on all kinds of things in life that might otherwise seem insignificant.
Of course, there are thousands of other great places out there like these that make it possible for people like us to enjoy nature and everything it has to offer without having to live far away from civilization.