During the darker, shorter days of the winter months, many people start to get a little cabin fever around this time of year. Fortunately for those of us living in (or visiting) the warmer climates of California and Florida, there are plenty of opportunities to break out of the house, see some sights, and breathe in fresh air. And there might be no better way to do that than with a refreshing winter hike.
The following destinations are the perfect places to combat the winter blues and enjoy the great outdoors (without freezing your butt off), no matter your hiking skill or experience level.
Florida Hiking Trails
Everglades National Park
It’s tough to talk about great Florida hikes without mentioning the natural wonder that is the Everglades. Featuring 43 miles of intersecting trails on Pine Island, which are largely free of cars and bikes, there are a ton of opportunities for all skill levels. At just .8 miles, the Anhinga Trail is a great option for beginners and bird-lovers. On any given day, you're bound to see a wide range of birds, such as cormorant, herons, purple gallinules, and, of course, anhingas, swooping around the trail. Meanwhile, the 7.5-mile Coastal Prairie Trail is a stellar option for those looking for more of challenge, and it leads to a beautiful beach campground.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park
The Jonathan Dickinson State Park is another destination that offers abundant opportunities for beginner-advanced hikers. The Kitching Creek Loop is a 7.5-mile trail offering a wide variety of flora and opportunities for wildlife observation. It also features a tower observation deck that you can climb for a bird’s-eye view of the park. If you’re looking for a several-day getaway, then consider the 10.5-mile trail from Lucky Tract to Kitching Creek, which includes several campgrounds for you to set up shop and spend more time exploring the expansive park.
California Hiking Trails
Big Bear Lake offers a treasure trove of unforgettable hiking opportunities. A small city in San Bernardino County surrounded by the San Bernardino National Forest, Big Bear has hiking trails for all skill levels. For a quick and easy go around, you can take a 30-minute hike through the Champion Lodgepole Pine Trail featuring one of the largest Lodgepole Pine trees in the world. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, then hit up the Cougar Crest Trail, a steep, 5-mile hike that ends at the junction of the famous Pacific Crest Trail.
Another hiking destination with a multitude of trail options, Lake Tahoe is located on the California-Nevada border and is the largest alpine lake in North America. Among its abundant hiking opportunities is the Skyline Trail Hike, a lift-access trail leading to scenic views of Carson Valley and Lake Tahoe. For a family-friendly trail, check out the Fallen Leaf hike, which offers gentle 1-3-mile trails around Fallen Leaf Lake, views of Mt. Tallac, and access to a nearby campground.
Located three miles west of Kelbaker Road in San Bernardino County, the Kelso Dunes offer unique hiking conditions in a striking setting. The expansive, sandy dunes provide a three-mile hike that takes longer than a typical three-miler due to the sandy conditions, but with the rose-colored glow they offer as the sun sets, you won’t mind the extra time it takes to complete. The dunes are also set in 1.6 million acres of wilderness that provides ample opportunities for camping and hiking, as well as horseback riding and four-wheeling.
Nestled in the Joshua Tree National Park, Barker Dam offers a short and easy hike for beginners with a stunning view. The natural, 1.2-mile trail is a cinch to follow thanks to ample signage, and it leads to the beautiful Barker Dam. As you work your way through it, you’ll be greeted by massive rock formations and boulder piles in addition to native vegetation and wildlife. You’ll also find ancient Cahuilla petroglyphs dotting the trail. This hike’s negligible elevation and easy-to-follow trail makes it a great option for the whole family.
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