Hiking's venerable magazine, Backpacker, this month published Perfect 10: North America's 10 Most Memorable Hikes, and not surprisingly, California is listed twice.
Opening the guide is the southern section of the Lost Coast Trail in Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. "It's perfect from the very first mile, and never lets up for the next 15," writes Dennis Lewon of the trail that takes you from redwood groves to bluffs overlooking the ocean (and so much more).
For the uninitiated, the Lost Coast is 60 miles of undeveloped California coast 225 miles north of San Francisco. "So rugged is this country, highway engineers were forced to route Highway 1 many miles inland from this coast--and the region has remained sparsely settled and unspoiled," explains the California State Parks website. "It's grand vistas and varied terrain-- dense forests, prairies, coastal bluffs, beaches--reward the hardy explorer."
The other Golden State hike listed is more well known: to the top of Mount Whitney. The most traditional way to hike to the tallest mountain the lower 48 states is via the Whitney Portal off Lone Pine in the Owens Valley. But Trevor Thomas, a Pacific Crest Trail thru-hiker in 2010, did it as part of his 2,800-mile journey between the borders of Mexico and Canada. And Thomas, who climbed it with two hiking partners, experienced it like no other.
"People ask me: Why climb if you can't see what's there? I can't see the view, but I can feel it," the blind hiker told the magazine. "I use my other senses to take in a mountaintop. I think of the smells, the wind, the sun on my face. That summit is the most beautiful thing I've ever felt--and my sighted partners agree."
As an added feature, Backpacker has published downloadable trip planning guides for each of the hikes that made their list.