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2 California Trails Make National Geographic's 'Dream Hikes' List

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A hiker along the Pacific Crest Trail in the San Jacinto Mountains in Southern California.

| Photo: rjtrick/Flickr/Creative Commons License

If you took all the trails in the world and boiled it down to a list of 20, what would make the cut? National Geographic asked "20 outdoor luminaries ... about the trails they dream about" and published the results earlier this month.

Usually, Yosemite National Park makes such lists -- and it sort of made it this time, too. But only because these two trails go through the park via two much longer adventures: the Pacific Crest Trail and the Sierra High Route.

The latter, not to be confused with the High Sierra Trail farther south, is not as well known. The 195-mile route was chosen by professional backpacker Andrew Shurka. It basically parallels the John Muir Trail, which he describes as an "overcrowded highway" and says "too often goes low when the best terrain is almost always high" (don't let the traffic hyperbole stop your JMT plans, though). Continued: "The Sierra High Route is not necessarily more stunning than the other big trails/routes I've done, but it's certainly more concentrated, putting the effort- and time-to-reward ratios off the charts."

What makes the the Sierra High Route interesting is its cross country nature, which is to say it's mostly off trail and requires the use of GPS, or better yet, a good map and a compass (this is why it's referred to as a route rather than a trail). Writes Steve Roper, who originally scouted the route, in the introduction of his book about the route: "High Route adventurers will not be put off by the lack of an actual trail, since much of the singular joy of cross-country travel lies in wandering through the timberline country as the pioneers did -- wondering what the next turn will reveal."

The route begins in Kings Canyon National Park and works it's way up through the Sierra Nevadas, traversing John Muir and Ansel Adams wildernesses, Devils Postpile, Yosemite, and ending in Hoover Wilderness.

As for the Pacific Crest Trail, it's no surprise it made NatGeo's list. Ultrarunning champ Scott Jurek chose the 2,650-mile trail that runs between the Mexico and Canada borders because of it's "sheer beauty and variety." "While I have many trails on my list all over the world, exploring my own country ranks highest," he wrote.

The PCT, as it's known, got a boost in visibility last year, thanks to Cheryl Strayed popular book her, "Wild."

Also
- Tales from the Pacific Crest Trail
- After Hiking 1,600 Miles in 5 Months, 'Condor' Finishes PCT Journey
- California listed Twice in 'North America's 10 Most Memorable Hikes'
- L.A. Staircase is One of the 'World's Coolest,' Says Travel Magazine

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