California's 10 best hiking trails
Editor's note: Please check the latest travel restrictions due to COVID-19 or the California wildfires before planning any trip and always follow government advice.
A hugely scenic trail on Lake Tahoe's western shore. It ribbons along the lakeshore for 4.5 mostly gentle miles from Vikingsholm Castle (add a mile for the downhill walk to the castle from Hwy 89) in Emerald Bay State Park, then leads past small coves perfect for taking a cooling dip, and treats you to great views along the way.
Add an extra mile to loop around and visit the restored historic lighthouse, a square wood-enclosed beacon (that looks a lot like an outhouse) constructed by the Coast Guard in 1916. Poised above 6800ft, it’s the USA’s highest-elevation lighthouse.
Mist Fall Hike
This very enjoyable 8-mile, round-trip walk along the riverside, up a natural granite staircase and finishing at the falls, which (when the wind is right) blows refreshing water droplets at hikers on arrival, highlights the beauty of Kings Canyon. The first 2 miles are fairly exposed, so start early to avoid the midday heat on the 700ft ascent.
Continuing past Mist Falls, the trail eventually connects with the John Muir/Pacific Crest Trail to form the 42-mile Rae Lakes Loop, the most popular long-distance hike in Kings Canyon National Park (a wilderness permit is required).
Hit your stride on this 10.5-mile stretch, starting at Fort Funston, crossing 4 miles of sandy Ocean Beach and wrapping around the Presidio to the Golden Gate Bridge. Casual strollers can pick up the restored trail near Sutro Baths and head around the Lands End bluffs for end-of-the-world views and glimpses of shipwrecks at low tide. At Lincoln Park, duck into the Legion of Honor or descend the gloriously tiled Lincoln Park Steps (near 32nd Ave).
High Sierra Trail
A contender for the best trail in Sequoia National Park – it's definitely on many world's best hike lists – the High Sierra trail begins at Crescent Meadow and continues for 49 miles. From 6700ft it climbs to an altitude of 10,700ft, crossing ridges, rivers, lakes, waterfalls and offering the most jaw-dropping mountain and valley views. It also connects to junctions for the famous John Muir Trail.
If you can only manage one hike in Tuolumne, this should probably be it. Cathedral Lake (9588ft), the lower of the two Cathedral Lakes, sits within a mind-blowing glacial cirque, a perfect amphitheater of granite capped by the iconic spire of nearby Cathedral Peak (10,911ft). From the lake’s southwestern side, the granite drops steeply away, affording views as far as Tenaya Lake, whose blue waters shimmer in the distance.
Parking for the Cathedral Lake Trailhead is along the shoulder of Tioga Rd. Due to the popularity of this hike, parking spaces fill up fast, so arrive early or take the free shuttle.
Santa Monica Mountains
A haven for hikers, trekkers and mountain bikers, the northwestern-most stretch of the Santa Monica Mountains is where nature gets bigger and wilder, with jaw-dropping red-rock canyons, and granite outcrops with sublime sea views. The best trails are in Pacific Palisades, Topanga and Malibu. The Backbone Trail is the longest trail in the range, linking – and accessible from – every state park. It’s 67 miles all told, running from Will Rogers to Point Mugu State Park, and can be completed in a few days.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Walkers and hikers explore eight miles of hillside sandy trails in a wilderness oasis of 2000 acres. Choose from routes of varying difficulties in this well-trodden coastal state park in La Jolla. The 0.7-mile Guy Fleming Trail (currently closed due to COVID-19) has panoramic sea views and paths through wildflowers, ferns and cacti. Meanwhile, the 1.4-mile Razor Point Trail (currently closed due to COVID-19) offers a good whale-spotting lookout during winter months.
Flora and fauna is abundant in this protected area. During quieter times, with fewer stomping feet, quiet walkers may spot raccoons, rabbits, bobcats, skunks and foxes among plenty of other types of wildlife. You'll have to pay for parking.
Considered historic and sacred by the Agua Caliente people, this gorgeous canyon, located in the Greater Palm Springs, can be explored via a fairly steep and rocky 1.8-mile (round-trip) hike culminating at a 60ft waterfall. An interpretive trail guide that's available at the visitor center points out rock art, viewpoints and native plant life. The center also has natural- and cultural-history exhibits and screenings of The Legend of Tahquitz video about an evil Cahuilla shaman.
Bring a picnic, water and be sure to wear sturdy footwear. If you don't want to head out on your own, join a ranger-led 2½-hour hike departing four times daily (once daily July to September) from the visitor center.
Boy Scout Trail
For an immersion into Joshua Tree flora and topography, embark on this tough 8-mile one-way trail cutting through canyons, washes and mountains along the western edge of the Wonderland of Rocks. Most hikers prefer to launch from Park Blvd near the Quail Springs picnic area and head north to Indian Cove. Arrange for pick-up at the other end or plan on camping overnight. Part of the trail is unmarked and hard to follow.
Rings Loop Trail
This fun 1.5-mile trail delivers close-ups of the Swiss-cheese-like cliffs of the Hole-in-the-Wall area at the Mojave National Preserve. Starting at the south end of the parking lot, it passes petroglyphs before entering an increasingly narrow canyon that you have to scramble out of using metal rings. You'll emerge at a picnic area and follow a paved road back to the parking lot. For a shorter experience (0.5 miles), use the rings to descend straight into the canyon and climb back out the same way.
This piece orginally appeared on our sister site, Lonely Planet.
Top 7 travel destinations that have had a serious glow-up
For many Americans, repurposing marvelous old buildings is always better than tearing them down. And while the term “urban renewal” comes with a little baggage, it’s hard to argue with its particular way of salvaging and adapting neglected older spaces for our modern world. City planners and architects across the country have found spectacular ways to reimagine vintage structures. You’ve seen it at New York City’s High Line, which converted a dilapidated Manhattan railroad into a lovely 1.5-mile “linear park.” And this year in Chicago, the gigantic, abandoned Old Post Office will open its repurposed 2.8 million square feet as a 21st-century office complex featuring a food hall, rooftop park, and restored Art Deco design. So for those travelers who appreciate the splendors of historic preservation and civic innovation, this shortlist of revitalized urban destinations is for you. 1. BeltLine, Atlanta One of the great Southern cities has circled back to its roots with adaptive-reuse projects across town – most notably along the BeltLine, itself a remarkable project. In 2005, Atlanta opened the first BeltLine section, a retired railway corridor–turned–multi-use trail that’s today lined with public art and parks. It drew more residents and businesses to the east side, and sparked the transformation of a massive old Sears distribution complex into Ponce City Market, now a dazzling mixed-use retail, dining, commercial, and residential center. Other industrial spaces along the trail have found new life too, like Inman Park’s Krog Street Market. More are sure to follow as new BeltLine sections open up in coming years, eventually spanning 33 miles. 2. Crescent Park, New Orleans Waterfronts across the country have been rediscovered in recent decades, thanks to city planners realizing the potential to replace retired wharves with versatile public space. In New Orleans, such creative thinking led to Crescent Park, a 1.4-mile linear park just east of the French Market. What once was a bustling industrial riverfront has since 2014 been a busy 20-acre green space with picnic areas, a dog run, and seasonal events and festivals. The Crescent City is seeing adaptive reuse elsewhere too, as seen across the Warehouse Arts District, at spots like the Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery, a modern hotel that prizes the building’s 19th-century heritage. In the Central Business District, Pythian Market is a locally curated food hall inside a restored 1908 tower with a fascinating tie to the city’s early civil-rights movement. 3. Discovery Green, Houston From parking lot to 12-acre park – that’s the story of Houston’s downtown Discovery Green. With the support of local philanthropy foundations, in 2002 the city seized the opportunity to convert concrete lots into an urban park with playgrounds, music stages, trails, gardens, bocce courts, restaurants, and other public amenities. The LEED-certified park now draws more than 1.2 million annual visitors, and has inspired revitalization projects across Midtown and East Downtown neighborhoods. 4. The Wharf, Washington, DC Washington’s Southwest neighborhood had for decades been a neglected corner of town, due partly to accessibility challenges caused by highways dividing it from major attractions. But that changed in 2017, when a $2 billion development transformed the industrial waterfront into the mixed-use District Wharf. The 10-acre neighborhood is now more easily accessible from the Metro (with a short walk or free shuttle), by car or cab, or by water taxi or private boat. These days, visitors from around the region flock to the Wharf that’s home to both restored historic structures and new “green” architecture – forming a year-round recreation, entertainment, and dining destination on the Washington Channel. 5. Crosstown Concourse, Memphis Old warehouses remain prized property for urban developers looking to adapt rather than build anew. Just head to the Crosstown Concourse in Memphis, where a humongous Sears store and distribution center, abandoned in 1983, became a thriving “vertical urban village” in 2017. The art deco complex that once served millions of mail-order customers now accommodates shoppers, diners, residents, and workers across its 1.2 million sq ft. It’s even home to a charter high school, medical clinics, a YMCA, and a contemporary arts organization with galleries and performance space. (Memphis is one of several US cities that have reused retired Sears complexes. You’ll find similar projects in Minneapolis, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Boston.) 6. Downtown Project, Las Vegas Not so much a single project as an evolving investment, Las Vegas’s Downtown Project is the city’s ongoing urban-revitalization initiative in its historic Fremont East/East Village districts. Driven (and financed) by Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, who parked the company headquarters there in 2013, the Downtown Project has poured $350 million into the neighborhood’s 61 acres. Today, Vegas visitors, workers, and residents enjoy new (and newly supported) businesses along the established street grid – from restaurants and bars, to arts spaces and boutiques, all complemented by award-winning urban design and public art. Befitting a project led by an online retail giant, the project’s Container Park houses nearly 40 businesses in repurposed shipping containers. 7. The Steel Yard, Providence The industrial character of Providence’s Valley neighborhood turned out to be a perfect setting for a vibrant urban arts studio. In 2002, the Steel Yard took over the century-old Providence Steel and Iron building just a year after it shuttered. Since then, all 12,000 sq ft have served as nonprofit workspaces for ceramics, woodwork, welding, blacksmith, and jewelry creators on the banks of the Woonasquatucket River. The Steel Yard reopened a refreshed space last year, and along the way it’s inspired other proprietors to make use of Valley’s lofty, leftover brick complexes, including the “elevated street casual” eatery Troop. Look for more action in this area over coming years, as city planners develop a linear park called Woonasquatucket River Corridor linking Downtown Providence to Valley in the coming years.
Budget Travel readers' 2020 bucket list
©Witold Skrypczak/Alamy Stock Photo Big Bend National Park in Texas provides some of the best stargazing sites in North America. ©John Woodworth/Getty Images Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming is beautiful, and Yellowstone is a short drive away! ©f11photo/Shutterstock Las Vegas is a perennial favorite (albeit difficult to do on a budget). ©Yukinori Hasumi/Getty Images New York, New York, the city of lights. ©mtnmichelle/Getty Images Lots of Budget Travel readers are planning trips to Alaska in 2020! ©Valentin Prokopets/500px/Getty Images Who among us wouldn't want a trip to Hawaii? ©pics721/Shutterstock Cruises to the Bahamas can be found for cheap rates! ©f11photo/Shutterstock Charleston, South Carolina, is a great place for a long weekend. ©CPQ/Shutterstock Witness the thunderous natural power of Niagara Falls. ©Micha Weber/Shutterstock New Orleans, Louisiana (or NOLA), known for throwing a great party. ©Martin Wheeler/EyeEm/Getty Images San Juan in Puerto Rico is an explosion of color! ©cdrin/Shutterstock Seattle, Washington, has great weather and mountain views! ©Matt Munro/Lonely Planet Sedona, Arizona, might be a center of mysterious spiritual vortexes. ©lightphoto/Getty Images The Catskills in New York are a great road trip!
Manhattan’s top 7 dive bars for cheap drinks
Across Manhattan, bars prevail. The Mayor’s Office counts at least 13,000 nightlife establishments in the borough, with still more new liquor licenses issued every week. But among the island’s posh lounges and trendy speakeasies charging $25 per cocktail, there remain a cherished handful of classic New York City dive bars. These are the haunts that have survived the decades with their own kind of style: mismatched furniture, extended happy hours, charmingly surly bartenders, and wooden bars worn down from a billion wipedowns. You won’t find leather-bound mixology menus on this extreme shortlist. Just cheap drinks in dives from downtown to Midtown, each one serving up its own unique character. 1. Jeremy’s Ale House Few bars outside the French Quarter can claim such sentimentality about Styrofoam cups, but those 32-ounce draft beers never tasted so good – or so cheap (just $6.50 to $10.50 for a nice selection). Since 1973, Jeremy’s has watered down locals and workers around the South Street Seaport, who pack around its many ale-house tables for drinks and bar grub, starting as early as 8 am on weekdays. Nobody really knows why there are bras hanging from the ceiling, but it shouldn’t deter you. Because really, Jeremy’s draws an uncommon mix of Wall Streeters, construction workers, and true-blue New Yorkers – all of whom share the common interest of drinking cheaply in the familiar ambience of a simple, fun neighborhood joint. 2. 169 Bar Slinging drinks since 1916, this Lower East Side barroom is a bonanza of old-Manhattan originality. The colorful sign over the door shows a multicolored martini tipping over, perhaps a harbinger of what’s ahead at 169, home of the pickle martini. Inside, it feels like anything can happen, from pool on a leopard-print table to soul and funk grooves under the disco ball, to tasting an array of oysters and seafood. But you’re in the right place if you just want to drink on a budget, with happy hour prices from 11:30 am to 7:30 pm daily. Bonus: At 169 Bar, you can text in your drink order for speedy service. 3. Milano’s In the middle of Nolita’s high-priced cocktail scene is this affordable oasis. Milano’s has served up boozy standards since 1880, and now stands alone on a stretch of E. Houston Street as a staple dive for shot-and-beer specials (usually $5) and 5-8 pm daily happy hours. The long, narrow bar is perfect for both drowning sorrows or laughing with pals, either activity accentuated by the jukebox and crazy décor. 4. Doc Holliday’s If you like your dive with attitude, Doc Holliday’s honkytonk is your joint. Occupying a prime spot on Avenue A at E. 9th Street, Doc’s often sports a sign out front discouraging moneyed/entitled types from whisking in for its cheap, potent pours. Expect friendly bartenders and a boozy crowd, many of whom arrive early for the 5-8 pm weekday happy hours, then stay for the pool table and rollicking jukebox. 5. Trailer Park Lounge This dive is a little different, because its kitsch, like its drinks, are so strong. But for New Yorkers who want a little trailer-park flair in their firewater fun, hitch up to this Chelsea bar. Happy hours of $3 beers (including rarely-seen-in-NYC Shaefer cans) and $5 margaritas beckon daily from 4 to 6 pm. You can balance the booze with tater tots, sloppy joes, moon pies, and other down-home delights. It all suits this setting of Naugahyde furnishings and dazzling memorabilia that seem left behind from too many trailer-park yard sales. 6. Jimmy’s Corner The dive-bar desert of Times Square still has a glorious winner in Jimmy’s Corner. Parked in the middle of W. 44th Street (just east of Broadway), this boxing-shrine bar was opened by former prizefighter Jimmy Glenn in 1971. It’s going strong today, thanks to devotees who pack into the slim front bar and back tables for strong pours by no-nonsense bartenders. There’s no happy hour, but on the bright side, drinks are wildly inexpensive (e.g. $3.50 for a vodka-tonic), and the bar is open from 10 am to 4 am daily. 7. Rudy’s Bar & Grill There’s something lovable about a dive that’s survived condo culture despite its duct-taped seating. That’s Rudy’s, the self-proclaimed “historic dive bar in NYC” marked by a giant pink pig statue. This Hell’s Kitchen tavern opened in 1933 at the sunset of Prohibition. Today, most locals who love Rudy’s rely on its free hot dogs, if not for genuine sustenance, then to help them curb the drunkenness delivered from $12 pitchers. But this bar is lovable any way you want to drink it, from affordable top-shelf tipples to $4 shots (no happy hour need).
10 wild and tasty North American food trails
Eating locally is a delicious way to enjoy your travels. But some corners of the United States and Canada offer more direct routes to falling for regional fare: food trails. Sure, there are food trails that are familiar for their states. (We’re looking at you, Wisconsin Cheese Tour and New York’s Buffalo Wing Trail!) This list, on the other hand, will direct you to 10 food-loving paths where eccentric and scrumptious tastes converge. 1. Cajun Boudin Trail, Louisiana Southern Louisiana serves up several culinary-trail choices, which take travelers along the I-10 and LA-90 corridors for specialties like gumbo, jambalaya, alligator, and crawfish. But even more homegrown is the Cajun Boudin Trail, centered around Lafayette. Pronounced “boo-dan,” boudin is a sausage filled with meat, rice, and herbs that’s served across bayou country. The boudin trail will lead you to markets and restaurants to taste the best locally made links – plus other savories like fried boudin balls, cracklin (fried pork skin), smoked meats, and more. Bonus: Visit in October and fill up at Lafayette’s annual Boudin Cookoff. 2. Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail, New Mexico You may wonder what’s so special about a burger topped with cheese and chiles that it’s earned its own food trail. One bite of this juicy New Mexican specialty, however, should answer your question. When it comes to the magical flavor formula of salt, fat, acid, and heat, the Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail has it all (including plenty of other chile-licious dishes). Navigate with the state-wide interactive map to tickle your taste buds with green-chile burgers from Taos down to Las Cruces. 3. Country Ham Trail, Kentucky You wouldn’t be wrong to think of Kentucky for its Bourbon Trail or even its Fried-Chicken Trail. But the simply delicious Country Ham Trail is the state’s showcase for producers who have been curing ham for more than a century (sometimes inside bourbon rickhouses, for even more local flavor). Better still, visit the trail in September as it leads to Marion County’s annual Country Ham Days food and music festival. 4. Nova Scotia Chowder Trail, Canada Atlantic Canada is easily one of the continent’s best seafood regions. And while the Lobster Trail is sure to impress travelers, Nova Scotia’s Chowder Trail leads to nearly 60 unforgettable chowder houses across the province. Let the interactive map guide you to the best bowls from Halifax to Cape Breton and beyond, and don’t forget your “chowder passport” to earn stamps along the way. 5. Tehama Trail, California Northern California is famous for wine. But drive north towards Redding and Shasta Cascade to discover the riches of the Northern Sacramento Valley along the Tehama Trail – where olives and olive oil are beautifully cultivated. Starting from the town of Corning, the trail leads to some of America’s best olive farms, many of them with tasting rooms to sample artisanal oils, vinegars, and all manner of olives. Don’t miss the region’s honeys, pies, fresh produce, and, of course, spectacular wines. 6. Lowcountry Oyster Trail, South Carolina Come for the scenery, stay for the sea-to-fork riches. The famous bivalves of South Carolina’s coastal Lowcountry region anchor this oyster trail, where travelers can sample every type of preparation – from fried to Oysters Rockefeller to raw on the half-shell. Find a handy map with suggested itineraries on the Lowcountry Oyster Trail site, covering oyster farms, shucking facilities, and oh-so-many great seafood restaurants, some serving oyster-loving craft-beer and wine pairings. 7. Richmond Dumpling Trail, British Columbia, Canada Neighboring Vancouver is the city of Richmond, where Asian cuisine is abundant, and so delicious it may be the best on this side of the Pacific. Dumplings stand out in particular, making the official Richmond Dumpling Trail one of British Columbia’s gastronomic highlights. With the help of the trail website, you’ll learn about types of dumplings, best times of day to enjoy dim sum, and which restaurant-crawl itinerary is going to lead to the most satisfying dumplings for your eager chopsticks. 8. Fruit Loop, Oregon For 35 miles, travelers to Hood River County can get loopy tasting the natural bounty of 17 farm stands, 10 wineries, three cideries, six berry farms, and two lavender farms. They’re all on the Fruit Loop, which marks its 27th anniversary in 2020. Download a map for easy touring by car or bike, then plan to take in the seasonal produce and year-round bites and beverages found only in central Oregon. Pick up a brochure at any site, get stamped at 14 farm stands, and get a Fruit Loop bag to help tote your edible souvenirs. 9. Tenderloin Trail, Indiana Save your calories for this Hamilton County food trail, showcasing a mighty indulgent staple of the Hoosier State. Behold the tenderloin sandwich, composed of an oversized slice of pork that’s been pounded, breaded, and deep fried, and usually served on a comically small bun with burger fixings. (You can try grilled too, but why would you?) With the help of the trail’s online map, you can try more than 50 restaurants serving up this Indianan classic, and print your own Tenderloin Trail passport for July’s annual Tenderloin Tuesday specials. 10. A to Z Foodie Trail, Iowa Pella, Iowa, may be a small town, but its bursting with tasty delights. So many that the region offers an A-to-Z Foodie Trail to showcase 26 different dishes and drinks unique to Marion and Mahaska Counties (southeast of Des Moines). The trail is a top tourist activity, guiding hungry travelers to sample a bevy of local foods, from apple pie at Pella Nursery and gouda cheese curds at Frisian Farms; to pigs in the blanket at Vander Pleog Bakery and Yoga Poser Pale Ale at Nocoast Beer Co.