Top 10 of 2020

A trip to the Lakes Basin is a little like going back in time … It’s the High Sierra, simplified. Just you and the lakes and the mountains, and no cell phone service! Get to this destination about one hour northwest of Tahoe for some chill lakeside camping, miles of uncrowded hiking trails, and a lookout like no other.

Week 12.30.2020
Regions Northern CA

1) The Lakes Basin

Woman viewing the scenery from the Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout in Lakes Basin Plumas County

A trip to the Lakes Basin is a little like going back in time … It’s the High Sierra, simplified. Just you and the lakes and the mountains, and no cell phone service! Get to this destination about one hour northwest of Tahoe for some chill lakeside camping, miles of uncrowded hiking trails, and a lookout like no other.

2) Angel Island

Woman hiking down stairs to Perles Beach on Angel Island State Park in the San Francisco Bay Area

When it comes to iconic Bay Area scenery, there’s something heavenly about Angel Island. The state park smack in the middle of San Francisco Bay has everything from a peak hike to one of the bay’s best panoramas, to a secret beach that’s ideal for kicking back to views of the San Francisco skyline and the Golden Gate.

BONUS: Get Your Free 2021 Hiking Calendar by POST

Man hiking at Russian Ridge Open Space

Ready to kick off 2021? Download the 2021 POST Hiking Calendar (complimentary)—with recommended trails for every month of the year. It’s like a to-do list that you’ll actually love doing! Thank the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST). Their conservation work protects the Bay Area’s natural landscape for the benefit of all, and this calendar of 12 hikes on the Peninsula and South Bay is filled with staff favorites. Waterfalls, wildflowers, wildlife, and wild open spaces: it’s all in there! Get the essential hiking details, along with beautiful photos and tips on when to visit.

Get the 2021 calendar!

3) Mount Tam and the Secret Tree Swing

Woman on a tree swing overlooking the pacific

Get reacquainted with Marin’s lofty landmark in Mount Tamalpais State Park. This 8-mile (round-trip) hike is a pure classic, with redwoods, water-flows, and soaring views of the coastline. Oh yeah, and that small detour to the secret tree swing.

4) Southern Oregon's National Treasure

Couple standing at Garfield Peak Overlooking Crater Lake in Crater Lake National Park Southern Oregon

That's blue! Crater Lake National Park has the deepest lake in the country and the seventh deepest in the world. For one of the very best perspectives of Crater Lake, hike the 3.4-mile out-and-back to Garfield Peak.

5) Kortum and GOAT!

Three people standing at an overlook on the Kortum Trail in Sonoma County

The Sonoma Coast seems to have more beaches than San Francisco has hills; after Bodega Bay the choices go on for 13 glorious miles. For an easygoing beach-hopping hike with plenty of dramatic scenery, connect Shell Beach to Blind Beach along the beautiful blufftop Kortum Trail. And be sure to bonus the day with sunset at Goat Rock Beach.

6) Hankering for Henry Cowell

Person standing in the Redwoods Grove at Henry Cowell State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains

When a steam train chugging through soaring redwoods is just one among many amazing sites you’ll see at Henry Cowell State Park, you know you’re in for something magical. There’s also the ancient redwood grove, beautiful river, conifer-covered footbridges, and sandy beach. See the highlights on this 5-mile hike that includes an observation deck with 360-degree views to inspire.

7) On a Roll, Alameda!

Woman bike riding at Alameda

Alamedans like to joke that they enjoy “island living.” Things are a bit slower and a bit more chill at this island city on San Francisco Bay. Get into the island swing of things and ride your bike from Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach to the cool industrial westside, where you can find craft breweries and the USS Hornet, a massive and impressive aircraft carrier that was part of WWII and the Apollo 11 recovery mission.

8) By Gosh, Joshua Tree!

Woman sitting on rock pile at Ryan Peak in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is stunning in winter. Here are our top recommendations on exploring this dreamy desertscape in two days, from the classics to an accessible peak hike that's brilliant near sunset.

9) Utica Reservoir

Woman kayaking at Utica Reservoir in Stanislaus National Forest

It's all about the water, and the camping, at Utica Reservoir in Stanislaus National Forest, a High Sierra reservoir perfect for kayak explorations and pitching your tent lakeside. And the scenery? Sierra spectacular!

10) Golden Gate is Great!

Man rollerblading at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco

San Francisco’s largest park—the heartbeat of the city—traditionally closes part of JFK Drive on Sundays for walkers, bike riders, and roller skaters. But since April 2020, the road closure at Golden Gate Park has been in effect seven days a week, creating more open space for all kinds of fun and relaxing activities. Here are some of our favorites.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST: In the episode "Top Adventures from The Year of the Dumpster Fire" Weekend Sherpa co-founders discuss some favorite adventures and how the Top 10 list was made from this rollercoaster of a year.

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