Jumping off the Kelso Dunes.

Five West Coast Hikes You Can Do This Weekend

It’s still cold along the Eastern Seaboard and up by the Canadian border, but springtime weather is already arriving in the rest of the continental United States, and it’s perfect on the West Coast. And that means it is time to get outside and stretch your legs and relieve your eyes and ears from the dull “content” of phones and teevees and tax forms and traffic.

Here are five guaranteed hikes perfect for these last official days of winter before the Spring Equinox, which arrives on March 20 for North America this year. 

  • Red Rock Canyon, near Las Vegas: It’s the best time of year for wandering this incredible preserve a short hop from the lights and sprawl of Las Vegas. Wildflowers are blooming. The air is crisp and clear from recent storms. Go now.
  • Mojave National Preserve: That massive green spot on the map between L.A. and Vegas is Mojave National Preserve, the best-kept secret in the National Park System. Skip the crowds (and longer drives) of Death Valley and zip right off the 15 to a couple of the finest experiences you’ll have using your legs: the Kelso Dunes and Teutonia Peak. The dunes are just what they sound like: spectacular sand dunes that even “sing” as the endless sand slides around thanks to gravity and the wind. Teutonia Peak is a gorgeous and easy walk through a rich forest of Joshua trees and juniper. Wildflowers are blooming in both spots.
  • Henry Hagg Lake and Scoggins Valley Park, near Portland: Less than an hour’s drive from downtown Portland, this Oregon park and lake combination has everything you need.  Bring your rain gear, because you’re in Oregon and wet weather is not unheard of around here!
  • Runyon Canyon, Los Angeles: This popular trail just above Hollywood can get crowded on a beautiful weekend, but get up there by 7 a.m. and you’ll have it mostly to yourself. You might even find parking!
  • Samuel Taylor State Park, Marin County:  Just before you reach Olema and Point Reyes Station, there is a wonderful creekside state park off Sir Francis Drake. The campgrounds are quaint, and there’s actually water in the creeks now! Join the California State Parks Association for just $25 and you’ll get a pack of four state-park passes that will get you through spring.

Photo of the Kelso Dunes by Laura Crane.