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Reviews > Books > Trail Guides > Foghorn Outdoors California Hiking > Owner Review by Sheila Morrissey



Seventh Edition
by Tom Stienstra and Ann Marie Brown

California Hiking
Photo from

Date: July 14, 2008

Name: Sheila Morrissey
Age: 27
Gender: female
Height: 5 ft 8 in (1.7 m)
Weight: 155 lb (70 kg)
Email address: geosheila(at)yahoo(dot)com
City, State, Country: Goleta, California, USA

I have been backpacking, mostly in the Sierra Nevada and Los Padres National Forest, with friends and my dog since 2005. I've travelled between one and 19 mi (two to 31 km) per day on my backpacking trips, but I most often enjoy a leisurely 5 mi (8 km) or so in a day. Including consumables, my pack is usually around 25 lb (11 kg). I always carry a tent.

Publisher: Avalon Travel (Avalon Publishing Group, Inc.)
Year Published: Seventh edition published 2005 (First edition published 1994)
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 1 lb 9.5 oz (0.7 kg)
Listed Size: N/A
Measured Size: 5.25 in x 8.25 in x 1.25 in (13.3 cm x 21.0 cm x 3.2 cm)
Pages: 808
MSRP: US$ 21.95

California Hiking is one of Foghorn Outdoors' guide books for outdoor activities in different regions. Of course, the activity for this book is hiking and the region is California! The book lists loads of hikes (apparently more than 1,000 in all, though I didn't count them) throughout California, divided by region. After the publishing information and author profiles that convincingly prove they spend a lot of time in the outdoors, the book has a map of California divided into 16 chunks. Each region has its own chapter in the book. The region name, chapter number and page number of that chapter are listed on the map. The regions (in chapter order, generally from north to south, going from the coast to inland regions) are: Redwood Empire, Shasta and Trinity, Lassen and Modoc, Mendocino and Wine Country, Sacramento and Gold Country, Tahoe and the Northern Sierras, San Francisco Bay Area, Monterey and Big Sur, San Joaquin Valley, Yosemite and Mammoth Lakes, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Death Valley, Santa Barbara and Vicinity, Los Angeles and Vicinity, San Diego and Vicinity, and the Southern Deserts.

The table of contents lists each chapter's page number and gives a bullet point list of the forests and parks included in that region. Following the table of contents is a detailed guide to using the book. The introduction lists the authors' favorite California hikes to waterfalls, hikes to wildflowers, "butt-kicker" hikes, hikes with a view, meadow hikes, hikes to swimming holes, self-guided nature hikes, hikes among redwoods or sequoias, short backpacking trips, one-way hikes with a shuttle, beach and coastal walks, hikes to see wildlife, hikes for bird-watching, summit hikes, island walks, wheelchair-accessible trails, hikes in desert terrain, hikes for kids, and hikes to see fall colors. The usual hiking-guide information is also in the introduction, with a detailed day hiking equipment list, information on foot care and footwear, wildlife facts, tips for avoiding crowds, making long distance trips work, hiking with dogs and protecting the outdoors.

Each chapter begins with a two-page introduction to the region. The authors note the main attractions, what type of terrain to expect, and otherwise try to convince me that I need to visit this region (e.g. "On a perfect day in the redwoods here, refracted sunlight beams through the canopy, creating a solemn, cathedral-like effect. If feels as if you are standing in the center of the earth's pure magic.") A map of the whole region, which is up to 200 mi (320 km) across in the case of the Southern Deserts region, comes after the chapter introduction. The map shows the region subdivided into smaller areas, with corresponding map and page numbers listed. The smaller region maps are shown at a large enough scale to show any roads (including dirt roads) to the trailheads. These maps have numbers at the trailheads corresponding with hike numbers. A number 1 shown on a trail maps corresponds with hike number 1 in that chapter. Each hike is also listed in the index at the end of the book.

Most of the hikes listed are day hikes, but there are backpacking trips as well. Each hike listing gives the name of the hike (and it says "loop", if it's a loop), the distance in miles, and the approximate amount of time it takes to complete the hike. There is also a difficulty rating from 1 to 5 and a quality rating from 1 to 10, which the authors say is "based largely on scenic beauty, but it also takes into account how crowded the trail is and whether noise of nearby civilization is audible." The general location (nearest town or which Forest the hike is in) is listed along with the map number and its page number that the hike can be found on. Each hike has about two or three paragraphs describing the hike, including what to expect on the trail, possible side trips, campsite information and when it's best to take this hike. Below the description, each hike has information on user groups (lists who uses the trail -- hikers, dogs, horses and/or mountain bikes -- and whether there are wheelchair facilities), permits (states whether permits are required and any current permit, entrance and/or parking fees), maps (lists the USGS quad for the hike and any other maps that are available), directions (gives detailed directions from major freeways) and contact information (gives addresses, web addresses and phone numbers).

I most definitely don't take this book on any hiking trips. It's huge! I use it for planning from my tent on car-camping trips, but I mostly use it at home. Since I got the book in 2005, I have probably read it, stared at it, or poked through it for an hour every week. It's not the only resource I use for planning hiking trips, but it's usually the first place I turn when I don't know where I want to go. I have used it to plan trips in 8 of the 16 chapters/regions: Redwood Empire, Tahoe and the Northern Sierra, Monterey and Big Sur, Yosemite and Mammoth Lakes, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Death Valley, Santa Barbara and Vicinity, and Los Angeles and Vicinity. I'm having a hard time trying to count how many of the California Hiking trips I've been on because of this book, but to take a guess, I'd say it's probably around 25 day hiking and backpacking trips. From reading the Best Hikes section, I hiked Devils Postpile and Rainbow Falls, Santa Paula to Big Cone Camp, Cedar Creek and the Fishbowls, and I'm planning on doing the Lost Coast Trail. I had already heard of some of the other Best Hikes and other listed hikes before buying this book and I don't always hike the exact hike the book lists, so that's part of my problem not being able to count exactly how many trails I've hiked as as result of reading this book.

California Hiking
Little Lakes Valley got a quality rating of 10. I'd have to agree!

This book is so easy to use: I open it up to the map of California and pick a region to hike. Okay, it's not so easy to pick, but that's not the book's fault. I browse through the hikes listed in the region and, with all of the details given, make plans for a hike or make a hike work with my plans. I sometimes take the hiking trip as listed in the book, and I sometimes use the information given to plan my own trips. That's easy enough to do with the contact, map and camping information given for each hike. The first thing I usually look to see is if dogs are allowed on the trail because I like hiking with my dog. Next, I check out the quality rating. The numbers are always pretty high, but I find them accurate. Dusty, boring, unmaintained trails get a 5, and gorgeous, jaw-dropping High Sierra lakes get a 10. The descriptions let me know whether I'll have a stream crossing or need to watch out for an easy-to-miss trail. The descriptions are very helpful and I usually copy down mileages and important notes before heading out on the trail with a topo map.

California Hiking5
The hike we took to Big Lake McGee isn't exactly listed in the book, but we got the idea from the book.

I only ever once found a trail description to be wrong, but I can't blame the book when a fire stole the trail. Cedar Creek and the Fishbowls is listed as one of the Best Hikes, with a quality rating of 9. I did like swimming in the Fishbowls and thought the bear claw scratches on the edges of the water holes were awesome, but the hike was just okay since it had been completely burned. The "pretty conifer forest" we were supposed to be hiking through was burned so the hike was hotter than we were expecting. Plus, we lost the burned trail on the way out.

California Hiking
The hike to Cedar Creek and the Fishbowls was burned, making it a hotter hike than we expected.

  • Regional maps and hike listings by regions are very easy to use
  • Camping information listed even on day hikes and lists of available trail maps make it easy to plan my own trips that stem from a listed hike
  • It's quick and easy to find out whether dogs are allowed on a given trail
  • I have found most of the distances, trail conditions, contact information and even beauty ratings to be reasonably accurate
    • None

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