Customer Reviews: Moon California Hiking: The Complete Guide to 1,000 of the Best Hikes in the Golden State (Moon Outdoors)
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VINE VOICEon March 4, 2012
This book just keeps getting better with age. Now in its ninth edition, California Hiking by Ann Marie Brown and Tom Stienstra is simply the most popular, most comprehensive, and in this edition, the most accurate volume of its kind. Hiking guidebooks almost never see nine editions, but this one has a loyal following and deserves a wide readership. Why? Because no matter where you are in the Golden State, this book will lead you to some spectacular hikes close by.

In all editions since 2002, California Hiking is organized by regions. Chapters run from the northern part of the state (Redwood Empire) to the southern deserts. Each chapter features a set of maps to help you locate trailheads, and each also highlights the authors' favorite hikes found in that chapter. As might be expected, some of these chapters are more extensive than others. The chapter on the greater San Francisco Bay area, with its profusion of national, state, and local parks, includes 209 different routes, nearly one fifth of the total hikes in the book. Lake Tahoe, the southern Sierra, including Sequoia and Kings Canyon, and Yosemite also receive a lot of attention. But even the shorter chapters include some real gems. The coastal hikes in Monterrey, Big Sur, and Santa Barbara are some of the best trails in the state. I have used this book for years to plan my vacations and will continue to do so in the future.

In this new (2012) edition, California Hiking features 1,014 hikes of varying difficulty. Some are short leg stretchers of a quarter of a mile. Others are long one way treks of up to 112 miles. The average hike is about 7 miles. Many of these hikes were found in earlier editions of the book, but this edition includes numerous updates to trail mileages and directions as some of the trails have been rerouted. And of course some trails are no longer listed. Gone is Point Bonita Lighthouse, which is no longer open to the public due to an unsafe walkway. The National Park Service will hopefully build a new one, but in the meantime, it has been replaced by other trails. The Pioneer History Trail at Benbow Lake State Recreation Area is also no longer listed. At this point, only those actually camping in the park can enjoy it, and the park is only open part of the year. On the other hand, this edition features many new hikes. Among these are the spectacular James Irvine trail in Prarie Creek Redwoods State Park and several new waterfall hikes, including two in San Diego County. In my opinion, the new hikes are on the whole better than the ones they replace.

Perhaps the biggest change in the 2012 edition of California Hiking is the elimination of the chapter on Death Valley. In previous editions, it was one of the shortest chapters in the book. Death Valley hikes are still included, however, in an expanded southern deserts chapter that also features several hikes in Anza Borrego State Park, including a new route in a slot canyon. The chapter on San Diego county has also been extensively reworked, and the results are spectacular. Several hikes which had been closed due to fires in years past are now reopened, and new hikes are also listed. I personally was pleased to see that Hot Springs Mountain is again open. The highest point in San Diego County was closed to public use for many years. Considering all the changes, the chapter on San Diego is now one of the best in the book.

Brown and Stienstra's California Hiking is the bible of California hikers. I probably have spent more time reading this book (in all of its editions) than any other title in any genre. Like many hikers, I want to complete all the trails described in the book. It is a lifetime project, but then this book is the result of a lifetime of effort by both authors. It is well worth the price and comes highly recommended.
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on April 27, 2012
I purchased an earlier edition to this in the mid 90s and loved it. My old edition was used so often it is starting to come apart!..So I decided to upgrade this year to this updated version, which just arrived. There are numerous things to point out about this reference.

Organization: I love this book for the way it is laid out. The front shows a diagram of the state of California divided into key hiking zones. On this diagram, it identifies the page number for that zone. When you flip to your zone of interest, you will find a blown up diagram of that zone with sub-zones and page #s which then identify trail reference numbers all over them. So, in about 20 seconds, you can focus on an area of interest and identify a series of trails in your area. When you flip to a trail number, it has the trail name, length, estimated time to hike, level of difficulty from 1-5 and level of beauty from 1-10. This is an absolute perfect way to quickly introduce a trail. The paragraphs that follow are well written and brief descriptions of the trail; accessibility to hikers, dogs, bikes, horses or wheelchair; Permits and fees; Identification of USGS maps for the trail; Directions to the trailhead; and Ranger station contacts including phone # and web address if applicable. You can complete the initial planning of a new hike with this book in a matter of minutes. A fantastic reference for California hiking.

Content: 1000 trails! I didn't count them all, but I believe the number. The first trail description starts on pg.45 and the last on pg.882, so I believe the 1000 trail claim. Obviously the John Muir trail, PCT and Yellowstone are completely covered, so are areas in the less obvious areas such as the desert areas in the south western area of the state. The trail descriptions are brief but do an excellent job of describing the highlights of the trail and serve as irresistible bait to get my boots on. Sitting in my urban/suburban home, I sometimes just read through the descriptions to remind me of the beauty waiting on the next trail. I have been on a couple dozen trails from this book and the descriptions are dead on. I am not disappointed that a few of my favorite trails are not in here simply because the size of the book is already on the upper end of what I want.

From what I can tell in my initial review of this new version, it is well bound with flexibility to open wide without cracking the backing. This version appears to be more durable and better bound with better paper than the 90s edition. No weaknesses - great purchase!
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on March 19, 2014
I recently used this book for hiking a number of trails on the northern California coast.

The book covers a very large number of trails. I found the authors "best of" listings to be a helpful way to sort through the trails for a region.

On the trails I hiked, I found the author's descriptions to be accurate, but somewhat terse. Perhaps a natural result of the large number of trails covered.

I would suggest if author does an update to the guide book that he includes the GPS coordinates of the trail head. This would be much more useful for locating the trail than providing directions from assumed starting points. The trail head location for a few of the trails I hiked were poorly marked. GPS coordinates would have been a big help.
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on January 8, 2015
The book is clearly out of date. Thankfully we did some research on line as well or else we would have missed out on our absolute favorite hike, the Edwolsen trail in the Julia Pffeifer Burns State Park. It was rated very low in the book. There were some hikes that were quite disappointing. Also, some of the highest rated hikes ened up being Disney versions, and while beautiful, we would not consider them to be hikes. We would have completely skipped those had we known (Point Lobos and Montana de Oro for example).
A lot of the spots that were "off the beaten path" which was the experience we were seeking, were clearly not.
Additionally, it would have been very helpful to have a description of the hike types, such as "out and back" or "look" and a small, at least diagrammatic map included.
On the upside, we appreciated the descriptions of the trails and the side trips shown for some of the trail which ended up making the hikes better.
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on September 22, 2013
This book is very useful. I often get lost on websites trying to find a new trail to hike that is no father than a 3 hour drive away. It's nice this book has all of the hikes and backpacking trips listed by region. It has fairly detailed descriptions of each hike and a rating system that tells you how difficult the hike is. It lets you know what kind of terrain and views to expect which can be crucial to picking a good day adventure.

The only reason why I did not give this book 5 stars is because it does not give detailed directions for finding the trail or a clear map. I used it to pick out this moderate hike that was only 5 miles but we took a wrong turn. The 5 mile hike turned into a 9 mile hike that extended into dark. So i recommend looking up a map for the hike or backpacking adventure to supplement the book's description.

It would be impossible for a book with this many hiking spots to offer maps for 1000+ sites. But this book is great for seeing what hikes are available and giving ideas for day and backpacking adventures.
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on June 6, 2016
Great collection of hiking trail covering the entire state of California. This book does a great job of getting you to the trail (driving/walking directions) as well as describing what to expect once you reach the trail. My only complaint (very minor) is that the book includes too many ultra-short trails. I only include this as a warning to people who are looking for backpacking trails, as the bulk of the trails in this book are day hikes.
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on June 26, 2015
Well my brother loves hiking and has done the JMT. I got this as a gift since he works in San Jose and comes home on the weekends in the sierras to hike with friends. This book is pretty cool on the sense that they have all the areas in different sections. So on look and you can find every hike in San Fran or a different section is l the hikes in Yosemite and near it. It also tells you how to get to each one, how long it is, and how long it should take you. It also satisfy out need a permit for anything so you can fully plan out your hike ahead of time. It's a thick book but it's pretty neat especially for someone who loves being outdoors
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on March 3, 2013
A thorugh treatment . Because it covers so much ground, not a great deal of detail is given for each hike, but what there is is usefull and easy to read at a glance. What to expect in the way of distance and difficulty is clear. Well organized by geographic area. I especially like the ratings for scenic views. A worhy companion for traversing the Golden State.
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on September 13, 2015
I haven't enjoyed this book at all compared to its previous printing that I also own from 1994. The older version is so much more detailed and easier to read. Much better information layout and hikes. I still pick up my 1994 version first and then I might check to see if it is the new book. Just an OK book.
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on January 11, 2013
I like the details in this book and some of the general info it provides. I found a couple of good hikes on it on a recent trip.

What I don't really like about the guide is that it seems to make every hike seem awesome (even when they're really not.) Literally at least 99% of the hikes in the book have a rating between 7-10 (I found one hike rated 6 and that was the lowest I found.)

At first I thought this might be because they only put the best hikes in the book and so it would make sense that they're all highly rated. But then if they did that there should still be a 1-10 scale rating of those so that there's some relative rating of good, better, and best. And I checked the ratings of some of the hikes in my local area that I know very well and many are rated higher than they seem to merit.

But for the info about the mileage, strenuousness, directions,etc. This is a pretty good book.
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