These hikes are featured in the Travel section of the San Jose Mercury News for Aug. 3, 2008.

Lassen Peak Trail

Lassen PeakWhere: Lassen Volcanic National Park

Why: Never climbed a real mountain? Here’s your chance: The 2.5-mile path to the top of Lassen Peak (actually a volcano that last erupted early in the 20th century) will give your heart a good workout and you’ll see some of the finest scenery in far northern California’s volcano country, including Mount Shasta far to the north

Details: Strenuous 5-mile out and back from 8,500 feet to 10,457-foot summit. Wear sunscreen, there’s no shade.

4.5-5 hours, about 270 miles from San Jose

Getting there: Take I-680/880 north to I-80 north to I-5/505 to Exit 649 at Red Bluff. Take Antelope Boulevard to Highway 36, turn left, go 43 miles and turn left at Lassen Peak Highway and go about six miles to park entrance. Trail head is along the main road about six miles into the park. Get there via Google map.

Entrance fee: $10 for seven-day pass.

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Panorama Trail

Half Dome

Where: Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park

Why: Yosemite’s celebrated Half Dome is your constant companion along this lovely walk through rocky, forested terrain. Hike 5.2 miles to Nevada Falls and return if you’re feeling strong; otherwise just go till you feel like turning back.

Details: Moderate 5- to 10-mile out-and-back above 7,000 feet; some tricky terrain. Stay on dry land, the waterways can lead to waterfalls — falling over one is fatal.

The drive: 4.5-5 hours, about 210 miles from San Jose.

Getting there: Take I-580 to I-5, and turn off at Highway 120 at Manteca. Stay on Highway 120 all the way to Yosemite Valley, From the valley, follow signs to Highway 41 South, turn right, go just over nine miles to Glacier Point Road, take it 15.7 miles to Glacier Point visitor center. Trail head is on the right side of the parking lot. Get there via Google map.

Entrance fee: $20 for a seven-day pass.

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Tomales Point Trail

Tomales Point Trail

Point Reyes National Seashore

Why: Pacific breezes can make this a cool outing even on the hottest days of the year. Speaking of heat: Thule elk breeding season begins in late summer, so it’s a good time to check out the mighty bulls as they build their harems (from a safe distance; those antlers are very sharp).

Details: Moderate 5- to 10-mile out-and-back. Bring a windbreaker; never approach the thule elk.

Driving: 2.5 hours, about 100 miles from San Jose

Getting there: Take the scenic drive up Highway 1 from Highway 101 in Sausalito. Stay on Highway 1 until Point Reyes Station, then turn west on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. Go six miles and turn right at Pierce Point Road, stay on it till the road ends in the parking lot at Pierce Point Ranch. The trail head is well marked at the parking lot. Get there via Google map.

Entrance fee: none.

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Ohlone Bluff Trail

Ohlone Bluff Trail

Where: Wilder Ranch State Park

Why: This trail has everything you need for a casual stroll: ocean breezes; crashing waves; wide, flat trails; California’s spectacular coastline. It’s one of the best hikes for beginners in this part of California.

Details: Easy 2-5 miles, mostly flat. Bring a windbreaker; avoid cliff edges.

Driving: One hour, about 30-40 miles from San Jose.

Getting there: Take Highway 17 south to the Highway 1 north exit in Santa Cruz. Take Highway 1 out of town and watch for the Wilder Ranch sign a couple of miles past the city limits. Turn left into the park. Get there via Google map.

Parking fee: $6.

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Mission Peak summit at sunset

Mission Peak

Where: Mission Peak Regional Preserve

Why: Fremont’s signature peak bakes in the sun all summer, but there are two cool, captivating alternatives: late evening, when the hill turns golden in the fading light; or early morning, as the fog lifts. Though the park officially closes at sundown, intrepid hikers often can’t resist the temptation to catch a sunrise or sunset from the summit. If you dare, go under a full moon.

Details: Summit-and-back hike goes 5.6 miles with over 2,000 feet of climb. Bring a windbreaker and flashlight if you’re out near dark.

Driving: 20-30 minutes, about 10-15 miles from San Jose.

Getting there: Take Interstate 680 to southern Mission Boulevard exit; go east on Mission Boulevard for a half-mile; turn right at Stanford Avenue; and follow it to the park. Get there via Google map.

Parking: Free; lot is often full but you can park on a nearby side street. Never leave valuables in your car: The area is a favorite of smash-and-grabbers.

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