Don't be afraid: Hiking the San Andreas will bring you nothing but fun

Here's the paradox about California's San Andreas Fault. Yes, itcan shake us silly. But it's also responsible for some of the mostbeautiful landscapes in the world. Another paradox: As powerful asit is, the San Andreas is also kind of shy. There aren't manyplaces where you clearly see the fault and the landscapes it'sshaped. Our list includes some of these areas, where you not onlysee traces of quakes, but also can enjoy spectacular hiking,especially in spring.

Aptos
The Forest of NiseneMarks State Park , Aptos Creek Trail.
The demanding butbeautiful hike puts you above the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prietaquake in the Santa CruzMountains. Hike or bike along the Aptos Creek Fire Road 4miles. At the Aptos Creek Trail, ditch the bike and walk about 0.6miles to the epicenter, which is marked by a sign. From SoquelDrive in Aptos, take Aptos Creek Road 1 mile north to parkentrance. Because of extreme weather, the trail and certain roadswere closed at publication time; call ahead before making plans.831/763-7062.

Palm Springs
CoachellaValley Preserve , Thousand Palms Oasis.
Here in the CoachellaValley, the Mission Creek branch of the San Andreas Fault hasforced water upwards to create the lush Thousand Palms Oasis, abeautiful grove of fan palms. A short trail leads you through thegrove. From I-10 in Palm Springs, 5 miles east on Ramon Road, thenabout 2 miles north on Thousand Palms Canyon Dr. 760/343-2733.

Pearblossom
Devil's Punchbowl CountyPark, Loop Trail.
With its wildly sculpted rocks, this parkon the north side of the San Gabriel Mountains is probably ourfavorite place to see the fault's workings. The 1-mile Loop Trail,which leads from the park nature center, gives a good introduction.From State 138 in Pearblossom (20 miles southeast of Palmdale), 7miles south on Longview Rd. to 28000 Devil's Punchbowl Rd.661/944-2743.

Point Reyes
Point Reyes National Seashore, Earthquake Trail.
This short (0.6-mile) scenic trail is thebest place in Northern California to see traces ― groundfractures, displaced fences ― of the 1906 quake. From State 1in Olema (35 miles north of San Francisco), follow signs ½mile west to Bear Valley Visitor Center. Trail begins at BearValley picnic area, across from the visitor center, and iswheelchair accessible. 415/464-5100.

San Benito County
Pinnacles National Monument,Condor Gulch Trail.
Talk about heavy lifting: The San AndreasFault (which runs right through the monument) helped carry theeerie rockformations you see here some 200 miles from their original homebetween Lancaster and Gorman. The 2-mile round-trip hike on theCondor Gulch Trail gives a good overview of the geologicalspectacle. 26 miles south of Hollister on State 25, 5 miles west onState 146 to the east entrance of park, 3 miles to the trailhead.$5 per vehicle (without National Parks Pass). 831/389-4485.

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35 hikes off State 35