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The best backpacking trips: West Coast edition

Whether you’re just starting out or have been backpacking for years, it’s never too late to get started on exploring new routes and checking out stunning new places.

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

Presented by Sawyer

Find yourself among the most magnificent mountain tops, overlooking glorious ocean views, or trekking through rugged backcountry. The West Coast has it all and we got you covered on some of the best backpacking trips to get you and some friends beyond excited to get going on. Below is the ultimate list of backpacking trips on the West Coast that will guarantee you some life-long memories.

California

Home to beaches, forest, mountains, and desert, California has endless diverse terrain to adventure on! There’s something for everyone. Though the list of incredible trips in this one state could go on for pages, here are some you might want to check off first. 

Cone Peak in Big Sur, Sea to Sky Route

Photo: Josiah Roe
  • 19.72 miles out-and-back
  • 7,484 feet of elevation
  • Less than 3 miles from the ocean
  • Camp on the summit near an old fire lookout

The Boy Scout's Trail in Joshua Tree

Photo: Ian Buchanan
  • 16.12 miles out-and-back
  • 1,539 feet of elevation
  • Explore forests and Mars-like terrain
  • Stunning views of the San Gorgonio Mountain (tallest in SoCal)

Colorado

Colorado is one of the best states for outdoor and nature enthusiasts to be in. The pristine topography, abundant wildlife, and fresh air make it a top location for backpacking along with a number of other activities including skiing, canoeing, and mountain biking.

Mirror and Crater Lakes

Photo: Eric Schuette
  • 14.94 miles out-and-back
  • 2,421 feet of elevation
  • Prime spot for fishing and swimming
  • Cascading waterfalls on the way

King Lake

Photo: Eric Schuette
  • 11 miles out-and-back
  • 2,500 feet of elevation
  • Ideal sunrise and night photography opportunities
  • Beautiful wildflowers

Dragon's Back via Horsethief Trail

Photo: Jonathon Reed
  • 16 miles point-to-point
  • 3,520 feet of elevation
  • Watch the sunrise at an isolated lake
  • Climb to the Bridge of Heaven 

Nevada

Don’t be fooled. Though known for its silver, entertainment, and gambling, Nevada has more mountain ranges than any other state in the US. The more mountains, the more adventurous routes, and the more stunning vantage points! It’s like hitting the backpacking jackpot.

The Bowl of Fire in the Muddy Mountains Wilderness

Photo: Josiah Roe
  • 8 mile loop trail
  • 500 feet of elevation
  • Sea of otherworldly red, orange, and pink Aztec sandstone
  • Less than an hour from Las Vegas

Wheeler Peak

Photo: Mike Quine
  • 16 miles out-and-back
  • 5,500 feet of elevation
  • Second highest point in all of Nevada
  • Unmatched views of the Great Basin

Oregon

The state of Oregon has many natural marvels. It’s home to Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the entire country as well as Hells Canyon, the deepest river gorge in the US. Along with it’s quirky traditions, Oregon comes with many magnificent miles of backpacking routes to set foot on.

Dome Rock via the Upper Trailhead

Photo: Zak Stone
  • 2.36 miles out-and-back
  • 479 feet of elevation
  • Panoramic views of all the Cascade Mountains
  • Stop at Tumble Lake along the way for a swim

Battle Ax Mountain

Photo: Jeffrey Green
  • 5.09 miles out-and-back
  • 1,594 feet of elevation
  • Remains of a demolished fire lookout at the summit
  • View 11 volcanoes in the distance

Russell Lake

Photo: Erik Sanders
  • 11.4 miles out-and-back
  • 1,926 feet of elevation
  • Perfect spot for stellar astrophotography
  • Enjoy untouched wilderness

Arizona

The great Grand Canyon State! Residents and visitors from around the world celebrate this iconic natural wonder. It’s no surprise that the opportunities for surreal backpacking experiences here are plentiful and well worth the trip.

Superstition Wilderness to White Rock Springs Camp

Photo: Scott Allan
  • 23 mile loop trail
  • 3,000 feet of elevation
  • Great for a 3 day/2 night trip
  • Walk among giant saguaro cacti 

Grand Canyon’s Cremation Canyon

Photo: Liam McNally
  • 10.4 miles out-and-back
  • 3,973 feet of elevation
  • Set up camp just a hundred feet from the cliff's edge
  • Panoramic views of the Colorado River

Washington

Washington is nicknamed the Evergreen State because of its many forests. In fact, they cover over half of the entire state. Teeming with wildlife and picture perfect landscapes, Washington should not be overlooked when planning your next backpacking adventure.

Hidden Lake Lookout

Photo: Christin Healey
  • 7.39 miles out-and-back
  • 3,415 feet of elevation
  • Spend the night in the lookout (first come first serve!)
  • Staggering views of surrounding mountain peaks

Spade and Venus Lakes

Photo: Jason Zabriskie
  • 26.47 miles out-and-back
  • 2,300 feet of elevation
  • Perfect place for complete solitude and remoteness
  • Teal waters surrounded by mammoth granite slabs

Winchester Mountain Fire Lookout

Photo: Beau Ramsey
  • 3.28 miles out-and-back
  • 1,335 feet of elevation
  • Stay the night in a historical fire lookout (first come, first serve!)
  • Amazing reward for minimal strenuous effort

Sawyer Backpacking Essentials

The best explorers are always prepared to keep them going. All Sawyer products are carefully designed to protect you from the sun, bugs, water, and injuries. They’re light, easy to throw in your pack, and can make all the difference. Check out these products to bring with you on your next backpacking adventure!

Squeeze Water Filtration System: Weighing just 3 ounces, this water filtration device can get you access to clean water anywhere in the world. It can remove 99.99999% of all bacteria, 99.9999% of all protozoa, and 100% of all microplastics. This gives you the confidence to go ahead and hydrate at a lake, stream, or river while on a long trek.

The Extractor Pump Kit: The double chamber vacuum pump allows for powerful extraction of venoms and poisons from snake, bee, spider, mosquito, and fly bites. Keep this in your pack and be at greater ease knowing you have this little magic device while making your way through the backcountry.

Cover Photo: Eric Schuette

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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