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The Best Backpacking in California

Looking for the best backpacking in California? We've got you covered with the top trails, trips, hiking, backpacking, camping and more around California. The detailed guides, photos, and reviews are all submitted by the Outbound community.

Top backpacking spots in and near California

  • Mariposa County, California

    Sunrise Lakes to Clouds Rest

    4.7
    18.93 mi / 1775 ft gain
    Start out at the Tenaya Lake Trailhead, where you can head directly onto the trail for Clouds Rest or you can branch off after 2.7 miles to Sunrise Lakes. This allows you to break up the hike, spend a night relaxing and help you have an early start back on the trail. Once re-connected to the Clo...
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  • Big Sur, California

    Sykes Hot Springs via Pine Ridge Trail

    4.2
    18.96 mi / 7339 ft gain
    The trek to Sykes Hot Springs is about 10-miles one way along the Pine Ridge Trail. This is a great backpacking trip, but can be done as an out-and-back hike from the campgrounds at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park if you're really moving. The trail is moderately challenging, you'll cross the river t...
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  • Orick, California

    Tall Trees Grove, Redwood Creek, Emerald Ridge Loop

    4.4
    4.41 mi / 1043 ft gain
    Day 1: Check with the Rangers station before heading up for best camping opportunities. Assuming you've checked with the rangers for approval...if there are openings, off of the main road, there are side streets with access to the beaches. Pull into one of these areas and drive down as far as you...
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  • Big Sur, California

    Clifftop Camping & Hot Springs in Big Sur

    4.7
    Campsite:There is nothing quite like driving or biking along US-1, the Pacific Coast Highway. Make sure you get a chance to do the drive during the day so that you can see all that Big Sur has to offer. Be careful when pulling off especially onto the shoulder and never stop on a curve in the road...
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  • Pioneer, California

    Camping at The Pots

    4.2
    This fantastic camping or chilling spot has beautiful granite pools and slides of all sizes. The area consists of a river flowing over a granite slab creating pools some of which are over ten feet deep. The water cascades down the granite in small water falls. The area is located next to Silver L...
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  • Sunol, California

    Little Yosemite via Canyon View Trail

    4.0
    3.01 mi / 705 ft gain
    Please note this is a fragile ecosystem and watershed. There is NO swimming allowed in Alameda Creek and trespassing is prohibited on Water Department lands that are not accessible to the public. You can learn more about the restrictions and the area at ebparks.org.  After entering the kiosk you...
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  • Altadena, California

    Eaton Canyon to Idlehour

    4.2
    10.99 mi / 3291 ft gain
    Idlehour is nestled deep in the Angeles National Forest, so it feels like you're in the heart of some untapped wilderness instead of six miles away from a bustling metropolis. The trail camp is accessible by foot through a variety of locations, but the most popular route is through Eaton Canyon, ...
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  • Big Sur, California

    Cone Peak in Big Sur (Sea to Sky Backpacking Route)

    4.4
    19.72 mi / 7484 ft gain
    While you can make a day-hike out of it by driving up the gorgeous Sur-Nacimiento Road from Highway 1 to the Coast Ridge Road and take a 2 mile trail to the summit with 1300' of elevation gain (4 miles roundtrip), the more adventurous types do a Sea to Sky, starting at Kirk Creek Campground and u...
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  • Echo Lake, California

    Backpack to the "Waterfall Camp" in Desolation Wilderness

    4.6
    10.5 mi / 840 ft gain
    Although this hike can be done as a day hike, it is an awesome place to camp. There is a lot to explore and you will want to spend as much there time as you can. The easiest way to start this hike is to start at the Echo Lakes. There is ample parking above the marina and you even have the option ...
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  • Saratoga, California

    Backpack the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail

    4.7
    30.8 mi
    Want to experience one of the bay area's most memorable backpacking trips? We've got the details to get you out on the trail.To start the trek, drop your car at the Castle Rock State Park Parking Lot, which is located ~2.5 miles south of the junctions of Highways 35 and 9 off of Highway 35. Note ...
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  • Petrolia, California

    Backpack The Lost Coast: Mattole to Black Sands Beach

    4.8
    25.05 mi / 653 ft gain
    This is an absolutely stunning 25 mile thru-hike on the northern part of California's coast. To accomplish this hike, you'll either need to bring 2 cars or use a shuttle service. It's recommended that you drop one car at the Shelter Cove Trailhead (40.0455053,-124.0778196) and either use one of t...
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  • Bolinas, California

    Point Reyes' Wildcat Camp via Coast Trail

    5.0
    11.19 mi / 1926 ft gain
    In order to make this trip possible, go to recreation.gov and make a reservation for Wildcat Camp (available year-round). On your way to the trailhead, make sure to stop by the Bear Valley Visitor Center to grab your camping permit. For more information, visit: http://www.nps.gov/pore/planyourvis...
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  • Tiburon, California

    Camp on Angel Island

    5.0
    Thousands of years ago, this island was a fishing and hunting ground for the Miwok Native Americans. It has also been an outpost for the U.S. Army and a cattle ranch. Now, it’s one of the closest places to escape from the hustle of San Francisco and set up camp. Camping on the island requires ba...
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  • Sierra, California

    Rae Lakes Loop

    5.0
    39.08 mi / 7316 ft gain
    Day one: After checking in with the park ranger and getting your required permits you will start your hike along a 1.8 mile stretch along the south fork of the Kings River. At this point, people typically go clockwise toward Paradise Valley but you can also go counterclockwise along Bubbs Creek. ...
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  • Azusa, California

    Little Jimmy Trail Camp

    4.3
    Take Hwy 2 out of La Canada north along Angeles Crest Highway. Follow this for quite sometime enjoying the fine views in all directions. After traveling through two consecutive tunnels continue to Islip Saddle parking lot (on left). There will be a vault toilet & a picnic table. Display your ...
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  • Mariposa County, California

    Camp at Glacier Point

    4.7
    9.4 mi / 3200 ft gain
    Everyone that knows Yosemite, knows Glacier Point. An overlook that attracts thousands of people per day that drive up via Glacier Point Road is rarely vacant of the hustle and bustle of people. However, there is a loop hole here, and when the stars align you can have Glacier Point ALL to yoursel...
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