California is a land of varied latitudes, topography and climates that are uniquely located within a relatively close range. The damp forest and rugged coastlines of the state's coastal mountains couldn't feel further apart from the dry alpine and steep escarpment of the eastern Sierra or the polished granite domes and towering walls of Yosemite, yet they are within a casual day's drive of each other.
Within this varied landscape are some of the nation’s premier wilderness areas, parks and trails that provide the backdrop for California's top backpacking trips.
Iconic trails such as the John Muir Trail and the Mount Whitney Trail traverse well-trodden high-country routes of the fabled Sierra Nevada, while lesser known trails explore smaller and no less impressive ranges that comprise areas like the Trinity Alps. Then there are the 840 miles of dramatic California coastline, which provides year-round access to the coastal nooks from the Lost Coast of the Kings Range down to Big Sur.
With the backpacking season just around the corner, we’ve pulled together some of our favorite multi-day backpacking trips throughout the state for your summer planning enjoyment below.
There are definitely no bad options here, but some of below trips require extensive pre-planning and/or are limited by permit quotas (though a limited number of spots remain reserved for walk-ins) or seasonal road access, while other locations are simply show up and go. So dust off those hiking boots, start studying your maps, and consider adding a new backpacking trip in the Golden State to your itinerary this season.