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California is famous for its biodiversity up and down the coast, with an assortment of scenery that will impress any nature lover. The comfortable year-round climate makes it the ideal state for camping during almost any season. Before you go, make sure you have everything you need with the KÜHL Backpacking Checklist. Once you’re prepared, go explore some of our favorite spots in The Golden State.
As you hike through this desert, you may feel as though you’ve been transported to whimsical, unique land with enormous boulders and the iconic Joshua Tree, which is technically a succulent and known for its unique, prickly appearance.
Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most beautiful parks in the country, and everyone should camp under this desert night sky at least once. You can camp outside of the park nearby on BLM land, but those who plan ahead will have the best experience.
There are more than 792,000 acres of wilderness with 13 trailheads designated for backcountry camping. Just make sure you register at one of the backcountry boards so rangers will know what vehicle is yours and the date you left, which will help avoid any potential concern about your safety.
Trails to Consider:
Make sure to bring enough water! Rangers recommend avoiding backpacking during the summer months when heat can reach extreme temperatures. Don't forget to follow leave no trace principles; if you pack it in, pack it out!
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks sit side-by-side and can easily be explored on the same trip. Choose from a wide range of loop trails leading to groves of redwoods, including Redwood Canyon in Kings Canyon, which is the largest remaining grove of sequoia trees in the world. These two parks are less popular than Yosemite, meaning fewer crowds and more space for you to feel lost in nature.
The High Sierra Trail is one of the more challenging trails, at 73 miles long with more than 15,000 feet of elevation gain, while Pearl Lake is great for beginners at 12.4 miles long with an elevation gain of 3,663 feet.
Trails to Consider:
Mt. Whitney is a classic “14er” that lies in between Sequoia National Park and Inyo National Forest. It’s the tallest peak in the continental United States and requires a permit to hike, whether or not you stay overnight. You can apply for permits from the website of either side you enter, which may be through the Sequoias or Inyo. It’s a great option for those who are new to backpacking, as the journey is relatively short and usually takes two days.
As one of the highest peaks in the country and the highest in California, you will need to acclimate to the altitude. It’s recommended to spend at least two days prior to the hike to allow your body to adjust, as many hikers have reported developing headaches, feeling breathless, and even getting sick. Enjoy the views as you accomplish ascending the highest peak in the state.
Trails to Consider:
Highlights of Yosemite
The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne
The Tuolumne Meadows side of Yosemite National Park is far less crowded than the valley and its endless waterfalls, swimming holes, and signature granite cliffs will leave you in awe. The epic Tuolumne Meadows to White Wolf trail is 33 miles one-way, but it can be made into a 50-mile loop. This trail will take a few days to complete, and a permit is required. You can start from either end, although most people choose to hike from White Wolf to Tuolumne Meadows.
Be bear aware, and make sure to bring a bear-proof canister for all your food and scented items. There are also less-demanding trails throughout Yosemite, with our suggestions listed below. The length of these trails ranges from six to 20 miles round-trip.
Other Trails to Consider:
There are more than 200 miles of hiking trails with access to gorgeous backcountry camping featuring redwood forests, waterfalls, beaches, prairies, and marshes. Marvel at these impressive giants, which can grow to 300 feet or more and can live for more than 2,000 years. They are literally the tallest trees in the entire world, yet their root system is surprisingly short, at only 6 to 12 feet deep. A unique aspect of this park is the number of scenic drives available.
Noteworthy Trails to Consider:
No matter where you go, a backpacking trip through scenic sights can rejuvenate the soul! Just pack up your belongings and head out. Shop our outdoor gear below.
Featured Image - Night sky at Joshua Tree National Park by Henrique Pinto.
Check out our popular cold weather camping styles: