Also, the music scene in San Francisco is pretty fun. The west shores are home to the inlet called Emerald Bay. I think that should get your inspiration flowing. As I mentioned in the Yosemite section, make sure to buy an American the Beautiful Pass to see multiple parks for $80. Even if you only end up using it once, a decent head torch could save your life. Companies like Juicy Rentals rent converted vans, perfect for camping or going to a festival. Start in San Diego, then drive up the coast to the OC area. If you do not have a car, consider biking out to the Marin Headlands, though I do not suggest riding past the viewpoint on Highway 1 without experience. There are some pretty fun and high-quality wineries in the foothills too for a 1/20th of the cost. Nothing epitomizes California more than its surf culture. Hope you didn’t hold your breath for that sentence. Without a car it will be hard to get around the OC and beaches, so you are best off picking one or two areas to explore around with limited time. LA does epitomize California in a lot of ways – sunny, beautiful, and vibrant – but I always warn travelers that it’s pretty spread out and massive, and the infamous traffic makes everything feel even farther away. There are 21 missions along the coast that you can still visit today. Headtorch: I would never travel without a headtorch. This particular VPN allows for up to five connections which is handy for keeping all your devices connected without having to purchase multiple VPN packages. Lying deep in the Sierra Nevada on the border of the state of Nevada, Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in the USA, best known for its deep blue and turquoise waters, so much so, the slogan you’ll see on every bumper sticker is, “keep Tahoe blue.”. Growing up near Sacramento, I have a special place in my heart for “Sac-town.” It’s mostly business and government, but the town has been undergoing a massive face lift and there are a lot of things to do in Sacramento. It takes at least 12 hours to drive from the northern border to Mexico. In addition to giving you the qualifications to teach English online, TEFL courses open up a huge range of opportunities and you can find teaching work all over the world. Not just the headliners, but the soon to be discovered. Shasta, Northern California has no shortage of diverse backcountry terrain. To find out more about TEFL courses and how you can teach English around the world, read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad. Head to the northern coast. Don’t Wine Taste in Napa: The prices around Napa and the North Bay are incredulous. The roads in California are generally very good and a sedan or economy car should drive you to most of California’s top destinations. into high Yosemite country. 1. Vernal/Nevada Falls via Mist, and Yosemite Falls are spectacular too. The cities are another matter, but like any city in the world, don’t leave your stuff unattended or in a car window’s view, especially overnight. I would say most cost more like $20-25. More information. Basically, in California, the world is your oyster. Don’t forget about Orange County either, which is not LA as locals will have you know. Here are some other essentials that we recommend if you plan on camping out…. There really isn't a US term for what you mean by "backpacking." Availability is very limited though, so keep a watchful eye on the sites. For the full experience, however, make sure to stop into a tap room, local microbrewery, and winery. Separated by the mountain ranges and deserts, these different tribes had different languages and cultures. Our California travel guide covers the best places to visit in the state; most of these places are included in some of the itineraries above. It’s about nourishment and learning. This is one of the reasons this part of the world is so famous, after all. The most accessible trails with high reward for little effort will generally be in the National Parks, though not always! The short answer is yes, very much so. There are plenty of national forests and wilderness in these parts too. Depending on your qualifications (or your motivation to obtain qualifications like a TEFL certificate) you can teach English remotely from your laptop, save some cash for your next adventure, and make a positive impact on the world by improving another person’s language skills! Swimmers, hikers, and boaters all enjoy the crystal clear (and very cold) water. Check out our post on how to be a responsible backpacker. Circle back to San Francisco to drop off your car and head home. Travel Water Bottle: Always travel with a water bottle – it’ll save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. It’s also the beginning of some pretty strenuous hikes that take you out of the valley 3,000 feet up, like the famous Half Dome hike and 4 Mile to Glacier Point. We offer naturalist-led backpacking trips in the Santa Cruz Mountains, sharing with you the natural and cultural history of the area. My first suggestion is to camp. As you drive south, the views only become better and more dramatic. Even Sacramento International Airport has some good deals once and a while, but generally, if you are flying from Europe or Asia, the Bay Area will have better deals. Rae Lakes Loop. San Simeon in the south, marks the end of Big Sur. Head to Capitola area for ice cream with the family. Spending time outdoors is not only rewarding but pretty much free. That said, you can do some pretty unique and epic scuba diving in California! There are loads of places to stay in the Redwoods, so if you want to explore the area a bit longer, you should definitely opt for a nearby accommodation. World Packers opens the doors for work opportunities in hostels, homestays, NGOs, and eco-projects around the world. There is generally a more health conscious and active lifestyle to be found in California due to accessible outdoor places, temperate weather, fresh produce, and plenty of options. Mexican food is arguably better in California than Mexico. The Lost Coast is one of the most underdeveloped and remote places in California, so rugged they had to abandon plans to build the Highway along this section of the coast. Organizes free sailing trips as well as trips to local natural attractions. I fondly think of Sacramento as the forgotten state capitol of California. This is the festival that kicks off the year. Renting a car is the most popular way of getting around California. When Mexico gained independence from Spain, California became a province in Mexico, but in the 1840s – when many settlers were moving to California – the area rebelled against Mexico rule and became an independent country called the Bear Flag Republic. Thankfully, we have already written a separate guide on the best places to stay in Los Angeles, which breaks down the city’s neighborhoods even further. Maybe best to avoid…. Arrives before Christmas. And I promise you, the service in the Redwoods is virtually non-existent, but the connection to nature is definitely strongest. Ideally, you want 3 days in Yosemite though. Visit the Griffith Observatory. Airbnbs in California are usually a better option than hotels, but do your research and check all of your options. I've been backpacking a handful of times but never been solo. Also, stop in Torrey Pines State Park for a day hike. Located very near the coast. Here is a list of my favorite/the most popular hikes in California: John Muir Trail: While I’ve yet to actually hike the entire trail, this is arguably the best part of the famous Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The bus is going to be your cheapest bet, and I’m actually a fan of getting from city to city via Megabus. You can get MLB bench seats for as little as $10 sometimes. These beach suburbs are perfect for beach breaks. Expect excellent farmers markets year round. With the backpacking season coming up fast, we’ve pulled together some of our favorite multi-day backpacking trips throughout the state for your summer planning enjoyment below. You will find that California is not an easy place to travel without a car. You are absolutely spoilt for choices. To find out why I use World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review. Most US states have thousands and thousands of acres of public land and free campsites. The farther north you go, the better your chances of free and/of crowd-free camping. Still, this may be your best bet depending on where you are going. No one I knew wanted to come along, but I still wanted to go, so I did it by myself. The historic, old towns are really special, and frankly underrated. If somebody or a place gives you bad vibes, stop hitching and take the bus. Beyond Yosemite Valley, the 120 is also one of the most beautiful and famous roads in California because it goes over the Tioga Pass. Stagecoach for country music taking place in Coachella Valley after Coachella. Much of the Central and Northern California coast experiences what is called an “Indian summer” in the fall, meaning there are sunnier and clearer days. The First Transcontinental Railroad made traveling west easier, and California continued to be settled in droves. Amtrak can be scenic, but quite expensive and the train system in the US is nothing like Europe’s. San Francisco has more restaurants per capita than anywhere in the country, so you are spoilt for choices. Half Dome, Yosemite: One of the most famous hikes in California is the Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. September – November is another great time to visit California, minus the wildfire season If there are no fires, it’s a great time for camping: great weather but thinner crowds and still no snow in the mountains. If you need to stop for groceries, get them in the North Bay before we go into no man’s land, where the lack of options correlates with expensive prices. Compared to a $100 night motel, this is quite a steal and puts you front and center of some of the most beautiful places in the USA. This is the best way to save money and if you plan an overnight hike or camping trip, having a backpacking stove will be ESSENTIAL. Are you on a California road trip? Note that electricity, bathrooms, and running water are not guaranteed at any of the grounds. Also a beautiful part of Lake Tahoe, this side is much quieter and more laidback, home to Tahoe’s alternative lifestyles. Bike across the bridge and then up to the Marin Headlands bunkers for the best view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The Exploratorium has a similar Thursday night experience. (Try to avoid weekends when crowds can be pretty awful.) Each side of the lake has a different vibe and list of things to do. Really though, anywhere this far north can be considered off the beaten path, so much so this area is notorious for attracting people trying to escape their past and get off the grid. Southern California is a hiker’s dream. Alabama Hills, California The Alabama Hills is an area of BLM land, meaning it’s owned by the public, with arches, beautiful views of the Eastern Sierras, and lots of Hollywood history. 6. Backpacking stove: If you want to cook your own food, either because you’re sick of takeout or want to save money, then you’ll need a cooking stove. Huntington Beach, Malibu, Steamer Lane, and Rincon are all famous spots for surfing. This is the epitome of a California road trip. I would fly into LA or OC, pick up your rental and head up north to the Central Coast. Look at a map, and any forest labeled wilderness is probably a good bet for getting away from crowds. Views are plentiful and astounding in the summer but during the winter the pass is closed. Have you ever heard of Coachella? Located near BART station. 3. To fly out of California, you could drive back to SF – though take the 101 to save time – or to Sacramento. Answer 1 of 9: I'm planning my first solo backpacking trip to Yosemite. The second largest city in the US is also one of the most famous places in the world, mostly because it’s a city known for its rich and famous. After a very long drive, you’ll end in Lake Tahoe. When it comes to football, it’s all about UC Berkeley, USC, and UCLA in California. This means you have plenty of choices all up and down the coast, many waves of which are accessible. Tackle the Lost Coast or spend a couple days relaxing in Redwood National and State can’t go wrong. To spark your inspiration, I’ll suggest a few things you should do when visiting Los Angeles. Even people in cities move at a much slower pace than say, New York City. “Find out how YOU can support the site. Two main highways will take you to Lake Tahoe from the west, Highway 50 (to South Lake) and 80 (to North Lake). If you want to spend at least half a day on a beach, I would consider the beaches around Half Moon Bay about 45 minutes south. Just pack your wetsuit. If you are searching for free camping, I highly suggest a car with high clearance. There is also a large migrant population and generally, the state is quite diverse, specifically in the cities. And speaking of Donner Lake, keep in mind that there are many other alpine lakes in the surrounding area, which are beautiful and great to hike around when the Tahoe summer crowds get to be too much. 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. This is definitely worth the trip. I certainly hope so. Economy cars are also the most fuel efficient so you’ll save on gas. Venice Beach is great for people watching, skating, and their food truck nights. Spend time outdoors: I should continue to emphasize this. If you want to stay a few a days in the area, you can either camp at one of the many state grounds or stay in a town near to Big Sur. I'm at the start of planning a trip to California and am just getting a little bogged down with all the information available and the size of California and where to go. Giant redwood clusters include Redwood National Park’s Lady Bird Johnson Grove. You’re never too far from a trail, wave to surf, pier to eat ice cream on, or winery to spend the afternoon. Enjoy it. Honestly, the main thing to watch for are wild animals on the road when you are driving. Yosemite is a 4-hour drive away from the Bay Area. It’s a good experience. Outside Lands, SF – August: Another multi-genre music festival, Outside Lands festival is much more relaxed than Coachella, taking place in Golden Gate Park surrounded by trees and the likes. Any protected area is going to also require a permit, though again, it might be free. comedy night so meeting people is very easy. Definitely try to snag a spot here. The word is out. It’s possible to kayak to one of the campsites on Tomales Bay. There really isn’t a bad time to visit California, but it depends what you are after. Keep in mind this is a seriously competitive permit-only hike, so visit the site I linked for more information. FREE Shipping by Amazon. Communal garden. Baldy in the Angles National Forest of Southern California! 4.5 out of 5 stars 72. California is home to some of the best hikes in the USA. Californians are stereotypically more laidback. 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. This is as close as you’ll get to Baja California, Mexico, without actually crossing the border. Nothing beats sleeping under the stars among the joshua trees, within arm’s length of redwood forests, on top of the famous Sierra granite, or nearby crashing waves. Plus, the produce and food is excellent in California. In my opinion, the best places to visit in California are nowhere near the cities and the best things to do in the Sierras, on the coast, etc. I only link to stuff I’ve actually used and never endorse products or services that are not up to scratch. That said, these places get crowded and expensive. Not picked the perfect travel backpack yet? While you have plenty of options for places to stay in California, most of them are not cheap. California is a great option for your next vacation. Point Reyes, Many Hiking Options: Not as well known internationally, but quite famous in Northern California, this national reserve has around 150 miles of coastal and forest hiking trails! You can get sunny days in February and foggy, cold days in August. All of the larger California cities have plenty to do at night. End your 5 day trip to California in San Diego, eating tacos and sipping on margaritas in the sunshine. Several viewpoints, like Tunnel View and Glacier Point View, are accessible by car as well. If you want to get wild, head to the Mission neighborhood’s Mission Delores Park on a sunny Saturday, where anything goes, like rum in coconuts, weed edibles, and weddings. Joshua Tree National Park is absolutely gorgeous. In the winter, resorts like Squaw Valley and North Star are world famous for skiing and boarding. Backpacking the Caribbean – The Caribbean is America’s favorite winter vacation. This wouldn’t be a California travel guide without going into detail on the food. Note: I definitely recommend visiting this famous region if you never have before, but I also feel like it can be overpriced. I've been getting this urge to do it alone. This includes your biggest expenses: lodging, food, a rental car and gas as well as play money for dining, drinking, and certain attractions. HIDE.ME –  I always have a VPN ready to go on both my phone and laptop, I personally use Hide Me which is one of the fastest and most reliable options out there. Broke Backpacker readers get a special discount of $20 – just use this discount code BROKEBACKPACKER and membership is discounted from $49 a year to $29. Within that same year, the US and Mexico went to war, and California became a territory in the US in 1848. Remember, California grows 75% of the country’s food! This way you can split rental fees, gas, lodging, and grocery runs. Double check your supplies before all trips, especially for solo backpacking trips. I'm turning 18 in a few days, I graduated from high school 3 days ago (It's an alternative school) and I'm going to be enlisting in the Coast Guard. It’s well known for its casinos (on the Nevada side) so it has more of a party stereotype, especially for the Fourth of July and New Years. Starting in San Francisco -you can fly into SFO, Oakland, or even SJC in San Jose- spend 3 days exploring the city. Multi-ethnic and healthy food is all over the city. Most of your “organic” big dairy comes from this area. If this was the end of your trip, I would say stop at Muirwoods to explore the redwoods, but we’re going much farther north, where the trees are bigger and the crowds diminish. Loop back to LA to fly out of California. You don’t have to be rich to visit California either. 7. SFO is the largest international airport up north, but look at prices into Oakland and San Jose’s international airports too. Bring water just in case. Best Travel Itineraries for Backpacking California, California Travel Guide to Getting Around, reduce your plastic footprint while traveling here. There are dozens of gorgeous beaches and hiking/biking trails, both obvious and hidden, around Lake Tahoe. This program is truly unique, the only such program led by California State Park staff. Maps.Me – Prone to getting lost or taking that ‘shortcut’ that adds another few hours onto a simple walk? Again, the beaches weather is unpredictable, but the rugged and dramatic coastlines are beautiful in all weather. This is where you can really bring the costs down, which I’ll break down in the next section with many more budget hacks for California. It’s pretty epic, but if that’s too expensive, I’ll show you something better on the Central Coast. Tips for Solo Backpacking. Lake Tahoe is one of my favorite places to visit in California, so don’t miss it. More Buying Choices $60.99 (6 new offers) Famous for the “Do Lab” also found at Coachella. Not only will you save a lot of money, but you’ll be front and center of the world’s most beautiful coastlines, mountains, forests, and deserts. $5.00 coupon applied at checkout Save $5.00 with coupon. The northeastern part of California is the exception, as there are plenty of free camping spots. If you have more than 5 days in California, consider spending more time exploring the cities, or adding road trip stops in Palm Springs and Joshua Tree! But can you encounter unexpected obstacles on even the “safest” itinerary? We have a travel guide on Los Angeles that will help you plan this part of the trip! Boulder in Bishop and hike around Lone Pine. Follow the “leave no trace” principles and always pick up your trash and any litter you find on the trails. Use apps like ViaMichelin to find cheap gas. Note that dispensaries only accept cash. As the rest of the USA, California runs on the USD, which I’m sure you need no introduction to. The Lost Coast Trail is a wild and unique backpacking adventure along one of the most rugged sections of the Northern California coast. The easiest way to cut this budget in half is to go on a California road trip with a group, or at least one other person. 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