Best Backpacking in California

This list represents the most popular backpacking in California. Use this list to plan your next California backpacking trip. Select a state and/or activity below to find even more top trails.

  • #1 Big Santa Anita Loop (Mt. Zion Loop) (Backpacking)

    12 Reviews

    Arcadia, CA

    In the lush and shady recesses of the Front Range of the San Gabriel Mountains you can easily lose all sight and sense of the hundreds of square miles of dense metropolis, and the millions of ...
    •  2 days
    •  9.4 miles
    •  Guide

    In the lush and shady recesses of the Front Range of the San Gabriel Mountains you can easily lose all sight and sense of ...

  • #2 San Gorgonio Mountain

    9 Reviews

    Big Bear Lake, CA

    This memorable trip is perhaps the finest backpack route in southern California, touring the region’s most scenic high-mountain landscape. Glacial cirques, virgin forests, windswept alpine ridges, ...
    •  2 to 3 days
    •  21.3 miles
    •  Guide

    This memorable trip is perhaps the finest backpack route in southern California, touring the region’s most scenic high-mountain ...

  • #3 Agnew Meadows to Ediza Lake (Backpacking)

    6 Reviews

    Mammoth Lakes, CA

    With only moderate effort this trail places you among peaks of the spectacular Ritter Range—capped by Mt. Ritter, Banner Peak, and the Minarets—in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. Some say that the ...
    •  3 days
    •  14 miles
    •  Guide

    With only moderate effort this trail places you among peaks of the spectacular Ritter Range—capped by Mt. Ritter, Banner ...

  • #4 Agnew Meadows to Thousand Island Lake (Backpacking)

    6 Reviews

    Mammoth Lakes, CA

    Your destination, Thousand Island Lake, is one of the Sierra’s great beauty spots, a huge—by Sierra standards—sheet of sky-blue water dotted picturesquely with granite islands and situated at ...
    •  3 days
    •  17.6 miles
    •  Guide

    Your destination, Thousand Island Lake, is one of the Sierra’s great beauty spots, a huge—by Sierra standards—sheet of sky-blue ...

  • #5 Big Santa Anita Loop (Backpacking)

    7 Reviews

    Arcadia, CA

    In the lush and shady recesses of the Front Range of the San Gabriel Mountains you can easily lose all sight and sense of the hundreds of square miles of dense metropolis, and the millions of ...
    •  2 days
    •  9.4 miles
    •  Guide

    In the lush and shady recesses of the Front Range of the San Gabriel Mountains you can easily lose all sight and sense of ...

  • #6 Lodgepole Campground to Deadman Canyon Loop (Backpacking)

    4 Reviews

    Lodgepole, CA

    This 50-plus-mile loop takes you to one of the most scenic canyons in the California, glaciercarved Deadman Canyon. Here, classic High Sierra scenery is abundant, with glistening granite walls ...
    •  6-14 days
    •  52 miles
    •  Guide

    This 50-plus-mile loop takes you to one of the most scenic canyons in the California, glaciercarved Deadman Canyon. Here, ...

  • #7 North Lake to Humphreys Basin Loop (Backpacking)

    2 Reviews

    Bishop, CA

    The scenic features of the first part of this trip provide enough incentive for a visit: You will climb along a robust stream with a picturesque waterfall through flower-covered meadows and past ...
    •  4-6 days
    •  27 miles
    •  Guide

    The scenic features of the first part of this trip provide enough incentive for a visit: You will climb along a robust stream ...

  • #8 Stuart Fork Trail to Emerald and Sapphire Lakes

    6 Reviews

    Weaverville, CA

    These tantalizingly named lakes lie at the end of a trail that crosses one of the largest alpine meadows in the Trinity Alps. There are numerous reminders of the gold mining activity that took ...
    •  3 days
    •  30 miles
    •  Guide

    These tantalizingly named lakes lie at the end of a trail that crosses one of the largest alpine meadows in the Trinity Alps. ...

  • #9 Rae Lakes Loop Trail

    4 Reviews

    Cedar Grove, CA

    Besides being a perfect loop with good trails and ideally located campsites, the Rae Lakes Loop embodies the spirit of Kings Canyon National Park: the granite-walled canyons, the cascading creeks ...
    •  5 days
    •  46 miles
    •  Guide

    Besides being a perfect loop with good trails and ideally located campsites, the Rae Lakes Loop embodies the spirit of Kings ...

  • #10 Caples Creek–Silver Fork Loop: Caples Creek Proposed Wilderness

    6 Reviews

    Kyburz, CA

    The proposed Caples Creek Wilderness is relatively small in comparison to the Mokelumne Wilderness to the south and the Desolation Wilderness to the north, but its glaciated topography, rugged ...
    •  5 to 6 hours
    •  8.6 miles
    •  Guide

    The proposed Caples Creek Wilderness is relatively small in comparison to the Mokelumne Wilderness to the south and the Desolation ...

  • #11 Mt. Whitney Summit

    3 Reviews

    Bishop, CA

    At 14,491 feet, Mt. Whitney is the highest peak in the contiguous 48 states. Because of that claim—and the fact that the mountain is accessible and offers unparalleled views over the southern ...
    •  5 days
    •  22 miles
    •  Guide

    At 14,491 feet, Mt. Whitney is the highest peak in the contiguous 48 states. Because of that claim—and the fact that the ...

  • #12 Sylvia and Lyons Lakes

    6 Reviews

    Placerville, CA

    This hike takes you along the waters of Lyons Creek to some of the most beautiful territory in Desolation Wilderness: the Crystal Range and Pyramid Peak, and also Lyons Lake. You must obtain ...
    •  6 hours or overnight
    •  10 miles
    •  Guide

    This hike takes you along the waters of Lyons Creek to some of the most beautiful territory in Desolation Wilderness: the ...

  • #13 Grouse, Hemlock, and Smith Lakes

    6 Reviews

    Placerville, CA

    Climb a forested trail to three magnificent lakes. Besides opportunities for swimming, picnicking, and camping, you’ll be treated to expansive views of steep-sided granite Sierra peaks that pierce ...
    •  4 hours or overnight
    •  5.6 miles
    •  Guide

    Climb a forested trail to three magnificent lakes. Besides opportunities for swimming, picnicking, and camping, you’ll be ...

  • #14 Lillian Lake Loop (Backpacking)

    5 Reviews

    Oakhurst, CA

    If you make the basic loop, you encounter three lakes, which isn’t bad for a relatively easy 12-mile hike. However, if you visit Lady Lake, you’ll have a fourth lake with an easy mile of extra ...
    •  2-3 days
    •  13.1 miles
    •  Guide

    If you make the basic loop, you encounter three lakes, which isn’t bad for a relatively easy 12-mile hike. However, if you ...

  • #15 Benson Pass–Northeast Yosemite Grand Tour

    2 Reviews

    Yosemite, CA

    This extended backpack loop is probably the most challenging hike in the book. Not only is the distance long and the changes in elevation extreme (between 4,400 and 10,000 feet), but your window ...
    •  5 to 9 days
    •  58 miles
    •  Guide

    This extended backpack loop is probably the most challenging hike in the book. Not only is the distance long and the changes ...

  • #16 Berry Creek Falls and Skyline to the Sea Trail

    4 Reviews

    Santa Cruz, CA

    Hike through redwood forest and native chaparral and along quiet creeks, and enjoy views of Waddell Beach, the Pacific Ocean, the Santa Cruz Mountains, and graceful Berry Creek Falls. Follow ...
    •  10 hours or overnight
    •  16.3 miles
    •  Guide

    Hike through redwood forest and native chaparral and along quiet creeks, and enjoy views of Waddell Beach, the Pacific Ocean, ...

  • #17 Onion Valley to Kearsarge Lakes

    4 Reviews

    Independence, CA

    This journey travels up the Onion Valley, passing several beautiful lakes, then climbs over windswept Kearsarge Pass and down to the dazzling Kearsarge Lakes. The rocky trail begins by switchbacking ...
    •  Backpack
    •  9.8 miles
    •  Guide

    This journey travels up the Onion Valley, passing several beautiful lakes, then climbs over windswept Kearsarge Pass and ...

  • #18 South Lake to North Lake (Backpacking)

    3 Reviews

    Bishop, CA

    Many backpackers view the South Lake to North Lake loop as one of the supreme backpacks in the High Sierra—it offers a visit to three incomparable alpine basins, Dusy, Evolution, and Humphreys; ...
    •  5-7 days
    •  56.5 miles
    •  Guide

    Many backpackers view the South Lake to North Lake loop as one of the supreme backpacks in the High Sierra—it offers a visit ...

  • #19 Central Caribou Loop (Backpacking)

    3 Reviews

    Redding, CA

    John Muir called the Sierra Nevada a gentle wilderness, but take almost any Sierra hike in this book, and you’ll find you may climb 2000–3000 feet in any given day. That’s not gentle. To experience ...
    •  2 days
    •  12.3 miles
    •  Guide

    John Muir called the Sierra Nevada a gentle wilderness, but take almost any Sierra hike in this book, and you’ll find you ...

  • #20 Virginia Lakes Basin to Green Creek (Backpacking)

    4 Reviews

    Bridgeport, CA

    The road up to the Virginia Lakes basin is paved, and for good reason: It attracts a lot of outdoor enthusiasts (hikers, equestrians, and anglers) because there is much to offer. Hiker options ...
    •  2 days
    •  12 miles
    •  Guide

    The road up to the Virginia Lakes basin is paved, and for good reason: It attracts a lot of outdoor enthusiasts (hikers, ...