Where to go

Unsure of where to start while planning your California adventure? Here are our recommendations!

Emigrant Wilderness / Stanislaus National Forest​

Pros

  • Easy to obtain free permits
  • Gorgeous! Comparable beauty to Yosemite, but far less busy and much easier to access (because no permits).
  • Lots of water sources and lakes to camp at (though you should, of course, check where those sources are before you go)
  • Great weather in the Fall 

Cons

  • Fires are an issue this year. Check the AQI before you go
  • Need a car to get there

Death Valley National Park

Pros

  • Diverse desert landscape, containing more sand dunes than Great Sand Dunes National Park, more Joshua trees than Joshua Tree National Park, canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon… seriously, so cool
  • Free dispersed camping without permits, you just have to be at least 1 mile from any paved road
  • Great weather in the winter and spring when most other backpacking destinations in California are snowed out

Cons

  • No water, so you should plan to carry it all in and keep extra in your car
  • Need a car to get there

Pros

  • Convenient, accessible by foot!
  • Views of the Bay for most of your hikes
  • Super sick Redwood trees in Redwood Regional Park, one of the only places in the world you can see them

Cons

  • Dispersed camping is not allowed, so you would have to reserve a backpacking site. These cost a small fee. Click above to find more info on getting permits.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Pros

  • No permits required! Free dispersed camping as long as you’ve hiked away from Highway 1
  • Ocean views
  • Might have a better chance of good air quality

Cons

  • Need a car to get there
  • More popular trails can get pretty crowded
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Yosemite National Park

Pros

  • Incredibly beautiful and diverse landscape, featuring granite formations, waterfalls, forests, and meadows
  • Accessible by public transit

Cons

  • Crowded
  • A bit more complicated to get permits
  • Potentially impacted by wildfires, check the AQI before you go
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