Best Destinations for First-Time Backpackers in California

Whether you’re about to go on a family retreat with your loved ones for Christmas or planning on a weekend-long trip to celebrate the new year, figuring out where to travel can be a daunting task. Questions like where to eat and where is it safe to go backpacking are all questions you might have on your mind, especially if this is your first time.

By doing research and keeping an open mind, you will find the perfect place to go backpacking and you might even have one of the best trips you’ve ever had.

But when it’s your first time backpacking, you should start off small and only travel to places that are fairly close to home. To help make things a little easier, we’ve drafted a list of beautiful destinations in California that’ll make your first backpacking trip one to remember.

Best Destinations for First-Time Backpackers

When planning your first backpacking trip, keep these destinations in mind.

Santa Cruz Trail

Top 10 Destinations For First-Time Backpackers

The beautiful scenic trail is perfect for your first time backpacking. This is a long and strenuous trip through Santa Barbara backcountry that can be done at any time of the year. It’s a 10-mile hike with a 2,500 vertical gain and you can set up camp right next to a flowing stream that is lined with 100-year old oak trees.

Crystal Cove State Park

Top 10 Destinations For First-Time Backpackers

This trail is located in Orange County and has multiple backcountry camps that are accessible with mesmerizing ocean views. These trails are usually busy during the day, but you can still hike and set up camp, cook and watch the sun go down. After the sun has set, the hikers leave right along with it, leaving you with the view.

Santa Anita Canyon

Best Destinations for First-Time Backpackers

Santa Anita Canyon is just one of the six-pack peaks that Mt. Wilson has to offer. You can hike up the Winter Creek or Spruce Grove on the Gabrielino Trails. And, if you have the energy, you can make it a trip to hike up Mt. Wilson. Although these trails are in Southern California, the lush trees and waterfalls can make it seem like you traveled to another country.

Trans-Catalina Island Trail

Best Destinations for First-Time Backpackers

Stepping off the coast of California, this lengthy trail on Catalina Island amounts to around 46 miles, which is perfect for a long weekend backpack getaway. There are over four different campsites you can walk to all around the island, each with its own look and vibe.

San Jacinto Peak

Best Destinations for First-Time Backpackers

This trail is a popular favorite for many hikers. At an elevation at 10,834 feet high, the San Jacinto trail has scenic rewards for the determined hiker. From this peak, you can see the inland empire, Palm Desert, San Bernardino and the San Gabriel Mountains along with many other beautiful views that Southern California has to offer.

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Hester, J., HesterI, J., J., R., K., V., . . . Wild Southland. (2016, April 14). 10 Overnight Backpack Trips in Southern California. Retrieved from