Are you someone who wants to experience an escape to the outdoors, lush forests, and vast seas? Whether you are a starting or an avid trekker, backpacker or mountaineer, you will definitely enjoy cruising, hiking, walking, and climbing along the amazing trails, loops, and destinations in Northern California.
Northern California has garnered a great reputation for having the best and diverse destinations for backpackers. So if you have been looking for a new trail to take, one of these trip destinations may capture your interest. Let’s have a look at these popular and beautiful destinations that may be your next stop!
Northern California Gems for Your Next Backpacking Trip
- The Lost Coast Trail
Located in Eureka, California, this jewel is among the coastal wilderness in the US. The ideal time to plan a hiking adventure for this place would be on weekdays to avoid heavy traffic and crowds. The hike where you are to witness tide pools, sea lions and beautiful spring wildflowers usually takes around 3-days of hiking. Make sure to wear study boots with waterproof features as this trail is full of water sources.
Expect to experience beach hiking combined with some stretches of 1-2 ft. rounded boulders. Since this is near streams and oceans, make sure to book your trips on sunny days to avoid having impassable roads and dangerous waves on days with high-tides. Pets and mountain bikes are not allowed and there are designated areas for camping so make sure to follow their rules.
- The Mount Etna Summit
The perfect spot for witnessing sunrises and sunsets, the Etna Summit is a great place to include in your list. The Upper Ruffey Lake will definitely give you a calm and refreshing break from hours of walking under the heat. To get there, you will have to climb a steady uphill along the Pacific Crest Trail before reaching the lake.
At this point, you may want to share a meal as this spot offers one of the best views. This trail will be more of finding your way through the bushes as there is no paved trail for it. However, the view of volcanic landscapes, fumaroles, and the water will definitely make it worth it.
- Four Lakes Loop
Traversing the one of the many routes to the Four Lakes Loop, you will definitely have a grand time while taking the Long Canyon route. It’s a six-mile steady uphill hiking headed to the Bee Tree Gap at 7,560 feet and on to the Deer Creek Pass at 7,760 feet. These heights will give you an astounding view of the meadows that are painted with a palette of beautiful hues right after a hike of 2.5 miles past the cover of mature Douglas fir.
The moment you reach Deer Creek Pass, you will continue to witness the Sligo Peak, Deer Lake’s bowl, Summit Lake, and into the Diamond Lake. As you look towards the Eastern shore’s west, you will witness the amazing White Trinities. Camping grounds are situated in the lake’s north area. This is a beautiful trail with summer wildflowers and areas for swimming for those who do not want a lot of traffic.
It is best to visit during summer and fall; however, this is a trail that may be a bit strenuous as it is more of a dirt road than a well-paved trail. And yes, you can take your fur buddies along with you.
- The Humboldt Redwoods State Park
California’s largest redwood state park, this is situated on Humboldt County’s southern end along the Avenue of the Giants. Covering 53,000 acres with 17,000 acres occupied by ancient old-growth coastal redwoods, this is a place where you are to see trees that are a thousand years old or more.
Brace yourself for what’s in store for you; the Rockefeller Forest, the Founder’s Grove, the fallen Dyerville Giant and the Shrine Drive Thru Tree are some of its highlights. This is an easy trail that also has park features that are convenient and fun to be in. It has beaches, hot showers, laundry facilities, hiking trails, picnic areas, fishing, swimming, boat ramps, campfire programs, biking trails, nature trails, and horseback riding trails.
- The Rae Lakes Loop
A 41.4 mile-long hike with a 1535 m climb, the Rae Lakes Loop is notorious for being an excellent hike in Kings Canyon and Sequoia. Anytime would be a great time to visit except from June to July as the stream crossings may be impassable. However, the recommended time of visit would be during summer or fall.
This features stunning waterfalls, lake basins, mountain views, carved canyons, the Great High Sierra landscape, and more. There will be some passes required for this trail. And it is also recommended to bring portable bear-resistant canisters for keeping your food and valuables safe from bears in case they appear.
- The King Range National Conservation Area
This area covers 68,000 acres along 35 miles of the north coast region of California. Also popular for being called “California’s Lost Coast”, this tag was given as it wasn’t a place for building highways; hence, it remained a great backpacking trail for hikers and campers. However, this is not an easy hike because of its steep peaks and rugged areas.
This has been classified as a wilderness in 2006 so you can expect very little signage in its trails. Campers and hikers are required to bring a map and compass with them to make their way out of the wilderness in case they get lost. This is a trail that combines the beauty of hiking along the seas all the way through the mountain peaks. Hence, bikers, surfers, anglers, and mountaineers are the frequent visitors of this area.
- The John Muir Trail
This is among the well-known trails in the country. The John Muir Trail passes through three national parks such as Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite. With a total length of 213.7 miles and an elevation of 47,000 feet, we can say that its foot path exceeds that of the Pacific Crest Trail. Its name came from the naturalist and Sierra Club founder named John Muir.
Expect to encounter swaths of alpine and sceneries of mountain views as this trail is situated within the wilderness. Its northern terminus starts in Yosemite Valley and its southern terminus in Mount Whitney. This is known to be “America’s Most Famous Trail” as it gets the most hiking attempts in a year as compared to other trails.
Hiking along this trail is complex; hence, it requires skilled and experienced mountaineers to be able to venture successfully along this area. This makes it difficult to secure permits for hiking. The best time to visit is during summer. You can go along with your friends, but unfortunately, not with your fur buddies.
- The Plumas National Forest
If you are looking for a trail that is backpacking and dog-friendly, the Plumas National Forest is one to go for. This 1,145,000-acre forest is situated at the northern terminus of the Sierra Nevada. This is named after the primary watershed, Feather River, or Rio de las Plumas.
Expect to find an oak stand, conifer stand, and pure red fir as you cruise along the Bucks Lake Wilderness. This is a trail that leaves you in an astounding glacial lake that is a popular fishing destination and water reservoir for many cabins around the area. Swimming or boating is not allowed, but you won’t need to secure a permit to visit that area. The only registration you need to finish would be at the trailhead.
- The Mount Whitney Portal Trail
A mountain that was named after its first successful climber, this mountain is named after Josiah Whitney who was also a geologist and surveyor. This 14,505-foot mountain is considered to be the highest point in the continental United States. The Cottonwood Pack Station, which is a 63-mile hike, is a route that will take you to a more challenging route that has lesser traffic at the backside of the mountain.
You will have to secure a permit for this hike. Unfortunately, your dogs and other fur buddies aren’t allowed to come with you. When climbing the summit, it is important that you start early so you have more time to spare for your travel to and back. The altitude in this level may cause some physical challenges so make sure to prepare your body before taking on this trail. You may encounter moderate traffic in the middle of the hike, but the scenic view will definitely make up for it.
- The Sky High Lakes Hike
If you are looking for a marvelous view of the Sky High lakes in the Marble Mountains, this is the perfect hike for you. A combination of diverse ridges and peaks, the Marble Mountains feature the Marble Rim that has a signature white wall of rock that astoundingly shines in the sun. This makes an excellent multi-day exploration or overnight trip.
When you reach the Marble Rim, you can choose between two routes that lead to the Sky High Lakes Basin and the Marble Valley Base. But at this point, you should take the trail that takes you into a meadow located just at the base of the Marble Rim. You will be able to find a lot of routes to take on where you can do further exploration.
You can also take the trail that lets you climb over the high point of a loop that leads you where the Sky High Lakes’ basin is. Camping grounds along the forests can be a good stop. But one of the highlights of the trail would be the Shadow Lake that fills a rocky rim that becomes a pool for the crags above it. Campsites are situated here too so you can easily choose where you want to spend your time.
This trail will give you access to a network of caves, but these are only to be explored by experienced spelunkers. If you want to give it a shot, you can consult with the Forest Service or directly with the local authorities there. On your way back, you will encounter the Gate Lake which is the last lake of the trip. From there, a two-mile hike will lead you back to the trail that takes you back to where you started.
- The Carson-Iceberg Wilderness
This wilderness area covers 160,000 acres and provides protection to an area of the High Sierra landscape. This gem is named after two geographical features namely the Carson River and a unique granite formation referred to as “The Iceberg”. It is recommended that you bring bear canisters for this trip as this also serves as a habitat for mule deer and black bears.
This trail is ideal for family backpacking as its serene nature and sceneries are great for family adventures. Making a reservation is fairly easy but you will have to secure a wilderness permit from the rangers. Expect to see numerous isolated lakes, riparian vegetation and giant trees. You will also encounter the famous Paiute Cutthroat Trout that makes the trip more exciting.
This is a place for those who want to have a good quality of solitude as the traffic in this area isn’t that high. Do know that this is not a short-term trip so make sure to pack your essentials mindfully. Always remember to stock up on food and water, and take a map from the forest service station.
Going for a climb, hike, or a trek is a truly gratifying experience whether you are a lover of the outdoors or not. The sceneries are unapologetically beautiful and are capable of taking away all the stress and strains from the hike. While the summit can be considered the highlight of the trip, the journey that you are to take definitely adds up to the intensity of the experience. Include all these Northern California gems in your bucket list and have fun ticking them off one by one. These are guaranteed to give you an elated and memorable experience.