5 California Backpacking Trips Off the Beaten Path

California is has some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. From the towering peaks of the Sierras to the Pacific Coast, California has it all. But, due to California’s beauty and ease of travel, it can be very competitive to visit some of the more famous locations such as the John Muir Trail or Lost Coast. Fortunately, there are still some amazing places for adventurous folks willing to get off the beaten path. If you are looking for hiking trips more further afield, check out this list of off the beaten path hiking destinations around the world!

Granite Heart, Trinity Alps

Four Lakes Loop

The Trinity Alps are a glaciated mountain range far in the north of California. The crown jewel of this wilderness are is the four lakes loop. The loop itself is only a 5 mile hike, but the approach is 6 to 8 miles each way depending on what trailhead you take. If you want to plan a great 2 or 3 day excursion, be sure to check out this guide!

For a long time, the Trinity Alps were considered one of California’s best kept secrets. But, every year the area gets more and more popular. While it hasn’t reached Sierra levels of popularity, do not expect solitude on summer weekends.

Hiker at Peeler Lake

Crown Point Loop

It is a well known fact that getting permits to do backcountry camping in Yosemite is a nightmare. But there is a loophole that most people don’t know about. You can get permits to visit nearby wilderness areas that also give you the ability to access Yosemite from the “backdoor”. The best of these options is the Crown Point Loop in the Hoover Wilderness.

This loop starts from a trailhead outside of Bridgeport California, but it enters Yosemite in the Tuolomne meadows. If you want to extend your trip, you can use this as a jumping off point for a lot of the rest of northern Yosemite.

Even though this is a lesser known hike, you do still need to get a permit. For more information on planning this trip, check out this guide!

Iceland Lake

Emigrant Wilderness is a favorite for Californian’s in the know! The area lies just to the North of Yosemite and is a granite wonderland! There are plenty of great destinations in this wilderness. But if you are confident in your navigation skills, then the ultimate destination in the Emigrant Wilderness is Iceland Lake.

The first few miles are on a well maintained trail. But you do leave the trail and head up a giant granite slab. There is no official trail here, although there are some cairns left behind. Half of the fun is discovering your own route!

Sespe Hot Springs

California’s coastal ranges don’t get as much love as the Sierra Nevada. But that doesn’t mean they don’t also include some amazing trails! The absolute best of the coastal range is the Sespe River Trail to the Sespe Hot Springs. The full thing is a 30 mile out and back trail along a river.

8 Miles into the hike you reach the Willett Hot Springs, a tub set up in the hill with warm water funneled in. Another 7 miles and you reach hot spring canyon, a canyon with a thermally warmed river running through it. Rocks are set up at various points along the river creating little pools to soak in.

Panamint City

If you have every wanted to camp out in an abandoned ghost town, this is the trip for you. Deep in the Panamint Mountains in Death Valley National Park, Panamint City used to be a mining outpost. Over time, the city was abandoned.

Today, a lot of the structures are still there and the city can only be accessed by walking. Panamint city is located in the mountains, so the weather is more forgiving than the lower parts of the valley. But it is still the desert, so it isn’t a trip to take in the middle of the summer!

These are just a few of California’s hidden gems. If you are willing to go deeper into the wilderness, there are still plenty of places that can offer solitude. Even in the most populous state in the US.

Exploring the Great US Outdoors 

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