This trail begins in the South Bay at Saratoga Gap off highway 9, in Castle Rock Park and winds through Big Basin State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains. At 28 miles, this is a 2-3 day journey filled with backcountry views and Redwood trees. Reserve a permit ahead of time for camping and a free backcountry trail permit.
2) Point Reyes
A perfect mix of rocky headlands and sandy beaches, Point Reyes offers a wide variety of backpacking options thanks to its extensive and well maintained trail network. With relatively close proximity to San Francisco, reservations are strongly encouraged. For backcountry options, travel along Drakes Bay or in Philip Burton Wilderness, or follow this four-day guide. Permits are required, make reservations here.
3) Angel Island
For beginner or introductory backpackers, Angel Island is the perfect start to what we hope would be many more backpacking trips in the future. Take the ferry to this island floating in the middle of the bay for 360 degree views including the city and the rest of the bay. Here's a full itinerary for you so you don't have to plan much! Depending on the season, you may want to bring a coat.
4) Ohlone Wilderness Trail
Head to the East Bay for some rugged adventures along this trail, which begins near Livermore. With a 7,600 ft elevation gain at 29 miles, this is a more difficult trip. Enjoy wildlife and nature, and views of rolling hills along this trek. You can even bring your furry friend with you (dogs allowed!).
5) Pescadero Creek Park
If you're craving some real forested wilderness, head straight to San Mateo County's park and take on the Pescadero Creek Trail loop (16.5 miles) for some real backcountry camping within an hour's drive of San Francisco. The opportunity to wander through giant redwoods along the watershed and camp out in the wild makes this loop a local favorite, especially when the city heat pushes locals to seek out the cool of the forest. Venture through other parts of the park on a multi-day trip and get ready to see many banana slugs along the way!