Best Backpacking In California

Our comprehensive guide to the best backpacking you can find in California.
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Yosemite National Park

Even before your boots hit dirt in Yosemite, your senses will cry uncle from the onslaught of scenery. Monstrous white cliffs in Yosemite Valley, sky-piercing summits in the backcountry, vanilla-scented pine forests at every trailhead, creeks that slide in sheets across polished granite slabs, then shoot into space—the wonders never cease. A lollipop-loop up the Merced River High Trail from Yosemite Valley past Merced Lake soaks up 50 miles of splendidly underhiked terrain.

Contact: Yosemite National Park, (209) 372-0200;

John Muir Trail

If the Sierra is the "Range of Light," as John Muir said, then the John Muir Trail is its sunshine path. Tracing 210 miles across these hiker-friendly mountains and their lightly forested valleys, the trail begins at 4,000 feet in Yosemite National Park and ends at 14,494 feet at Mt. Whitney's summit.

Contact: Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, (559) 565-3341;

Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon may be Yosemite's lesser-known sister, but her backcountry is similarly endowed with white-granite peaks, golden-barked pine forests, and more crystal-blue lakes, streams, and waterfalls than you could ever cool off in. For a grand tour littered with lush meadows and granite-lined tarns, hike the 50-mile Rae Lakes Loop.

Contact: Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, (559) 565-3341;