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  • Matthew Novak

Northern California’s Hidden Backpacking Gems

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

Northern California is a hiking, backpacking, and trail-running mecca. Everyone has their opinion of where the best trail is, and RightOnTrek is no exception. Today we would love to share with you some spots that we’re eyeing up on the map as well. The high peaks of the Sierras are well known, but there are certainly amazing destinations with longer hiking seasons and more open permit requirements you should consider. With nearly unlimited options for through hikes, loops, or even sections of the Pacific Crest Trail the areas around Shasta and Lassen will offer breath-taking views, unique flora, fauna, and routes you won’t soon forget. Additionally, due to their lower elevation, these areas offer a much more open shoulder season in the Fall and Spring to explore.

If it's ups and downs that you're after, be sure to earmark anything within the Shasta Wilderness, including the Trinity Alps area. If glacial lakes and rolling hills are more what you're after then you'll want to jump to the links below that highlight Lassen National Park where crystal-clear lakes dot the landscape on this high plateau for as far as your legs will carry you.

We've collected trail and area descriptions from some of our favorite posts online below. Many of these posts include trail descriptions, maps, and first-hand accounts into the treks. Give them a read and then head right back here to start planning your next adventure with our all-inclusive backpacking adventures in Northern California, or if you're a seasoned backpacker give our adventure planning tool a go.


East Boulder Lake in the Trinity Alps

Dave and Annie at the Clever Hiker give more than a trail report. This is a full-blown description of what to expect when backpacking in the Trinity Alps region. They even list a few trip ideas towards the end.

Maia of Plutonic Love gives an awesome near step-by-step guide of her first solo overnight trip. The photos are enough to get us packing and the details are great for beginners and veterans alike. Take notes on Maia's lunch spots on day one, it looks like a great spot for a snack.

Marcus Hellberg gives a more-than-comprehensive write up of his three-day backpacking trek through Trinity. This includes high-def satellite tracks and details ongoing stoveless and enjoying cold-soaked meals.


One of the many stunning views in Shasta National Forest

If you're up for a real challenge and have experience at altitude, a trek up Mt Shasta might be the next thing for your to-do list. Give this read by Brandon Chalk a once over then read it again because it’s that good even if it’s just for the photos.

If you happen to be eyeing up Shasta National Forest but are looking for something shorter, check out this recap by Fresh Off The Grid of a 3 mile trip to Heart Lake. This is a great first-time moment for many backpackers, but the views and the chance to sit beside this lake are enough for even the seasoned backpacker.

Bubba Suess has spent a considerable amount of time building a resource site that covers the area around Mount Shasta, its trails and campgrounds, solid write-ups, and wonderful topo maps. We would be remiss if this entire website didn’t end up as part of this resource list.


The Milky Way over Lassen

The Outdoor Project has a great overview from the backpackers’ perspective of Lassen National Forest. Before you settle on a trek, give this post a run-through. You'll walk away knowing more about the park, its features, and maybe have a better idea of what you'd like to tackle when you get there.

The Outbound Collective has put together a comprehensive guide for this 12-mile loop that most hikers complete in a 2-day trek. This shorter loop gives the backpacker a chance to walk along a short stretch of the PCT as well as to camp near a beautiful glacial lake. Bonus points for those of you who enjoy climbing and bouldering as there's ample room under Crater Butte, the recommended camp location.


If you're having a hard time deciding where to go, make sure to visit our free adventure planner to help you out. Or if you're feeling an information overload, or you're too busy to plan a proper trip, let us take care of all the details for you with our all-inclusive backpacking vacations. No matter how you end up planning it, make sure to send us a recap of your trip, we can't wait to see where your boots will take you!


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