California Mountains & Coast


Challenge Level: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Trip Details

  • Trip Start: San Francisco, CA, USA
  • Trip End: San Francisco, CA, USA
  • Age Range: 13 - 15
  • Trip Dates: 6/27 - 7/09, 7/13 - 7/25, 7/29 - 8/10
  • Tuition: $3595 (airfare not included)

Trip Highlights

  • Sea kayak Point Reyes’ Tomales Bay
  • Hike and backpack in breathtaking Yosemite National Park
  • Surf California’s iconic coastline
  • Volunteer with park rangers in Half Moon Bay
  • Explore the unrivaled attractions of San Francisco

Trip Overview

California is gorgeous. It is also physically and ecologically diverse, with endless opportunities for outdoor fun and adventure. To show you what makes “The Golden State” so special, we’ve crafted the perfect 13-day teen summer adventure trip. You’ll sea kayak through stunning, Mediterranean-like waters in Point Reyes National Seashore’s Tomales Bay, hike alpine trails through High Sierra forests, explore the breathtaking scenery in Yosemite National Park’s backcountry, and enjoy a morning of surfing on California’s iconic coast. Capped off with a day in San Francisco, this action-packed backpacking adventure is a perfect balance of activities to show you and your new friends the very best of California.

Sea Kayaking in Tomales Bay

Our group will meet at the San Francisco International Airport and transfer through coastal forests north of the Golden Gate Bridge. After a first night of orientation, we’ll set off early the next morning to meet our sea kayaking guides at Point Reyes National Seashore. There, we’ll learn the fundamentals of safe paddling before venturing out along one of the most pristine, protected coastlines in North America. After two days on the water, an evening bioluminescence paddle, and one amazing night camping under the stars, we’ll bid the California coastline adieu. Before we make our way east, we’ll spend a morning lending a hand to some of the areas most damaged by the recent wildfires.

Sierra Hiking & Yosemite National Park

Crossing California’s fertile Central Valley, we’ll transfer into the clean, fresh air of the Sierras and world-famous Yosemite National Park. We will spend the next few days exploring the Yosemite Valley, weaving through groves of ancient redwoods and day hiking to waterfalls in the shadow of El Capitan. Our confidence will grow with every step as we take in 100-mile vistas from high above the valley floor. After breaking in our boots, we’ll head for the Park’s high country, where we’ll strap on our backpacks and spend three spectacular days and nights trekking in the backcountry of this national treasure.

Surfing, Community Service & Exploring San Francisco

After emerging from the backcountry, we’ll make our way back to the coast. There, we’ll throw on wetsuits and, with the help of our professional instructors, ride the waves at one of California’s gorgeous, beginner-friendly surfing beaches. We’ll find our second community service project at Half Moon Bay State Beach, where we’ll spend a gratifying morning working with the Park Rangers. After countless adventures in the outdoors, our hiking trip will conclude with a final day exploring and celebrating in San Francisco together. A perfect ending to our Golden State summer adventure!

Trip FAQs

Please see our General FAQ page for many more frequently asked questions and answers!

How physically challenging is CMC?

Given a rating of Challenge Level 5 (out of a maximum of 10), we consider CMC to be a intermediate hiking trip that any moderately fit, motivated student can successfully complete with some prior preparation. Compared to similar hiking trips, we believe that CMC is slightly more challenging than Maine’s Downeast Explorer (mostly due to the extended backcountry portion, slightly longer distances, and hiking at altitude in Yosemite National Park), but easier than Northwest Explorer. Please note that all of Apogee’s Challenge Levels are not scientific and are subjectively calculated by the Apogee staff.

What is the difference between frontcountry and backcountry hiking? What will the backcountry portion of CMC be like? How much weight will my child carry during this portion?

Generally speaking, the front-country is any area that is easily accessible by vehicles and day users. Hiking in the backcountry, on the other hand, involves hiking and camping in more remote locations without running water or immediate access to advanced medical care. Hiking and camping in the backcountry requires more preparation because of the need to carry in all food and equipment, and treat drinking water prior to consumption. Our CMC trip has two backcountry portions: an overnight sea-kayaking expedition in Point Reyes National Seashore’s Tomales Bay, and a three-night backpack in the High Sierras in Yosemite National Park. Your child should expect to carry somewhere between 20 and 30 pounds in their pack during this backcountry section.

Aside from the trip cost, what are the additional expenses for this trip?

Apogee’s tuition costs are meant to be all-inclusive and include all meal, accommodation, and activity fees. The most significant additional expenses on our California Mountains & Coast trip will include travel to and from San Francisco, a sleeping bag and sleeping pad, a backpacking pack, and hiking boots.

Should my child bring any special gear for sea kayaking?

In short, no. Your child will be suitably prepared for sea kayaking (and all of the activities on the CMC trip) if you follow the packing list we provide. Apogee’s outfitters provide all kayak-specific gear, and the packing list includes everything else that your child will need.

What luggage should my child check on the plane? What should be carried on?

This question is addressed in detail in our Travel Information document for enrolled students. Generally speaking, however, your child will be checking a soft-sided duffel containing the majority of their gear (including their empty hiking backpack), while carrying-on their sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and a few other travel essentials.

My child will be flying to this trip start. How will they connect with their leaders?

Please note that Apogee staff members do not travel with students; our trip leaders will already be in San Francisco on arrival day and will stay in San Francisco after the trip ends. Apogee staff and trip leaders will have a detailed flight itinerary for each student who is flying to the trip start and will be at the airport to greet them on arrival. Once students are with their leaders, they will call home to let their parents know they have arrived and are with their group. Please see our blog post for specifics regarding students traveling as Unaccompanied Minors. Further, we encourage you to coordinate travel with other attendees; we’re happy to put you in touch with other enrolled families from your region. We will provide enrolled families with a Travel Information document covering details specific to traveling to and from San Francisco, including airport information and arrival and departure time windows. Please contact Apogee with any specific questions or concerns regarding drop-offs and/or pick-ups

To check trip availability, please call 207.725.7025, or email for more information.