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!
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. We consider CMC to be comparable in challenge level to our Alaska Mountains & Coast trip. Please note that all of Apogee’s Challenge Levels are not scientific and are subjectively calculated by the Apogee staff.
Where will my child be sleeping at night?
Our CMC groups will be camping every night over the course of their trip; we will spend eight nights in established, front country campsites, and four nights in the “backcountry” (one night island camping and three nights in Yosemite National Park). Leaders will separate students by gender into tent groups, and will rotate those groups several times over the course of our trip. Students will share a tent with one or two other students.
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.
What does the community service portion of this trip entail?
The specifics of our community service projects and the number of hours we volunteer varies slightly from year-to-year. In the past, we have worked with the Half Moon Bay State Beach Park Rangers on a variety of tasks, including invasive species removal, plant transplanting, etc. More recently, some groups have spent an additional half day giving back to some of the communities most affected by the recent wildfires. Students can expect 3-7 hours of community service work over the course of our trip.
I’m worried about wildfires affecting my child’s trip. What are Apogee’s wildfire contingency plans?
Like you, we’ve been concerned as we’ve followed the recent wildfires throughout the West. While the devastation has been alarming and often heartbreaking, the good news is that, given the vast expanses in the West, our itineraries have rarely been affected by wildfire. That said, we have changed itineraries without hesitation when necessary. During the summer, we monitor new and existing wildfires on a daily basis. When it comes to the need to move a group or otherwise change an itinerary, we will always err on the side of caution. In the event that a wildfire – either the fire itself or the resulting air quality – becomes too close for comfort, we have evacuation and contingency plans for each location and activity of our trip. We will make sure to keep families in the loop with up-to-date information if we need to change the itinerary in any way.
How will I communicate with my child while they are on this trip?
We are a technology-free program, meaning that your child won’t have access to their phone or other electronics over the course of their trip. That said, students will get a chance to call home on their trip leaders’ phones once over the course of the trip (usually around the midpoint of the trip). We also have a mail stop on California Mountains & Coast; parents, relatives, and friends are welcome to use this to send letters or postcards to a student. Note that we do not allow packages to be sent – letters and postcards only. If you have an urgent message to get to your child, please call our office and we’ll work to get you connected with your child.
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
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.