California’s Coastal Mountains

teen summer sea kayaking, backpacking, hiking, surfing & community service

Trip Details

  • Start: San Francisco, CA, USA
  • End: San Francisco, CA, USA
  • Age Range: 13 - 15
  • Challenge Level (1-10): 5
  • Tuition: $4199 (airfare not included)

Trip Dates

  • June 27 - July 9
  • July 14 - July 26

Trip Highlights

  • Sea kayak Point Reyes’ Tomales Bay
  • Backpack along the coastal bluffs of Point Reyes National Seashore
  • Day hike Big Sur State Park and coastal Redwood groves
  • 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, explore the breathtaking scenery in the Point Reyes backcountry, hike the iconic Big Sur State Park and through coastal Redwood groves, and enjoy a morning of surfing on California’s famous 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 & Backpacking in Point Reyes National Seashore

Sea Kayaking & Backpacking in Point Reyes National Seashore

Our group will meet at the San Francisco International Airport and transfer through coastal forests north of the Golden Gate Bridge. After stretching our legs with a coastal hike on our first day together, we’ll set off early the next morning to meet our sea kayaking guides at Point Reyes National Seashore. There, we’ll  venture 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 swap our paddles for trekking poles.

After experiencing Point Reyes by sea, our next adventure is exploring the renowned National Seashore by foot. We’ll spend the four days and three nights trekking through the Douglas Fir forests, and along the coastal bluffs before enjoying sunsets on the beach. Following along the beach, we’ll visit Alamere Falls, the 40 foot waterfall that is one of only four falls in the United States that flows directly into the ocean (and one of only 34 in the world!).

Big Sur, Coastal Redwoods & Famous Route 1

Big Sur, Coastal Redwoods & Famous Route 1

After emerging from the backcountry, we’ll make our way south towards Santa Cruz. Camping in the heart of a 40-acre old-growth Redwood forest nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains, we’ll we’ll set off along the stunning Route 1 to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. We’ll spend a full day exploring the trails and taking in the panoramic coastal views, and possibly making a pitstop at Carmel-by-the-Sea, Monterey, or any of the other charming coastal towns.

Surfing, Community Service & Exploring San Francisco

Surfing, Community Service & Exploring San Francisco

For our final few days together, 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 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 CCM?

Given a rating of Challenge Level 5 (out of a maximum of 10), we consider CCM 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 CCM is slightly more challenging than Maine’s Downeast Explorer (mostly due to the extended backcountry portion and slightly longer distances), but easier than Northwest Explorer. We consider CCM 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 CCM 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 kayak camping and three nights backpacking). 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 maximum number of students I can expect on my child’s Apogee trip?

There are never more than fifteen students on an individual session of this trip. Additionally, we limit enrollment by gender to two-thirds/one-third. Groups are always led by three qualified leaders.

What is the difference between frontcountry and backcountry hiking? What will the backcountry portion of CCM 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 and camping 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 CCM trip has two backcountry portions: an overnight sea-kayaking expedition and a three-night backpacking trip, both in Point Reyes National Seashore. 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. Students can expect to engage in three to five hours of community service work, usually over the course of one day.

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. We have one mail stop on California’s Coastal Mountains; 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’s Coastal Mountains trip will include travel to and from San Francisco, a sleeping bag and sleeping pad, a backpacking pack, and hiking boots.

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