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 12-day teen summer adventure. You’ll sea kayak through the protected, beautiful waters of Point Reyes National Seashore’s Tomales Bay, explore Point Reyes’ breathtaking coastal trails, 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 adventure is a perfect balance of activities to show you and your new friends the very best of California.
Sea Kayaking & Hiking 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 to Tomales Bay. After stretching our legs with a coastal hike on our first day together, we will set off early the next morning to meet our sea kayaking guides at Point Reyes National Seashore. There, we will 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 hiking boots. After experiencing Point Reyes by sea, we will explore the renowned National Seashore by foot. We will spend the next two days trekking through the Douglas Fir forests, along the coastal bluffs, and enjoy 360-degree views from the top of Point Reyes Lighthouse before enjoying sunsets on the beach. Along the way, we’ll keep our eyes peeled for the local Tule Elk population, black-tailed deer, elephant seals, and a huge variety of birds.
Big Sur, Coastal Redwoods & Famous Route 1
Next, we’ll make our way south towards Santa Cruz. Camping in the heart of an old-growth Redwood grove nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains, we’ll set off along the world-famous coastal Route 1 to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. For the next two days, we’ll tackle the trails and take in the panoramic coastal views of Big Sur, experience the grandeur of the redwoods, and making sure to take a pitstop at Carmel-by-the-Sea, Monterey, or any of several charming coastal towns.
Surfing, Community Service & Exploring San Francisco
In 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 so many 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 GSA?
Given a rating of Challenge Level 4 (out of a maximum of 10), we consider GSA to be an intermediate hiking trip that any moderately fit, motivated student can successfully complete with some prior preparation. Compared to similar hiking trips, we believe that GSA is slightly more challenging than Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, but easier than Northwest Explorer. We consider GSA to be comparable in challenge level to our Maine’s Downeast Explorer 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 on GSA?
Our GSA groups will be camping every night over the course of their trip; we will spend 10 nights in established, front country campsites, and one night at a campground accessible only by boat (during our kayaking trip). 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.
Is there a “backcountry” component to GSA?
In a word, no. 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. Though we will spend one night kayaking on a beach accessible to the public only by boat, the entirety of this trip will take place in the front country at established campsites with immediate or near immediate access to advanced medical care.
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 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 GSA; 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.
Aside from the trip cost, what are the additional expenses for GSA?