Watch CBS News

Best Summer Backpacking Trips Near Los Angeles

backpack 610
(credit: Maridav/shutterstock)

With summertime right around the corner, the idea of getting out and enjoying nature is likely hitting upon countless people at this time. One of the first questions many people will have is where exactly to go for those outdoor adventures? Backpacking is one such adventure that can be enjoyed around the greater Los Angeles area and areas surrounding America's second largest city. With that in mind, are you packed up and ready to hit the trails for a great summertime experience? If so, check out some of these venues:

joshua tree
(credit: Shutterstock)

Joshua Tree National Park
74485 National Park Drive
Twentynine Palms 92277-3597
(760) 367-5500

When in search of a good workout and taking in some awesome scenery, look no further than visiting Joshua Tree National Park. This gorgeous park offers visitors the chance to take in some 93 miles of paved roads and 106 miles of unpaved roads. There are nine campgrounds with 523 campsites and a pair of horse camps, and 10 picnic areas with 38 picnic sites. Visitors will also find 32 trailheads and 191 miles of hiking trails throughout the park.
For those looking to get in touch with nature, Joshua Tree National Park offers habitat for 813 higher plant species, 40 reptile species, 41 mammal species and 240 bird species. Needless to say, your backpacking adventures will not be boring. Joshua Tree National Park is open 24 hours a day; visitation increases as temperatures moderate in the fall, peaks during the spring wildflower season, and diminishes during the heat of summer. Some areas of the park are designated for day use only. 

San Gorgonio Wilderness
(credit: Stephanie P./yelp)

San Gorgonio Wilderness
34701 Mill Creek Road
Mentone, CA 92359
(909) 382-2882

Situated 75 miles from Los Angeles, the San Gorgonio Wilderness is one of the top destination spots for the San Bernardino Mountains in Southern California. Located in the San Bernardino National Forest, around 200,000 backpackers, hikers, and walkers visit this beautiful destination each summer. With nearly 60,000 acres of terrain, visitors can work up a sweat while enjoying a pair of small lakes, meadows, streams, 100-plus miles of trails, densely forested northern slopes and rugged terrain. Elevations in the wilderness vary, so for those liking smaller destinations, they can halt their backpacking ventures before getting too high up into the terrain that ranges from 4,400 feet to 11,499.

Backpackers, hikers, and walkers should take note that free wilderness permits are a necessity when spending time in the San Gorgonio wilderness. For those not looking to obtain permits, there are a number of close trails that are not in need of a wilderness permit due to the fact that they are outside the boundaries of the San Gorgonio Wilderness. They include the Wildhorse Creek Trail (2E02), Whispering Pines (1E33), Ponderosa Vista Nature Trail (1E19), Rio Monte (1E28), and the Santa Ana River Trail (2E03).

Ernest E. Debs Regional Park
(credit: Elizabeth M./yelp)

Ernest E. Debs Regional Park
4235 Monterey Road
Los Angeles, CA 90032
(213) 847-3989

If you are looking for a good backpacking experience without too much effort and sweat, you've come to the right place. This regional park provides backpackers with a number of trails (including the city view trail to get great looks at downtown Los Angeles). That is provided, of course, that smog is at a minimum. Along with allowing backpackers the ability to enjoy a number of different trails, they can also catch beautiful views of the area's lake. For individuals with dogs, the venture is also a good workout for those on four legs. The park itself is open seven days a week from dawn to dusk.

Wildwood canyon
(credit: Elle R./yelp)

Wildwood Canyon Park
1701 Wildwood Canyon Drive
Burbank, CA 91501
(818) 238-5440

Wildwood Canyon Park in Burbank is another area gem that both locals and tourists love. This backpacking venture is located off Harvard Road in Burbank. There is the two-mile trail system for backpacking only, hitting the Burbank side of the Verudgo Mountains. A somewhat strenuous Link Trail links up to the Verdugo Mountainway and starts from Wildwood Canyon. Backpackers can take in the views of downtown Burbank and even catch some of Los Angeles. It is best to not walk this area in the dead of summer, as backpackers are exposed to the sun for the most part (not a ton of shade). Lastly, bring some good shoes and make sure your feet/legs are in good shape, as you will be doing a fair amount of uphill walking.

big bear lake
(credit: Shutterstock)

Big Bear
30 Bartlett Road
Big Bear Lake, Ca. 92315
(909) 866-4607 ext 2

As one of California's best-known resort areas, Big Bear has so much to offer that backpackers and others will likely need a few days here to soak it all in. Situated in the Southern California Mountains of San Bernardino (7,000 feet), Big Bear is tough to take in all in one day, so plan on spending as much time as possible in one of California's more popular play-lands.

The forests surrounding Big Bear Lake offer roads for backpackers, be they beginners or veterans. For those seeking a little more excitement, high peaks offer 360-degree panoramas. While entering the National Forest is free, parking does mean obtaining an Adventure Pass from the U.S. Forest Service. One of the better-known backpacking trails is the Pacific Crest Trail, maneuvering its way through the east and north ends of Big Bear Valley. Other popular trails in the Big Bear Valley include The Woodland Interpretive Trail, Pine Knot Trail, The Town Trail, Cougar Crest Trail, Castle Rock Trail and the Champion Lodgepole Trail. Lastly, there is the newer Skyline Trail, which is situated on the backside of Snow Summit Mountain Resort. Again, many choices abound for those wanting to enjoy all Big Bear can dish out during a visit.

If soaking in the fun (or at least as close as you can come to getting wet is on your itinerary) visitors to Big Bear adventurers will also be thrilled to know there is a seven-mile-long freshwater lake. Visitors have numerous options with which to go for here, including enjoying activities that include boating, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, swimming and much more.

Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on
View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.