15 Daytime and Overnight Backpack Trips in Southern California 

If you live in or near Southern California or are even visiting and want some good weekend backpacking trips, there are plenty to choose from. When it comes to SoCal backpacking or hiking in Southern California, there are a lot of great options each with different views and unique characteristics. 

So, if you are looking for backpacking trips or overnight hiking trails near you, you can find many opportunities for backpacking in Southern California. Below are 15 of the most popular backpacking trails that you can find and explore for yourself: 

1) San Jacinto Trail

One of the best backpacking opportunities in Southern California is the San Jacinto Trail which is located in Palm Springs. Aside from being one of the most popular hiking trails, it is also one of the highest points. This hike begins in the valley of Palm Springs where it can get pretty hot and tiring, but you will eventually reach a point where you are in cooler air and an easier trail.

San Jacinto Trail
Credits: Wikipedia

This hike is 11 miles long and is the home to multiple campgrounds where you can stop and rest for the night along the way. So, this trail should meet your needs for backpacking camping near me, if you’ve been wondering where to backpack around you when you’re in California or Southern California. 

2) Lower Bear Creek

This 4.5-mile hike is located off of the High 39 in the San Gabriel Mountain. Here, you can walk along the Bear Creek which flows year-round and see all of the beautiful wildlife and fauna. While you cannot stay overnight on the actual trail, there are many places around the hike where you can stay and enjoy the peace and quiet. If you live in SoCal and wondering about places to backpack near me, Lower Bear Creek should meet your criteria. It is also great for daytime backpacking trip in Southern California and California. 

3) Cucamonga Peak

If you feel like being adventurous and scaling a pretty difficult mountain, the 12-mile Cucamonga Peak Hike can lead you all the way to the San Gabriel Mountain. This is another desert hike that has multiple spots for you to stop and pitch your tent for the night.

Cucamonga Peak
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

On the way, you may even come into contact with some Bighorn Sheep which would make your adventure that much more interesting. Because this is a desert hike, you want to stay aware of the weather and air quality so that you don’t burn yourself out while hiking. Please be aware that you will also need a hiking permit to hike here, but this is free and easy to obtain.

4) Crystal Cove Street Park

While this is not a mountain hike like the others, this 9-mile street park trail located outside of Laguna Beach is a long and relaxing trail that goes along the Pacific coastline. Among this hike are views of the ocean, canyons, and more. However, do be aware that along the way, you could run into bobcats, coyotes, rattlesnakes, and more. The good thing is that there are multiple spots to stop and rest along the way. This is ultimately a favorite place for backpacking in Southern California and is great for daytime backpacking in SoCal. 

5) The Santa Anita Canyon

If you want to escape the noise of city life, you can take this 10-mile hike down into the San Gabriel Mountains and all the way to the peak of Mount Wilson. With this hike comes the peace and quiet of nature and the great outdoors. Along this hike, a couple of the best places you can stop and enjoy the view are Spruce Grove and Hoagie.

Santa Anita Canyon
Credits: Mitch Barrie Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

While these places are a bit more crowded due to tourism, there are amazing waterfalls, sycamore trees, and more along the way. It doesn’t get much better when you’re searching for backpacking camping near me, that is, if you’re local to SoCal or can get here easily. 

6) Mount Baldy

Taking a step away from the warm sun, this snowy trail can be found at an altitude of 10,000. For this hike, you may want to suit up and prepare layers to brace the cold, especially if you are planning to stay overnight. One thing to be aware of when walking this trail is that it is that it is challenging and not an easy feat to accomplish, so don’t hike this if you are not an experienced hiker.  And if are looking for an overnight hiking trail in SoCal, then this should fit your list for overnight hiking trails near me! 

7) Santa Cruz Trail

Santa Cruz is an amazing place to visit at any time of the year for any reason, but one amazing overnight backpacking trip that you can go on is also located in Santa Cruz. This trail is so well-loved because of the wild scenery and greenery that you can see and walk through. If you plan to have a fire when staying overnight, you do need to have a campfire permit.

Santa Cruz Trail
Credits: Esmée Winnubst Flickr, CC BY 2.0

This hike runs a bit shorter than the others at just about 6 miles, but you will need a lot of snacks and drinks especially if the weather is a bit warmer that day. Santa Cruz Trial is popular for weekend backpacking trips in California as well as overnight hiking trails for anyone around the SoCal area. 

8) San Gorgino

This is yet another hike in Southern California that will lead you to a high peak. This place is the home of many hikes, one of which is the Vivian Creek Trail. Regardless of which hike you choose to take, you can enjoy the climbing and the great views from any of them. With this being said, this hike is only recommended for those who are in shape and experienced because it is pretty strenuous and difficult. Also, be sure that you have plenty to drink and snack on to keep your body replenished and healthy. This is a great place to backpack near you if you’ve been searching for places for “backpacking near me”. 

9) Solstice Canyon

With this hike, you not only get a short and sweet hike at only 2.6 miles, but you also get the experience the beauty of the ruins next to a waterfall. With such a short walk for such a rewarding view, nothing could be better. This is an amazing backpacking trail for those who are not as experienced because the canyon trial is easy to follow.

Solstice Canyon
Credits: National Park Service

Fortunately, you will be covered by shade from the trees for most of the walk, so the weather won’t affect you too bad. This is an excellent choice for backpacking camping with kids in SoCal as it’s short, beautiful, and hopefully answers your question of backpacking camping near me. 

10) San Bernardino Peak

Unlike the Solstice Canyon, this overnight hiking trail in San Bernardino is tough and tumultuous. Because of this, however, you won’t have to battle large crows and other people because not many people take this trail. You will have to obtain a permit if you are planning to hike for more than three days just as with many hiking places in California so do be aware of that. You also need to prepare adequately with lots of food and water as well as for the altitude shift. For those who are sensitive to high altitudes, you may feel a little sick and take precautions for altitude changes.  San Bernardino Park is a great option for overnight backpacking trips California, if you are searching for somewhere to camp around the SoCal area. 

11) Ontario Peak

This is a must-see for many hikers and backpackers in Southern California. Because of its amazing views atop the rock, the hike will definitely be worth it. This is a longer hike, so do prepare adequately with food and water to get you through it.

Ontario Peak
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

You can stop along the way at the Icehouse Saddle to take some pictures and catch your breath. Though it is long, the views will be worthwhile, so just keep on pushing and be prepared physically. This backpacking camp is great for weekend backpacking trips. 

12) Sturtevant Falls

This is another hike that would be a good choice for beginners because it is a mere 3 miles long. It is also a very accessible hike in comparison to the others because it is not too extreme of a climb. If you do want to push yourself, you can turn onto the Mt Wilson Summit hike along the way which is a 15-mile hike. However, the Sturtevant Falls hike will take you to a beautiful stream with boisterous wildlife and waterfalls. You can even pack some food and drinks and have a nice picnic at the end! This is a great answer when you’re wondering about backing camping and places to backpack near me. And it’s also a great option for a daytime backpacking trip in Southern California or SoCal. 

13) Barker Valley

Another great hike for beginners is the Barker Valley hike which is only 7.5 miles. While this is longer than the other beginner hikes, the walk is not too hard to maneuver. With that being said, it does get extremely hot here, so do pack a lot of water to keep you hydrated.

Barker Valley
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

In order not to break the law, you do have to have a pass from the National Forest Adventure to hike this trail, but once you have one, you are free to enjoy your hike and even camp out overnight if you want to. Barker Valley is a great hiking trail for backpacking trips in SoCal for beginners. 

14) Catalina Island

While this is not necessarily in Southern California because it is an island, it is close enough to meet our criteria for hikes in Southern California. Every year, this island attracts thousands of people for its views and beautiful coastline. To hike between both harbors completely would span a total of 85 kilometers which is a long walk. However, if you can take on the challenge, it will be rewarding. Just be sure to have a lot of snacks, water, and sunscreen to beat the heat. This island should be on your list of places to backpack or hike near SoCal or Southern California. Doesn’t hurt that it’s also an island. 

15) Pacific Crest Trail

If you want to know where the best backpacking in San Diego is, you should think about a walking part of the Pacific Coast Trail. While the entire trail winds from Mexico to Canada, there is a beautiful section that runs through Southern California and San Diego itself.

Pacific Crest Trail
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

In fact, the first 133 miles of the trip wind through San Diego and Southern California, so there is plenty to see and walk on this trail. So, if you are looking for backpacking trails and best hiking places in or near San Diego, Pacific Crest Trail should be on your top list. It’s a great place for a daytime backpacking trip in San Diego and SoCal. 

10 Quick Tips for Overnight Backpacking

Whether you are a beginner backpacker or one with a lot of experience, there are some crucial steps and tips that you should follow to ensure your success. Below are 10 of the most important things to remember when backpacking or preparing for backpacking: 

1) Bring the Essentials

When you are planning your packing list for your overnight hike, you have to keep in mind the essentials because without the essentials, you are going to struggle. In terms of backpacking, there are generally ten basics that you always want to have with you: backpack, layers, sun protection, maps/compasses, water, snacks, first aid kit, flashlight, multi-tool, and trekking poles. 

2) Stretch and Exercise Beforehand

You never want to go into any form of physical activity, especially a long hike, without stretching and having your body loose before you go. Without stretching, you are more prone to muscle cramps and injuries. You want to be sure to warm your body up and get it prepared for the long walk ahead. 


3) Buy Light Gear

Because you have to carry all of your gear, you don’t want to opt for the heavier pieces. Rather, if you have options, always go for the lightest one. If you choose to purchase the heavy pieces of equipment, you will have a terrible backache and it will throw off your whole walking routine. 

4) Check What Permits you Need

As you can see in the list above, some hiking and backpacking trails require specific permits, especially if you are planning to stay overnight. Because of this, you want to be sure that you plan ahead and check what permits you need before you get stuck with nowhere to go. 

5) Pack Less, Not More

Try to be strategic yet minimal in your packing. As mentioned, you will have to carry all of your gear and equipment, so you don’t want to have too heavy of a load to carry. For this, bring the essentials and anything you think you absolutely need, but leave the rest at home. 


6) Pack Gear for The Area You’re Going To

You want to be strategic with your packing based on where you are going. While some places, like many of the hikes in Southern California, are hot and sweltering, others, such as Mt Baldy, are cold. Because of this, you want to make sure that you have the proper layers, tools, and equipment suitable to the specific area you are traveling to. 

7) Lay Out Everything Prior to Packing

Before you try to stuff everything into your backpack, lay it all out in one area. Not only will this allow you to stay more organized, but it will also allow you to see if you are missing anything important.

8) Stay Organized

Staying organized is key. You wouldn’t want to get to the top of the hill and have to dig in your backpack for something that should’ve been on top. Pack your bag so that you know where everything is so that you can access it easily. 

Organizing backpack

9) Practice Packing Your Bag Beforehand

Don’t wait until the night before to pack your bag. Rather, practice packing it with time to spare so that you can make adjustments and fix it so that it is suitable to your needs. 

10) Exercise and Prepare for Hiking

Never go into a 10-mile hike without preparing beforehand. Even if you are just going on a 3-mile hike, you want your body to be prepared and ready. It is not fun when you get to the middle of a hike and cannot complete it because of physical impairments. 


Overall, if you want some amazing backpacking spots in Southern California, there are many to choose from. Whether you want a 10-mile hike or an easy hike, you have many options. When going on a hike, however, always be prepared for anything and follow the crucial tips to backpacking.

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