This tour of the Golden State is packed with fun adventure. Hike along Big Sur, California’s gorgeously rugged stretch of coastline, and sea kayak among abundant wildlife in Monterey Bay. Participate in a beach clean-up with Save Our Shores, and learn to climb on a secluded granite dome near Yosemite National Park. Walk among sleeping giants in sequoia forests, whitewater raft the American River, and learn to surf on quintessential northern Cali beaches. Finally, wrap up your adventure with a tour of San Francisco, including Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz Island.
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12 Daysview dates and prices
Arrive: San Francisco, CA (SFO)
Depart: San Francisco, CA (SFO)
Day 1: Explore Big Sur
Pull on your hiking shoes and get ready to explore the rugged, mountainous terrain of the incomparable Big Sur! We’ll head to Andrew Molera State Park, a rarely-visited stretch of beach—intentionally underdeveloped as wished by its namesake. We’ll meander through sections of the park’s 20 miles of trail through the beach, meadows, and bluffs with views of the entire Big Sur coast. We’ll also head to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, where we’ll have unobstructed views of the 80-foot-tall McWay Falls, one of two tidefalls in California that pours directly into the Pacific. We’ll polish off our tour with a trip to Big Sur River Gorge and take a dip in crystal-clear pools surrounded by dramatic granite walls.
Day 2: Sea kayak in Monterey Bay
Our next adventure will take us sea kayaking in the calm waters of Monterey Bay. From this inlet on the Pacific, we’ll make our way into the biologically diverse Elkhorn Slough. On the way, it’s likely you’ll see sea otters, sea lions, and harbor seals frolicking below us, where pelicans, sandpipers, and loons will be searching the skies above us. More than 340 migratory birds have been identified in this area!
Day 3: Community service in Santa Cruz
Four hours of our day will be spent volunteering with Save Our Shores, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of California’s coastline and the health of its beach habitats. We give back with a beach clean-up project, helping prevent garbage from floating off into the Pacific Ocean.
Day 4: Rock climb at Fresno Dome
Next, we’ll head inland toward Yosemite National Park. We won’t be hanging out with throngs of tourists, though; instead, we’ll escape the summer heat and crowds and head to Fresno Dome, sitting above 7,000 feet in elevation. Learn the ins and outs of rock climbing on the smooth Sierra granite; you’ll even get to belay your peers! Fun fact: Climbing legend Royal Robbins spent much of his time developing routes here.
Day 5: Explore Yosemite and Giant Sequoias
After a day of climbing, we’ll pile in the vans and take a short drive to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, where more than 500 of the world’s oldest evergreens reside. Their branches are up to eight feet thick, while their bases can reach 40 feet in diameter! Just north of Mariposa is the famous Yosemite Valley, where we’ll marvel at the 3,000-foot-tall granite walls and hike Nevada Fall, which towers almost 600 feet above the valley floor. Its turbulent, powerful waters create a refreshing mist that’s sure to cool you off after a day of hiking!
Day 6-7: Whitewater raft the American River
Don’t be intimidated by the South Fork of the American River’s rapids named “Troublemaker” and “Satan’s Cesspool”—you’ll drop these lively class III rapids with ease with the help of professional raft guides. On the calmer sections, you’ll get to try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding! Hemmed in by the rolling hills of the Sierra Nevada, you’ll see relics of history: Gold discovery on its shores triggered the California Gold Rush of 1849.
Day 8-10: Learn to surf on Stinson Beach
Known by locals as the most beginner-friendly surf spot in the area, we’ll spend two days on Stinson Beach receiving professional surf instruction. You’ll learn techniques, water safety and awareness, and etiquette before paddling out to watch for the perfect line. These mellow waves are so reliable, it’s not unusual to catch 20 to 30 lines in a day!
Day 11-12: Explore Alcatraz Island and San Francisco
We’ll finish our northern California adventure with a tour of historic landmarks, including the infamous Alcatraz Island. See reminders of the American Indian Occupation carved into the stone of “the Rock,” and walk in the shoes of notorious criminals like Al “Scarface” Capone during a prison cell tour. We’ll see friendlier sites as well, like the West Coast’s oldest operating lighthouse and the beautiful Gardens of Alcatraz. Then we’ll walk the entirety of the 1.7-mile-long Golden Gate Bridge before admiring Ghirardelli Square (possibly picking up some namesake chocolate!) and Fisherman’s Wharf.
*Listed above is Bold Earth’s intended itinerary for this trip. All itineraries are subject to change in order to provide the best possible program quality.
Dates and Prices
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Accommodations & Service
Community Service: Approximately 5 Hours
- Save Our Shores: Beach clean-up and environment awareness.
- 11 nights of camping. All campgrounds have running water and bathroom facilities on site. Bold Earth will provide comfortable 3-person tents.
Community service: 5 hours
This Bold Earth trip showed me how beautiful nature is and how grateful we are to experience the things we do. I made friendships that will last a very long time, and we were all able to connect in different ways. I am so glad to have gone with this group of people.
We really pushed Jess to embrace this trip, which was her first solo traveling experience. I knew that even if by some remote chance she didn’t enjoy it, the benefits of her being on her own far outweighed any discomfort. Connecting with a trip leader toward the end of the trip and learning that Jess was having fun and participating to the fullest was the best news ever. The organization and communication is well thought-out and highly detailed.
It was a rewarding experience for Daniel, and I am grateful that he had the opportunity. I would definitely recommend Bold Earth. They made it easy to take part in this experience. All the expectations were clear, and it was an overall great experience.
The trip leader Leah was fantastic. My daughter wanted to speak to Leah before the trip as she was feeling nervous, and Leah made her feel very comfortable and was very thorough in communicating with me. Both leaders seemed to be extremely competent, organized, and connected with the kids. We are VERY IMPRESSED! We appreciated the daily blog info and pictures, and we loved that the kids cooked, cleaned, and had fantastic adventures! There was
never a point at which I worried about my daughter.
Surfing was 100 percent my favorite activity on the trip. I learned so much, and I feel way more confident now. I met some of my closest friends on this trip.
My favorite part of the trip was that at every meal, we sat in a circle and included everyone in the conversation. It made our group closer and act like a family.
We are incredibly grateful for this experience for Matilda. We saw beautiful growth in confidence, ability to navigate unknown and difficult situations and a love for the outdoors. Kate and Casey were fantastic educators! We couldn’t have been happier with the direct, loving, and skill-building lessons they had to share with Matilda and the rest of the group.
I loved being able to connect with other people from around the world and learn new things about myself that I didn’t know before the trip. Bold Earth helped me realize that I am more capable, independent, and self-reliant than I thought.