Cerro Cabrillo Hike in Morro Bay

My parents just visited me in San Luis Obispo! Naturally I wanted to show them an exciting new hike, and my favorite hikes are ones with ocean views. In the past, we have gone to Avila Ridge or Montana de Oro to hike but this time we went and climbed Cerro Cabrillo in Morro Bay.

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Cerro Cabrillo means “Cabrillo Hill” in Spanish. It is an out and back trail and despite and only being the 6th tallest of the nine sisters at 900 feet, it’s a moderately strenuous hike. The last 500 feet are an extremely  steep ascent involving rock scrambling.

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The turn into the parking lot is off of South Bay Boulevard and when you’re driving, it comes up fast. It can be a hard turn to see from the road, once you are in the parking lot there is lots of room to park your car.

Begin your hike on the Quarry Trail which starts right at the parking lot. This trail will lead you most of the way toward the top, and is straight and flat for the most part at the beginning.

Travel along the Quarry Trail for a while, and when you reach the Live Oak trail junction, still keep on going straight.

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Continue going straight until you see the trail start to curve left and up the hill toward the tiki head. If you hit the Park Ridge Trail junction you’ve gone too far.

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Twinsies

The trail starts to get steeper here, but keep going because the view from the top is worth it.

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Hi, Tiki head!

The naturally formed tiki head can be seen in the face of the rocks on the side of the hill. You’ll be hiking up past him. This starts to be the part of the path which is not maintained by the park, and you’ll have to do some scrambling in order to reach the peak.

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Right before turning left to make the final ascent

The final ascent is a steep 500 feet toward the top in 4 tenths of a mile on a path which is less well-traveled. Be sure to look out for poison oak as you climb in between the rocks.

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Hi mom! Featuring Hollister Peak in the background

As you ascend, you can see Hollister Peak, one of the other nine sisters off in the distance. Hiking shoes or sneakers with a good grip is helpful on this section of the hike. The sharp slope tested the traction of my dad’s shoes at times… most of the time the hill was the winner and my dad/his shoes lost.

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When you complete the boulder scrambling and shoe traction testing ascent, get ready to feast your eyes on 360 degree views of the central coast including Morro Bay and Morro Rock to the North West, Montana de Oro to the South West, and the Santa Lucia Mountains to the East. YAS.

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Mom, dad, and me with Morro Rock in the background

Below is a link to the parking lot at the trailhead.

The address for the trailhead is South Bay Boulevard, Morro Bay, CA 93442.

Hike to Serenity Swing from Poly Canyon Village

I remember the first time I hiked serenity swing  it was the first quarter of my freshman year on a Monday Night, in the dark, with my new friend I had just made in the Poly Escapes program. We hiked serenity swing for the first time on this random Monday night in darkness because there was supposed to be a meteor shower. You couldn’t see much of Poly or SLO in the dark… but it was still fun. And a much fun that very first time was, every time I have hike it since then still seems to get better.

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Silly freshman Molly doing hikes in the pitch dark

Over the years the serenity swing has changed. People have added a second swing next to the current one, and broken the existing one only to have it be replaced for a seat with what is consistently in my opinion one of the best views in SLO.

This hike is around 4 miles long (depending on which path you take) and has about 950 feet of elevation gain.

From the top you can see Morro Rock north of SLO as well as down south of SLO the Pacific Ocean near Avila. You can see Bishops Peak between the hills of Poly Canyon, the Architecture Graveyard, and the majestic campus of Cal Poly. It’s a beautiful sight.

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Two pretty sights

This trail has a strenuous climb toward the end. It will have you climbing up what personally I think has to be about a 70-75 degree slope while at the same time wind is trying to gust you away. But trust me, in the end the view and the feeling you get when you reach the top makes it worthwhile.

When I did this hike for the blog, we parked in the intramural fields by Poly Canyon Village and trekked up the trail paralleling Poly Canyon Road toward architecture graveyard called Brizzolara Creek Trail. This is why the route in the map I embedded may look slightly different than if you were to just walk along Poly Canyon Road. Ultimately as long as you find your way to the entrance to the Arch Graveyard, you can find your way the rest of the way up the trail.

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The map at the entrance to Arch Graveyard

When you reach Architecture Graveyard, don’t take a left toward it, but instead turn right and walk up the path with a slight hill which will eventually lead you to a house and barn on your right. This path will lead you to the first gate which you can easily open and pass through.

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Gate #1

Walk beyond the gate for a few tenths of a mile to come to a second gate. There’s usually some mud around this area shortly after is rains, so watch your shoes!

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Gate #2

Once you get past the second gate keep right on the lesser steep path. You’ll be on this path for a while. If you have any confusion as to which turns to make, follow my trail on the map embedded at the bottom of the post.

Eventually you’ll reach another gate. This is the last gate you’ll go through before beginning the final ascent to the top of the hill. Turn left.

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Sophia after passing through the third gate

There are two paths to climb to get to the top of the hill where serenity swing is. Both are extremely steep, so it’s best to pick the one that doesn’t have people already on it at the moment (I’m not saying you’re going to fall, but just in case someone else does it’s best to have extra room).

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Both ways lead to the top

For this hike, we took the path which is shown to the left on the way up, and the path on the right on the way down.

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Good thing there are footholds in the ground?

When you reach the top of the climb, go left toward the big tree. It’s the only tree in near sight and the one with the swing hanging from it. Then, go take some basic pictures. Post them to Instagram and revel in the likes. You’ve earned it.

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Basicness

Have another way up to serenity swing you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments!

Morro Strand Trail to Morro Rock

Again, I’m a sucker for beach hikes. Even though this wasn’t so much of a hike but a walk, at a level elevation 3.5 mile out and back, it was a quite the trek fighting through the sand along the beach to Morro Rock. I guess it’s always leg day for me…

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Conner and I did another sunset hike, and I suggest you do this walk at sunset too, because the outline of Morro Rock on the twilight sky is like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

Anyway, this “Hike” starts at a park called Cloisters Park which has a big parking lot and a clearly marked walkway to start. It’s a about a tenth of a mile walk from the park to Morro Strand Trail which is the coastal route to Morro Rock.

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Conner was excited about all the Pokemon in the area

The paved walking route is relatively short, and features information about the surrounding area on the side.

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Area information!

When you get to Morro Strand Trail, turn right toward the beach. The area around the path is a protected Snowy Plover Nesting Area from March 1st through September 30th, so keep this in mind and respect the habitat if you’re walking through the area at this time. We did this hike in mid September, so we were extra careful to watch for the birds!

After making the right turn, you’ll walk along a paved path and quickly reach a boardwalk with views of Morro Rock and the dunes.

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Yaaaaas

Turn left again when you reach the end of the roped off walkway and make your way toward Morro Rock!

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The rules to the beach are posted at the end of the boardwalk, including no dogs and no glass! I guess kites aren’t allowed, either… They frighten the Snowy Plover Birds. So unfortunately, don’t go bringin’ out your fancy kite because the Snowy Plovers will think it’s a hawk and get scared…

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It’s about a 1.5 mile walk to Morro Rock from the end of the boardwalk area. Be sure to take some epic Morro Rock pictures when you get there, like this.

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My second mixtape is dropping soon

Or this

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It’s a beautiful walk, especially in the evening with low tide and the sunset. Also for all you Pokemon fanatics out there, Conner caught a Pikachu on the beach by the rock.

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I’m so romantic with my sand dollar pictures

This beach had more sand dollars on it than I have ever seen in my life. Seriously, I was consciously trying not to step on them all. So, I collected a bunch and made a Pinterest-worthy picture on the beach as seen above…

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Morro Rock is known as the westernmost peak in the Morros in San Luis Obispo County. Climbing Morro rock is not allowed, but five other peaks in the Morros that you can climb include five of the volcanic peaks: Black Hill, Cerro Cabrillo, Bishop Peak, Cerro San Luis, and Islay Hill.

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The address is Coisters Park, Coral Ave, Morro Bay, CA 93442 and you can use the map to guide you to the exact coordinates here:

Valencia Peak in Montaña De Oro State Park

One of my favorite hikes in San Luis Obispo county is Valencia Peak. I’m a sucker for ocean view hikes, and if you are too then this is exactly what you’re looking for.

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When I hiked Valencia peak in July, there was some fog on the coast and we felt like we were in heaven…

Montana de Oro State Park is about 25 minutes outside of San Luis Obispo and admission is free, which is perfect for when you’re looking for a quick hike with a view worth the climb. Take Los Osos Valley road until it comes to Pecho Valley Road and take this into the park. See the bottom of the post for exact trailhead coordinates!

There’s parking right in front of the trailhead, but beware that I have seen more than one minivan or sedan bottom out in attempt to park on this dusty and bumpy lot (but luckily Conner’s truck was up to the job).

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The old sign saying that the trail is only 2 miles, before the route was extended and more switchbacks were added to decrease steepness.

The trail is about 2.2 miles up to the 1,347 feet peak, (about 4.5 miles roundtrip) meaning that gets very steep in some parts and also has sheer cliffside drop-offs, so watch your step. Usually when you hike you start a little ways up the hill (think Bishop’s Peak if you’re from SLO) but this hike it literally starts at sea level by the sea, so you’re hiking the full 1,000+ feet!

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Favorite Hiking Buddy  ❤

In the Spring, this route has a plethora of gorgeous blooming wildflowers, but in the Summer we at least get to see what remains of them… Still pretty. About 2 tenths of a mile in, you can look down to see Islay Creek campground which fun fact: I camped there in January once and it was reeeeally cold so if you’re gonna camp there maybe do it in a warmer month.

A little ways up you’ll come to a fork in the path on the right. Follow the signage and take the trail going straighter upwards. It says it’s only one more mile to the peak but keep in mind that it’s a steep one!

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Follow the signs toward the trail.
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Once you see the drop-offs you wont be surprised there’s no mountain biking… or horses… allowed on the trail.

Be respectful of the parts of the trail which are closed for restoration, or roped off to restrict access. The reason they’re closed is either for your own safety, or for the preservation of the mountain itself so that everyone can continue to enjoy it in the future as well.

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The beginning of the trail is extremely dusty while the following parts are covered in jagged rocks. These rocks can become loose and get dislodged so be careful to watch your step when climbing. The higher you get up the mountain the more common and steeper the rocks become.

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As you’re heading up, if you’re facing west toward the ocean, off to the north-west is Morro bay and Morro rock, and South-east is toward Hazard Canyon Reef.

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We did a sunset hike, but it’s a gorgeous view any time of day. There’s a false peak about halfway up the path in which my family and I thought we had reached the top the first time I hiked this trail, but then realized we were only halfway up… Keep on going and enjoying the view on both sides as you walk along the ridge.

Eventually you’ll be climbing switchbacks again. When you get to the real peak, you’ll be greeted by a sign signaling your 1,400 foot accomplishment and giving you the choice to turn either left or right to reach the 360 degree views of the ocean and the surrounding Central Coast.

I think that turning left is faster to get to the wind blown picnic table at the top, but my parents swear that going to the right is faster, and Conner chose to climb straight up the face of the rocks.

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You can see to the ends of the Earth (almost)
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My father looking majestic

No matter how hot the weather may be at the start of the climb, it’s bound to be windy and chilly at the top so I suggest packing a sweatshirt. As always also make sure that you have water to avoid dehydration and put on sunblock to protect your skin as well as sunglasses to protect your eyes as this hike has no shade! And enjoy the views until the next time you come back to Valencia Peak.

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Trailhead address: Pecho Valley Road, Montaña de Oro State Park, Los Osos, CA 93402

Bucketlist Post #19: Hike the Avila Ridge Trail

This weekend, I hiked the Avila Ridge Trail (also known as the Shell Beach Bluff Trail/Ontario Ridge Trail) and it was one of the most beautiful hikes I have ever done. I was trying to find more detailed information about the trail online before going, and was confused by reading the online trail maps. So I decided to write a post about it myself, and how we navigated the hike.

It is listed on http://www.hikespeak.com to be a 2.8 mile hike with 675 feet of elevation gain, and summits at 735 feet. It’s longer if you park along El Portal Drive, or if you make a detour to Smuggler’s Cave toward the end. It isn’t very well marked where to start on the Ontario Ridge Trail coming off of Bluff Drive, but if you would like to take that route I have circled it in red on the map below.

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Blue = the route we took, Purple = Steep grade, Green = Trail to Smuggler’s Cave, Red = Entrance of/Ontario Ridge Trail

I would recommend starting on the Ontario ridge trailhead by the highway, 101 South, as it is a less challenging incline than if you were to start at the entrance by Pirate’s Cove, called “Cave Landing Trail.” Below on the map, the red circle represents where we parked, and the blue arrows represent the official entrance to the trail.

We walked along the road El Portal Drive to the Trailhead by the freeway. There is lots of parking along the side of the road as long as you don’t disturb the residents of the neighborhood.

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The red circle is where we parked, and the red line is the route we took along El Portal Drive. The blue is the actual Ontario ridge trail that we didn’t know existed.

The hike is not an extremely long hike, but is extremely steep at parts. The beginning where we started was the steepest part going up, and there was a steady incline until we reached a plateau view of the ocean to the southwest including Grover Beach and its gigantic sand dunes.

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Conner and his mom making the ascent
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The view toward Pismo Beach

When you get to the top, there’s a rope swing and a couple bowls for dogs to take a drink from. In fact, we encountered many dogs on the way up. If your bring your pet, it’s important to remember to pick up after them, as it’s the last thing another hiker wants to step on.

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Rope swing #1

 

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A panoramic of the view from the top

When you continue along the trail, you’ll come to another rope swing with an even grander view of the ocean. If you’re like me, it means you’ll take 300 pictures in every possible pose/silhouette scene/different lighting/focus.

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As you continue on the trail, it begins to get steeper. You can see a clear view of Pirate’s Cove now, and the slope begins to angle more sharply downward. This is another place that you can start the hike, but again I would recommend beginning at the other entrance.

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It’s a very steep grade.

When you reach the bottom of the steepest hill you will ever walk down, you’ll be in the parking lot to Pirate’s Cove and it’s famous “Smuggler’s Cave.” Continue down the trail to the right to get to Smuggler’s Cave or the Pirate’s Cove beach. It’s a clothing optional beach…

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“Beyond this point you may encounter clothing optional sun bathers.” What a view…

We walked down to Smuggler’s Cave and enjoyed the view from there for a while.

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If you have time, go see the inside of the cave. Again, the photo op’s are priceless 😉 Especially at sunset.

Continue back up the trail to Smuggler’s Cave the way that you came in, and then turn right to get onto Shell Beach Bluff trail which turns into a boardwalk as you get closer to the water. Continue straight on this trail until you reach the end of the trail, or continue onto El Portal if that’s where you parked, like us!

This is a map to the parking lot and official trailhead. There is also street parking in the neighborhood.

Trailhead address: Indio Drive & Bluff Drive, Pismo Beach, CA 93449
Trailhead coordinates: 35.174558, -120.707748 (35° 10′ 28.40″N 120° 42′ 27.89″W)

Bishop’s Peak

Bishop’s Peak is an iconic San Luis Obispo hike. The mountain is one of the nine sisters in San Luis Obispo County, Cerro San Luis (Mount Madonna) being another hike I previously wrote about doing sunrise yoga on with Poly Escapes last year.

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Flashbackkkkk

Bishop’s Peak has a special place in my heart, because it’s the first hike I did (or attempted to do, other than the P) when I got to SLO my freshman year at Cal Poly. It was the second weekend of school, and I went with my new close friends Conner and Kyle. The only problem is that we had no idea where the trailhead was.

We walked from the Cal Poly dorm Santa Lucia to the highland trailhead in 95 degree weather and proceeded to hike where we thought the trail went (we were very wrong), taking a most likely illegal detour up the complete other side of the mountain. But we did make it to the top. Summiting Bishop’s by climbing up sheetrock and pushing through spiky bushes as Kyle’s spotify blasted “Ain’t no Mountain High Enough” is one of the best experiences I’ve had in college so far…

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When you finally make it to the top

Anyway, this post is so that you don’t make that same mistake, are informed about the hike beforehand, and take the actual trailhead so that it doesn’t take you seven hours like it took us.

Bishop’s peak is the tallest of the seven sisters, getting its name after its shape, resembling a bishop’s miter. The trail leads to a 1,500+ foot summit with a 950 foot elevation change and about a 3.5 mile distance round trip from the trailhead at Highland Drive.

Climbers also enjoy Bishop’s, because there are many rocks which have hooks to belay off of, at the base and at the summit. Here is a map of the rocks for climbing, via Mountainproject.com. On their website there are also difficulty ratings and climbing season recommendations. 

 

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A map of places to climb on Bishop’s

The hike is moderately strenuous. It starts off in the woods at the base of the mountain where there is some shade, but the majority of the hike is in the open sun, so bring sunblock if you’re pale like me and get burned every time you’re outside. The trail winds up the backside of the mountain and is steep, using many zig zaggy switchbacks.

Be prepared to climb over clusters of smaller rocks as part of the trail (But that doesn’t mean you need to bring your climbing shoes like Kyle did that first time…). Be aware of your surroundings as well, because there are steep drops off the side of the trail.

When you reach the top, there will be a bench that says “end of trail.” Only it’s not really the end of the hike if you’re looking to summit. When you reach the bench, walk toward the rocks on the right, and climb them at your own risk to the true top to get panoramic views of San Luis Obispo’s fields, landmarks, and a full look at the Cal Poly campus.

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Ian photobombed the panoramic featuring Cerro San Luis (on the left of his head).

Trailhead address: 1 Highland Drive, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405

Trailhead coordinates: 35.301153, -120.68916 (35° 18′ 04.15″N 120° 41′ 20.97″W)

Below is an interactive map to the Highland trailhead.

Happy hiking! #AintNoMountainHighEnough

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Gear to Bring on your Next Adventure

When you’re going on a hike, camping trip, or any other kind of adventure, there are certain items you should bring to make your expereince the best it can be.

I asked three people what they recommend when going on adventures. Ben Parsons, Kiana Streeter, and Taryn Davis all gave their personal opinions of what to bring when you’re going out on a trip.

Places you can get this gear include your local camping supply stores, or if you’re a SLO resident or student of Cal Poly, you can rent equipment from “Frontline,” Cal Poly’s adventure equipment rental center located next to the REC center.

Check out this video for more information about gear as well as how to rent it on the Cal Poly campus!

hiking

When you’re headed out on a day hike, it’s important to bring plenty of water to keep you hydrated, especially depending on what kind of weather it is. Check the weather forcasts in advance so that you don’t get stuck in a rainstorm, or at the top of a peak in 41 mile per hour winds (unless you like that kind of thing, sometime’s it’s fun…).

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Bring a day pack filled with extra sunblock, some minor first aid supplies, and a sweatshirt in case there is a drastic  change in temperature as you ascend, compared to at the bottom of the trail. It’s always a good idea to bring a healthy snack as mentioned in my previous post, and to wear comfortable shoes so that you don’t get any blisters.

“You need hiking boots for sure, just because they have a very stiff rubber and a stiff construction to them so your ankles don’t get banged up and you don’t get as many blisters.” Said Ben Parsons, an employee of Cal Poly’s outdoor climbing wall, and a hiking and climbing enthusiast. If you don’t have hiking boots, don’t stress, because a good pair of sneakers will also suffice on a hike that isn’t TOO strenuous.

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Essentials of water, a small pack, and sunblock

camping

Depending on how long your trip is and where your destination is located, you’re going to need to pack different items for a camping trip. Essentials include a sleeping bag, a tent, firewood to cook, food, something to cook the food in as well as something to eat the food with, water, sunblock,and again, check the weather to see what else will be necessary wherever you’re going. “We have pretty much everything you need for camping,” says Frontline employee Kiana Streeter. “From stoves to…tents and sleeping bags from whatever you really need you can rent out for a… discounted price for students, too.”

More blankets, a heavy coat, or extra firewood are helpful in cold temperatures. Always make sure it is legal to have a fire going in your campsite beforehand, as there are many places during dry season which prohibit making a fire for safety reasons. You can check the California Department of Parks and recreation’s website, or call your campsite’s ranger station beforehand to double check as well as so check if you will need a fire permit. You can also check out REI’s basic Camping checklist for more camping suggestions.

Finally,

backpacking

There are different kinds of backpacking, like lightweight backpacking, and regular backpacking, but for the most part you are going to want to bring the same supplies with you, they’re just going to be packed differently. You’re going to need a backpack which can hold your sleeping bag, a sleeping mat which will insulate you from having the cold of the ground suck up your body heat when you’re sleeping as well as to provide some cushion. It is especially important to bring high calorie and nutritious food when you’re backpacking, because you need the energy. According to equipped.outdoors.org, the average person will burn from 4,000-5,000 calories or more each day backpacking, so this is not a situation you’re gonna want to go with the low calorie food option! ”

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Sleeping Pads available for rent at Frontline.

You’ll need food, a headlamp if you’re going to be making night treks, first aid supplies, and some kind of a navigation tool like a compass and map. Check out REI’s Backpacking Checklist for even more information on what to bring on a backpacking trip.