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Make your way through all the diverse terrain California has to offer during the ultimate road trip. Start your golden coast adventure in San Francisco: home of the hills and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Camp under the stars in the redwood forests, surf the waves on the coast, hike through the Sierra Nevada mountains, kayak in Lake Tahoe, dive into the waterfalls of Big Sur, and prepare for the breathtaking views of Yosemite in an incredible journey of a lifetime.

Dates listed reflect travel time departing from and returning to the USA. International clients click here.

With our No-Stress Travel Policy, you cancel for any reason up until the day of travel, and escrow 100% of the program fees for up to two years from the cancellation date.

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Program Profile

United States
Community Service Component
Community Service Focus
Get to Know
Adventure, Nature
On the Go!

  • Day 1

    Welcome to the Golden State

    Welcome to California, home of rolling hills, giant redwood forests, and a seemingly endless coastline. Your program leaders will welcome you upon arrival at SFO. Then you’ll head to the hostel where your group will receive an orientation to the program and play some icebreakers to get to know each other. Get ready, the adventure starts tomorrow!

  • Day 2

    Muir Woods

    One of the best parts about San Francisco is that you’re never too far away from an outdoor adventure. Start the morning taking in the scenic views of the San Francisco Bay from scenic vista points along the coast. Next, you will head into Muir Woods, home of some of the largest old growth redwoods in the state. After your morning adventure it’s time to hit the road! Today officially starts your California road trip. Drive northeast to beautiful Lake Tahoe where you will settle in at your first campsite.

  • Day 3

    Lake Tahoe

    Lake Tahoe brings visitors from California and afar. Known in the winter for its world class ski resorts, in the summertime everyone flocks to the lake for the picturesque views and outdoor activities. Start the day kayaking on the deep blue water. The afternoon will be spent either at the beach or head out into the mountains for an adventurous hike. At night, gather around the campfire to share stories and of course eat s’mores.

  • Day 4

    Ghost Towns and Mono Lake

    Wake up and head Southeast towards June Lake. Along the way explore one of the best preserved ghost towns in the state and the impressive tufa towers at Mono Lake. Tonight you will settle into your campsite and prepare for your day of service the following day.

  • Day 5 - 6

    Service in the Sierras

    After a good night’s rest from yesterday’s journey you get to spend the next two days joining a local organization dedicated to the preservation, exploration, and stewardship of the region’s public lands. End your days of service with a refreshing dip in a river or lake and games around the campsite.

  • Day 7


    Get an early start and make your way into Yosemite Valley where you will take in views of the crystal clear Merced River, Half Dome, and the sixth largest waterfall in the world – Yosemite Falls. The day will be spent exploring the park’s trails, waterfalls, and numerous rock faces that drew the likes of John Muir, Ansel Adams, and helped lay the foundation for the US National Park System. Enjoy lunch with a view, on the valley floor, reflecting on the adventures of the first half of your trip.

  • Day 8

    Head to the Coast

    Head west towards the iconic Big Sur. You will drive through the heart of the Central Valley where the majority of produce in the United States is grown. Continue the drive towards Big Sur which is known for its staggering cliffs and crisp oceanic views. Tonight’s campsite in Big Sur will feature a starry sky and the salty ocean air. We will catch the last bit of daylight with a beautiful sunset at Pfeifer Beach.

  • Day 9

    Big Sur

    Spend the day exploring the beauty of Big Sur with hikes, waterfalls, and a dip in the Big Sur River. Our campsite is nestled amongst beautiful coastal Redwoods where we will enjoy the nearby creek and gather around the warm campfire after an adventurous day.

  • Day 10

    Monterey and Santa Cruz

    Wake up and drive towards Monterey Bay where we will enjoy the beautiful state parks along the coast and the iconic Bixby Bridge. Monterey is a town known for its beautiful coastline and dedication to marine life. Spend the morning exploring the Monterey Bay Aquarium, learning about the pacific coast ecosystem and what is being done to keep it well-preserved. Head further north towards “Surf City” with a night of fun and thrills enjoying classic roller coasters, games, and more at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

  • Day 11

    Santa Cruz

    A classic beach town well-known for its great surf, you will start the day early with a chance to master the waves as you climb into your wetsuits for a surf lesson at one of the most popular local spots. Hang out, relax, and get into the mellow surf town vibe. Spend the day shopping around downtown, enjoying an afternoon at the beach, and experiencing the famous laid-back culture that California is known for.

  • Day 12

    Pacific Coast Highway

    Today pack up and make your way back to San Francisco while stopping at Half Moon Bay and taking in the views and beautiful beaches. Once you return back to the city, you will head straight to the incredible Golden Gate Bridge. As you walk along the bridge, enjoy views of the San Francisco skyline to the historic Alcatraz Island.

  • Day 13

    San Francisco Fun

    Explore San Francisco with a walk along the bay and visit the piers and enjoy dinner in the vibrant Mission district. Spend the afternoon shopping along Haight street before heading back to the hostel for the night. Take part in a closing ceremony and reflect on the epic adventure throughout California.

  • Day 14

    The End of the Road

    Wake up and say goodbye to your new friends, have a big breakfast, and finish packing your bags for the trip home. On your way to San Francisco International Airport, reflect on time well spent out in nature and the bonds you made with your group throughout your adventure.

An Important Note About Schedule Changes

Rustic Pathways reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the daily itinerary for this trip at any time. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in flight or program schedules, changes in the schedules of various external tours incorporated in our trips, the addition of new activities into a trip, or the substitution of an old activity for a new activity.

The itinerary shown here provides a good outline of the anticipated daily schedule for this program. As with any travel program, some changes may occur.

“Optional Activities” are fully included in the cost of your program, but you can choose to not do these activities.

“Add-On Activities” are not included in the cost of your program and must be paid for separately. Add-on activities are rare, but include things like skydiving, bungee jumping, or weekend side-trips. Not every program has add-on activities.

For more information, email usa@rusticpathways.com

Program-Specific FAQs

Packing the right gear (and the right amounts) is the first step to an incredible travel experience. Follow these tips to pack like a pro:

Travel light. Pack only the essentials. You’ll need less than you think!
Leave your valuables behind. While traveling, it’s easier for things to get lost, stolen, or damaged. Keep any prized possessions safe at home.
Check with TSA. Make sure your luggage complies with TSA regulations, especially your carry-on. Useful tip: Pack an empty water bottle and fill it up after security
Extra paperwork? If you need additional forms filled out to get credit for your service hours, no problem! Bring these forms with you so they can be completed in-country.

Rustic Gear. Want to get all your shopping done for your program in one place? We’ve got you covered. Check out Rustic Gear and get all the essentials sent right to your door.


A 25-30 Liter is ideal as this will also be the daypack you use during most daily activities.

  • ID or Passport (if applicable)
  • Photocopy of passport
  • Wallet/money
  • Visa documentation (if applicable)
  • Refillable Water bottle – Required
  • Book and/or journal
  • Pen
  • Phone
  • Camera
  • Chargers
  • Change of clothes
  • Hiking boots – water resistant and must have ankle support
  • Medication
  • Consent to Travel form
  • Rustic Pathways emergency contacts


A 50-75 liter backpack (with rain cover) is recommended, large enough to fit all your clothes and gear. Suitcases/wheeled bags are not suitable on this program.

Key Points to Remember

  1. You will be carrying your pack throughout the program so bring only what you need and be prepared to wear clothes multiple times throughout the trip!
  2. Non-cotton layers are vital to ensuring your warmth and comfort, as cotton does not insulate or dry quickly if wet — stick to synthetic blends and avoid cotton blends if possible.


  • Mid/Heavyweight Socks (2-4) – wool socks are best as they’ll keep your feet warm when wet
  • Lightweight socks (5-6) – wool socks are best as they’ll keep your feet warm when wet
  • Underwear (14) – women consider bringing 11 synthetic pairs and 3 cotton pairs. Synthetic material doesn’t breathe as well as cotton.
  • Thermal top and bottom base layer: (1 pair)
  • Hiking pants (2 pair)
  • Shorts (2 pairs)
  • Mid-layer bottoms (1)
  • Waterproof/rain pants
  • Shirts (8-10)
  • Mid-Layer tops (2, fleece)
  • Mid-weight coat
  • Waterproof/rain jacket
  • Sneakers
  • Sandals
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat with brim/visor
  • Warm hat
  • Head net
  • Gloves
  • Quick dry towel
  • Bathing suit

Optional Items

  • Scarf
  • Hand/foot warmers
  • Trekking poles
  • Gaiters
  • Bandana
  • Unscented Deodorant
  • Razor/shaving


(Travel size bottles in Ziploc bags)

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Body wash
  • Face wash
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Sunscreen, SPF 30+
  • Lip sun protection, SPF 30+
  • Bug spray with DEET
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Contacts and solution (if applicable)
  • Wet Wipes


  • Sleeping bag (0-20°F / -18 to -6°C)
  • Headlamp with extra batteries
  1. a
    San Francisco

    Welcome to California and the city by the bay!

  2. b
    Lake Tahoe

    Lake Tahoe is the largest fresh water lake in the Eastern Sierra mountains and home to vibrant blue water and endless outdoor activities.

  3. c
    Yosemite National Park

    Known for the beautiful waterfalls and tranquil Yosemite Valley.

  4. d
    Highway 1 - Big Sur

    One of the most scenic roads in America as it winds along the pacific coast of California.

  5. e
    Santa Cruz

    Historic surf town with a beautiful boardwalk and oceanfront amusement park.