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Rustic Pathways’ Young Explorers programs are for students ages 12 to 13 with a passion for travel. These programs allow the young adventurer to step outside of their comfort zone, make new friends, and learn about the world around them.

Make your way through all the diverse terrain California has to offer during the ultimate road trip. Start your journey in the iconic city of San Francisco – home to the 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.

With our No Anxiety Escrow 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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2017 Departures

Starts Ends Availability
June 27 July 10 Sold Out

Program Profile

United States

  • 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