Rustic Pathways’ Young Explorers programs are for students ages 12 to 14 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-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.Read More
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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This program visits San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, Big Sur, Santa Cruz and Monterrey.
Each program will have leaders who are certified in First Aid and CPR. Some of our program leaders are also certified as Wilderness First Responders, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), Wilderness EMTs, or Life Guards.
Rustic Pathways maintains a minimum of 1 Program Leader for every 7 students. Additionally, each program maintains at least 2 primary program leaders, one male and one female.
Rustic Pathways uses sterilization techniques to ensure that all drinking water for students is potable and safe to drink. We ask students to bring reusable water bottles in order to reduce plastic usage.
Students are allowed to bring phones on their Rustic Pathways program, but must abide by our cell phone policy. Students will not be allowed to use their phones during group activities, nor at any other time where it is disruptive to the group dynamic. If students are unable to abide by this policy, disciplinary action may be taken.
The weather in California varies drastically in the summer. The highs can be in the 80s or 90s during the day, with lows in the 50’s at night along the coast or in San Francisco.
Students will mostly camp at campgrounds throughout the state and have hostel/hotel accommodations at the beginning and end of program.
The group will eat most meals at the campsite and include camp favorites such as pasta, stir fry, BBQ. The group will also eat some meals at restaurants throughout the trip.
Flush toilets will be available for the students to use at various points throughout the trip. Some campsite may only have pit toilets and not all sites will have shower facilities.
Phone service will vary depending on the location of the program. Students will not be allowed to have their cell phone during service and group activities.
Students are encouraged to follow the packing list provided on the website. Students should pack enough clothes for the duration of the trip.
The group will be transported by staff throughout the duration of the program.
The students will be within 1 hour of definitive healthcare throughout the trip.
Please consult with a travel doctor or your family physician for immunization and other medical recommendations, based on the area(s) where you will be traveling and on your own medical history. In addition to consulting with a medical professional, please visit the HX Global and Centers for Disease Control websites for country specific information around immunizations and traveler’s health. Please let us know if you have specific questions.
HX Global is one of the world’s leading providers of medical evacuation and travel services. All participants traveling with Rustic Pathways will have access to HX Global benefits through Rustic Pathways’ membership.
As a member you will have access to HX Global’s extensive travel information database to help you make informed decisions prior to travel. Additionally, all travelers who travel outside their country of residence will have access to medical evacuation support during their program. For more information please visit our HX Global webpage.
Yes, we can cater to all dietary restrictions as long as we are notified in advance.
Students are encouraged to use bug spray while on the program to prevent the chance of mosquito/insect bites.
Personal gifts, internet, phone calls, and snacks are not included. All other costs (accommodation, meals, in-country transportation, and activities) are included in the program price.
Students may earn up to 10 hours of community service on this trip.
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!
Bring the right clothes. Pack clothes that are culturally appropriate for your destination and acceptable for service projects. This means bringing long shorts (think Bermuda and basketball shorts), t-shirts with sleeves to cover shoulders, and appropriate footwear.
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.
A 25-30 Liter is ideal as this will also be the daypack you use during most daily activities.
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
(Travel size bottles in Ziploc bags)