Trail Mavens


Skill-based camping and backpacking trips for groups of extraordinary women. Ready to build fires, read maps, pitch tents, hike, laugh, and drink wine around the campfire? Join one of our weekend adventures.

Maven Memoir: Jennel, a.k.a. My Spirit Animal

I'm beyond excited to publish our second Maven profile today on the blog, mostly because the woman it's about - Jennel McDonald - was an incredible inspiration to me and the other women on our adventure.

It might have been Jennel's first time backpacking, and we covered some very legit terrain, but her enthusiasm and easy laugh were a constant, and it just made her so darn fun to be around.

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Hiking the John Muir Trail

Why hike the JMT? 

When asked why climb Everest in the 1920s, George Mallory famously said, “Because it’s there.” Implied: to be conquered. A classic expression of man against the mountains machismo if ever there was one. The thing is, for me, it’s not because they are there, it’s because WE are there. Or rather, here, on Earth. We spend so much of our lives trying to effect change (in ourselves, others, and our physical surroundings) that I like being reminded of how small we are, one tiny part of a grander landscape. To tread lightly, for once, and leave no trace. 

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Maven Memoir: Michelle, a.k.a. 'Dallas'

A couple weeks ago, brainstorming with the Trail Mavens board, we struck on a brilliant idea: to profile Trail Mavens alumnae who we feel are amazing, badass, and deeply emblematic of our culture and values. It's only fitting that we kick things off with Michelle, who joined us in early June for her first-ever backpacking trip. 

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Trail Mavens Guide | Anderson Valley and Mendocino

When most people hear 'California wine country,' they think Napa or Sonoma. Those two are nice and all, but we'll take the Anderson Valley's wine growing region anytime: it's unpretentious, grows some of the greatest white wine and Pinot Noir in America, and sits nestled among towering redwood trees, only 15 miles away from Mendocino's rugged coastline. In short, it's our favorite place in California.

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Trail Mavens Guide | Scoring NorCal's Most Coveted Campsites

Booking campsites in Northern California is a little like finding a brand-new pair of hiking boots in your size at REI's monthly garage sale: three parts timing, one part luck. We can't help with the luck part, other than encouraging you to send lots of good karma out into the world and follow Leave No Trace principles, but we can help with the timing. Here's how to land campsites at some of Northern California's most sought-after campsites: Angel Island, Steep Ravine, Julia Pfeiffer Burns, Yosemite, Kirby Cove, and Wildcat Camp in Point Reyes.

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The Art of the Handkerchief

We're delighted to feature a guest post today from our lady pal Alyx Schwarz! 

I never hit the trail without my favorite accessory: The Handkerchief. While it may look like a simple square of fabric, don’t be fooled. The handkerchief is an advanced tool for the Macguyvers of the wilderness.

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Trail Mavens Guide | Angel Island Backpacking

Anyone lucky enough to live in the Bay Area can't truly say they know the area until they've been to Angel Island. Situated what feels like a stone's throw from downtown Tiburon, the island features ideally-situated picnic areas, paved roads for cycling and trails for running and hiking, and views for days. Case in point:

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Trail Mavens Guide | A Bradley Hut Weekend

Cold weather doesn't keep Trail Mavens indoors, no ma'am. That's why we were so excited to reserve seven spots at the Bradley Hut, one of the four Sierra Club backcountry ski huts dotted around Lake Tahoe's ski area. Nestled between Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley, the Bradley Hut sleeps fifteen, and provides an ideal jumping-off point to explore the bowls, ridges, and peaks of the Sierras above the lake, all while having a warm room and a wood-burning stove to return to at the end of the day.

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Reflections on 2014

2014 was a great year. We went on our first trip, to the Pantoll Campground on Mount Tam, and experienced firsthand the microclimate that a eucalyptus tree over your tent can create. We spent a long late spring afternoon by a swimming hole in Henry Coe State Park, alternately dipping and lounging on the rocks. We tasted wine and explored sea caves in Mendocino. We were awed by the bioluminescence in Tomales Bay.

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Trail Mavens Guide | Big Sur: Andrew Molera, Pfeiffer Big Sur, and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Parks

We spent this past weekend in Big Sur scouting for our upcoming adventure there in December, and it was one of those weekends that makes you overjoyed to be a Californian: warm, breezy afternoons, crisp starry nights, and a glorious mix of turquoise ocean, dramatic cliffs, and towering trees. We're so pumped to head back in just a month with a passel of amazing ladies.

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Trail Mavens Guide | Backpacking Sky Camp, Point Reyes

This past weekend, a group of five Trail Mavens backpacked to Point Reyes' Sky Camp (check out the full trip details here). Sky Camp is overlooked among Point Reyes' backcountry campsites - you can tell because there are often Sky Camp sites remaining on well after all the Wildcat and Coast campsites have been booked - but all the better for the rest of us who are in the know.

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Trip Recap: Skyline to the Sea

Skyline to the Sea is one of those trips that tops every Bay Area backpacker's must-hike list. The vistas on day one plus the huge redwoods on day two plus the gorgeous creekside trail on day three add up to an amazing adventure.

At 34+ miles over three days, Skyline to the Sea is also the most physically ambitious...

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The Somewhere Project Features Trail Mavens

My exceptionally cool friend and Trail Mavens trip leader Jenny Gottstein recommended TM to an exceptionally cool guy, Ian Hunter Elliott - I like saying his full name - who runs an exceptionally cool website called The Somewhere Project. Devoted to "helping incredible people and projects progress," TSP features "stories and projects of people from across the country, and asking how we, the TSP community, can help them take meaningful steps towards their Somewhere. Great ideas come with a heavy burden; they need support." 

In a word: awesome. In three words: such an honor! Want to read all the crazy stories I shared about how Trail Mavens came to be? Click below.

Trip Recap: Yosemite

Yosemite is hard to get off the brain, which is perhaps why I've put off posting Field Notes from our Labor Day adventure there. Something about Yosemite makes you want to linger, to savor the feeling of being exhilarated, proud, exhausted, and satisfied all at once. 

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