What is CaliTrails?

Good question! The plan for now is to use this site as a way to share my outdoor travels with friends, family, and whoever happens upon the site via internet searches. The site will start out with simple trip reports of the areas I hike in, and the goal is to eventually have trail guides which will provide more comprehensive information about any given area. I’ve been hiking in California for my entire life, and I look forward to sharing my knowledge and love of the state’s beauty here with you.


Only California Trails?

I live in California, and most of my vacations take place in the Sierra Nevada, so it’s a clear fit. Since I live in Altadena, there will be a heavy focus towards the trails in the San Gabriel mountains. I don’t expect this site to ever be comprehensive for the entire state, but I do expect to be able to cover every area eventually, albeit not as well as the Sierra or SoCal.


What Types of Trails?

This site will be slightly different from the average trail guide. First of all, my main hiking buddy is my dog Callie, so the vast majority of the trails listed here will be dog friendly areas. The few trails that Callie won’t tag along on will be in National or State Parks, where dogs cannot venture onto the trail.

Another aspect that differentiates CaliTrails is the emphasis on backcountry travel. While the majority of the hikes I do are day hikes, I will be doing some longer expeditions and will be able to provide some information on more remote areas as a result.

Finally, I am an aspiring landscape photographer, so the trails that I choose are always partially dictated by how scenic I expect an area to be. Hence, the heavy focus on the Range of Light in the High Sierra.


What kind of camera do you use?

This question comes up a lot so I figured I’d address it here. For most CaliTrails posts, I use a Canon 5D Mark II with a variety of Canon lenses. My most used are the 24-105 and 17-40 Canon lenses. I also carry a tripod and an assortment of lens filters.

On some hikes where photography is a lower priority, I take a Sony RX100. If Riss is joining me on a hike, she will often carry the RX100 while I have my full camera kit.



What kind of dog is Callie? 

Callie was adopted as a puppy from a shelter in Upland, CA. The shelter had her labeled as a Collie mix, but had no information on her parents. When we brought her to the vet as a puppy, they thought she was a Shepherd mix. We are by no means experts on dog breeds, so it is difficult to narrow down. We believe Callie is a Chow mix based on the spots on her tongue, and the fact that googling “chow mix” will produce some results that look like Callie. Callie weighs only 40 pounds though, which is well below the average weight of a female Chow. So, in a nutshell, we have no idea. 


Have a question?

Send any questions to brian@calitrails.com and I’ll be happy to help!


54 thoughts on “About

  1. I love it. Can’t wait to get started down the trails!

  2. Bellis

    It’s a shame about the National and State Parks. I’ll never get to see them, because I won’t go anywhere without my dog. As a single woman, my canine companion makes me feel safer. Plus I don’t want to board her so I can get away.

    Hope to meet Callie on an Altadena trail one day. I don’t think we’ve met yet.

    • Yes, it is a shame, and we also skip a lot of great places as a result.

      However, there are a few opportunities to enjoy some parks even with the tight restrictions. Yosemite, for example, is a spot that everyone should see including your dog. There are some paved trails throughout the valley floor that allow dogs while still giving visitors a fantastic view of the surrounding peaks.

      Happy trails!

  3. Kyle

    Have you tried any coastal redwood trips or found trails accessible with dogs? Again we love reading and look forward to each new entry. Hope to meet ya on the trail sometime.

    • The coastal redwoods are tough to share with your dog. Nearly all of the good redwood groves are in state or national parks. One trail we are planning on doing with Callie is the Sykes Hot Springs trail near Big Sur. It is dog friendly, and it’s a gorgeous trail with lots of redwoods.

  4. Do you have an RSS feed? I’d love to follow your blog via Reader and not email.

    • Sorry Chris, we don’t have an RSS feed right now. We will be upgrading the site design somewhere down the road and will look into adding that. Thanks for the suggestion.

  5. I like how easy-to-read and to-the-point your site is PLUS featuring dog-friendly trails. I stumbled on this while looking up information for hiking Mt. Whitney. My hubby and I took our two dogs out of the Lake Thomas Edison area last summer. That was their first backpacking trip (not camping). Good times!

  6. Sonia G.

    I don’t remember how I stumbled across your site but I’m glad I did. I had no idea all these amazing places existed in and around our city! So thank you! I now follow you and Cali religiously and look forward to every adventure you share with us.

    I was wondering how Cali handles wild life while hiking. I would love to take my 4-legged kids on a nature hike (off leash) but I’m afraid they’ll run away for good, chase after wildlife and get lost, or worse, come across a coyote or other predatory animal. Am I just being a paranoid pet parent? Lastly, what exactly is Cali carrying around in those bags? 🙂

    • Great questions Sonya, and no, you are not being a paranoid parent. We struggled with this for awhile too. This would probably make a good subject for an entire post, but for now I will just write a long reply here.

      Keeping your dogs away from wildlife is the hardest thing about training them to be good off leash. Callie has come a LONG way with this but she still has a little room for improvement.

      The biggest thing to focus on training your dog on is recall. They should come to you whenever called when you are at your house, no exceptions. You can’t expect them to come to you when they are distracted by a furry creature if they won’t listen to you in your house. Once you have a solid recall, then you can start training them to be offleash.

      I recommend having your first few offleash attempts be in relatively open areas that don’t have other people or dogs to act as distractions. Allow your dog to sniff and explore the landscape, and test the dog out by constantly calling for it to come back. Treat the dog everytime it comes back and then let it have its freedom back. After awhile, the dog will enjoy being called back because they associate it with being rewarded, and they are also happy to explore on their own.

      Now, when your dog does see a wild animal run off, if they are wired for it, they will most likely start chasing it. This is where the recall comes into play. Keep at it and your dog should return to you. After this happens a few times, the dog will anticipate the recall once it starts the chase, and it becomes much easier to get their attention back on you. Callie still pretends that she is going to chase animals sometimes but never makes it more than a few paces now.

      Lastly, a tired dog is much less likely to chase animals. This is one of the reasons why Callie carries a pack! 🙂 Once Callie is tired out she prefers to follow me. Once she is in this mode I can see any animals up the trail before she does, and in those cases I either wait for the animals to move out of view, or I put Callie on her leash for that section of trail.

      I also have Callie wear a bear bell which serves a couple of purposes. For one, it gives nearby animals a heads up that we are approaching so that they can move away. This is helpful is making your dog more safe as well. This leads me to see less wildlife than I would otherwise, but it is a worthy compromise. Secondly, it allows me to easily place Callie without having to see her. It allows her to explore and go at her own pace without me having to constantly turn around to track her.

      Regarding what Callie carries, it depends on the day, but for most of our day hikes she carries extra water, medical supplies, and food. We like to be prepared in case we run into someone who needs help, or something unexpected happens to us.

      Lastly, all dogs are different and you probably know better than anyone else what your dog is capable of. Take it slow, work your way up, and do what you are comfortable with and things should work out.

      • Sonia G.

        Thank you so much for the info! The bear bell is a great idea. Yes, a post all about Callie and her training would be great. I was also curious about Callie’s experience with bugs. I’ve used Frontline on my dogs in the past but they always seemed to bring something back home with them after venturing out. No need to answer this now. You can save it for the Callie post whenever you get around to it. Again, thank you!

  7. John & Kelly (and Juniper)

    Hi Brian! My husband and I stumbled on your site while researching an upcoming trip to Onion Valley with our dog Juniper. We too live in Altadena and live for our long weekends in the High Sierras. Just wanted to drop in and say thanks, we have lots of new places to visit now, thanks to your intrepid explorations with Calli.

  8. Hey there! Quick qiestion that’s totally
    off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly?
    My blog looks weird when browsing from mmy iphone4. I’m trying
    to find a template or plugin that might be able to fix this issue.
    If you have any recommendations, please share.


    • We just set it up our site via a wordpress theme and the mobile side of it worked out. I think most modern themes from wordpress or squarespace will work well on mobile.

  9. Carl Chea

    Hi really enjoy your site. Thanks for posting your trip reports. I’ve been getting into hiking (mostly day hikes with a few overnighters a year). I mostly like the trails on the Eastern Sierra all the way up to Tahoe. I was wondering what kind of shoes you wear and what your thoughts are on the hiking boots v trail runners debate. I’m currently shopping for hiking boots/shoes for the upcoming season and I’m still indecisive after doing some research on the internet.

    Thank you for your input.

    • Hey Carl,

      I think most gear choices boil down to personal preference over any sort of objectively correct choice, and there is no piece of gear where that is more true than shoes. Everyone’s feet are different and what works for one person will often not work for someone else.

      So, the best advice for shoes is to always stick with what works. If you have a pair of boots or shoes that you’ve been hiking in without any issues, I wouldn’t switch to a different brand unless you were unable to replace your old ones.

      With that said, I hike in Keen shoes and boots, mainly because my feet require a wide toe box and most other shoes cramp my toes together which causes major problems when backpacking.

      Now, notice how I said shoes and boots. I like to hike in both, depending on conditions. I think there is definitely some merit to the concept that hiking in heavy boots creates a lot of additional effort, so I will wear low top fairly light hiking shoes on most day hikes. When I go backpacking, I prefer to have something a bit more substantial on my feet, so I wear mid top Keen Boots, which are still pretty lightweight compared to full leather boots. I have another pair of boots specifically for snow hiking as well.

      One aspect of footwear that many people neglect is gaiters. If you are backpacking or doing long hikes, they will do wonders for you. A lot of blisters are caused by small rocks or sand that make their way into your shoes, and a pair of dirty girl gaiters will prevent that from occuring without adding any weight at all to your feet.

      Whew, that was a long answer! I guess I should write about gear sooner than later on this site.

      • Carl Chea

        Thank you for your quick reply. I didn’t think your answer was long at all!

        I just bought a pair of Vasque Breeze from REI because of their annual 20% sale. They are my first hiking boots. I’ve been hiking with my running shoes so far. With your advice, I will pick up a pair of trail runners or lighter low top hiking shoes the next time I need hiking footwear. So from there, I should probably know which footwear I prefer and what the pros and cons are. I plan to hike and backpack for many more years to come so figuring this part out early would be beneficial and I must admit, researching and shopping for hiking footwear has been pretty fun so far.

        Thanks again. I look forward to your upcoming trip reports!

  10. Ian

    Thanks for expanding my outlook and inspiring me to do the same and get out there with my camera and tent. Also thanks for being so through with your photos, maps and descriptions. It makes it so much easier to replicate.

  11. Beautiful photos, Brian! Thank you sharing!

  12. Aunt Mary from Massachusetts

    Hi Brian & Marissa & Owen. Aunt Mary here. This is a wonderful site to visit and I enjoy seeing you on it. Hope you see Riss. I surely do miss California when I seen sites like this. Bye for now.

  13. Your site is amazing! Great detail and beautiful photographs. Thank you sooo much! I was just curious if you might know of a good 2-3 day backpacking trail that is dog friendly in your area (still reading you site, but if you have a favorite — please recommend!)? Thanks for your help!

    • Hi Sara,

      I am in the process of re-organizing this site a bit, which should hopefully help you out a bit. I think if you look through some of my old trips, you’ll find something that appeals to you.

      Without knowing exactly where you live and what your backpacking preferences are, I’ll start out by recommending the North Fork of Big Pine as an excellent place to go backpacking with your dog for 2-3 days.

  14. Brian,
    I appreciate your sharing which lenses you prefer. Do you consider weight? Is a 100mm lens as far as you see a need for? I used a 35mm zeiss but would like to get a wider prime like 25mm at a minimum. It seems like the more you telephoto in the mountains, the less clear the photograph.

    • I definitely consider weight. Most of the photography on this site was done during some pretty long hikes, so I try to keep the weight reasonable. Another important consideration is that zoom lenses give me a lot more flexibility than primes would. I try to limit switching lenses too often, since it slows me down too much on big hikes. That is why the 24-105 gets the bulk of my attention. I also find that almost all of the shots that I want to take fall within that range. I’d love to take my 70-200 lens with me more often but I find that it doesn’t fit into my workflow enough to justify its weight.

  15. Ladybug

    Thanks so much for your blog. I am planning an “epic” van camping trip with my boyfriend and my two small fur-children. We want to camp at a few of the great national and state parks along the CA coast but, as you know (and I am only just finding out), dogs are not allowed on the trails. I’m assuming this goes for all trails in the national and state parks but, before I spend hours searching, I figure I’d ask you – is there any campground in California worth staying at where dogs are allowed on trails? If not, do you have any suggestions? You can imagine how bummed out I am that we can’t take the dogs hiking with us.

    I guess we could hike solo while one of us stays back at the campground with the dogs but dang, I don’t want to do that.

    • It is true that dogs and National Parks don’t mix very well. Some State Parks do allow dogs on the trail, but most of the good ones here in California do not.

      I wouldn’t let that deter you from exploring the area with your dogs though. That is partially why I made this site, to highlight all of the amazing places that you can hike with your dog.

      I recommend focusing on the Eastern Sierra Nevada. You could camp at a few different places and get a lot of bang for your buck. Use the “Trail Map” link at the top of this site in order to check out some of the posts we’ve done in the area.

      For example, if you camped in one of the campsites up the road west of Bishop, CA, then you would have 3 different incredible trailheads only a short drive away from camp (South Lake, Lake Sabrina, and North Lake). You could string together close a week’s worth of day hikes to different areas from there alone.

      Another area you could branch out to that would offer a similar bounty of options is Mammoth California. Camp somewhere near Lake Mary and hit up the trails near there and also down in Devil’s Postpile.

      There are plenty of other options as well. Pretty much everything north of Yosemite is fair game. The Trinity Alps area appears to be very nice but I haven’t made it out there yet.

      Hope you have a great trip, I am jealous!

      • Ladybug

        Thanks for your reply, Brian. I didn’t think of staying at one place and doing day hike excursions from “base camp” – that is a great idea!

        It looks like the US Forest Service allow dogs on trails – at least that’s what I’m reading (but will call ahead to each place to be sure) – so the trick is to find a USFS campground to which we can bring a van. For example, it looks like we can hike with our dogs on the USFS Pine Ridge Trail, which starts at the Pfeiffer Big Sur campground (where we have reserved a spot). So, there’s one.

        These websites have been helpful: http://www.naturedogs.com/findahike.php

        The search continues….. I’ll keep you posted

        Thanks again!

  16. What kind of gear does Callie use? I just bought 2 Aussie naturals packs and an ABO down bed for my pups. What brands do you recommend for harnesses, leashes, and other gear? I’ve got 2 Aussie/Dingo mixes, about the same size as Callie, and though they’re generally good on leash, if they get overexcited they pull like nobody’s business. When I hike and run with them around my house, they’re usually off leash, as they have good trail manners and respond well to commands. For backpacking however, I will use leashes for their safety as well as others’. Any suggestions? TIA!

    • I don’t have a lot of specific brand recommendations for you. Callie has been using the Ruffwear Palisades pack with a lot of success. A nice feature of that pack is that you can take off the saddlebags really easily without removing the harness, which is great during short breaks.

      Regarding leashes, I just bring a short 5 foot one that is pretty light now, if I’m planning on having Callie off leash. I used to carry a nicer one with elasticity, but I realized I didn’t use it often enough to justify the extra weight. If you do think you’ll be using the leash a lot, the elasticity I mentioned previously is nice to prevent you and your dog from getting jerked, and it’s nice for the handle of the leash to have a clip so you can easily attach or detach it from the hip belt of your backpack, allowing you to hike hands free (especially important if you use trekking poles).

      Your dog will also need a bowl, we bring a collapsible bowl for Callie. The last item is a sleeping pad. There are plenty of options here. If you are backpacking, you probably want to keep it light. We cut out a section of a blue foam pad for Callie, it works fine.

  17. Penny

    I love the idea of this blog. I’m like you – I’m in southern California and will only go to places where I can take my GSD mix. I’ve done San Gabriel but haven’t done the Sierras; I will definitely look into it thanks to you.

  18. So happy I came across your blog. I am training for Whitney in September but until then I take my little terrier/chihuahua mix with me on my hikes. He loves it…..everytime I get out one of my backpacks, he knows it is time to hike. The longest I have taken him on is 10 miles. Tomorrow I am going to attempt Cucamonga Peak with him…..next Baldy. I figured if he gets tired….I can always carry him in my 50L pack that I am taking with me for training purposes. But so far, the guy can’t get enough of the trails I have taken him on.

  19. Hello, I’m Yves from Belgium. You have a wonderfull website with grate pictures. We are going to hike this summer some of the trails that hou have hiked. I have shared your website on a formum with some USA- enthousiasts from Holland and Belgium.

  20. Robb Brush

    This is my favorite area. Been twice but not on the trail. Great pics !!! Thanks for sharing and hope your puppy is well!!

  21. Thanks for sharing these wonderful places. I have enjoyed many day hikes and backpacks in the High Sierra, your descriptions gave me some new ideas.
    What filters do you use to get such beautiful dramatic photos?

  22. Nathalie

    I just stumbled on your site while looking for more San Gabriel hikes. I do a lot of hiking in OC and the Seirra’s as well, but looking at possibilities to venture out to LA a bit. Great site, very well put together and beautiful photos.

  23. Kay

    Missing your trip reports, it’s been a long time. Hope all is well with you.

    • Yeah, I took a break from blogging. Good news is that I’m hiking the PCT right now. Pics are being uploaded to Facebook.com/calitrails . I will likely do some posts on here about the trip after I finish.

  24. Conor

    Thanks so much for the site. It has inspired some great trips for me and my wife. Hope you’re having a great time on the PCT (ulcer aside). I’m wondering what app you use to make those great topo map + route maps that you post?


  25. Kay

    It’s been a little over a year since you’ve posted anything, I really hope you’re ok! Really miss your trip reports.

    • I’m still here. I actually hiked about half the PCT this summer. I hope to post about that experience on here soon. I’m still working out what I want to do with this site moving forward though.

  26. Nick

    Looking forward to some photos and trip reports from your PCT adventure last summer:)

  27. Sierra

    Love your website. I was inspired by your Cottonwood Lakes to Wallace/Wright Lakes cross country trip so I organized a trip from Onion Valley to Cottonwood Lakes last summer following your route. Wallace Lakes Basin and the Mitter Basin were absolutely stunning. Thank you for giving me the idea to visit these beautiful places.

  28. Megan Wolniewicz

    I found your blog a few years ago and always tend to come back to it whenever I’m feeling homesick for the Eastern Sierras or when my desk job is feeling a little too “desky”. Really enjoy your trail reports and photography. Hope you and Callie are well, and hope to see you blogging again one day!

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