About Tom Stienstra

Professional Career
Tom Stienstra has made it his life’s work to explore across California, the Pacific Northwest and beyond, always out hiking, biking, fishing, boating — and camping just about everywhere — always searching for the best of the outdoors and writing about it. He was the fourth living member inducted into the California Outdoors Hall of Fame. He published his first story at age 8, “Searching for a lost friend,” in the Palo Alto Times, and sold his first story at age 16 to the same newspaper.


With my buddy, Rudd

Tom Stienstra is the outdoors columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, where his columns appear on Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays, often with photo galleries on Wednesdays at SFGate.com/outdoors.

Tom Stienstra is the nation’s only outdoors writer to win the “President’s Award, Best of the Best,” as the  National Outdoor Writer of the Year, newspaper division, three times, awarded by the Outdoors Writers Association of America. He is the only outdoors writer in America to win first place in OWAA’s Excellence in Craft competition for 10 straight years, and to win first place awards for newspaper, television, radio and photography in the same year. His national awards include from Associated Press, United Press International and Associated Press Sports Editors. In 2009, he won first place for best outdoors column in America. In 2013 and 2015, he won first place for best outdoor adventure story of the year and in spring of 2015, is one of seven finalists for the nation’s Best of the Best, to be awarded in late June in Tennessee.

His column, “Coping with death of a loved one,” was chosen as one of the 20 best stories about dogs in the 20th century and reprinted in the book, “Old Dogs Remembered.” Other stories selected for the book include features by James Thurber, T.S. Eliot, John Updike, William Wadsworth and others. A series about fishing for great white sharks was selected was one of the best features in the 20th century about San Francisco, and selected for reprint in the book, “Travelers’ Tales of San Francisco.”

Tom is the nation’s top-selling author of outdoor guidebooks. His books are available at a discount from this website. His books include two No. 1 bestsellers: California Camping was awarded No. 1 Bestseller in the world, Category Parks & Campgrounds, by Amazon.Com, and No. 2 Bestseller in America, all outdoors books, Outdoor Retailer Magazine; The book Pacific Northwest Camping was named No. 1 Bestseller, Portland Oregonian, and No. 1 Bestseller, Pacific Pipeline. He broke new ground with his new crime mystery, “The Sweet Redemption, An Inspector Korg Mystery — music, money, murder!”

Tom writes, records and produces the radio feature, “Great Outdoors,” which appears on KCBS-740 AM, 106.9 FM/San Francisco, Northern California’s No. 1-rated radio station. In 2005, he won first place in the nation for best outdoor recreation radio show. The show is featured at 7:35 a.m., 9:35 a.m. and 12:35 p.m. on Saturdays.


Tom Stienstra Outdoors was the No. 1 outdoors blog in America in 2012-2015, with up to 1.6 million page views for single blogs. It is available at sfgate.com/outdoors.


Tom releases a daily twitter, available at http://twitter.com/StienstraTom.

Tom hosted the “Great Outdoors with Tom Stienstra,” which aired on CBS/CW in San Francisco-San Jose and Sacramento. The show “Land of Smoke” won first place for best outdoor recreation show in America. PBS has cleared a show, pending sponsorship, with Tom that would feature a bigger scope with a wider reach and driven by adventure. For information on sponsorship, send Tom an e-mail at tstienstra@sfchronicle.com.


In 2011, Tom became the first outdoors writer in America to win both first and second place for best newspaper feature photography, and then among the winners of all categories, won first place for best published image of the year for “Shastatacular: lenticular over Shasta.”

Winter sports

Tom was named Ski Writer of the Year for the Western U.S. for a series of stories on a record number of snowboard deaths, how equipment and behavior contributed to them, which inspired a national contest with $20,000 in prizes for a new quick-release snowboard design.

Tom has explored all of California and most of Washington and Oregon from the Cascades on west. As a pilot and airplane owner, he can cover anywhere in a radius from Vancouver, Canada, to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to Van Nuys, California in four hours. In the process, he sees the landscape from a unique perspective, which inspires future trips on the ground to seek out little-known spots. This is how he first saw the Kern Canyon, Independence Lake, headwaters of the Owhyee near the Jarbridge Mountains in Nevada, and thousands of other spots.

His travels include hiking 25,000 miles, visiting hundreds of lakes, boating much of the California Coast, and hiking out most of the major rivers, streams and many of their tributaries and waterfalls. His scope of adventure spans from the Costa Rican jungle to the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories.

His contracted expeditions include:

  • Sierra Crossing: Trekking from the desert in the Great Basin, over the Sierra Crest at Mount Whitney, down into the Cradle of the Sierra in the Kern Canyon, then up and over the Great Western Divide to the western Sierra Nevada foothills.
  • The Search for Bigfoot: Tracking the Myth in Northern California and Oregon.
  • On the John Muir Trail: Hiking in the Footsteps of Legends.
  • Of Big Fish and Grizzlies: Travels in the Alaskan Wildlands.
  • Around the Bay in Seven Days: A 126-Mile Hike from the Urban Jungle to the Coastal Headlands.
  • The Klamath Challenge: Shooting 200 Miles and 1,000 Rapids at Flood Stage.
  • Pacific Shark Hunt: Face to face with a White Shark.
  • Climbing Mount Shasta: California’s Ultimate Peak Experience and other climbs.
  • Miles From Nowhere: Excursion into California’s most remote areas.
  • We Voyageurs: Canoeing 400 miles on the Sacramento River from Redding to San Francisco.
  • Hooking a 42-pounder, trout that is: And other Canadian Fishing Tales.
  • Pacific Crest Trail, from Yosemite to Tahoe.
  • The Owyhee River, America’s most remote canyon, by canoe from Nevada to Idaho to Oregon.
  • Bay Area treks, Skyline to Sea, East Bay National Skyline Trail, 70 miles in Henry Coe State Park.
  • Mountain Summits, climbing Mount Shasta, Mount Whitney, Mount St. Helens, Half Dome and others.

Tom Stienstra’s Top Catches

  • Sturgeon, (30-pound line) 400 pounds
  • Seven-gill shark, (wire line) 178 pounds
  • Sailfish, (14-pound test line), 160 pounds
  • Tarpon, (14-pound line) 125 pounds
  • Halibut, (30-pound line) 98 pounds
  • Dorado, (20-pound line) 60 pounds
  • Mackinaw trout, (8-pound line) 42 pounds
  • King salmon, (20-pound line) 32 pounds
  • Striped bass, (14-pound line) 26 pounds
  • Yellowtail, (20-pound line) 37 pounds
  • Steelhead, (6-pound line) 16 pounds
  • Atlantic bonito, (14-pound line) 15 pounds (Non-registered world record)
  • Silver salmon, (fly rod, 8-pound tippet) 12 pounds
  • Rainbow trout, (fly rod, 6-pound tippet) 11 pounds
  • Largemouth bass, (8-pound line) 8 pounds
  • Brown trout, (4-pound line) 6 pounds
  • Arctic grayling, (4-pound line) 3.5 pounds
  • Cutthroat trout, (6-pound line), 3.5 pounds

Feel great in the next 24 hours: Hike. Bike. Camp. Fish. Boat. Wildlife watch. Explore.

For the book California Camping, go to http://tomstienstra.com/books/california-camping/.