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Southern California backpacking suggestions
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Jeff Antig

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Southern California backpacking suggestions on 01/01/2009 02:41:22 MST Print View

Hi, very much like the person of the other thread, I am also looking for some good backpacking locations.

I am in the Southern California area and don't mind driving an hour or so. I've heard that San Jacinto is pretty good but I don't know how reliable that source was. I'm new to backpacking so I need help picking a place that is not too intense. Also, preferably a place that is not full of car campers.

Thank you all in advance.

Jeff Antig

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Update on 01/02/2009 16:01:13 MST Print View

I decided to go to Crystal Cove (camping, not cottages) and Mt. Jacinto in the Idyllwild campgrounds. For some reason, I couldn't find anything about Crystal Cove so I'm starting to worry that I've made a bad decision. Has anyone been there before?

I'm also considering Silverwood Lake and some areas around Joshua Tree. If there are any great places for backpacking specifically (without car campers), please let me know!

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Southern California backpacking suggestions on 01/02/2009 17:33:19 MST Print View

San Gorgonio Wilderness is awesome. Near to where you are going to be. I recommend any trailhead other than Vivian Creek. I like it back at Quaking Aspen trailhead up to Big tree campground. Maybe a lot of snow now,but worth a look.

Anthony Weston
(anthonyweston) - MLife

Locale: Southern CA
where to backpack in so ca on 01/02/2009 18:23:19 MST Print View

look on www[dot]outdoorsclub[dot]org
for hundreds of trip suggestions in the southern Ca
area. Many pictures of San Jacinto and Mount Gorgornio and much much more.

If you are new to backpacking I'd avoid the snow and try a
trip on Los Padres National forest or something along the coast or even on the Channel Islands just to get some practice before trying winter camping.

Sean Nordeen
(Miner) - F

Locale: SoCAL
My suggestions on 01/02/2009 18:50:27 MST Print View

San Jacinto Wilderness and San Jacinto State Park is my favorite local backpacking place in the warmer months. San Gorgonio Wilderness comes in 2nd.

I also like overnighting in the Cucamonga Wilderness coming up Icebox Canyon near Mt. Baldy.

For colder months:
Backpacking across Catalina Island is fun. You can make it as long or short as you want since there is a bus that goes across the island that will drop off or pick you up. The backbone trail in the Santa Monica Mountains is nice and almost complete, though the camping logistics currently sucks as you have to hike down to developed campgrounds. But plans are underway for backcountry camping in the future.

The Angeles National Forest has numerous places for a 2-3 day overnighter. It's Front Range (ie. lower elevation) near Mt. Wilson has some nice loops that can be put together and are usually below the snow line.

Easy Beginning Trips:
Little Jimmy backcountry campsite in the Angeles National Forest. Devils' Canyon in the San Gabriel Wilderness (located in Angeles NF).

Pick up the John Robinson Books: "San Bernardino Mountain Trails: 100 Hikes in Southern California" and "Trails of the Angeles: 100 Hikes in the San Gabriels" as these are updated every few years and have been the best resources for these 2 mountain ranges since the 70's.

Jeff Antig

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Thanks on 01/02/2009 22:46:48 MST Print View

Thanks for the advice, I'll be checking out all of the suggestions!

Anitra Kass
(Anitraten) - F

Locale: SoCal
SoCal Backpacking on 01/03/2009 21:24:45 MST Print View

Love the San Jacintos and San Gabriels. I am sure you could piece together a good loop. You could also hike on the PCT but it would probably require a car shuttle (with a few exceptions I am sure).

If you camp at Little Jimmy (it's on the PCT) as was mentioned above, watch out for's been notorious in the past.

If you go to Silverwood Lake, be prepared to potentially run into a good number of people, many might be in boats in the lake but it get's a good amount of use (at least the PCT section does).

After the snow melts, Big Bear offers quite a few options to come off the PCT back into town so you wouldn't have to have a car shuttle, just drive to Big Bear, park your car somewhere appropriate and get a taxi to a trail head (yes there are taxis that do this) or hitch a ride. If you do park on National Forest land be award that they require an Adventure Pass (I know you can get one at the Big Bear Discovery Center which can also give you trail condition updates).
Happy Trails,

Jeff Antig

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: SoCal Backpacking on 01/04/2009 04:31:41 MST Print View

"If you camp at Little Jimmy (it's on the PCT) as was mentioned above, watch out for's been notorious in the past."

Good thing you told me that. I was totally planning to go there (even without the bear bag/canister because the US Forest Service site didn't even say anything about bears). Normally, I'm a tough guy but bear encounters just scare the heck out of me. Do you know any good (safe) campgrounds in the Angeles National Forest area?

On another note, does anyone know any areas that are free to camp? I think I remember coming across several backcountry areas. Beginner-friendly is a must...I wouldn't want to encounter any bears or snakes or ravenous bugblatter beasts

Sean Nordeen
(Miner) - F

Locale: SoCAL
Don't fear the bears. on 01/04/2009 14:59:35 MST Print View

I've been backpacking in our local mountains since '92. I have yet to see a bear anywhere in SoCal. I know they exist, but I've never seen one (including at Little Jimmy). On the other hand, I have always seen bears when I go to the Sierra Neveda but have never felt threatened.

The California black bear isn't something to be afraid of. Most bears scare very easily. The only bear attacks in SoCal that I'm aware of, happened when someone slept with their food and the bear wasn't necessary attacking the person but rather trying to get to where it smelled food (and this is very rare). Hanging your food is usually good enough outside of the Sierras. If you hang your pots on the outside of it, you can hear if something is trying to play with it as the pots bang. And you can scare it off by making loud noises and throwing rocks around it. If you really are afraid of bears, get a bear cannister and sleep well as they can't get to the food and they have no interest in a smelly human. Most bears in the Sierras will walk away as soon as they see the can since they know they can't get anything from them and will go bother the next camper.

Numerous Boy Scouts go to Little Jimmy as their first trip and they always come home safely though they might be the reason for any increased bear traffic.

Jeff Antig

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Thanks on 01/04/2009 17:02:47 MST Print View

Thanks a lot Sean, that eased my anxiety

Anitra Kass
(Anitraten) - F

Locale: SoCal
Southern California backpacking on 01/11/2009 00:53:35 MST Print View

Sean, I agree...don't be scared of bears but it is important to respect them(and most people do). I feel like it's much easier to respect them and not be scared of them if you have a heads up that you could run into one. Sorry Jeff if my comments made you uneasy...but I'd rather put the bear thing out there. If you know about the possibility and are prepared, they shouldn't pose a problem.

Of course, another option to not have to deal with bears is to camp in the desert (at least at this time of year...maybe not in the summer).

I have a book titled "San Bernardino Mountain Trails" and it lists many hikes in the San Bernardinos, San Jacintos and Santa Rosas(I think Sean referenced this book). It also has a nice table that lists hikes by season with "warm season", "cool season" and "any season" categories. Most of the hikes are day hikes or short in length but there are some longer ones that could be overnighters or it's possible that some shorter hikes could be linked together (I haven't checked but it's possible). Just thought I'd mention that book to you. I bet if you went to your local gear shop they could a) recommend a book with hikes in it or b) the staff could recommend a hike and you could pick up a map and info on their recommendation. Happy Trails,

Edited by Anitraten on 01/11/2009 00:55:44 MST.

Nick Chen
(fleetparadox) - F

Locale: Socal
Bears in Socal on 01/11/2009 01:26:34 MST Print View

Deer Leg

Couple stories, if you'll bear with me... hehe.

I was camping solo at Valley Forge (3 miles from Red Box on the 2 Highway) one night when I heard a bear go through the campground. The campground was empty when I got there and soon after dusk I was bored into laying in my sleeping bag. About 30 min later, I heard this loud shuffling (like a big canvas bag being dragged) and snorting/breathing/sniffing sounds coming from about 15-20 meters away (close enough for me to hear IT breathing). I was terrified so I shook my Rainbow and yelled "Go Away" for about 20 seconds. I tried to fall asleep in the silence that followed but my nerves were shot. I packed up in a state of complete paranoia and hiked out to a nearby Science Camp sorta compound. There the caretaker let me call for a ride and told me he had been approached by a black bear earlier that week while eating a sandwich outside... Needless to say, I didn't regret my decision to flee my campground.

About 2 months later, I returned to the same campground with some friends and saw this bloody deer leg sitting in the MIDDLE of the trail. Not sure if it died of natural causes or what but it was definitely "interesting". Still, we barbecued short ribs that night :)

albert lopez
Where did you end up going? on 11/09/2009 13:32:12 MST Print View

I am forming a group of people interested in backpacking in SoCal. I am interested in how your trip went, what location you chose and if you are over the bear phobia. I hope you had a time!