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Suggestions for First Backpacking Trip (CA)
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Omar Iqbal
(oiqbal) - F
Suggestions for First Backpacking Trip (CA) on 05/06/2010 17:57:02 MDT Print View


A buddy and I have always wanted to get into the backcountry and have finally decided to take the plunge. Now the difficult part - identifying a good trail for a first timer.

We are thinking to do a loop trail, 1-2 nights in California. I've read some reviews of trails on here in Kings Canyon, but they weren't recommend for inexperienced backpackers.

We are relatively seasoned day hikers, have done Half Dome, Panorama Trial to valley, Angles Landing, Grinnel Glacier etc.

Any suggestions on a 1-2 night trail in California would be very helpful.

Much thanks.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Suggestions for First Backpacking Trip (CA) on 05/06/2010 18:12:12 MDT Print View

There is a tremendous quantity of beginner backpacking destinations in the National Parks of California. There are some problems, though, for this year.

The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada range is extensive this year, and it won't be melting off early. There will be places up high where the snow will last until August. As a result, lots of high trails that would normally open up are not going to be available to you. This will force you into the trails at lower elevations. That's OK. Once you decide which park you are going after, you should be able to contact the wilderness permit-issuing office for advice.

Be prepared to compete with many other backpackers who are looking similarly. For example, many people show up at a permit office in Yosemite, and they say they want to go on a backpacking trail to a lake, no more than 6 miles each way, and no more than 1000 feet of elevation gain. That's fine, but that means that you will be sharing that lake with fifty others. If you go ultralight, your light load should allow you to go farther than the average backpacker. If you tell the permit office about 10 miles and 2000 feet, it will get you out of the range of the masses. Once you get out about 15 miles in a day, you will have the whole place to yourself, and then you can have a true wilderness experience.

I led many group trips to the Old Secret Lake, and the New Secret Lake, and we would seldom see anybody else. What was the trick? There are no trails going there. We had to navigate through the woods.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Suggestions for First Backpacking Trip (CA) on 05/06/2010 19:15:16 MDT Print View

Expect to make lots of mistakes, or maybe poor choices, but do NOT worry about them. You will only learn by going. So, go.


Amy Lauterbach
(drongobird) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Suggestions for First Backpacking Trip (CA) on 05/06/2010 19:27:03 MDT Print View


To get started backpacking, I would suggest overnight trips close to home. Sub-24-hour overnights are fun and you can experiment with gear and hiking style without investing much time or effort.

There are so many great 2-3 day hikes in California. Tell us what town you live in, what month(s) you want to go, and approximately how far you like to walk in a day, and somebody can suggest overnight trips close to your home.

Amy (Palo Alto)

Edited by drongobird on 05/06/2010 19:28:46 MDT.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Re: Suggestions for First Backpacking Trip (CA) on 05/06/2010 19:29:49 MDT Print View

And have a Plan B.

If you do a loop that puts you back close to your transportation then you can end early. I did this a few times. You're setting up camp and realize you forgot an important piece of gear. Or you get too cold or wet. Leave with the attitude that you'll be back soon.

James Naphas
(naphas13) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Re: Suggestions for First Backpacking Trip (CA) on 05/06/2010 21:42:22 MDT Print View

Where do you live? There are some nice trips in both SoCal and NoCal that don't involve national parks or the high sierras. Not quite as nice, but you won't have to wait until late summer, either.

Omar Iqbal
(oiqbal) - F
Suggestions for First Backpacking Trip (CA) on 05/12/2010 12:07:36 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the comments. I live in Irvine (Orange County) However, I dont necessary need to stick to Southern California. Would really like to do something in Sequoia/Kings Canyon or another NP. Any suggestions for a first time backpacking trail in the vicinity would be most appreciated.



Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Suggestions for First Backpacking Trip (CA) on 05/12/2010 12:22:15 MDT Print View

Since this is a "first" consider Joshua Tree . It's close. It's flat. It's interesting. I could be a good "shake down" cruise, without the challenge of mountain weather and terrain. Just don't get as crazy as Michael and Doug.

Get the camping drill down, Then add elevation and weather.

Edited by greg23 on 05/12/2010 12:24:44 MDT.

Lori P
(lori999) - F

Locale: Central Valley
Re: Suggestions for First Backpacking Trip (CA) on 05/12/2010 12:40:29 MDT Print View

There are a bajillion (conservatively speaking) trails to hike in the Sierras.

National Parks (especially Yosemite) carry with them the problem of permitting and restrictive camping/food storage rules.

One of my hiking group's favorite beginner loops is Dinkey Lakes, in the Sierra NF between Yosemite and SEKI, accessible by heading up Hwy 168 out of the Fresno area. Nine mile loop through subalpine lakes, excellent fishing (brook, rainbow and golden trout), wildflowers til fall, streams, peaks (class 2 and 3, Dogtooth and the Three Sisters are fairly easy), and no bear canister requirement (counterbalancing is still valid, tho they will highly recommend the canister as not everyone is good at hanging bags). The scenery is not as spectacular as Yosemite Valley or Kings, but still a gorgeous area. And the trail is not terrifically strenuous. You can access the loop from two trailheads, one on a rougher dirt road and the other on a longer paved route to a trailhead near Courtright Reservoir.

Ansel Adams Wilderness (adjoins Yosemite to the southeast) is also classic Sierra scenery and a great place to plan any number of loops or out and backs. We overnighted last year at Cora Lakes and could see the back of the Minarets (which we saw from the other side from the JMT). If we'd kept going we could have crossed Isberg pass into Yosemite.

Trails in the Kaiser Wilderness (not far from Dinkey Wilderness) are also good - there's a 15 mile loop that includes Kaiser Peak. We did that one as an overnight.

I would consider calling the Sierra NF rangers around mid-June to find out if these are accessible - I'm betting they will be, and probably will have one or more overnights on my schedule for August and September in these areas, after the bugs have dwindled.

Edited by lori999 on 05/12/2010 12:42:21 MDT.

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
So Cal hikes on 05/12/2010 15:39:03 MDT Print View

Close to Orange county, spring or early summer:

Hike in to San Gorgonio Peak, and day hike to the peak if you feel like it.

Mt San Jacinto: hike in below the tramway.

Southern Sierra: To Cottonwood lakes in So Sierra

Do a hike in the San Gabriels, but I don't know any specific ones. Depends on the heat and elevation.

Mark Regalia
(markr) - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz
Easy two day trips on 05/12/2010 16:56:04 MDT Print View

Dinkey Lakes and Kaiser are both good choices. They are both in my old Ranger District. My only problem with Kaiser is the whole south side is exposed to noise from obnoxiously load boats on Huntington Lake.

Dinkey Lakes is a good starter. easy entry, pretty, well trailed, though a bit too crowded for me. Though

If you want to go further north consider Emmigrant Basin and Carson-Iceberg wildernesses. They are not that heavily used and the terrain that far north is pretty mild compared to the High Sierra area south of Yosemite.

I too tend to avoid Parks because of the hassle and the bear problems, and the difficulty of getting away from the crowds. And I am a dog owner, no dogs in the parks.

Can't figure that one out. They allow people but not dogs. We all know people are way more destructive than dogs. Of course dogs do tend to bring humans with them.

G Foster McLachlan
(hunter13) - F

Locale: NYS
Re: Suggestions for First Backpacking Trip (CA) on 05/12/2010 19:35:18 MDT Print View

Not sure when you want to get out exactly and since you're a beginner not sure what you want to attempt...but I just relocated here and Im getting out now...although Im not a beginner I plan to do maybe 2 trips in the San Gabriels(Angeles Forest) and some in the San Bernardino FOrest(like San Gorgonio and Jacinto) to start and get my feet wet. As many posted there is winter like conditions on many TH and roads to them are closed frowhat I see throughout sierras. Not sure exaclty.
I'm hitting the south forktrail out of Devils Punchbowl in the Gabriels. Loop to the pct and Coopers Canyon and out the Burkhart Trail. It's ~avg 5-6k feet elevation and just below snowline but should be interesting. Roughly 15 miles day one and 12 m day 2. Then Baldy-or San Antonio
and on to Gorgonio, jacinto-then the next month start hitting sierras like Kings Canyon and Sequoia etc.
Get some maps, books and start perusing and hikes will be jumping out at you.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Suggestions for First Backpacking Trip (CA) on 05/13/2010 07:07:08 MDT Print View

You might consider a 1-2 night trip on the Pacific Crest Trail. The grade is gentle and it tends to go through some nice scenery. Close to home for you, or up in the Sierras if you wish.

The Southern Sierras are nice, too, and there may be a bit less snow since it is drier. Something south of Mt. Whitney, perhaps the Cottonwood Lakes.

When I was young we used to go to a place called Nelson Lake in the Sierras. Trying to find where it was I found a web site that says the GPS coordinates are Lat 37.8094°N Long -119.3785°W. It was a lovely high sierra lake, only a 6 mile hike but there was an upper lake further on with great swimming (the lower lake was better for fishing, the upper lake had boulders to jump from.)