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Another trip ideas thread: Western US 5-7 days in September
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Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Another trip ideas thread: Western US 5-7 days in September on 06/08/2011 10:44:24 MDT Print View

I’m hoping the hivemind of BPL can help me short-cut some the research process, narrow things down a bit as it were, as I’m moving in the next month and time-crunched and while mid-September 3 months off, I know permits, if required, can go much earlier than that.

Here are the parameters:

Location: Anywhere West of Denver (approximately)
Timeline:: Sept 17-26. I’ll be flying in from one of the NYC airports, and based on flight times and distance from the aiport to the trailhead, I hope to have 6-7 guaranteed days of hiking, with the potential for a half-day or more at the beginning and end.
Hiking style: - I can comfortably hike (and enjoy) 20 miles a day in the Sierra Nevada, as I did last year on the TRT, where I averaged 23 miles/day.(high of 37) I’m a get-up-and-hike for 10-12 hours person, stopping when I feel like to to smell the roses I am also a strong and happy climber so elevation gain does not put me off at all. In fact I love panoramic views and seek elevation out. So at least 100 miles but up to 120-130 if time is available, counting any side trips. Preferably as much of a loop as possible, or point to point, rather than out and back.
Transport: - Must be able to get there without a car, unless I can rent a car for $25/day(quite unlikely). Since I have a plane that I absolutely have to be on at the end of the trip, if the transit it too complicated or iffy, it’s probably not for me.

Below is what I’ve come up with so far. Critiques and advice welcome.

Last year I attempted the Tahoe Rim Trail, as it was a convenient airport, there’s affordable shuttles to and from Reno, and cheap accomadations in South lake Tahoe.

This year, if all else fails, I’ll alway go back and hike from SLT to Truckee, hitting the PCT and somes sections of the TRT I missed last year when my thru-hike was given up due to a severe early winter storm. Off the top of my head, I believe that gets me ~120 miles, and I could do side trips. Though it may be sacriligeous to say, I’m sort of bored with the stretch from Lake Aloha to Echo Chalet, as I day-hiked it or camped it 5 round trips now. I’d have to look at a map to perhaps route aroudn that stretch.

Another option I was looking at was something in Yosemite. I love Tuolumne Meadows and it’s depressing I haven’t seen it since August 4, 2009. The High Sierra Camp loop is nice, and while the camps are too close together, I’m sure I could cobble something together. I'd have to rent a Bearikade as all I have are an Ursack and BV 450, which are not legal and too probably too small, respectively, though that lends appeal to the HSC's and their bear boxes.

I'd either fly into Sacramento, taking greyhound to Merced and Yarts into the park, or flying into Mammoth Lakes and taking Yarts into the park. Sacramento has the advantage of better flight times, and the disadvantage of a more complicated trip to get to the park, not the least of which is spending midnight to 3:30am hanging out in the downtown Sacramento Greyhound station waiting for the 3:35am bus to Merced. Also not getting a proper sleeping on my first night, though I think I’d try for a spot in Curry Village or North or South Pines campground. I despise the backpackers camp and won’t use it.

Mammoth Lakes is closer but the flights from NYC are limited. I’d have to lose my first Saturday getting there at 6:30pm and leave the following Saturday, as the only return flight is an overnight that gets in at 5:45am, and I don’t really want to go straight off to work after showering Monday morning. So then I’d only have 4 full days of hiking and two partial days.

The Grand Canyon also intrigues, as I’ve done a 3 day/2 night down Bright Angel(?) to cottonwood, to the bottom, and then back up on the 3rd day. A rim to rim with time to explore would be excellent. It’s just getting from Phoenix of Flagstaff to the South rim that I looked into last year and ultimately decided it was easier and cheaper to go to Tahoe. I see that it’s about a 65 mile drive from Flagstaff to the South Rim so the walk must not be too much farther, right? Maybe I could walk the AZ Trail to the South Rim, do the Canyon Rim to Rim, and catch a shuttle back to Flagstaff that’d get me maybe not quite 100 miles, but leave time to explore. I'd be worried about the marking of the trail, as I'm not an expert pathfinder. I'll probably join the ATA so I can access the topo maps and more info, because even if I don't go, I don't mind donating to trail organizations. Anybody have any experience?

I’m not limiting myself to California at all, it’s just what I vaguely know.

Accesible PCT sections? Wonderland Trail? Rocky Mountains? Cascades? Wind Rivers? Glacier? New Mexico? Texas?

Any other suggestions that meet the above criteria. I only re-started backpacking between May 08 to August 09 in CA, so I’m not very savvy as to the options available to me.

I really appreciate any advice that can be offered.

Edited by jrmacd on 06/08/2011 10:52:55 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
west in mid-Sept on 06/08/2011 11:47:16 MDT Print View


Grand Canyon is nice, if a bit hot, that time of year. The AZT from Flag north is a mixed bag; the first ~20 miles around the peaks are very nice singletrack in pines and aspens, after that it drops into high desert and is all on dirt roads (some quite rough). Water is a problem. There are GPS tracks for this stretch out on the web. (At among other places.)

You could fly into Jackson (might have limited options that time of year), hire a shuttle or hitch to the northern end of the Tetons, and hike N-S, potentially all the way back to the airport. Weather could be perfect that time of year, or you could have significant snow. It'd also be a great time of year to do a loop in Yellowstone. Reliable shuttles can be had for $$$.

Glacier has comparable caveats with the weather, but I love it because there are almost no people around! You'd have your pick of routes. I could be hired as a shuttle driver (seriously).

It's too bad that sans car SW Utah is a PITA to access for backpacking, as it'd be great that time of year, too.

An outside the box suggestion: fly to Duluth, bus to Grand Marais, boat to Isle Royale.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: west in mid-Sept on 06/14/2011 11:32:00 MDT Print View

Dave, thanks for the suggestions.

Where in Southern Utah should I possible look to go? I looked at rental cars out of SLC and Las Vegas and I could get one and that time for $22-$25/day. If the trip was really appealing I'd pay for it. It looks like the drive would be 3-5 hours from either city depending on where I was going.

Yellowstone and Glacier were two I hadn't even thought of, and it'd be nice to knock one of those two off the to-see list, thanks for suggesting them.

It looks like the bus options might be limited to Yellowstone on Saturday and Sunday, when I'd be arriving and departing, but I'll have to look into it further. I haven't looked into shuttles yet.

I know Glacier is a gem and I'll probably order a guidebook this week and look into some trip options.

A Grand Teton traverse sounds great but is also the kind of thing that makes nervous in terms of getting stopped by snow and having to turn back and having trouble getting back in time for my flight.

The weather is one of the things that concerns me at that time of year. Last year on the TRT I got turned back twice(once each direction) because of early snow.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: snow on 06/14/2011 12:17:17 MDT Print View

In the rockies mid-September is indeed a total crapshoot. The weather can be absolutely gorgeous/totally perfect/best of the year hiking weather or it can be quite awful. Of Glacier, Yellowstone, and the Tetons my intuition is that the Tetons are most likely to get enough snow that hiking (rather than merely navigating) would be a problem. In Glacier you might get snow, but its not especially likely to obscure the trail that time of year. Yellowstone, being high but less mountainous, is best of all in terms of snow not making a nuisance of itself.

As for Southern Utah, IMO the best destination for a first time but experienced and fit backpacker is either the Escalante or Robbers Roost country. Problem is that from either SLC or Vegas you're talking about a 7 hour drive to actually get to the TH. Steve Allen's guidebooks are THE source for info here.

Another idea if you're willing to rent a car would be the north rim of the Grand Canyon. A good loop for 6 days would be down the Thunder River/Deer Creek trail (plenty to explore), along the river, then up Kanab Creek and back to the car (can't recall the side canyon name off hand). This is a rugged route with navigational challenges, but not especially huge ones, is varied, and will feel nice and remote. Drive from Vegas would be 5-6 fairly straightforward hours with only good dirt road.

Edited by DaveC on 06/14/2011 12:21:43 MDT.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Another trip ideas thread: Western US 5-7 days in September on 06/14/2011 14:44:31 MDT Print View

September in the PNW is still very nice, although the last few years it's seems hard to predict the weather with the patterns we've been having. SeaTac airport is the PNW's largest and you have 3 major NPs within several hours: Mt. Rainier, North Cascades and Olympic. I'm very fond of ONP b/c you can get an incredible mix of temperate rainforest and alpine lakes and passes anywhere in the park. Also, Alpine Lakes Wilderness is basically towards the east of Seattle and has some incredible trails.

Not sure about public transportation to/and from any of these places, though. Maybe someone in Seattle can comment.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: Another trip ideas thread: Western US 5-7 days in September on 06/15/2011 08:19:43 MDT Print View

I spent one night heavy weight backpacking in the Olympics in 1998. I believe I went up Hurricane Ridge and down to Angel Lake. My pack was again in the 45lb range, and it was a backpack that converted to a duffle from Sports Authority. My shoulders were screaming and aside from the views, I was miserable. I was back in WA in 2006 and dayhiked from the visitor center, and I'd love to go back backpacking with my UL load to erase the bad memories. Ridgeline hiking is probably my favorite hiking in the world. Also dayhiked Ranier, and Wonderland is on my list of spots to look into. I'd have to rent a car, but my youngest brother lives is Seattle, so the car rental would be balanced out somewhat by not having to pay for a hotel on my first and last nights there. Asking him to drive me a 3-4 hr round trip to a trail head would be too much. He'd do it, I'm just not asking.

I'd love any more suggestions regarding the PNW, Seattle, Portland or Vancouver areas. Crater Lake is someplace I'd love to go back to as well but it's a 5.5 hr drive from Portland, and that's at the edge of my driving limit.

As far as the Grand Canyon or SW Utah, I checked with work and it wouldn't be a problem pushing my trip back a week or even two to have a better shot at the temperatures dropping somewhat. The first and only time I went to the GC, it was the June ~7-10 (we had to go to Vegas for a wedding and rolled in a backpacking trip) and I remember how hot it was. And how you lose 4-5 hours in the middle of the day because it's just not really safe to hike when it's dry and 98 degrees. At Bright Angel camp the thermometer mounted nailed to a post read over 120F if my memory is accurate. I'd have to build that into and hiking estimates.

Man, I'm really racking up the guidebooks and maps I need to order from Amazon today. Unfortunately, Manhattan is really far from any of the places that I'm going, so the local bookstores and gear shops don't carry the guide where I could just go and browse. EMS at least appears to have Yellowstone and Glacier maps in-store, but not Grand Canyon, Teton or Olympics.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Another trip ideas thread: Western US 5-7 days in September on 06/15/2011 08:26:00 MDT Print View

I will likely walk around Mount Hood or the Three Sisters in September. Great views.

Christopher Wilke

Locale: Colorado
Slightly west of Denver on 06/15/2011 12:56:48 MDT Print View

I don't have a specific trip in mind for your mileage but the aspens are pretty spectacular around that time of year in the Colorado high country. Maybe a loop in the Weminuche or a section of the CT/CDT?

Dave's weather advice holds for Colorado as well. I've had some amazing weather that time of year but it's anybodies guess.