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Hikes in the Southwest - would love input!
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Angela Zukowski
(AngelaZ) - F

Locale: New England
Hikes in the Southwest - would love input! on 12/28/2011 07:18:59 MST Print View

Am tentatively planning to float around the Southwest for a few weeks in April, the obvious big hikes are already on my list (Grand Canyon, etc) but if anyone has suggestions for truly awesome hikes/camp sites please let me know! I don't have a set time frame yet. Definitely want to do a rim to rim of the GC.

Tentative itinerary:

albuquerque, NM
flagstaff, NM
sedona, AZ?
grand canyon
moab, UT
death valley, NV

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Hikes in the Southwest - would love input! on 12/28/2011 07:44:05 MST Print View

I interjected my notes into your itinerary; hopefully I will be visiting some of these places myself if my spring work schedule holds:

Am tentatively planning to float around the Southwest for a few weeks in April, .... already on my list (Grand Canyon, etc) ....

Tentative itinerary:

albuquerque, NM

All depends on the amount of snow over winter but Bandelier is always very interesting if you have never visited. It's run by the Park Service and has a really good trail system. The Pecos and Jemez will have quite a bit of snow, especially the higher altitudes if you really want to backpack those two forests. The Sandias will have less snow but the parking spaces are locked at night as it's very close to Albuquerque.

sedona, AZ?

Dayhikes galore. For backpacking, the Dogie trail goes towards Sycamore creek and canyon from a trailhead easily accessed from a dirt road, though there's other trailhead options.


Only dayhiked the Narrows (bring a big hiking stick) and Angels Landing using their shuttle system in late May. The Narrows in April might require renting a wet suit. A little off topic but I've had some suspect fast food towards St. George both times I've visited, so maybe eat in Vegas (and pack some pastries), or get a good sit down meal in St. George.

moab, UT

The Canyonlands is actually 3 parks in 1; Chesler Park has a neat trail system and I've been able to use a vehicle as a base if the water sources have turned out dry.

Edited by hknewman on 12/28/2011 07:54:56 MST.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Hikes in the Southwest - would love input! on 12/28/2011 10:09:47 MST Print View

pretty sure Flagstaff is in Arizona, but for a New Englander you got pretty close :-)

a GC Rim to Rim is logistically pretty involved unless you are travelling very light, without a car and can carry everything on your back for the crossing, then just move on to the next location.

a GC Rim to River to same Rim is logistically much easier and still gives you a great feel for the canyon no matter which rim you choose to start from.

a few of us are planning a R2R2R (one day)(or some shorter variation) on April 14.

Bryce Canyon (southern Utah) is also a nice place to visit.

Edited by asandh on 12/28/2011 10:16:51 MST.

Dan Cherry
(risingsun) - F

Locale: Northern Arizona
southwest on 12/28/2011 10:15:47 MST Print View

A couple thoughts:

You'll need a permit for your rim to rim in the GC if you're staying overnight in the Canyon. Backcountry Office is here. Could have a hard time getting a permit for April as it's one of the favorite months.

If you go to Sedona, one of the crown jewel day hikes of Sedona/Arizona is the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon. Info on it is HERE and HERE. You can overnight camp in there, but you have to be at least 6 miles back in, and campsites are a bit few and far between. Wading through water is required after about 3 miles in, if I recall. Might be a little cool for overnighting in April, especiallywith the wading, but doable and would also make a excellent day hike to go in 3-4 miles and then back out.

James W.

Locale: Mid Atlantic
Southwest Hikes/Grand Canyon on 12/28/2011 10:48:11 MST Print View

If you go to Grand Canyon allow yourself a day to get your body adjusted to the higher altitude. Permits for the R2R can be difficult to obtain. Another cool hike that I've done is Grandview Trail to Horse Shoe Mesa- we spent 2 nights there and it was awesome ( you will need to haul some water with you and cache it for the hike out and hike down a fairly exposed trail to the Miner's Spring aka Page Spring for your water, another .5 mile?). Also a plus for this trail is it is more off the tourist path and no donkey poo to step in. You will only see maybe 10-15 people.

For a GC day hike you could do Hermit's Rest to Santa Maria Spring.

Bryce Canyon has some great hiking too. Also anywhere around Cedar Mesa Utah- Kane Gulch, Fish & Owl Canyons are pretty awesome.

Elizabeth Tracy
(mariposa) - M

Locale: Outside
Limit it a bit on 12/28/2011 12:38:45 MST Print View

That's an awful lot of places to try in just "a few weeks in April." Try to narrow it a bit? (A lot?)

I'm going to insert my opinion FWIW: The Colorado Plateau formation is a lot more interesting and stunning than anything south of it. That means southern Utah and the Grand Canyon are the real draws of the region.

The outstanding Colorado Plateau destinations in southern Utah are not just in the national parks (Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands, Arches, Capitol Reef). Paria Canyon/Buckskin Gulch; the Escalante drainage; and Grand Gulch are just three prominent examples that are not inside a national park. I would put all 3 of those places ahead of Bryce, Arches, and Capitol Reef in terms of stunning b-pack opportunities. (Bryce and Arches are more day-visit kind of places.)

Sedona is great for mountain biking, resorting, dayhiking etc. etc. but the backpacking there is boring COMPARED TO what you can get in southern Utah. That area will seem too crowded and civilized after a true wilderness experience in Utah.

Get Kelsey's book, "Canyon Hiking Guide to the Colorado Plateau" and plan from there.

- Elizabeth

David T
(DaveT) - F
death valley. on 12/28/2011 14:42:54 MST Print View

Only a bit (The Triangle) of Death Valley NP is in Nevada, most is in California (if that's the Death Valley you mean). It's typically lovely in April, just starting to get warm (or quite warm, down low!) and if there are any flowers, it's in the March-April time period. Lots of beautiful hiking, wide open spaces, etc. It's a popular time of year, especially if the bloom is good (not much rain of late, so who knows on that).

Angela Zukowski
(AngelaZ) - F

Locale: New England
thanks for all the input! on 12/28/2011 18:17:32 MST Print View

In my defense re: shameful location typos - I was rushing!!!! I should have been packing for my drive back to NH rather than dilly-dallying on here! :)

That was all VERY helpful. Locations are not set in stone... I was mostly basing it off of feedback from friends and family, and that's why I came here - because my friends and family are not serious backpackers. At all.

I'm fine with longer hikes/more backcountry stuff/hauling water. And actually will not have to worry about a car, as I am getting a ride with friends and it will be their agenda not mine in terms of dealing with vehicles. I'm the only one really looking to spend a lot of time backpacking.

Elizabeth, you are absolutely correct I should narrow things down... this is definitely the preliminary planning stages (and I tend to get carried away)! And I especially appreciate the guidebook suggestion.

I have been getting a little stressed about permits...

And Art! Thanks for giving me a heads up... who knows, maybe we will cross paths :)

Elizabeth Tracy
(mariposa) - M

Locale: Outside
itinerary on 12/29/2011 00:46:22 MST Print View

What kind of car(s) will you have access to? That will play a role in narrowing down which areas you can realistically explore.

The vast majority of the areas mentioned can be accessed with a non-4WD car. The western side of Canyonlands, though - the area called The Maze - is not something I'd dare to do without a 4WD and a lot of faith in my friends' navigation skills both on road and on trail. And if you don't have 4WD, accessing the east/north side of Canyonlands (and Arches) can be a very long drive.

The following is all stuff you can do without a 4WD:

Since Grand Canyon is by far the most difficult to visit in terms of permits, I'd maybe start the trip there. Get your lodging/camping/b-pack permits well in advance (which could mean NOW). If you want to b-pack but the others don't, maybe plan for 3 days/2 nights in GCNP with them camping and you hiking a 3-day route such as the Boucher/Hermit loop into the canyon? Just an example.

Vegas is maybe the best place to meet up if some of you have to fly in; it's cheap to fly there. Also cheap to rent cars there. Albuquerque or Flagstaff are other good places to start a loop; but tend to be more $$$ to fly into.

Suppose you start in Vegas. GCNP is a few hours' drive. After doing GCNP you could describe a loop north towards and through southern Utah, starting with visits to Monument Valley and Arizona's famous Antelope slot canyon, and ultimately ending with Zion NP which will get you to within 2:30-3 hours from your Vegas start/end point.

If, again, you want to b-pack while your friends just dork around and do day-hikes, Moab, Escalante River, and Zion are probably the 3 best destinations in Utah that accommodate both.

Of the places I mentioned before: (Utah roughly east-to-west)

Grand Gulch is not a good place to combine a b-pack with friends doing a day trip. They won't be able to see much in one day, whereas you'd need 3-4 days for a good b-pack to traverse the canyon.

Moab is a good base from which your friends can see eastern Canyonlands and Arches over several days. This is also a mountain-bike mecca. If you want to b-pack here, I'd pick the Needles section of Canyonlands. Or, just stick with your friends and get them to day-hike with you there, and go see Arches etc. with them, so you don't miss anything.

Capitol Reef NP is worth a drive-thru/stopover/camping for all of you.

The road from Capitol Reef to Escalante via Boulder has some of the most stunning views in America.

Escalante River drainage is an extraordinary and remote place, mostly known for its slot canyons. Your friends could do day-hikes to the main slot canyons, Lower Calf Creek Falls, etc. etc. while you either join them, or do a 2-3 day down Coyote Gulch and back.

Paria/Buckskin Gulch is maybe the best slot-canyon backpacking trip in America, but I'm not sure there is much for day-trippers in that area for your friends. Maybe others here will weigh in? For a b-pack trip you'd go in Buckskin and out Paria, that's 2-3 days.

Bryce NP is amazing and really small. Most people just hike 1-2 dayhike loops and then drive onwards. Or just car-camp one night. I did not really enjoy a b-pack trip here very much, as you can't b-pack the best parts of the park.

Zion NP has world-class backpacking (the Zion Narrows and the Zion Traverse being only 2 examples). Also lots to do for day-trippers, for a few days. Try to plan for several days there! (I b-packed Zion with just a walk-up, but that was years ago and may have may need reservations now.)

This is not even to mention some of the lesser known but amazing places in southern Utah such as Natural Bridges, Fish and Owl Creeks, Goblin Valley, Little Wild Horse Canyon, Rainbow Bridge, the Dirty Devil River, the Waterpocket Fold.

If I could only backpack two of the above mentioned places, Grand Canyon and Zion would be my choices without a doubt.

So my biased opinion is to cut Death Valley, Sedona, and New Mexico from your trip. (Okay, so if I had to add anything back in, it would be Canyon de Chelly and environs in far NW New Mexico.) You did not say how many weeks you will have. With, say, 3 weeks, the driving loop I described above is already PLENTY of driving - remember how huge the West is! You and your companions will probably feel rushed just trying to see this much of Utah, it is that extraordinary.

- Elizabeth

The Cossack
(thecossack) - F

Locale: sedona
cedar mesa on 12/29/2011 18:25:20 MST Print View

grand gulch