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Badly need advice. 5-7 days. California. Early April.
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Kirill V
Badly need advice. 5-7 days. California. Early April. on 03/04/2013 10:41:23 MST Print View

I'll have a business trip to US in early April and I'm thinking about (semi-secretly) spending half of it backpacking.

I must visit Las Vegas (for work) and San Francisco (for my flight home), preferably I should be able to start in Vegas and finish in San Francisco (hop-on, hop off public transportation like Bundu Bus, etc).
I'll have 5-7 days (5 days is better, so I'll have reasonable time for work) for my trip.

Because of 1) time constraints and 2) it's my first visit to US, I would like to:

1) see magnificent, gorgeous, stunning nature - (again, it's my first trip to America, and I don't know when the next one will be possible).

2) do something "meaningful" - crossing "something", walking from point A to point B, rafting some river, doing some short but beautiful trail (High Sierra Trail ?).

I'm comfortable solo hiking, walk pretty fast, but never hiked in mountains higher than 5000 feet (1,5 km).
If needed, I could bring packraft and will be happy to raft part of my journey.
I could bring snowshoes, but I'm not very experienced wintertime backpacker, though I still have some time for practice here, at home (Russia).
I would prefer temperatures not below 20 Fahrenheit (-5 Celcius).
40 Fahrenheit (5 Celsius) and up is better.

What would you recommend to fellow foreigner?

Paul Wagner
(balzaccom) - F

Locale: Wine Country
Vegas to SF on 03/04/2013 11:48:03 MST Print View

I know you are from Russia, but the best backpacking in California is actually in the Sierra Nevada---and they are covered in snow right now. Unless you really want a winter adventure, I'd advise you to look elsewhere.

But your suggest for an epic trip makes me think of the Grand Canyon. You should be able to get there from Vegas pretty darn easily--and then have a gorgeous (pun intended) hike down in to the Canyon. Once you've had your fun, it's easy to get from Vegas to SFO in a couple of hours on a plane...or two days in a car.

Stu Pendious
(Beeen) - MLife

Locale: California
Re: Badly need advice. 5-7 days. California. Early April. on 03/04/2013 14:32:28 MST Print View

Zion National Park is worth looking into, and I believe it is possible for it to not be freezing cold in April. Zion is also not very far from Vegas (maybe 250km), but I'm not sure how available public transportation is. Depending on weather, you could maybe do the 'Zion Traverse Trail'(80km).

Here is a thread of people talking about doing it in early April 2011:

The Colorado River is near by too, so there could be some rafting trips in that area that might interest you.

Now, it would be a shame to not see Yosemite when in the area, but in April I think that would maybe be more winter than you'd want to deal with.

Have fun!

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Badly need advice. 5-7 days. California. Early April on 03/04/2013 14:56:24 MST Print View

If the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park (several hours since you would go down to Kingman AZ, then head to the park via Interstate 40) or Zion National Park (about 3+ hrs on Interstate 15) do not work out, there is always the Bay area.

With a rental, you can go to the Ventana wilderness (had a great Spring Break but some overgrown trail), Point Reyes (nice ocean views but probably already reserved for the weekend), or other Bay area wilderness. I'll usually get a rental car at Oakland International mid-morning and zoom out of there. Bring it back and get on the BART to SFO.

kevin smith
near vegas on 03/09/2013 10:25:09 MST Print View

if your going to be in vegas

you might check into the hiking around mt charlston i don t know anything about the area but have heard that its really nice out there and close to vegas for sure

just a thought and you might be able to find a shuttle that goes out that way too


Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
vegas area on 03/09/2013 10:55:22 MST Print View

I would consider Zion and several other places in southern Utah. Its such a different landscape. I think Death Valley would be nice in April too.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Badly need advice. 5-7 days. California. Early April. on 03/09/2013 11:48:24 MST Print View

In early April, any of the good mountains will be full of snow and cold.

Public transportation in the US outside major metro areas is pretty pathetic compared to many parts of the world. I'd personally avoid the Bundu Bus from all the negative reviews I found. You're pretty much limited to Amtrak (train), Greyhound (bus) or maybe some regional bus carriers.

Zion and Grand Canyon as others have pointed out would be the big ticket parks to visit that time of year but in the opposite direction you wish to travel. would be a short trip that would allow you to dayhike to Colorado River and back if you're in shape. They also allow just transportation options if you want to spend a few days, but you need a permit to camp overnight in the canyon and those are hard to come by in the spring. You could try to get a walk-up permit perhaps. Looks like can get you from LV to Zion.

Death Valley could be an option and shouldn't be too hot yet. That's the lowest point in North America. is the spot to check on hiking options there.

I suppose you could go into just Yosemite Valley and maybe rent some skis (or downhill at Badger Pass). There is a bus from Merced ( and Greyhound provides service there (as does Amtrak).

Edited by topshot on 03/09/2013 12:07:06 MST.

Nelson Sherry

Locale: Mid-Willamette Valley
Re: Badly need advice. 5-7 days. California. Early April. on 03/09/2013 14:17:43 MST Print View

How about the Lost Coast Trail, about 4 hr north of San Fransico?

Anthony Weston
(anthonyweston) - MLife

Locale: Southern CA
Yosemite on 03/09/2013 14:50:52 MST Print View

April is the perfect time to explore Yosemite Valley area, the backcountry is loaded with snow but around the valley, it's a low elevation and plenty of water from snow melt and very few people. This is what it looked like last week.

I'll go with you if you want a hiking partner but I can only go on weekends.
I would love to hike the rim of valley.

Big Sur has great trails.

In Vegas I'd go see Antelope Canyon.a

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
That's tough in April on 03/10/2013 09:47:36 MDT Print View

If you're not sure when you'll ever get back to the US, but want something epic, yet avoid winter camping... that's tough in that region in April.

The problem with the Grand Canyon is that it is far too late to get a permit for backcountry camping- you'd have to do dayhikes, or get VERY lucky and find a vacancy at Phantom Ranch. There are permits saved for walk-ins, but you usually have to put your name on a list and wait around for a day or two to get one. So that's a possibility, but it sounds like your time is limited.

I know nothing about the permit system at Yosemite. If others say it is possible, I think that's going to be your best option.

I can't speak intelligently about coastal California.

Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, etc.- outstanding areas, but I'm not sure if that's the kind of "epic" you're looking for. Also, it's not on your route (but neither is Grand Canyon).

I have no idea what the TRT is like in April. My guess is several feet of snow...

Tough one. Lots of great hikes- I'm just not sure about classically epic ones. Those are covered in snow in April.

Edited by acrosome on 03/10/2013 09:49:34 MDT.

Elizabeth Tracy
(mariposa) - M

Locale: Outside
Zion on 03/11/2013 00:48:20 MDT Print View


I have lived in Russia, and wish that we in the Western U.S. had public transit as good as Russia's. Unfortunately it's pretty bad here, and nearly impossible without a car rental to get to any of the great natural areas or parks.

All of my Russian friends without exception have absolutely loved the Desert Southwest here. Fortunately for you, early April is about the BEST time of the whole year to visit that area!

Therefore I would recommend spending 5 days in Zion National Park. Zion is 3 hours' drive in the wrong direction (east) from Las Vegas, but it really represents the best of the desert (after Grand Canyon, which is impossible to get a permit for this late in time). And there may be some kind of transit (?) from Las Vegas to Zion. You could check the "rideshare" section at the Las Vegas version of

There are people on this forum who know much more about Zion than I do, especially the multi-day "epic" hikes there. So you could post more detailed questions about Zion separately.

After 5 days, return to Las Vegas and then fly to San Francisco. (The drive DIRECTLY from Vegas to San Francisco is 11 hours long and very boring.)

An alternative plan (instead of going to Zion) could be to rent a car, drive to Death Valley (the desert), spend some time there, then drive to Yosemite and spend some time there as well. In Yosemite, your time will be on skis or snowshoes. My personal opinion is that this will not feel as much like an adventure as Zion would. Instead of doing an epic hike, you might end up feeling more like a tourist, fighting the crowds and being stuck close to your car.

Frankly I think Zion is far more interesting than Death Valley. And multi-day hikes are possible in Zion because water is available, whereas in Death Valley it is not really.

- Elizabeth

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: early April on 03/11/2013 10:09:45 MDT Print View

Getting a walk-in for something in the Grand Canyon will be doable if you're flexible and in good shape. Awesome but tough backpacking. There is public transit from Vegas but it can be a time suck.

Zion would visually knock your socks off, and the Kolob-main canyon traverse is a logistically simple traverse. I belive there is still a Vegas to Springdale shuttle, if you stay in the right hotel.

If you rent a car the Buckskin Gulch to Pariah River hike is good that time of year.

Kirill V
"Final" ideas on 03/12/2013 22:56:02 MDT Print View

Thank you very much for all suggestions! It's cool to see so many people ready to share their ideas about best places in and around California.
Honestly, I didn't even know about Zion traverse or Spring Mountains before.

Almost any place mentioned deserves more time than I haveā€¦
I would like to keep Grand Canyon for the future trip ("soft" version with kids, or packrafting alone).

Taking into account all factors (time, locations, transportation, permits, etc) I'm thinking about:

- 3-4 days in Sierra Nevada near Mammoth Lakes

It's possible to get there from Vegas with a shuttle bus company and there's a direct flight to San Francisco.
It would be colder than I planned, but I could be prepared for this. I'll bring snowshoes, 4-season bag, etc.

What do you think?
Should I be prepared to snowstorms, avalanches?


- 3 days on Lost Coast Trail
It's possible to hire shuttle bus and I love ocean walks a lot.
This one seems to me easy to do and not requiring any special preparation.

As for Anthony idea
> I'll go with you if you want a hiking partner but I can only go on weekends.

Sounds good!
If it should be weekend - what about April 6-7? What place do you suggest?
If you prefer, you could send me a personal message.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Badly need advice. 5-7 days. California. Early April. on 03/13/2013 08:58:57 MDT Print View

April in the mountains has lots of snow as noted by others. Since you will already be in Vegas, you might want to check out my 3 Lake Mead walk-abouts. See Trip Reports.

No permits needed for these trips.

If you have never been inside a major dam, I suggest taking the Hoover Dam tour.

If you want to do some packrafting, you can put in just below Hoover Dam (permit needed). Google Black Canyon Rafting - Hoover Dam. The river is pretty mild, but some great views in Black Canyon. Once you exit Black Canyon you will be entering Lake Mojave, created by the next down river dam. But you could put together a loop to hike back, just make sure you do it on the Arizona side of the Colorado River.

Hope this helps.

joseph peterson
(sparky) - F

Locale: Southern California
Badly need advice. 5-7 days. California. Early April. on 03/21/2013 22:12:30 MDT Print View

If you go to mammoth you do need to be prepared for winter storms and avalanche. The snow storms in mammoth routinely drop a couple feet of snow and can last for days. Now there is great skiing in mammoth if you are into that, but if this is your one trip to the states GO TO YOSEMITE!

You can easily fill up 5 days of fun in Yosemite. Yosemite is awesome in april. Yes it is a busy park but it is very easy to get away from the crowds. There is lots to see and do. You could bring your packraft and go down the merced. You could hike up to the snowline and beyond if you wanted to and had the experience and equipment.

There is a yosemite forum called yosemite news. Go there for any information you need on yosemite in april

Stu Pendious
(Beeen) - MLife

Locale: California
Re: "Final" ideas on 03/22/2013 00:26:11 MDT Print View

"- 3-4 days in Sierra Nevada near Mammoth Lakes"

Depending when they open Tioga Road or Sonora Pass this year, getting to San Francisco from Mammoth Lakes could be a bigger side trip then you might expect would be. I think to optimize your time in back country, and if you're really wanting to do something in the Sierra Nevada despite the snow, probably better to go in from the west side of the mountains (on the Yosemite Valley side). Plus you get to see Yosemite Valley, which is pretty damn amazing.

Transportation might be a little easier too, being that Yosemite Valley is such a high value destination.