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Kid-friendly backpacking trip within 5 hours of San Francisco/Silicon Valley?
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Kelly Sanderson
Kid-friendly backpacking trip within 5 hours of San Francisco/Silicon Valley? on 08/20/2013 13:38:01 MDT Print View

I'm planning on taking my 7 year old daughter out for a night or two over Labor Day weekend. Can anyone suggest a fun place to go that a) won't be ridiculously crowded for the long holiday weekend, and b) has the ability to dial up/dial down the length of the hike, depending on how eager the kid is? (In the past, I've gotten up to 5 miles out of her with a pack on her back, but some of that included a little bit of towing assistance from her dad, and he won't be joining us on this trip.) I'm willing to sacrifice some epic beauty for just the chance to be outside and sleep in a tent in some relative isolation, although varying nature/wildlife always makes it more interesting for the little one.

I had been considering Saddlebag Lake/20 Lakes Basin east of Yosemite, but the popularity of the trail was giving me pause. (And now, with wildfires closing the north entrance to the park, it means a much longer slog to get there than I had planned.) Any other ideas?


Paul Wagner
(balzaccom) - F

Locale: Wine Country
too many choices on 08/20/2013 22:56:01 MDT Print View

Gosh--there are so many:

Hike out of Grouse Ridge off Highway 20 near Bowman Lake---a ton of lakes that you can hike to there.

Plenty of spots in Desolation---or Lake Winnemucca out of Carson Pass.

Ebbetts Pass: You could try Noble's about 4 miles on the PCT

Carson-Iceberg wilderness: Sword Lake or Lost Lake out of the COunty Line trailhead, or Clark Fork off the end of that road.

WE have a bunch more on our website:

Joe Lynch
(rushfan) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Lakes Basin near Graeagle on 08/20/2013 23:18:59 MDT Print View

I've taken my scout troop to the lakes basin near Graeagle in the Plumas NF. It can be a little crowded but is a really beautiful area. Glacial lakes with granite ridges, elevation around 6000', only a fire permit required. Back country camping is restricted to the northern lakes in the area. Easiest access is from the state park just to the north.

Click on the link for lakes basin. Pm me if you have specific questions.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Lakes Basin near Graeagle on 08/21/2013 09:52:45 MDT Print View

Kelly I have been to 20 Lakes Basin numerous times. Yes the trailhead is crowded but that is due to day hikers and fisherman for Saddlebag Lake. Once you pass the lake, especially in the afternoon, you will basically have the basin to yourselves. There are some nice places to camp but you have to search them out. The beauty of the towering peaks that surround the basin is awe inspiring. Camping at the trailhead is abundant too. I cannot suggest this hike more.

Edit: On a side note I saw your concern about Hwy 120 and the fire. Since you need a permit to camp overnight in 20 Lakes Basin, you will need to pick up your permit at the Mono Lake Visitor Center on Hwy 395 near Lee Vining. Why not take Hwy 108 which is about the same travel time as Hwy 120, go north to Lee Vining, pick up your permit and head up to Saddlebag Lake.

Edited by kennyhel77 on 08/21/2013 09:55:25 MDT.

Kelly Sanderson
thank you! on 08/21/2013 22:01:42 MDT Print View

Thank you for the great suggestions!

@Ken: I'm under the impression that I can pick up a permit for 20 Lakes Basin at Tuolumne Meadows. The plan had been to drive out Friday night and spend the evening at Crane Flat (we have a reservation), then swing by TM and start the hike in the late morning on Saturday. In my head, the drive through the southern entrance of Yosemite and backtracking to Crane Flat would have been a major diversion...but when I look at it again on the map, it's not nearly as long as I'd thought. We might just stick with a modified plan A.

That said, some of these other places look very tempting! I'm relatively new to backpacking and the area, and my only reliable partner at the moment is my daughter (husband just isn't that into it....gasp!), so it's really nice to see some other suggestions.

@Paul: Great site, by the way! Looking forward to perusing it over the next few days.

@Joe: Looks like a beautiful place! We have friends who live in Auburn, which would help break up the drive a bit. Definitely on my short list.