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Options for winter in the south west US (without snow)
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Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
Options for winter in the south west US (without snow) on 11/12/2013 20:39:40 MST Print View

I'm looking at extending m options for backpacking in the winter in the south west US.

Ideally I'd like something with a lot of miles.

Death Valley seems interesting... but I'd like something with water.

I'm also willing to jump on a plane.... as long as it's < 2-3 hours.

I haven't done a TON of research here so I figured I'd just ask for some pointers.

Thanks guys!

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Options for winter in the south west US (without snow) on 11/12/2013 21:00:21 MST Print View

"Death Valley seems interesting... but I'd like something with water. "

This may seem surprising, but Death Valley actually has a good deal of water. Unfortunately, most of the water at the floor of Death Valley is underneath the salt crust surface. However, that has to come from somewhere. So, you follow the water up, and there are some significant springs, typically at the base of the various mountain ranges, before the water seeps down to the salty floor. Some of those springs have plenty of flow, especially in the winter and springtime. The trick is in researching those to find which ones are best. The park rangers typically won't tell you anything for sure, because they don't want to encourage you so much that you become a statistic.


Hikin' Jim
(hikin_jim) - MLife

Locale: Orange County, CA, USA
Re: Options for winter in the south west US (without snow) on 11/13/2013 16:05:27 MST Print View

You looking specifically for desert hiking? Or just a bit warmer clime? How many days?

Adventures In Stoving

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Options for winter in the south west US (without snow) on 11/13/2013 16:19:22 MST Print View

You could do the Mazatzal wilderness north of Phoenix along the Verde River (need to pack water for the day and treat that river water); the Bloody Basin vehicle path (not calling it a road) is pretty rough so I've been thinking of ways to get in from the south from the Carefree area.. I would say the Superstitions east of Phoenix (Reavis "Ranch" and falls .. informal trail), but the water in Arizona is not flowing as much as I remember it.

ADD: Looks like the mountains of the Southwest could start seeing a bit of rain this weekend so maybe some water sources may start running again if it keeps up.

Edited by hknewman on 11/13/2013 17:00:31 MST.

Desert Dweller

Locale: Wild Wild West
Southwest hiking on 11/13/2013 21:44:34 MST Print View

Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness is awesome. Aravaipa is the only place I know where there is water year round. The Galiuro Mountain range offers many canyons and trails to hike and explore, almost 20,000 acres of wilderness.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Options for winter in the south west US (without snow) on 11/13/2013 22:23:57 MST Print View

"I haven't done a TON of research here so I figured I'd just ask for some pointers."

This is what I usually do...

Get a big-a$$ road atlas and look for large areas with few roads. If it is government land go to and research for suitable areas. The lack of trails is a bonus. I suggest southeast Nevada for starters. I do this almost every December and head to Nevada or Arizona, almost always to places I have never been to before.

Albert C.
(Albsthehiker) - F
This May be Stretching the West Part on 11/14/2013 09:05:45 MST Print View

I know you said that you wanted something with water, but if you're will to cache water, it would be definitely worth checking out Big Bend National Park, TX.

You could do the Outer Mountain Loop, (approximately 3-4 tough days) couple with the Ernest Valley Loop (at least 4 days).

Not exactly west, but beautiful wild west country.

Don Morris
(hikermor) - F
Pay Attention to the Altitude on 11/15/2013 20:01:56 MST Print View

In Arizona, anytime you are 4,000 feet high (maybe even 3,000) you should consider the likelihood on snow during the winter months. Conditions will vary greatly from one year to the next, so stay current.

I can remember hiking all night long on snowshoes in the Galiuros on one trip. It indeed is a very nice place.

Christopher Yi
(TRAUMAhead) - F

Locale: Cen Cal
DV on 11/15/2013 20:53:00 MST Print View

How about Panamint City?

Brian Mix
(Aggro) - MLife

Locale: Western slope, Sierra Nevada
Panamint on 11/15/2013 22:45:14 MST Print View

I have been to Panamint city via Surprise Canyon and can say it is an absolutely amazing place. One of my all time favorites. It is just like a time warp to 100 years ago. I have stayed in the stone cabin left of and up hill from the trail (before city proper)which I was told was (the?)an original. Use the wood stove to stay warm at night, track the piping out back and repair where the wild burrows have broken it for running water in the cabin, take an outdoor bath in the fire heated tub, check out the mining relics abandoned over night, bag the surrounding peaks. Simply amazing place.
Do mind the weather as the canyon drains many many square miles of land and you would not want to be there for the flood. The seven water falls used to be a legitimate road the mining trucks and other vehicles used to access the city until it was carved down to bedrock in a flash flood leaving the city cut off from access.

Karl Keating
(KarlKeating) - MLife
Grand Canyon on 11/15/2013 23:11:20 MST Print View

Consider the Grand Canyon. Yes, it can have snow, but commonly the snow doesn't extend far below the rim. You may need crampons or micro-spikes for the top part of the trail, but you can cache them once you reach the snow-free area, which often is about 2,500 feet down. After that, you have pleasant traveling to the river (plenty of water!) and, on some trails, springs part way down.

I'm heading out to the Tanner Trail on Monday. There is no snow at the rim at the moment, and the forecast suggests I'm not likely to see even a single snowflake on my trip. There may be several more weeks of snow-free days this year.

Edited by KarlKeating on 11/15/2013 23:12:05 MST.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Options for winter in the south west US (without snow) on 11/20/2013 15:31:26 MST Print View

Good hiking out here in the backcountry behind Santa Barbara, Ventura/Ojai. Get a map of the Sespe Wilderness (Ventura county) and/or the San Rafael Wilderness (Santa Barbara county).

Slaton Whatley

Locale: Catalinas, Saguaro, Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon x2 on 11/26/2013 07:57:47 MST Print View

I'll second Karl on the Grand Canyon. Winter is an amazing time to explore the Canyon, there's often water with the snow and rain we get in the winter months, and the crowds are few (especially if you head outside of the Bright Angel and Kaibab trails corridor).

The Tanner trail is one place I haven't been but you'll definitely get some solitude during the winter there and will probably have no issues getting permits.

I'm a big fan as well of the Grandview Trail area. There's a great loop over there (Cottonwood Creek 2 nights, Hance Creek 1 night and then OUT) and you may have the chance to scurry down to the river via the Old Grandview "route." Great great trip, hardly anyone in the Grandview, Tanner, or New Hance areas, especially in winter.

I'm heading to the Grandview tomorrow and will have a trip report, video, and pictures up soon there after that I'll post on here.

Hope this helps!

Heath Poulter
(hpoulter) - M

Locale: Southwest
AZ Hiking on 12/06/2013 15:52:59 MST Print View

Anywhere in AZ right now will be fantastic as long as you stay below about 4,000ft anything above that and you will encounter snow and subzero temps, depending on how the weather is it may snow below 4,000ft as well. I live near Phoenix and about twice a winter we get snowed on and freezing temps. Last year it got down to 17 degrees at night so please check the forecast before you venture out. There is a ton of good hiking near Phoenix. The Mazatzal mountains are great I hiked them in February and the trails at the top were snow covered and icy in the shadows but passable and me and my Dad were the only ones out there it was fantastic. The Superstition mountains are great as well. I haven't done a whole lot of hiking in Southern Arizona but there are a lot of mountains and due to the snow at higher elevations every little stream and river that is normally dry during the summer is running like a river. It's fantastic.

Heath Poulter
(hpoulter) - M

Locale: Southwest
Re on 12/06/2013 15:55:52 MST Print View

If you venture out to the Grand Canyon know that a lot of the roads are either shutdown or not maintained in winter. Also day time temps at the North Rim right now are hovering around 20 degrees with night time temps around 6 degrees. If you plan on hiking here take every precaution and be prepared for the winter weather. As you are far far from civilization.

Karl Keating
(KarlKeating) - MLife
Grand Canyon update on 12/06/2013 17:55:04 MST Print View

On November 15 (see above) I said I was heading out to the Grand Canyon and that no snow was in the forecast. Ah, sometimes forecasts are wrong.

I took the Tanner Trail, the easternmost on the South Rim. When I got to the Colorado River, it was t-shirt weather. I had planned two leisurely days out by the same trail (8 miles, 4,600 feet of gain), but they proved less leisurely than I had expected.

The first day toward the top it started to rain. I ended up camping 3.7 miles from, and 1,800 feet below, the top. The next morning, just as I broke camp, the snow came. It had rained hard during the night, and there was snow everywhere above me, and now I was in it.

The hike out took four hours. The trail was partly obliterated. Luckily, I had brought along Micro-Spikes. When I topped out at noon, the temperature was a balmy 31F.

I made a mental note not to hike in the Grand Canyon after All Saints Day.

Heath Poulter
(hpoulter) - M

Locale: Southwest
Re on 12/09/2013 09:58:12 MST Print View

Here is a snapshot of the current weather conditions at the Grand Canyon. This is why you need to be very cautious before you head out for a hike at the Grand CanyonGrand Canyon temps

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Options for winter in the south west US (without snow) on 12/09/2013 12:26:06 MST Print View


Mohave Nat. Monument. Huge, varied. close. amazing. empty of touristas and thru hikers! Even water, but only in isolated places. You would have to plan carefully. There is in fact a string of "oases" or water holes spaced 7-10 miles out across it in a route going east-west that the native Americans used to travel. Its roughly in the middle of the area. I don't have my full sized topo of the are but it is basically the route called "mojave road". It should be obvious from any map of the area. Never done it but one of my bucket list items. There is a dirt road connecting them, but you could go off "trail" most of the time to avoid it. If you know it is there and need to move faster you can get back on. There are TON of miles to that route, taken as a whole or in parts, and even at the beginning and end you may need to plan a shuttle.

Depends on what you can put up with. I love the Mojave, but there are very narrow periods of very comfortable temps in the "shoulder seasons". I especially like March and April - lots of flowers. Reasonable temps. It is ~ 2500 ft elevation except for the mountain. Still, should be bearable. As with all things dessert, I would experiment and learn about the area and how to safely backpack for a few days out and back before trying to do an attractive long journey. A long expedition in such an area is not a thru hike on the JMT or other well trodden route. Your safety is going to be much more in your own hands.

On the other hand the Tucson area is freakin' amazing in the late winter. Comfy, with tons of cactus flowers, and migratory hummingbirds.

Edited by millonas on 12/09/2013 12:31:52 MST.