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20-23 Days/Nights to Backpack...
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Elisa Umpierre
(eliump) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
20-23 Days/Nights to Backpack... on 04/23/2014 13:04:57 MDT Print View

I'm looking for some trip ideas. I have been planning a thru-hike of the Superior Hiking Trail in Northern MN to begin on May 2nd. Two feet of snow remains on the trail with snow predicted 4 out of the next 10 days in the region. I might have to concede this trip plan to be a bust. Could I do this trip through snow followed by VERY sloppy, muddy conditions? Yes, but doing so doesn't sound too pleasant.

I'm thinking about switching things up considerably by heading to the SW parks: Yosemite, Bryce, Zion or Big Bend National parks. I know permits are needed for many of the multi-day section hikes, but I thought maybe I could get some good mileage in somehow anyway. I would be willing to mix some base-camping day hikes in with backpacking as well. I'd really appreciate any great trip itineraries our members might have to offer. Thanks a lot!


David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: 20-23 Days/Nights to Backpack... on 04/23/2014 13:58:45 MDT Print View

In your position I'd head to some of the higher SW desert areas: Grand Gulch, Dark Canyon, the Escalante, Zion, North Rim on the Grand Canyon (which while technically not open in early May, will be accessible). What I'd recommend would depend on your experience and comfort in negotiating water concerns and hiking cross country in such environments.

Elisa Umpierre
(eliump) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Canyon Experience on 04/23/2014 14:07:14 MDT Print View

Those parks sound amazing, but having no experience hiking canyon, I am a bit hesitant to hike in canyon country. I do have significant backpacking experience otherwise, though. I'd like to try those areas though.

(drown) - F - MLife

Locale: Shenandoah
Re: 20-23 Days/Nights to Backpack... on 04/23/2014 14:07:18 MDT Print View

+1 on Grand Gulch and Escalante

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: 20-23 Days/Nights to Backpack... on 04/23/2014 14:12:45 MDT Print View

If uncomfortable with pure desert, maybe the higher grasslands of New Mexico and perhaps lower altitude Colorado (see PMags post trip report)? Just look at trails with a perennial water supply and updated fire info. Later in May, New Mexico might get too hot however (there's been a drought but it's forest specific).

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: Canyon Experience on 04/23/2014 14:39:47 MDT Print View

Do a 3-4 day loop in Canyonlands, Needles district to start. Do a week in Dark Canyon next, hit Coyote Gulch and the Escalante for 3-5 days, finish with rim-river-rim on the North Kaibab.

At the end of May you'll be well on your way to being a desert hiking expert.

Elisa Umpierre
(eliump) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Escalante, etc on 04/23/2014 15:32:36 MDT Print View

Escalante via David's suggestion sounds like something I really need to look into. That sounds pretty darn amazing! Thanks so much.

Morgan Rucks
(rucksmtr) - F
... on 04/23/2014 18:55:49 MDT Print View

I wholeheartedly second DAve suggestions of heading to the desert. Consider booking a commercial guided technical canyoneering outing early in your trip. This will let you see some amazing places and gain some knowledge of the area to feel more comfortable when you set off by yourself. It would be money well spent. That area is a great place to hike, and your time of year is perfect too.

Elisa Umpierre
(eliump) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Thanks Soooo Much on 04/23/2014 20:20:32 MDT Print View

How wonderful to get such wonderful, helpful suggestions. Thank you all very much. Time to do some quick research of the mentioned possibilities. :-)

Peter Bakwin
(pbakwin) - F
Desert ideas on 04/23/2014 20:24:12 MDT Print View

Be aware that by later May it will probably be real hot in the desert SW, so slot canyons & places with water would be preferred. Buckskin-Paria canyons would be a nice option. Trans-Zion would probably be ok, being a bit high.

Our Happy Maze loop would be nice, if you are facile with navigation:

Someone suggested Needles & Dark Canyon. These can be linked in an excellent loop by traveling south from Squaw Flat (Needles) into Beef Basin via the Hayduke Trail (route), into Fable Valley, over to Youngs Canyon & down into Dark Canyon, then up Dark to exit via Trail Canyon, then work your way via nice dirt roads to Cathedral Butte & the TH for Salt Creek, which takes you back to Squaw Flat. Many other options exist. Be aware that water is very limited. The SW experienced a very dry winter, so water is especially scarce throughout the region.

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Southern PCT? on 04/23/2014 21:06:01 MDT Print View

Could hike most or parts of the southern PCT - Mexican border to Kennedy Meadows, maybe farther depending on timing northbound. If you start at the border in early May you'll be behind most of the pack, but not too late in the desert. Little snow in the mountains. Check PCTA on which sections still closed by fire damage.

-- Rex

Elisa Umpierre
(eliump) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Wait & See Mode on 04/25/2014 07:55:55 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the helpful suggestions. This is where I'm at now. I contacted a Zion guide company for some direction:

Hello. The near record-breaking snow here in Northern Minnesota has me having to make last minute plans regarding my thru hike of the Superior Hiking Trail from May 3rd until about.....maybe three weeks later. I think I need to head SW for my May hiking/backpacking adventure. This has led me to your company.

I am looking to do multi-day backcountry hiking of Zion, but I do not know what the logistics would be. I would even be happy to do base-camping with several hours of out & back hiking to get myself in shape prior to taking on some of the more strenuous multi-day hikes. I have all the gear a person needs, but no experience hiking canyons or through deserts.

Would it be possible to get backcountry permits at this late juncture? How about the ability to set up a base camp within, or very near the park? I will have an AWD vehicle, though it's a sedan. Would your company be able to create an itinerary for me that would satisfy what I'm asking for here? If so, I would like part of that itinerary to include the guided Needles hike.

I'm very open to suggestions, as I know very little about the region. I do have quite a lot of backpacking experience, however. This being the case, I am aware that EVERY ounce in my pack adds up quickly and I've accumulated the gear that allows me to hike without carrying too much weight. This being said, I recognize the amount of water I'd have to carry during a backcountry hike through the SW is much more than I am used to, but I'd manage.


Elisa Umpierre

Edited by eliump on 04/27/2014 08:24:19 MDT.