Feb 26, 2010 at 6:12 am #1255781
I need some help planning a backpacking trip this summer with my 8 year old son. Some preferences, in no order and off the top of my head:
1. Approx 1 week (flexible on this) while school is out for the summer
2. Relatively easy to access (flying from Atlanta, GA).
3. Preferably in the Western US or Canada
4. Dramatic scenery, but not overly crowded
Thanks for your suggestions!Feb 26, 2010 at 8:41 am #1578916
@verberLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
How strenuous a trip (miles, elevation change, etc)? Have you already done shorter trips near home? Are you willing to do mild off-trail hiking? Finally, what's "not overly crowded". Is this you might see someone every few days. You might cross paths with people one or twice in the day but will have an attractive campsite all to yourselves, you will see a hiker or small group every hour or two, and your campsite will have people within say 200ft of you.
My generic recommendation is the sierras because you have some of the most mild alpine weather combined with magnificent scenery (big rocks, big views, and big trees).
You would have three transportation options to the sierras:
Fly to LAX or Bay area and then have a multi-hour drive. Fly into Tahoe and have a 1+ hour drive. Fly connecting through LAX to MMH via Alaska/Horizon air. From there, taxi/bus could get to you a decent trailhead.
–MarkFeb 26, 2010 at 9:09 am #1578935
Thanks Mark. I guess some more info is in order…I'm still trying to figure out his limits, but he keeps surprising me. He's a pretty tough littly guy and he handles lots of weekend hikes in and around the southern AT (usually 6-12 mpd–I feel he could do more, but I don't push). He did a very steep day hike a few weeks ago up 2000+ feet and back down with temps in the low teens (F) and high winds with no complaints.
I agree on the Sierras being a great choice–I appreciate your suggestions for logistics. I don't mind (heck, even welcome) some other hikers, but I just don't want to share campsites every night with Yosemite Valley type crowds. Advice on when and where to avoid mosquitos would help too.
Any other areas that might be easy to get to? Seattle area? Is there decent access to the San Juans, Wind River Range, Yellowstone, Glacier, etc.? Prefer mountains for this trip than, say, Grand Canyon.
Again, thank you!Feb 26, 2010 at 1:47 pm #1579077
In Colorado probably the top Airport to Trailhead trip is the Four Pass Loop in Aspen. There are shuttles from Denver International to Aspen and in Aspen there is a shuttle right to the trailhead and you can rent a locker I believe at the rec. center for storing extra stuff and shower up after your trip.
The San Juans have generally good access for air travelers with Airports in Durango and Montrose. Direct flights service Montrose from Houston and Dallas. From Durango you have the D&S Narrow Gauge Railway to access wilderness trailheads at Needleton and Elk Park. Montrose accesses the northern San Juans. (trips from the railway stops are pretty strenuous)
There is also a bus service that runs from Denver's Union Station to Buena Vista, Salida and then Gunnison but I am not sure that is still operating on all stops/routes. Buena Vista has good access and trips on the Colorado Trail to 14ers or to the Continental Divide Trail.
With shuttles from Denver to Summit County/Copper Mountain/Vail you could make a trip from Silverthorne or Copper Mountain/Wheeler Flats up to the Gore Range on the Wheeler trail over the pass follow Gore Creek (side trips or side loop up to Gore lake and Deluge lake) back down to Vail and take a shuttle back to Denver (or in reverse).
Just some ideas…Feb 26, 2010 at 1:51 pm #1579082
@icthyLocale: CO Front Range
Your kid is way more burly than my 7 year old. Any hints on how you got there? I took my son and daughter on a winter hike last month and they complained no end. I'm guessing the key is to hike regularly, but any insight would be appreciated!Feb 26, 2010 at 2:05 pm #1579089
Excellent info–thank you. I didn't realize that shuttles could get me directly to the trailheads–I hadn't really thought about it. I assumed car rental was necessary, but that would be nice if I didn't have to deal with it. I'll do some research on these areas and might hit you up for more details later.
When you say "top airport to trailhead trip" in regards to the Four Pass Loop,do you mean easiest logistics, best scenery, etc? What makes it tops in your opinion? Showers definitely are a luxury ;)Feb 26, 2010 at 2:22 pm #1579099
My first overnighter with him was a flat, riverside, 4 mile hike to a waterfall in perfectly nice weather. He was six. He started with the "are we almost there's" after about 1 mile. I just kept taking breaks and telling him he was doing great (feeding him M&Ms helped), but what really got him going was when I let him lead. He really got into that and I eventually had to rein him in since he was enjoying making me run to catch up. Every kid's different though. He has his times when a short day hike is a challenge. I'm no expert, but just being flexible and letting him do what he wants to some degree really makes things easier. Much online stuff I found recommends getting the kids involved in the planning, but I find that doesn't work for me. At least with the route planning. Gear, food, etc, it's ok to involve him. But if I leave the destination up to him, I just end up having to tell him why we can't go here or there and the final destination ends up being a compromise in his eyes. Now he asks me, "What mountain are we going to climb next?". That makes the less than perfect trips worth it. Just getting out and having fun out there is what it's about though. I think George Carlin summed it up about just letting a kid play with a %&#@ing stick every now and then (if you've ever heard that one–warning it's offensive to most folks)!
Looking forward to going this summer with some of his friends and their parents. So now I get to be the guy I used to hate with the noisy rugrats!Feb 26, 2010 at 2:49 pm #1579108
@icthyLocale: CO Front Range
Thanks, Brian. Once we get some temps up in the 50s and the snow melts I'm going to try and take the kids hiking more regularly. It's been remarkably snowy and cold up here in CO this year.Feb 26, 2010 at 3:09 pm #1579115
I'm jealous that you are in CO even if the weather is a little more tame here this time of year.
This idea just occurred to me: REI has some cool kites–real high tech ones that would be great in wide open spaces. Our mountains here have too many trees, but out there it might be a good motivator for them to get to a destination so that they can break out the kites:Feb 26, 2010 at 3:38 pm #1579126
I suggest that you hike off of Tioga Road in Yosemite. A couple of options: Vogalsang area from tuolumne meadows, ten lakes or The Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. You can make some great trips and vary the length according to ability or desire>
You can also fly into Sacramento for a very straight-forward drive into the area.
Another option is Kings Canyon. Some great hikes and Fresno airport is only 100 miles away from Roads End or you can go in via two different lakes from the west, edison and ?.Feb 26, 2010 at 4:41 pm #1579147
Greg–those would be great areas and pretty easy to get to as well. When do you think would be the best time to go?
I assume I'd rent a car and drive–any shuttles or other public transport to either of these areas from the airports?
Thanks!Feb 26, 2010 at 4:42 pm #1579148
@verberLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
If you want to avoid I car (I would) and want to hit the sierras, taking a flight that connects from LAX to MMH would be the ticket. There might be a shuttle, if not use a taxi to go the ~7 miles to Mammoth. From Mammoth is a shuttle that would take you to a number of trialheads near Devil's Post Pile. Plenty of places to explore that way. You could take also take the bus into Yosemite. If you aren't in the valley, go more than 2-3 miles are the crowds disappear except in the designated high sierra camps.
> Advice on when and where to avoid mosquitos would help too.
Varies year to year depending on snow pack levels and a variety of other factors. My general rule of thumb is take they are gone from all but the worse sites by mid August. October (not really an option for you) is my favorite time because the rains typically haven't started, but mosiquitos are normally gone, as are the crowds.
–MarkFeb 26, 2010 at 4:50 pm #1579151
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
In the Yosemite region, mosquitos tend to be fairly temperature-dependent. You might see them buzzing in thick clouds in one warm sunny spot, and then 10 yards away they will be missing from a cool shady spot.
I camped near a lake of the Cathedral Range, and I could see maybe three or four camps of people around the lake. I could see them constantly swatting at mosquitos, and they were all covered with netting and stuff. I was camped about 150 feet vertically from the lake, and about 300 feet away, and my camp was devoid of bugs due to a slightly cool breeze.
–B.G.–Feb 26, 2010 at 4:57 pm #1579153
Great info. I suppose I need to find out what my trail options are in that area, get maps, permit info, bear canister info, etc. Can you suggest a good book, website or other source of info on how to put this together if I choose that area? I'm not the type who enjoys endless hours of planning; more the grab my pack and go type, but with my son I need to have things fairly well thought out before we get on the plane. If it's easy to just arrive and figure it out from there, we could do that, but mama might not be happy =) Trying to get her to join us, but it'll probably be a guys trip.Feb 26, 2010 at 5:05 pm #1579156
Good to know because I hate skeeters!
Site selection makes such a difference, huh?…and not just for bugs. Where I hike in the humid Southeast, just moving a few vertical feet away from a water source can be the difference between waking up soaked or completely dry.Feb 26, 2010 at 5:09 pm #1579159
@hikinggrannyLocale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Just a warning that some children may be more susceptible to altitude sickness than adults, or so I've read and experienced. Try to find a place where you start low and have a net gain of approximately 1,000 feet between camping sites each day, or where you can drop to lower elevations for sleeping.Feb 26, 2010 at 5:19 pm #1579169
Anyone have any suggestions for me in the Pacific Northwest? Seems like that area would have tons of options with easy access. I've been all over the world, but that's one area I've never had much of a chance to explore other than a ski trip to Whistler many years ago.Feb 26, 2010 at 5:22 pm #1579173
Good advice. I've had some mild, but not very fun, experience with altitude sickness myself. I'm wondering if the Cascades might be a little easier in that regard over, say, the Sierra???Feb 26, 2010 at 7:36 pm #1579229
@hikinggrannyLocale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
It would be pretty hard to do any of the good backpacks in the Cascades or Olympics without a car; many involve a long drive from the nearest city to the trailhead. Even the PCT between Stevens and Snoqualmie Passes no longer has public transit at the Snoqualmie end. I could recite fantastic backpack locations almost without end, but I can't think of one you could do without a car.
If you do the gradual acclimatization bit I suggested, a Sierra or Rockies trip should be OK. Just plan to take it slower the first few days. It may be that the 8-year-old will run your legs off–you never know!
Glacier NP is a possibility since you can take the Amtrak train to East Glacier and then catch park shuttles to most places in the park.Feb 26, 2010 at 8:59 pm #1579255
I could rent a car, but it's just a hassle, expense, and liability. Plus it would possibly necessitate a out and back or loop trail, rather than an end to end type thing. That's a shame there's no public transit to trailheads in the Cascades or Olympics. Not a deal killer though.
My son would probably love the whole train adventure–as long as Amtrak got us there in one piece! Glacier is certainly on my "must see" list too. I'm going to look into this. Thanks for the suggestion.Feb 26, 2010 at 9:34 pm #1579265
@lori999Locale: Central Valley
There is now a shuttle service from Visalia into Sequoia/Kings Canyon.
I would say a loop hike in Sequoia might be better than a hike in Kings for folks not accustomed to dramatic elevation changes – while still higher elevation, the ascents for some of the options can be less steep. There are some good loop options and the crowds are considerably less stifling than in Yosemite valley.Feb 26, 2010 at 11:29 pm #1579297
@saparisorLocale: Pacific Northwest
Think about Olympic NP. I believe there are shuttle options from SeaTac to Port Angeles, where the park headquarters are. It might be best to rent a car, however.
Olympic has amazing alpine areas, which are around 5000-6000ft elevation, instead of Colorado and the Sierra's higher elevations, so there's an easier acclimation. Many trails start low and work up river valleys to passes, working through temperate rain forest before transitioning up to alpine lakes and passes. The Hoh Valley is the wettest area in the continental U.S., and leads to the glaciers of Mt. Olympus. Part of the park is the coast, offering a 3+ day beach hike. Any of this would offer an 8-year-old some amazing experiences.
One thing: the Olympic peninsula is big and takes a long time to circumnavigate. Best to pick one area.
Finally, IF something happens and the hiking part of the trip is cut short, you have Puget Sound and Seattle, ferries and kayaking, etc. to enjoy!Feb 27, 2010 at 4:41 am #1579316
August is probably your best bet. Blood suckers are virtually gone and the snow is not likely an issue. If planning to hike off Tioga Road in Yosemite then watch for when the road will open. I would give it a month after road opening or you could be slopping through quite a bit of slop and muck. This is looking like a big snow year so later in the season (late july/august) will be "best."
The only public option into Yosemite that I am aware of is the bus that runs from Reno airport all the way down the owens valley. The positive is no rental car expense but it put severe limitations on your trip. The bus runs once a day each way so you have to be in the right place at a certain time. Have not done the bus to Kings out of Visalia but that would limit your Trailhead options significantly. I "contracted" a $100 ride once from Fresno to Roads end in Kings for $100 on Craiglist. My son was 20 and safety wasn't as much of a concern for us. Otherwise rental is about your only option.
If you decide you are interested in the Sierra send me a PM. It can get a bit challenging trying to determine the best trailheads and who permits each of them, especially for Kings canyon. I would be more than happy to help.
One final point. You have heard about the hordes of people in Yosemite. In the backcountry, it is not uncommon to go 20-30 miles of trail without single a single person.
Your son is going to have a lifetime memory.Feb 27, 2010 at 7:08 am #1579330
Greg-if I end up doing the Sierra, I'll def be PM'ing you for more details. Thanks for the offer to help.
Lori–Good to know a shuttle is an option. Once I decide where I'm going, I'm going to look into this. Greg says it limits my trail choices, but if it means I don't deal with a car, it's worth investigating.Feb 27, 2010 at 7:17 am #1579336
Steven-As much as I want to go to the Sierra, Washington really interests me too. I think 2 trips are in order! I'm going to look into the shuttle to Port Angeles and options from there. I'm taking off on a quick overnight trip, so research might have to wait until Sun night. Thanks for the info. Beautiful photo, BTW.
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