Oct 6, 2013 at 7:14 pm #1308413
Me and my hiking buddies are east coast hikers who want to experience some west coast hiking for the first time. We would like to do something really beautiful at higher elevation. The only thing is I know that most good hiking spots have deep snow pack during mid March. Maybe something in the southern Rockies? We really have no idea. I appreciate all suggestions. Ideal distance would be 50-100 miles. Thanks!Oct 6, 2013 at 7:45 pm #2031378
@saparisorLocale: Pacific Northwest
Anything high elevation — around 3000 to 3500 feet in the PNW will be snowed in. Our thick forests and lack of strong sunlight keep everything socked in sometimes until June, earliest maybe May. I think you will have to keep south of the Bay area and out of the Sierra to avoid snow at even mid-altitudes.
What about looking towards New Mexico, Arizona or southern Utah?Oct 6, 2013 at 7:49 pm #2031380
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
Not high elevation, but what about the Lost Coast?Oct 6, 2013 at 8:00 pm #2031386
@rosyfinchLocale: the mountains
for a ski trip.
or maybe the Lost Coast hike in N. Cal…
or S. Cal desert flowers…
or southern Arizona…
Bill D.Oct 6, 2013 at 8:04 pm #2031387
The Lost Coast Trail looks like a good possibility. I still want to look at some high elevation stuff thoughOct 6, 2013 at 8:09 pm #2031388
@rosyfinchLocale: the mountains
then plan on a ski trip.Oct 6, 2013 at 8:33 pm #2031397
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
If you don't cross country ski, then try snowshoes.
In the Sierra Nevada Range, March is high season for both skis or snowshoes. The snow depth peaks around the end of March and then starts the big meltout. On a really good snow year, we can ski out to the end of June, which is about the same time that the summer trails start to open up.
–B.G.–Oct 6, 2013 at 8:57 pm #2031402
@cameronLocale: The WOODS
If you don't want to snowshoe you might consider Big Bend, Guadalupe NP, Utah or maybe the Gila Wilderness (might be too much snow there but it would be a better bet then any of the high ranges).Oct 7, 2013 at 10:21 am #2031502
@wildtownerLocale: Grand Canyon State
+1 for Utah in March. There are so many options in Southern Utah that I don't even know where to start! Canyonlands, Moab, etc.
Or what about Grand Canyon? In March, you'll have to enter by the South Rim (North Rim is closed), but on a 50-100 mile trip, you can quickly get away from the tourists and into amazing backcountry terrain. Very "western" indeed – there's nothing like that on the east coast!Oct 7, 2013 at 3:21 pm #2031589
@davecLocale: Crown of the Continent
High elevation can mean different things, but almost by definition it means snow in late winter.
Your best bet for that time frame is mid and low elevation stuff in the southwest. Below 6000' in southern Utah. Below 7000' in Arizona or New Mexico.Oct 9, 2013 at 1:03 am #2032184
I'd go to Lost Coast in the fall, not in the spring. Spring is more likely to be windy and rainy. You may even feel like you haven't escaped the East Coast. The far north coast in CA is COLD.
On the other hand, March is one of the BEST months to visit the desert Southwest. It can be chilly nevertheless, so err on the side of the somewhat lower elevations as Dave C. suggests. (Higher-elevation weather will fluctuate greatly in March. I have been up to Bryce NP (9000+ feet) on a sunny March day and it was very warm. Went there another year about the same time, and a storm took the mercury down to zero degrees at night.) Zion is a great lower-elevation park, and if the weather is warm-ish (or even if it isn't) you can hike quite a few thousand feet uphill from the main valley in Zion up into the rim country. Spectacular.
If it's not too late, make haste to apply for a Grand Canyon permit! March is great timing for a GC visit.
So there is the southern half of Utah, parts of Arizona (GC, Mogollan Rim, Sedona, Tucson, etc.), New Mexico (which I do not know well, and a lot of areas are actually high elevation and cold), and California (Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Anza Borrego State Park, etc.). There are also the parks in far west Texas and I don't know those ones. Lots of choices. However, if someone put a shotgun to my head and demanded to know which of those many great choices is the best trip of a lifetime, there is absolutely no doubt I would choose Grand Canyon and Southern Utah. The Colorado Plateau (which encompasses southern Utah and the Grand Canyon, but not the other places mentioned here) is its own unique, technicolor geography, and no other destination IMO can match it.
Fly into Vegas, rent a car, and those places are a relatively short drive away (by Western USA standards!). Remember too that many of the best places do not happen to be within the national parks.
I get envious even thinking about it!
– ElizabethOct 9, 2013 at 1:21 am #2032185
Forgot to mention that March is the month when the snowcap PEAKS in most of the mountain ranges of the American West. It does not tend to start serious melting till May, and some years we cannot get into the spectacular high-elevation stuff till sometime in July. (Unless you are specifically into "spring trips" using skis or snowshoes, and have the attendant skills.)
If you do go to the southwest, be willing to consider doing several shorter backpack trips and even a series of day-hikes, rather than a 50+ mile trek. A lot of the very best destinations are in convoluted and jaw-dropping gorgeous geographies that do not lend themselves to week-long thru-hiking, because you dead-end at this cliff or that cliff and you can't make a trail that goes 50 miles. Some favorites that can get you 15-40 miles at a time are: Buckskin Gulch to Paria to the Colorado; or Grand Gulch; or Coyote Gulch on the Escalante (RT to the river and back); or the rim at Zion; or Grand Canyon. And Utah is just one of those places where you HAVE to do some of the dayhikes. So do a permitted Grand Canyon trip, followed by at least a week of open-ended exploratory road trip through Utah, using walk-in permits and a flexible schedule.
I suppose if you must thru-hike, you could do a 50+ mile section of the Arizona Trail. But having been on parts of it I simply do not believe that trip could be half as interesting as Grand Canyon plus a visit to some of the Colorado Plateau destinations in Utah. Maybe someone here has an alternate opinion.
– ElizabethOct 9, 2013 at 8:54 am #2032266
Thanks Elizabeth for the advice. The Grand Canyon sounds like an excellent idea.
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