Some place to be in February

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    Mary R
    BPL Member


    Hey All,
    I'm looking to do a 3-4 day backpacking trip somewhere in North America. I have two big restrictions though:
    1. It has to be sometime in January or February
    2. I'm bringing along a friend who has never been backpacking and HATES the cold

    I live in Wisconsin, but I'm willing to drive pretty much anywhere in the US. Though closer and uncrowded are preferable.

    Any suggestions?

    I was looking at the Grand Canyon or the Canyonlands, but I'm worried that it may get below freezing in those places and it'll forever ruin my chances of convincing my friend that being in the backcountry for days is awesome.

    Bob Gross
    BPL Member


    Locale: Silicon Valley

    Death Valley, if you like it warm.


    David Chenault
    BPL Member


    Locale: Queen City, MT

    Good chance of below freezing weather in Canyonlands that time of year. Almost a certainty of the same higher up in Grand Canyon. If you camp low temps would likely be quite nice.

    Death Valley is fantastic in the dead of winter. J-Tree is nice as well. Cabeza Prieta and Saquaro National Park in southern Arizona have similarly mild climates. Big Bend in Texas is worthy looking into as well.

    Eugene Smith
    BPL Member


    Locale: Nuevo Mexico

    Gila Wilderness, everyone forgets about that chunk of heaven. Canyons, rivers, creeks, hot springs…. it has it all.

    It will freeze at night, but daytime temps are nice down along the Forks. Higher up in the Mogollons will involve snow.

    Brendan Swihart
    BPL Member


    Locale: Fruita CO

    Dave, have you done any trips in CP/OPNP? It's a super intriguing place to me but I haven't talked to anyone who's backpacked there.

    Eugene, how is access in the winter to Gila? Best winter areas to check out?

    Sorry for the thread hijack…I've got a good chunk of time in Jan and I'm looking at southern AZ/NM options.

    Luke Schmidt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Alaska

    Don't forget the benefit of going south is that you get a bit more daylight to enjoy wherever you are. I don't know the daylight difference between Utah and Big Bend but I'd be inlined to check that as a factor. Also make sure your friend has a good pad. If its cold you may want to stay in bed longer and take it easier than you normally would. It really stinks when you want to stay in bed but your back is sore from sleeping on a skimpy pad all night.

    David Chenault
    BPL Member


    Locale: Queen City, MT

    We never made it down to the Cabeza or Organ Pipe when we lived in northern AZ. Was regretting that as I wrote my earlier post. I have mountain biked around Tucson and in the Santa Ritas a fair bit.

    Water would be the big problem, obviously. Documentation of sources is poor, to say the least. Cross country travel and nav should be very good, and the geology of that part of AZ is fascinating. I'd like to get in there eventually.

    Alex H
    BPL Member


    Locale: southern appalachians or desert SW

    Definitely cold in southern Utah in Jan. and Feb., having just been chased out of Canyonlands last week by snow. Sure you could hit a warm spell and the sun is out most every day but the nights will be cold for sure.

    Dave C. is right about Organ Pipe and Cabeza Prieta being difficult as to water sources and right now OP is very dangerous and difficult to get a permit for because of the drug wars.

    Big Bend is my favorite and unlike any of the other desert areas but like the rest of the Southwest is in a tremendous drought right now. The major springs are still running but for how long is a question. You can always cache some water depending on your trip plans. I am headed down there next month. Here is my Big Bend page

    Jan. and Feb. average temperatures are 60's and 30's and essentially no rain. It will probably be a bit closer than Arizona or Southern Utah destination too.

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