Aug 22, 2013 at 7:26 am #1306811
This September, I'll be moving to Las Vegas for a year or two due to my partner's job transfer. We're patching together a long list of weekend trips (and some longer outings) to keep us busy. We're both very much from the Northeast, so everything will be new and different for us! We've already started revamping our gear to include more sun protection, more water capacity, etc. These forums have been a huge help in sourcing gear and apparel for desert trips!
Besides obvious adventures like Grand Canyon, Zion, Tahoe, what are people's favorite places to go? In particular, I'm looking for reasonable driving times for weekend trips, overnights, day hikes, and places that won't be super busy (or good times of year to avoid crowds). Places with entrance fees also irk me, so suggestions for alternatives to national parks are much welcome.
For reference, we usually put in 15-20 miles a day, but we'll probably plan some lower-mileage outings to acclimate to climate and altitude (it's been ~7 years since I last hiked out west). Our apartment is very close to Red Rocks so that's our go-to for day trips right now. We'll also be checking out the Mt Charleston area, as well as Lake Mead and surrounding. Also, any recommendations for good trail guides? Cool places to stop on the road to/from trailheads?
Thanks!Aug 22, 2013 at 8:51 am #2017567
I don't live near the area, but last time I was there, I had a great experience in Death Valley. We went in October, and the heat was tolerable. The mountains, canyons, washes, and desert sands were a new and really enjoyable experience for me. And the quiet solitude was special; it never gets that quiet here. Even in the wilderness here, the insects, frogs, birds, etc keep some noise going.
I suspect others in the area can turn you on to other great desert experiences too.Aug 22, 2013 at 9:35 am #2017579
@millonasLocale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Mojave National Preserve. A few hours west via high speed highway. 1.6 million acres, and might have been a legitimate national park if not for the politics. Volcano fields, white 600 ft tall sand dunes with a lizard species found only there that have a "sand shoe" feet adaptation, mountain ranges with pinion and juniper, a chain of springs through the middle spaced about a day apart where the Indian route across the desert went, an interesting "normal" cave in the mountains as well as several "lava tube" type caves in the lava fields. In the spring the flowers can be amazing, if only in contrast with the desert.
Lastly the densest, oldest most amazing Joshua trees I have ever seen in the "dome" area. Much bigger and more extensive than anything Ive ever seen in Joshua tree NP. First time I was there I looked at one of them and said, "wow, I think that is the biggest Joshua tree I have ever seen. The I looked around me and saw there were thousands that big in the area.
The distances are huge so each of the areas mention above, and many more, would make at least a good weekend trip. Go in spring and fall especially. The very definition of empty – except in on of the campground or very near one of the parkinglots you will almost never see anyone else.
Added "perk", the setting of a good part of the Zane grey novel "Wanderer of the Wasteland". LOLAug 22, 2013 at 11:32 am #2017616
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
Before you get to Tahoe, you'll be driving up US 395 between the Eastern Sierra and the White Mountains on the CA/NV border. The list is long: access to JMT and PCT trailheads. The quiet, high-elevation and (except for the PCT) lonely side of Sequoia and Kings Canyon. Hot springs – signed and unsigned, improved and wild. Mono Lake tufa, volcanic fissures, bird life. Bodie Historic Ghost Town state park.
You need to get Automobile Club of Southern California's map "Eastern Sierra". (Southern and Northern California are different divisions of AAA). It was great details on many camping, hiking and recreational options as well as clearly indicating gravel and dirt backroads throughout the area.
Here's an old version up on ebay:Aug 22, 2013 at 11:54 am #2017620
White Mountains, Bristlecone Pine Forest.
Telescope Peak, Death Valley. Do on a full moon night.Aug 24, 2013 at 7:40 am #2018170
How is the drive to Telescope Peak trailhead? I've heard the roads in Death Valley can get pretty sketchy and washed out. (I am sort of regretting my decision to sell my 12 year old Subaru, but driving it across the country didn't seem like a nice–or smart–thing to do to a semi-retired car…)Aug 24, 2013 at 7:44 am #2018172
Drove up there in our Civic. Not a problem at all.Aug 24, 2013 at 7:48 am #2018176
FYI, there was lots of bad flooding and road closures in Death Valley in late July. Check out this page for more info:
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