Backpacking Trip Recommendations for me and my Teen Son
Jan 24, 2023 at 10:02 pm #3771361David MBPL Member
Ok I’m new to BPL and frankly to the concept of really lightening my load – I’ve read a ton of posts and they’ve been super helpful. Thanks all!
My 16 year-old son and I get to escape for a week this summer and he wants to do a big trip and really challenge himself. He’s a Life Scout (on the way to Eagle) with plenty of camping experience and some backpacking experience. He and I can both easily cover 10 miles in the East with a traditional 40-50 lb pack. We’re working on lightening that up significantly.
Looking for trip recommendations:
- 5-6 days that would challenge but not destroy us
- ‘Out West’ – Maybe Colorado? we want mountains and elevation, but unsure of the snow factor in June
- Stay within a few hours of a larger airport to maximize hike time and minimize travel
thanks for the advice!Jan 24, 2023 at 10:09 pm #3771363Matthew / BPLModerator
Longer than you have specified but the JMT was wonderful with my kid when they were 12.Jan 24, 2023 at 10:51 pm #3771366
JMT is great, but… I think he said June… not sure if he is set on June, but with the snow we’re having this your June is VERY doubtful this year… think more like mid August this year…Jan 25, 2023 at 8:05 am #3771383DanBPL Member
June can be risky in the Colorado mountains. Some years yes, some years no. Certainly it would be hard to plan a specific destination in advance without knowing snowpack conditions across the state. You’d have to remain flexible and play it by ear. I always get into the mountains in June, but I often need to change my route on the fly. You will also have to consider water crossings carefully.
The constraint of being within a few hours of DEN limits you to a handful of wilderness areas and RMNP. Often, it might take you 3-4 hours to get to the end of the asphalt, but another 1-2 hours to get to the trailhead. Not true of RMNP, of course. Like all NPs, it’s mainly a dashboard experience and virtually everything is paved.Jan 25, 2023 at 12:04 pm #3771402Luke SchmidtBPL Member
June can be early but not impossible. I’m bear hunting in the Alaska mountains by May BUT I’m not trying to hike up and over high passes. Doing a longer route is more of a challenge for that reason.
There are some low elevation areas in Colorado you could look into as a backup plan. Santa Fe, NM might be another good option.
I assume you plan on renting a car? Pick an airport with a good hike up high and a reasonable driving distance. Plan a lower elevation backup. Half the fun is time on Caltopo.com looking at maps! Look at Lost Creek Wilderness in Colorado for lower elevation there. Another would be a section of the Colorado Trail at lower elevation. Not sure about New Mexico low elevation but the Pecos area is nice. I got in there over a Memorial Day Weekend.Jan 25, 2023 at 12:14 pm #3771403Mina LoomisBPL Member
@elmvineLocale: Central Texas
+1 on Pecos Wilderness. Lots of good trails in there; you could map out as many days as you want. Not too much snow in June most years. Keep an eye on fire warnings though.Jan 25, 2023 at 2:06 pm #3771413Matthew / BPLModerator
I missed “June”!
Whoops.Jan 25, 2023 at 8:15 pm #3771447David MBPL Member
Thanks everyone! Checking out Santa Fe now. And if we extend our range from Denver (8 hours maybe?) does that open up other good opportunities?Jan 26, 2023 at 7:58 am #3771460Ben H.BPL Member
@bzhayesLocale: No. Alabama
I think June is the tough part for high elevation this year. If you want to stick with June but relax on elevation I could propose the Trans Catalina Trail. 40 miles of hiking around an island. You hit sea level and 1600-1800 feet everyday. A loop to Lands end and back to Parsons Landing adds another 8 miles or so. It is spectacular solitude within 30 miles of the second largest metropolitan area in the country. You won’t need a rental car to get there.Jan 26, 2023 at 12:25 pm #3771474Luke SchmidtBPL Member
Santa Fe has good options. I think you might be able to do the entire ridge route along the crest of the Pecos Wilderness (i forget the name) if it’s a lower snow year. If not you have “tough guy” options
A. Bring snowshoes.
B. Use a phone app or map and compass to go bushwacking through the forest around any real bad snow areas in the alpine. Worst case scenario find a lower area that is more desert to hike in. I’m sure there are options I just haven’t checked.
Lost Creek is a few hours from Denver. I can’t imagine you not being able to hike Lost Creek in June, at least the lower elevation Eastern half. I did the Goose Creek and McCurdy Peak loop in May once. Worst case scenario the first part of the CT is even lower if I recall. If it’s a really bad snow year that is scenic. Not as wildernessy but better than the AT.
Lots of good options. Just be ready to adapt. Should be an adventure.Jan 26, 2023 at 1:40 pm #3771480Chris KBPL Member
Agreed on Lost Creek and the CT. If you are OK with the thru-hiker popularity of a trail like the CT, it has a lot going for it: easy access to and from Denver Int’l Airport, well-documented, low elevation to start, and it’s 60 or so miles from the start to Kenosha Pass, an easy pick-up end point at US 285.
Oddball recommendation: the Centennial Trail through the length of the Black Hills in South Dakota. Lots of wildlife, no snow, 5.5 hours from Denver if you are willing to drive. It’s not high elevation but it has an Out West feel.Jan 26, 2023 at 2:20 pm #3771485Bill BudneyBPL Member
@billbLocale: Central NYS
Any of the national parks. The Grand Canyon is a hike of a lifetime. Zion, Yosemite, and Sequoia are other favorites. Yellowstone and Tetons, too.Jan 26, 2023 at 6:31 pm #3771518
Tuolomne Meadows will be open in June. Depending on how the rest of winter plays out, there should be good options towards higher country, like Donahue Pass (maybe June is too early this year) or Vogelsang area, or lower still, the gentle pass that leads past Unicorn Peak etc. towards Sunrise camp. You don’t have to stay at those camps, which may be closed in June this year anyway. Any of those routes and their variations may involve some packed snow but no real dangers. And, p.s., If snow seems overwhelming at that time, from Tuolomne there’s the option of hiking down into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. That will be snow free.Jan 26, 2023 at 8:05 pm #3771525DanBPL Member
Agreed, California is the place to go. ;-)Jan 26, 2023 at 9:58 pm #3771537
“Tuolumne Meadows will be open in June.”
Maybe…. Maybe not.Tioga Pass Road is the access. It is closed in the fall until spring due to snow because they do not clear the road. In the spring the snow must be blown out before the road can open. Here is a Yosemite NP link to the historic opening/closing dates https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/seasonal.htm
Note that it typically opens in May or Early June… but… there are years when it does not open until late June or even early July!!! As it stands right now, the Sierra is having a BIG SNOW YEAR… No one knows if that will continue or not… BUT February and March are typically the biggest snow months… and the Yosemite area is already 250% of normal… All the high mountain access will depend on how much snow we get between now and April… and then how much melts between then and June. Also of note.. the Tuolumne Meadows Campground will be closed for the entire 2023 season due to construction work.Jan 26, 2023 at 10:05 pm #3771539
“Any of the national parks. The Grand Canyon is a hike of a lifetime. Zion, Yosemite, and Sequoia are other favorites. Yellowstone and Tetons, too.”
The Grand Canyon can be too hot in June… I would not hike down inside in June as it could be 120F down there. Heat in June, July, and August is the main reason for rescues and even death down inside the canyon. If you have no experience hiking in that kind of dry heat, it is easy to misjudge what can be done safely. There are hikes on the rim where it is higher and cooler… especially the north side… but, again, check to see if the roads are open… it is about 8,000 feet and snows there too.
I have not kept track of Tetons weather, but would not be surprised if they are having a big snow year also… as is much of the west.Jan 26, 2023 at 10:06 pm #3771540
Well, yes, it’s January. No telling how things will unfold, snow wise, looking at June. The Tioga road is almost always open before June.
a lower option in Yosemite is to start in the valley and hike to Merced Lake and environs. In a high snow year this would be more accessible. It’s a beautiful hike. Ideally early is best to avoid other hikers, but in a high snow year, most might be discouraged and stay away. One can make a loop by taking the “high route” back (not that high). Day hike up towards Vogelsang out of Merced Lake or that area.Jan 30, 2023 at 11:47 am #3771823David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
Fly into Vegas and backpack in Zion? Stay high to reduce temps, but the some of the low routes have water cooling (notably, The Narrows).
If you’re up for a bigger adventure, Denali NP is spectacular and is clear of snow in the backpacked portion by mid-June. But there are no trails – you pick your own path around the unit you select (and get to yourself), so that adds a level of effort and reduces the miles you can do each day. But it’s got “big mountains” – the tallest in the North America (and by one definition, the tallest in the world). If you book ANC-Denali on the Alaska RR, then you get a very scenic ride and don’t have to rent (and mostly park) a car. That lovely alpine zone above tree line, above the brush line, starts at only 1500 feet elevation, so you get that terrain and views without the huffing and puffing of being at 10,000 feet.Jan 30, 2023 at 10:14 pm #3771895Ryan JordanAdmin
@ryanLocale: Central Rockies
I’ll throw in another vote for the Pecos Wilderness in June. My favorite time of year there! Access to the high country is pretty easy. Fishing can be really good. Summit the high peaks is totally doable. And it’s a really pretty landscape.
I’d pass on anything in the Sierras or MT/ID/WY/NoCo in June because it’s pretty unpredictable.
Southern CO Rockies are 70/30 depending on snowpack and these days, the desert of S UT, SW CO, and N NM are starting to get pretty hot by the time June rolls around.
* These are generalizations, FWIW *Jan 31, 2023 at 9:28 am #3771915
Ryan, I’ve hiked for decades in June in the Sierra. And May. You’re right that it can be less predictable, especially in terms of snow pack. (And by the way, apparently snow avalanches over 120 from Lee Vining up to the Yosemite entrance are particularly bad this year. They happen every year however.) Rivers can be running high.
Desolation Wilderness/TRT out of Tahoe has a lot of easier routes that are safe if some snow is still present. Easy to get to from an airport. Burgers afterwards.
all that said, the Pecos Wilderness sounds good.Jan 31, 2023 at 3:14 pm #3771935Alan WBPL Member
Re Pecos WA in NM, vast areas have been ravaged by wilfires in recent years. Entire WA was closed through June 2022.
May-June, before monsoons, is often peak WF season in NM with frequent large closures from middle of state to south.
More reliable June locations for NM include in northern NM: Latir WA, say from Cabresto Lake; San Pedro Parks WA, say CDT with spur and loop hikes through huge meadows (Parks) at 10k ft with elk, prairie dogs, coyote serenades, deer, and ALAS cattle; maybe Chama River Canyon WA; and surely Columbine-Hondo and Wheeler WAs north of Taos, say peak bagging Wheeler, Old Mike & Walter up East Fork of (yet another) Red River.
In SE CO, Spanish Peaks WA is a largely unused gem and an easy drive from DEN & COS: daily sightings bighorn in high talus, elk, deer, 8 skittery black bear in 36 hours in 2021, cougars, coyotes, etc.; perhaps best lava dikes in the world, huge and long; Wahatoya and Apishipa trails plus West/East Spanish summits.
These Rocky Mtn WAs in Northern NM and southern CO are not as/more scenic than the Sierra or Rockies further North into Canada; but they are usefully more reliable in June, typically free of snow and still wet enough to be safely open to public re fire.Feb 1, 2023 at 6:14 am #3771969Joe MezickBPL Member
@nj_coastalLocale: USGS: Mount Holly, NJ
“… in the East …”? Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia. A good mix of wilderness terrain and vegetation with plenty of outstanding views shortly after the first few miles off the main trailhead.
West? I’ve done Red Rock Country in Sedona AZ during October. Awesome desert views in that region. Also the Grand Canyon is breathtaking and a popular BSA adventure place. June is going to be HOT in most of the areas out west, so select locations near streams. I’ve believe drought conditions are widespread at this point in time, so keep watch on the “radar”.Feb 1, 2023 at 8:27 am #3771972Ken LarsonBPL Member
@kenlarsonLocale: Western Michigan
Isle Royale National Park OR Porcupine Wilderness State Park – Michigan during the months of May or June. This area is very different from the Western Areas mentioned.Feb 1, 2023 at 9:02 am #3771978Joe MezickBPL Member
@nj_coastalLocale: USGS: Mount Holly, NJ
Based on reading a few of the previous suggestions, I’ll second the Peco Wilderness vote by Ryan Jordan, keeping in mind that all of the suggestions in the posts above have merit.
I found a video of backpacking there in June and one posted in August of Hermit’s Peak. I added this location to my list of “Want To Backpack” places out west.Feb 3, 2023 at 2:29 pm #3772167Alan WBPL Member
Huge Hermit’s Peak fire was last year in Pecos, though Gaia layer has not yet updated it from active tan to past dark red.
To be sure, there are still lovely hikes in the Pecos.
However, 1) plan carefully there using good fire map & /satellite layers AND – especially in June – have a fully developed Plan B, such as the 4 WAs N of Taos, which are more likely to remain open through NM’s dry season before summer monsoons.
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