Help a Blue Ridge veteran find a hike out west (UT,CA,NV,AZ)
Sep 1, 2023 at 2:07 pm #3788204
I have the opportunity to tack 5 days on a business trip to Vegas in October. With rental car and a 4 hour driving budget, I want to find a great place to do a 4 days on trail . I love this method as it’s completely open and solo. I did something similar last Fall in Washington — the sudden switch between hot smoky and snowy blowy saw me make it to Olympic NP for some lower elev fun.
But, I am spoiled by too many choices between UT out towards Bryce Canyon, AZ out to Grand Canyon or other, or CA to Death Valley or Sequoia.
I’m a 4 season hiker out in the Southeast where I live, doing 3-5 days/50-100 miles out in the wilderness areas sandwiched between GSMNP and the GA line. I haven’t hiked in the SW since the late 90’s when I did first 200 miles or so of the PCT. I prefer wild camping, solitude and am hungry for some of those wide open views out west.
While I hunt down blog posts and spend hours in Caltopo, anyone have any ideas, considerations, decision criteria you’d share?
Thanks in advance!Sep 1, 2023 at 2:45 pm #3788206HkNewmanBPL Member
@hknewmanLocale: The West is (still) the Best
.. decision criteria
Taking away potential flood damaged Mt Charleston ..
First do you want forested mountains or desert?
Forests: Sequoia or maybe the National forests to the NE of St George UT vs Deserts: the Grand Canyon “corridor” or Zion NP.
Second: look at the typical forecast in your October window. Early Oct might be ok for the forests above while layer October better for the deserts (both in the “colder” [on average] Great Basin desert regions).
Going more south (“deeper” into Arizona (the Sonoran desert) daily highs may be in the mid-90°F past Thanksgiving. Not sure about California and the “Big Bear” area. Besides the winter storm and recent rains, it started getting hot in May. Could be some sort of loop in that area though. Death Valley saw some record breaking temps (and some heat related deaths) recently so not sure about any tourism that doesn’t involve air-conditioning.Sep 1, 2023 at 7:20 pm #3788233Terran TerranBPL Member
My. Whitney out of Lone Pine or Bishop is 4 hours away. Nice trails above Lake Sabrina. Mammoth might be a bit far.
Grand Canyon is neat. Really all you can do is look at it. A nice area. I always found Zion and Bryce more interesting. I think Bryce has water.
Joshua Tree is nice if you haven’t seen much desert.
cactus to clouds out of Palm Springs, if you want a challenge. That may be a little far.
Big Bear you can go out of Forest falls. Head up San G. Or go straight down mill creek. Boulder hopping to the jumpoff. Over the top to the headwaters of Whitewater.
Depends what you want.Sep 1, 2023 at 9:07 pm #3788234DWR DBPL Member
A lot could depend on what part of October you are talking about. October is a transition month for weather. Early October can still be pretty hot in some places. Or late monsoon rains. The Grand Canyon will be hot down inside until late October. The Sierra could be cold… even snow. Might be a good idea to plan some options depending on the weather you get.Sep 1, 2023 at 10:15 pm #3788235Paul WagnerBPL Member
@balzaccomLocale: Wine Country
Note that Joshua Tree has significant fire damage, and Death Valley has been closed because of flood damage. You’ll want to follow both of those as dates get closer.
I wouldn’t count on 4 days of good weather for the Sierra. Yosemite won’t allow overnight parking on Highway 120 after October 15 for fear your car will spend the winter there.
If it were me I’d aim for Zion, Bryce, Bears Ears, Escalate..Sep 2, 2023 at 12:26 am #3788240Terran TerranBPL Member
I see they did have a big fire in the Mojave Preserve. Not in Joshua tree itself. I’ve winter camped above Bishop before.Sep 2, 2023 at 6:52 am #3788242jimmyjamBPL Member
@jimmyjamLocale: Mid Atlantic
go Grand. Get a permit to do the Hermit/Tonto/Bright Angel loop. Or a permit to go down the Grand View and camp on Horse Shoe Mesa, then you could add to that and drop down to the Tonto and take that to the South Kaibab and to the River Trail to Phantom Ranch and then out the Bright Angel or….. so many possibilities for day hikes or single overnightersSep 2, 2023 at 9:27 am #3788249DWR DBPL Member
One added comment about hikes in the southwest… we tend to think of it all as ‘desert’… but there are huge differences in elevation. My mantra out there is: If it’s hot, go high; if it’s cold, go low. Bonus points: if it’s raining, or has rained recently, stay off the dirt roads… they turn to muck pretty quickly… and AAA does not cover tows if you are off pavement.Sep 2, 2023 at 12:31 pm #3788266Glen LBPL Member
@wyatt-carsonLocale: Southern Arizona
Corey, you have some great suggestions for yourself with Death Valley, Grand Canyon etc. Have you ever been down Hole-in-the-Rock road out of Escalante? There are some beautiful, deep canyons including the main Escalante river canyon and it’s feeders. Usually there are water sources and many times one has to walk through the running creeks as you go. Coyote Gulch is spectacular with arches and natural bridges. We did that 20 years ago and met a couple from Oregon who had done it 12 times and another couple from Montana who had done it 6 times and none were tired of it. We only did it once and branched out to many other places in that are and southern Utah. Some of the places are harder to get to with the roads winding through the Utah canyonlands topography. Cedar Mesa area and Comb Ridge are perfect for exploring and canyon route finding. Those are probably further than you want to drive the rental. We have taken passenger cars down Hole-in-the-Rock many times. Wet weather might make it impassable so caution if that is forecast. There is a good BLM ranger station at the west end of town that did have some good intel back then. I’m trying to remember if you need a free permit. A couple of small outfitters are nearby in town and if you are around at dinner time Cowboy Blues is a place they stuff you with all manner of excellent fair with some killer deserts too. Vegas is surrounded by incredible adventures.Sep 2, 2023 at 5:30 pm #3788281jscottBPL Member
@bookLocale: Northern California
Bishop offers some easily accessible high country and easy exit if you play your cards right and the weather changes. Bishop pass offers days of high rambling if you like that, but it will be cold at night. Similarly Humphreys Basin is very good. Agreed, October is getting late, potentially, for this country.Sep 3, 2023 at 3:54 pm #3788332WilliamBPL Member
Hey there Blue Ridge,
My favorite hike in the Grand Canyon is the Deer Creek Thunder River loop. I’ve down all the others mentioned above, and you’ll run into a lot of people in October, especially off the south rim or at Phantom Ranch. If it’s a weekend, maybe a hundred plus rim to rim ( and even to rim) runners. And it’ll be tough to get permits.
To get to the Deer Creek/Thunder River, It’s a long way down a dirt road (over an hour) to get to the Bill Hall trailhead off the North Rim and there are few people on this route. Highly regarded as perhaps the best Grand Canyon loop hike, this trip has it all: endless vistas, slickrock expanses, turbulent streams, towering waterfalls, gorgeous narrow canyons, solitude and outstanding camping.
Camping on the esplanade is awesome, and the views rewarding. Water on your way out is important to consider and manage, but doable, we stashed h2o at the esplanade on our way down to use on the hike out. Otherwise there are water sources. Four night trip.
Sep 3, 2023 at 5:21 pm #3788335Glen LBPL Member
@wyatt-carsonLocale: Southern Arizona
“It’s a long way down a dirt road (over an hour) to get to the Bill Hall trailhead off the North Rim”
We did the Bill Hall as a day hike once. What a hoot. That is a gorgeous area and as you say not over populated. We camped right on the edge of the rim of the canyon that night and found ancient painted potsherds by the tent, left them there of course. I doubt one could find those on the heavily peopled south rim.Sep 19, 2023 at 8:56 am #3789291
Wow, thanks for all the advice!
I’ve gone down some rabbit holes last few weeks. Thanks too for the Bishop recommendation. Looks incredible with options out of North Lake. I’m not too worried about cold. I’m bringing my SE winter kit which has been good down to the high teens (and ice). But am worried about leftover snow up in the high basins.
I’m going to talk to ranger in Bishop . But any pointers on forums/communities where I could hunt for conditions from the summer? The NPS most recent trail conditions update for Piute Pass is from 11/22.
Thanks again!Sep 19, 2023 at 10:32 am #3789330
FYI – The White Mountain area ranger said that there is hardly any snow left up in areas like Humphrey’s Basin and upper lakes and streams were replenished by Hilary.
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