Philmont 2021 alternative trip locations

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    James Arriola
    BPL Member


    Locale: Desert Southwest

    Our Venture crew has a trek for June this year and we are hoping to attend Philmont.  But just in case we are thinking of some alternative areas to go backpacking in the middle of June.  We are based in Las Vegas, Nevada so we are pretty lucky to be within a long days drive of some pretty spectacular areas in the West.

    Some areas that have been mentioned by our crew include the Sierra Nevada’s, the Uinta’s in Northern Utah, the Rocky’s in Colorado, and maybe even Yellowstone NP.

    Does anyone have any recommendations for a 60 ish mile trip that our Venture Crew could do instead just in case Philmont gets canceled again?  We have 8 Scouts from 14-18 and 4 adult leaders that enjoy backpacking and want to do something instead of staying home this summer.

    In the summer of 2019 we had 5 Scouts and 2 adult leaders do a 40 mile backpacking trip in the Lamar River Valley of Yellowstone and had a great time there.  In 2017 we did the Trans Zion Traverse of about 50 miles so we have had some really great high adventure trips before.

    Thank you in advance for your suggestions.

    In Scouting,

    James Arriola


    Luke Schmidt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Alaska

    Couple thoughts.

    I’m leery of high elevations with a large group and a tight schedule. What is Plan B if someone can’t handle the altitude? If that’s not a concern the San Juan’s are great. You could hike a section of the CT or plan a more creative route through the various wilderness areas.

    I heard National Park use is up. So YNP might be tricky.

    If you want to do YNP I might suggest a two part trip. Hike anywhere you like in Northwest Wyoming or Southwest Montana. Then finish with a couple days of car camping in Yellowstone. See the sites and watch wolves. I highly recommend a bunch of spotting scopes with phone adapters.

    Bruce Tolley
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    @ James

    There was a whole long thread on this topic when they closed Philmont a couple of years ago.

    Since your Troop is based in high dessert/The Great Basin and close to the Sierra Nevada do you want to go someplace close or somewhere new and far away?

    What is the experience level of your crew? If many of them are newbies, maybe you want to stay on the beaten track.  If you have many that have been to Philmont before, perhaps they would be OK with a route with bits of cross country.

    And there is the experiential questions. In my experience, most Scouts these days have not done enough backpacking to enjoy it for its own sake.  But if there are “experiences”: peak bagging, fly fishing, white water rafting, navigation/orienteering included in itinerary, that gains interest and sets mini goals to be accomplished during the trip.

    There are many local councils that offer “high adventure” type semi curated trips in Washington, Oregon, Montana (Ryan Jordan used to run one if I remember correctly). Such an experience might take some of the logistical burden off of you and your Scouts.  There used to be a list posted on line of such “trips.”

    I remember one Council that had a summer camp at Saddle Bag Lake near Yosemite offered maps, itineray, 14 days of food, a ferry ride, and easy access into the Yosemite and Hoover Wilderness backcountry. I think taking one of their guides was optional. At the opposite end of the spectrum, there was a Council in Oregon that offered a complete mountaineering course on Mt Hood (?).

    Brad P


    Wouldn’t you run in to permit issues in the High Sierra if you’re going last minute?

    MOHAB is the packrafting high adventure camp in The Bob in Montana. I’d love to do that one. Not sure how last minute you could do that.



    We were scheduled for Philmont last year and like all got canceled.  Try again for this July.  If it doesn’t happen would be bummed.  Our group, from the East Coast, would probably try for a short trip in New Hampshire or Maine.

    I know Philmont is the pinnacle of Scout adventures, but I wish I had known about the high adventure camp in Montana.  Didn’t learn about it until after booking Philmont.  While I’m sure Philmont is great- this will be my first time, Montana looks even better.


    Bruce Tolley
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    @ Brad “Wouldn’t you run in to permit issues in the High Sierra if you’re going last minute?”

    In my experience, it depends on the trailhead and which managed area you are heading into.  if Yosemite NP or SEKI or the Mt Whitney Zone, careful planning is needed.  Yosemite has a web site that shows the quotas by TH and the number of slots available if you just show up.

    But for Hoover (from the Bridgeport side), Stanislaus, John Muir from Mosquito Flat TH, Carson-Iceberg, Moukelumne, I have just been able to show up and get a permit. I think some of the THs alson the Carson Pass / SR 88 corridor you just self register at the TH.

    I would recommend that this group avoid Yosemite and the JMT because there are so many people on it. But there is a trip planning website whose URL was posted on BPL a few years ago that showed all the less well known USFS managed THs that allowed access to the JMT to enable last minute planners to get a trip together. Some of the volunteers at the Pinecrest Ranger Station on SR108 are also very good at that.

    tony g
    BPL Member


    Locale: norcal

    How about the low to high trail, or John Muir Trail.

    Bruce Tolley
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    Here is the list of Council operated High Adventure bases

    Here is at least one of BSA Montana High Adventure Bases:

    Our Troop did the BSA Catalina Island high adventure base when Philmont closed last year.

    Some troops have done Northern Tier with private outfitters.

    You and your crew might want to plan your own trip. And I alway aim for the Scouts to have the skills to plan their own trips once they leave Scouting.

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