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Where to hike in the west in December?


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Home Forums General Forums Winter Hiking Where to hike in the west in December?

Viewing 11 posts - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
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  • #3684615
    lisa r
    BPL Member

    @lisina10

    Locale: Western OR

    I may not be able to make my usual journey to see family on the east coast this Christmas, so I’m working on a plan b. I’m willing to drive up to ~15 hrs from Corvallis, OR, to hike or preferably backpack in mild-ish conditions (ideally ~30+ nighttime lows, 50+ daytime highs). Got any recommendations? If there’s a not-to-miss option, I might drive further…Thanks!

    #3684619
    Ryan Jordan
    Admin

    @ryan

    Locale: Central Rockies

    Hi Lisa,

    Check out Escalante National Monument, Bears Ears, or Canyonlands National Park in SW Utah, or Colorado National Monument/Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness in CO, but keep an eye on the temperatures. I’ve had below zero F nights there in Jan/Feb, but Nov/Dec have generally been in the 20s or higher. Colder down in the canyons where the Colorado River flows.

    For mountains: the Pecos Wilderness E of Santa Fe and Great Sand Dunes National Park in CO can get some lucky seasons (little early winter snowfall) where trails even up to 9k+ can be done w/o snowshoes in December.

    Rocky Mountain National Park trails are also usually quite compacted (hikers, snowshoes, and skiers keep them pretty spikeable) within a long days’ walk of the trailhead, but you’ll have to contend with some wind there. Bitter cold doesn’t *usually* arrive in the Rockies until January, but fall/early winter wind chill temps there are the real deal. The scenery might be worth it!

    And don’t overlook the Oregon Desert Trail or Oregon Coast Trail or Lost Trail (CA) or the wilderness beaches in WA. I’ve been on all of these during the winter and while the storms can be totally outrageous (watch the weather forecast), it’s something special to be in those places during the winter months.

    Mojave and Death Valley are phenomenal places to hike in the winter. Both can experience serious winter winds, but they’re usually easy to forecast with weather apps like Windy.com or Meteoblue.

    If you’re good with snowshoes, your options open up: the central-to-southern PCT in the Sierras (CA) are pretty warm in December, as are the southern Cascades in WA and OR (although higher chance of rain/wet snow).

    The Wyoming, Colorado, and northern NM Rockies get some killer winds that time of year. NoCA, NoWA, the central OR Cascades, and MT/ID get quite a lot of snow. WY, MT and ID Rockies can be incredibly cold if an Arctic front is coming down…

    #3684634
    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member

    @rex

    Locale: California

    Normally I’d recommend a bunch of places on the Central California coast or just inland, but they’ve all had major wildfires this year, and many haven’t re-opened :-( Some still haven’t received significant rainfall!

    — Rex

    #3684722
    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member

    @danepacker

    Locale: Mojave Desert

    Go now, before everything is burned over. Sad commentary but global warming is increasing much more rapidly than was ever forecast 15 – 20 years ago when I was teaching Environmental Studies. Twenty years ago where we are now was not forecast to happen until 2050!

    #3684790
    SIMULACRA
    BPL Member

    @simulacra

    Locale: Puget Sound

    All rainfall nationwide is being diverted to Washington State Eric. Sorry about that guys

    #3684911
    Erica R
    BPL Member

    @erica_rcharter-net

    Death Valley will have the best weather. I like staying at Furnace Creek. You do need shade. Car camping in remote locations is possible if you have 4wd. I think, still…

    Backpacking is possible if you stash water. Somewhere on BPL is a trip report by someone who backpacked Death Valley.

    #3684969
    HkNewman
    BPL Member

    @hknewman

    Locale: Western US

    Go now, before everything is burned over

    Many southwestern routes have been burnt to a crisp, though they’ll regrow eventually.  Right now looking at the Arizona Trail Facebook pages for reroutes as it seems Superstitions, Four Pks, and Mazatzal all sustained serious burns.

    It regrows but then there’s potential thorn bushes growing to head (and eye) level that can provide another layer of labor to the hike (carrying gardening shears).  Wonder if overlaying burn perimeters on a map would help?

    #3684971
    Ryan Jordan
    Admin

    @ryan

    Locale: Central Rockies

    Gaia GPS has wildfire overlays (current and historical). Example, current (recent) fires in the Superstition Wilderness:

    #3686298
    HkNewman
    BPL Member

    @hknewman

    Locale: Western US

    Definitely a nice graphical tool.  Just saw an Arizona PBS program on forests (and campgrounds) affected by recent Arizona wildfires and regrowth is still “up in the air”.  Conifers still regrow but they look physically stressed as it’s been drier – the wetter future wet seasons are, the better.

    More towards summertime, but Arizona has some strong sun.  Most people prefer to sit under a tree for shade (higher elevations generally) vs a bush.  Maybe a good way to plan?

    #3686303
    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member

    @retiredjerry

    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    Rogue River.  Either west from Graves Creek, out and back, or you could through hike but it would be tricky getting a car shuttle.

    I do that at least once a year.  Say hi if you see me.  Otherwise it’s pretty lonely, maybe a few fishermen.

    https://www.oregonhikers.org/field_guide/Rogue_River_Hike

    The beach of the Olympic Peninsula.  For example Toleak Point from Third Beach.  It rains a lot but there are occasional windows of good weather.

    Again, say hi if you see me, not too many other people out there.  Maybe Daryl.  I’ve been using that alternate trailhead.  You have to get a permit on recreation.gov because of covid, otherwise you could self issue permit at trailhead in the winter.

    https://www.oregonhikers.org/field_guide/Toleak_Point_Hike

    Just for your information, if you get tired of the gloom and mold on the west side, and you can get over Santiam Pass, the Metolius or Deschutes Rivers can be good.  Much drier.  Lower elevation so usually snow free.  Not really epic backpacks though.  I like that eastern Oregon scenery.

    #3686424
    lisa r
    BPL Member

    @lisina10

    Locale: Western OR

    Thanks for the brainstorming assist. I’m not exactly hoping to cancel my annual Christmas visit to NJ but the scenery at any of these places would sure be an improvement…

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