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Looking for a good 1st trip for kids

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Looking for a good 1st trip for kids

Postby strollinbones » Tue Jan 24, 2012 12:12 pm

Hello!
I'm a dad who's been stuck car camping with the kids for far too long. They're now old enough and strong enough to give backpacking a try. Thing is, I don't want to put them on a Bataan Death March and have them burn out before they even get started.

So, I've been looking around for possible routes. Ideally, the trail would offer:
-A viable campsite within 3 miles of the trailhead.
-A campsite near or on a lake. (Cold or not, kids like to jump in water.)
-Allowance for a small campfire.
-A running creek or river along the way, or at the destination. (I fly fish.)
-Not too insane an elevation gain/loss.
-West side Sierra access.

One place that's on my radar is the Murphy Creek Trail to Polly Dome Lakes, out of Tenaya Lake. A friend thought it would be a good 1st timer, although I've not done it. I'm also considering the PCT along the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne, but the rules are that I need to get 4 miles back before we can make camp, and there's no lake right along that route.

I'm sure there are many options. I've done my share, but my previous trips have been longer, harder hauls than this.
If you have a favorite first-time backpack route you feel you can share, I'd love to hear about it.

Thanks all!
StrollinBones



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Re: Looking for a good 1st trip for kids

Postby Carne_DelMuerto » Tue Jan 24, 2012 12:41 pm

I'm in a similar situation with my 4-year-old son. A friend and I are hoping to take our kids out this summer.

Take a look at the trail out of Carr/Feeley Lakes north of I-80, off Bowman Lake Road. There are quite a few lakes along the trail, so you can go as far as they can handle and have a good spot to camp. I don't think there are many good stream options, so that's the only thing that doesn't meet your requirements. On the plus side, it's a modest hike with just a couple easy climbs and if you have to bail, it's a quick hike and drive back to civilization. Also, all you need is a free fire permit, so no wasted permit fees if you have to duck out early.

This can be a popular spot, but once you get past the first few lakes, it tends to thin out. (Most folks tend to head all the way back to Five Lakes Basin.)

I'll be monitoring this thread for other good suggestions. Good luck!
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Re: Looking for a good 1st trip for kids

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Jan 24, 2012 1:42 pm

Another criteria that was important with my kids when they were little, was to avoid peak mosquito season. Tuolumne Meadows area is particularly bad at peak bug season.

Take the boat ferry across Saddlebag Lake and then camp at Cascade Lake, or other lakes. The kids will love the boat ride too.
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Re: Looking for a good 1st trip for kids

Postby Jason » Tue Jan 24, 2012 1:44 pm

I did the Murphy Creek trail towards Polly Dome Lakes as a dayhike, back in October I think. I say 'towards' because I forgot my map and we never got there. At some point there is supposed to be a use trail that heads off to the lakes but we never saw it. Had I researched it properly I'm sure it would have gone better. :D

Still, I enjoyed the hike and scenery. There are large fields of erratics that might be fun for the kids to explore and the hike itself isn't really steep at all. At the least the portion that we did.

You might try to Carson Pass area on Hwy 88 or Hwy 89. There's Winnemucca Lake, or Round Lake, although I remember them being fairly exposed for camping. It could get windy. There's also Emigrant Lake back behind Caples on Hwy 88, but I think it's a bit over 4 miles to get there.

Off Highway 4 you could try Bull Run Lake, which I think it quite nice, but again I think it's a bit over 4 miles.
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Re: Looking for a good 1st trip for kids

Postby sierrashar » Wed Jan 25, 2012 10:43 am

Hi--many, many options but how 'bout Jackass Lakes in Ansel Adams Wilderness? Short hike, beautiful lower lake, short jaunt to upper lakes,great camping spot on a ledge just above the LAKE with fantastic views. Same TH, another option, is the Lillian Lk. Loop. Ciao, Sierrashar
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Re: Looking for a good 1st trip for kids

Postby Troutdog 59 » Wed Jan 25, 2012 11:36 am

Hey SB,

Lots of good "West Side" options to choose from SB depending upon the age of your kids, etc. I concur with Sierrashar that the Jackass lakes is a good first timer choice. A bit steep, but short with a pretty lake and some day hike options to the upper lakes. Other central cali west side choices include the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness (DLW) and the Kaiser Wilderness. The DLW is a wonderful option for newbies and old timers alike. Ive been hiking since the 70's, but I did a short 3 night 4 day trip last August with my 16 yr old daughter, and we had a blast. Easy to get around and a bunch of lakes in a small area. IMO, Swede or South Lake offer a good spot to base camp and dayhike to the other nearby lakes. I believe both are < ~ 3 miles from the TH itself. Upper Twin in the Kaiser Wilderness also is a good option with numerous nearby lakes to hike to, although a bit steeper.

If streams/creeks are more appealing, the area over Kaiser Pass has some good options. A good trip for young folks is to take the ferry at either Edison or Florence across the lake, and then hike in a short distance and fish the streams that flow into them (i.e., Mono Creek or the San Joaquin River). Edison offers the shorter hike to get to water, but the San Joaquin is only a few miles from the ferry landing. The short hike coupled with a Ferry Boat ride always seemed to peak my kids interest when younger. Another good stream option in this area is Bear Creek, but a 4x4 is needed to get to the TH proper (alot of folk park and walk the xtra couple of miles). From the TH at the Diversion Dam, its a short hike (~ 3 mi) to Twin falls, which makes a great base camp area to explore the nearby trout filled pools and riffles hidden along Bear Creek.

I believe fires are legal at all of the above mentioned sites, but check the regs to be sure as some may have special fire restrictions. Overall, start small and let them work up to longer hikes.

Hope this helps, and let us know how the trip went
Last edited by Troutdog 59 on Wed Jan 25, 2012 7:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Looking for a good 1st trip for kids

Postby tim » Wed Jan 25, 2012 1:11 pm

My go to place for beginners has been Lake Aloha in Desolation Wilderness on three separate occasions (see trip reports at viewtopic.php?f=1&t=6993 and viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4512). This summer we took a 6 year old and 4 year old there (two families). Entry from Echo Lake is very easy and includes a boat ride, then 3 mile walk with 800ft climb. Only issue is that Desolation Wilderness doesn't allow fires and its quite popular.

Depending on how ambitious you feel, the Cathedral to Sunrise loop (in second trip report above) is really beautiful (13 miles total in 3 days). The shuttle bus in Tuloumne Meadows works well to get back to your car. You can have a fire at Sunrise Lake but not at Cathedral Lake. I did it with two 8 year olds on their second BP trip. You could also think about climbing to Sunrise Lakes (~1000ft, 3 miles), camping there for 2 nights and doing a day hike either to Clouds Rest (though that would be a longish day trip for kids) or just up towards the peaks behind the lake. Both trailheads are quite hard to get permits for in peak season, so for August you probably need to book on the first day of availability.
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Re: Looking for a good 1st trip for kids

Postby TehipiteTom » Thu Jan 26, 2012 4:57 pm

First couple trips I took my son on were to Granite Lake in Mokelumne Wilderness. 2 miles in (out of Blue Lakes trailhead), ~500' gain. Very pretty lake, fairly popular but not so popular that it's hard to get a permit.

If you feel like wandering off trail a short distance (my son loved exploring off the trail), there are two very easy cross-country destinations: Devil's Corral, north of Granite Lake, and Evergreen Lake, to the south. I found the whole area to be ideal for kid trips.
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Re: Looking for a good 1st trip for kids

Postby windknot » Thu Jan 26, 2012 7:23 pm

These are all great options, and many of the trips already mentioned have interesting fishing opportunities as well (Granite in the Mokelumne, the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness and Kaiser Wilderness, Sunrise/Cathedral, Winnemucca/Round Top Lakes off Carson Pass, Lake Aloha and Desolation Valley in the Desolation Wilderness).

Looks like you're looking to do a two-day, one-night trip. All of these options will fit that format, but Granite, Winnemucca, First Dinkey, and Cathedral are all at about 2-3 miles in and I don't know if I'd take young kids longer than that on their first backpack.

Depending on where you're starting from, some of these destinations might work better than others. A long drive is often not enjoyable for young kids either. If you live in the Fresno area, Weaver Lake in the Jennie Lakes Wilderness is a quick drive, 2-3 mile hike, easy grade, and has lots of willing brookies that aren't tiny.

Definitely agree about going later in the season when the mosquitoes aren't as bad. Late August to September would be my optimal time frame.
A few backcountry fishing pictures: http://wanderswithtrout.wordpress.com/
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Re: Looking for a good 1st trip for kids

Postby tim » Thu Jan 26, 2012 9:01 pm

I'd recommend thinking about a 2 night trip with a day hike on the second day. I found my kids were a bit tired of carrying packs after the first day and would probably not have been happy to face that again on Day 2. That way you also have more time to enjoy the place without the hassle of finding a site and setting up on the second afternoon.

You might also be fine on the skeeter front by mid August (possibly even early August) this year if it continues to be dry
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Re: Looking for a good 1st trip for kids

Postby Cross Country » Thu Jan 26, 2012 9:10 pm

I agree with tim wholeheartedly. The exception depends on how tough your kids might be. My 2 kids loved "death marches" (I NEVER did) from the time they were 7 or 8. Our 1st trip we went to Laurel Lake. The 1st day we hiked half way there starting at about 4PM. The 2nd day we hiked to Laurel Lake by an early lunch time. They thought it was sooo easy. My sons just had a tougher mentality than I did (relative to their age). They didn't catch up to me in absolute terms until they were about 12. By then I had backpacked 300+ days and we were even and they were 12. At 12 I was not very tough (not compared to them).
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Re: Looking for a good 1st trip for kids

Postby LMBSGV » Fri Jan 27, 2012 11:55 am

We took our son on his first backpacking trip when he was 2 years, 9 months up Lyell Canyon and at least once every year after that until he was in college. Here’s some tips from what we learned.

The suggestion to make it at least a 2 night trip is good idea. My son liked layover days when he could play around the campsite and take a short dayhike to somewhere interesting. Let your kids bring along toys to play with. My son had a bandaid box filled with his little “guys” (Dupplo and Leggo figures mainly). When hiking, come up with some distraction to take the mind off the walking. I would make up a running story for a trip (with my son offering his own plot line suggestions). Also, bring along a favorite book for a bedtime story and a deck of cards if you get stuck in the tent due to rain. And be prepared with alternative plans. Between weather and fatigue, the day’s destination can change.

In terms of places, we mainly did east side trailheads. West side ones included Polly Dome Lakes in September, which was a great trip. We were the only people there. Early in the season, mosquitoes can be pretty bad there. We also did Joe Crane Lake out of Granite Creek. We spent the first night at Cora Lakes, then two nights are Joe Crane. It’s my understanding it’s a popular packer destination, but we saw no one. The other west side places we went didn’t allow fires.

Most of the east side places we went had fire restrictions. But some suggestions anyway for future trips if you find your kids don’t need fires are Sabrina Basin (3 miles to Blue Lake and the lakes further up are all spectacular), Little Lakes Valley, Big McGee Lake (6-7 miles), Bishop Pass trail to Long Lake and the lakes further up, Piute Pass Trail (lots of nice campsites by the lakes and if you can get over the pass into Humphrey’s Basin for a longer trip, off-trail travel is easy - my son did this at age 7).
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