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Backpacking trips for a 3 year old

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Backpacking trips for a 3 year old

Postby Gsdwendy » Tue Jun 05, 2012 6:55 pm

I need some suggestions for one or two night backpacking trips that would be suitable for a three year old. I figure she is good for 3-4 miles tops per day (moderate terrain). We live in the Carson City, NV. area...



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Re: Backpacking trips for a 3 year old

Postby balzaccom » Tue Jun 05, 2012 8:03 pm

You could certainly look at the lakes above Carson Pass---Winnemucca, for example. They are only a mile or two from the trailhead.

Maybe go for some of the lower lakes in the Desolation Wilderness out of Wright''s Lake?

But if I took a kid that young backpacking, I would want there to be a lot of activities to do...and at lower elevations. The biggest worries for little kids are sunburn and dehydration, and those are both much more likely at higher elevations.
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Re: Backpacking trips for a 3 year old

Postby rlown » Tue Jun 05, 2012 8:47 pm

Not sure I see a toddler doing 3-4 miles a day on moderate terrain. I see you as somewhat carrying her for some of the trip. Why the push to do that?

Oh yeah.. Welcome to the HST forum!
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Re: Backpacking trips for a 3 year old

Postby Cross Country » Tue Jun 05, 2012 8:56 pm

As most here know I had a GREAT 100+ backpacking days with Mike. It was as successful a time with a kid that anyone might hope for. It exceeded my dreams. One important element was timing. I created some great backpacking background for a 6 year old when he was 3, 4, and 5 years old. I took him camping around some small creeks, fun meadows timed to avoid mosquitoes and bad weather and we avoided hard work (like hiking). As a result he was a backpacking fathers dream - the highlight of my life. Our first family backing trip was Laurel Lake out of Hetch Hetchy. Despite the horrible weather (it snowed for about 20 hours) and no fishing for the kids (they liked to fish) on our hike out (a day early) Mike said to me " Dad, wouldn't it be great if we could live out here". At that moment I knew that I had been blessed with a near miracle (from my point of view). In my experience a 3yo might ready to start camping. A 5 or 6yo might be ready to start backpacking.

My message is -- PATIENCE.

Mike fishing above Forks of the Kern. He's almost 6yo here.
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Re: Backpacking trips for a 3 year old

Postby Gsdwendy » Tue Jun 05, 2012 9:14 pm

I took her last year (as a two year old). I carried all of her gear except for the smallest camelback made (so she could stay hydrated). She was good for about 1.5 miles last year (althought I had to carry her down from Emma lake because she couldn't stay upright on the steeper stuff). I keep her skin, including her head, mostly covered with high tech fabrics and sunscreen the rest (as a melanoma patient I don't take this lightly. Last weekend she made it 3.5 miles on a day hije without a break (albeit on mostly flat terrain) ...so I think with breaks she could go 3-4. Also, at 43" and 37 lbs she is not your typical 3 year old. I also take various other precautions such as taking a 2 way gps messenger

I'm just looking for advice on shorter, easier hikes, because a lot of the guide books and websites don't mention if there are suitable camp sites on hikes of those lengths. Thanks for the suggestions so far!
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Re: Backpacking trips for a 3 year old

Postby LMBSGV » Tue Jun 05, 2012 10:25 pm

You might want to check out this thread:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=7353

As I mentioned, in my post on that thread, my son was 2 years, 9 months on his first backpacking trip. We took him every year after that until he was 20. Wonderful memories.
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Re: Backpacking trips for a 3 year old

Postby tim » Tue Jun 05, 2012 11:04 pm

Especially with your location, the first lakes above Echo Lake in Desolation Wilderness (Tamarack?) are great options if you get the boat across. Only a mile or so from the trailhead. My kids walked it at age 4 (on a day hike not backpacking). We met a family backpacking overnight with two very young kids (2 year olds?) up there last Labor Day weekend.

If you are more ambitious and want to drive further then my North Dome trip on Memorial Day weekend (just under 3 miles in, less than 2 hours) was also perfect for younger kids due to the lack of any significant ascent/descent: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=7702
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Re: Backpacking trips for a 3 year old

Postby wildhiker » Fri Jun 08, 2012 2:32 pm

My wife Karen and I took our three children on family backpack trips starting at age 6 months (we carried them) all the way through high school, at which point they decided it was more fun to go with their friends instead of the old folks. By age 3 they were hiking by themselves carrying nothing except maybe a favorite small stuffed animal toy in a tiny backpack so they could imitate mom and dad (who was laboring under a very heavy pack :-). They liked hiking into a lake no more than about 3 miles in where they could play (with supervision!) in the shallow sandy or muddy areas and we could take some short day hikes to other locations. Coming from the Bay Area, we had a different selection of close areas than you do in Carson City, NV, but there is some overlap.

A favorite area of ours with little kids was the Grouse Lakes roadless area in the Tahoe National Forest just off I-80. I would think that would be no more than 2 or 2.5 hours from Carson City. This is a highly glaciated granitic area with low relief and lots of small lakes, at a lower altitude (7000 feet). It gives the feel of the high country, but with much easier access. I like to start at the Carr Lake trailhead off the Bowman Rd on the west side. Take the Hwy 20 exit off I-80 towards Nevada City. About 5 miles down the hill, just before the road levels out in a big meadow, Bowman Rd takes off to the right (north) and is signed for Fuller Lake. You go beyond Fuller Lake on paved road about 20 minutes to a signed gravel side road to Carr Lake. From this trailhead, you hike a short distance
on a closed road to Feely Lake and then on trail past Feely Lake over a low rise to Island Lake - total about 2 miles. Here's a link that shows the current trails:
http://www.mappingsupport.com/p/gmap4.p ... 25413&t=t2
Island Lake has many good campsites scattered around it and shallow areas to play in. Because of the lower elevation, this lake gets tolerably warm. You can take side hikes to other lakes - I recommend going north to the small Crooked Lakes, which have even better swimming. This is not a designated Wilderness, so there are no camping or fire restrictions (other than possessing a free California campfire permit - pick one up at any Forest Service office in CA, such as the one at Big Bend off I-80 about 5 miles east of the Hwy 20 exit). The trails here are open to mountain bikes, but I have never seen one at Island Lake - they prefer the more rugged route from Grouse Ridge east to Glacier Lake. Also, this area can get crowded with family backpackers or just folks from Sacramento who want an easy trip. Mid-week would be better than the weekend.

Another possibility off I-80 which we have done many times recently on day hikes would be Salmon Lake south of Big Bend also in Tahoe National Forest. This lake is set on a granite bench overlooking the North Fork American River canyon area, with the interesting Loch Levin Lakes only about a mile away to the east. But this is only good for kids if you come in from the western trailhead south of Huysink Lake. That way is only a couple of miles and a few hundred feet elevation gain. The main trailhead at Big Bend that goes first to Loch Leven Lakes has over 1000 feet elevation gain. To get to the Huysink Lake trailhead from the east, continue west on I-80 past Big Bend, past Hwy 20, to the Yuba Gap exit. Go over the freeway to the south and in a couple hundred yards, where the road splits, take the right fork towards Lake Valley Reservoir. This road is paved. Just before the reservoir, which has a campground, boat launch, etc., a high standard gravel road takes off to the left. It goes around the north side of the reservoir and then climbs up the slope beyond, briefly crosses the ridge back to the Yuba River watershed, then loops around to Huysink Lake. Ignore all the minor side roads along the way. Continue driving about 1/2 mile past Huysink Lake to a obvious trailhead in a flatter area. The trail is in good condition and easily followed. It's main destination is Loch Leven Lakes, so after a couple miles you have to watch for the side trail south to Salmon Lake, which may not be signed. It's on a sparsely vegetated granite ridge. Be sure to take your topo map. Here's a link that shows the trail:
http://www.mappingsupport.com/p/gmap4.p ... 20228&t=t2
Again, this is a roadless area like Grouse Lakes, not Wilderness, with no specific camping or fire restrictions. Loch Leven Lakes can get extremely crowded on weekends with campers and day hikers, but this western trail is practically deserted and there are fewer campers at Salmon Lake.

I also second the suggestion to backpack to Winnemucca Lake south of Carson Pass. This is a short trail with a moderate amount of uphill. As a bonus, it has amazing wildflower blooms. As I recall, there is no camping right at the lake, but we found a good camp on the benches to the west. Continue on the trail just past the lake and then start looking up on the benches to the north a hundred yards or so off the trail. You can also make a nice short side trip to Round Lake with great cliffs on one side. These lakes are rather cold and deep for kids to play in, however.

When my kids were a little older (5), they also made it from Wrights Lake on the west side of Desolation Wilderness about four miles up to Twin Lakes, which have shallow areas to play in and dramatic alpine scenery for the adults.

-Phil
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Re: Backpacking trips for a 3 year old

Postby norak » Fri Jun 08, 2012 6:26 pm

Our favorite place to backpack with our daughter over the years has been the Emigrant Wilderness, off Highway 108 to Sonora Pass. We started when she was a little older, 8, but the reasons we like that area would apply for a younger child as well: the elevation changes are relatively gentle, and the elevation of the area as a whole is moderate (7k - 9k for the most part) so the temperatures are mild and you can actually swim in the lakes - a big plus for our daughter.


We have backpacked there at least a half dozen times from various trail heads, but for a three year old I would recommend going in from the Gianelli Cabin trail head, near the Pinecrest Resort area, to Lake Powell (just over 2 miles) and from there either to Chewing Gum Lake (2.5 or so miles) or Y Meadow Lake (about 4 miles). There's also the Crabtree trail head in the same area but the first lake on that trail, Camp Lake, is not nearly as nice as Powell Lake to camp on (I'm not sure they even allow it).

Good luck!

Nora
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Re: Backpacking trips for a 3 year old

Postby HiSierra » Fri Jun 08, 2012 11:49 pm

First I'd reconsider small campgrounds and day hikes rather than backpacking with a 3 yr old. If you want more of a wilderness experience try dispersed camping on a remote forest road near a creek or a lake. You'll get all the benefit of being away from crowds and still have the comforts and safety of car camping. Just spending time with your kid in nature is what really matters. Safety starts to weigh on you with a little one in the woods. A 3 yr old can't carry much more than a stuffed animal and probably not hike much more than a mile so you'll end up close to your vehicle anyway. Be patient, they grow up so fast. Consider going with friends, it's more fun and ends up being easier.

If you go the dispersed camping route, you'll need to get a fire permit (good for one calendar yr) from any FS station for any stove or campfire just like for backpacking (lots of restrictions) and then pick a forest road, preferably with water. In your area, I recommend Wolf Creek near the HW89/4 intersection or Burnside Lake up a dirt road south from the HW 88/89 intersection.
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Re: Backpacking trips for a 3 year old

Postby stevet » Thu Jun 14, 2012 9:26 pm

I cannot offer you locations for your hike, but my experience says:
* start hiking after lunch on one day
* finish before lunch on the hike out
This will force you into the ~3 mile distance.

The destination must offer something "fun" for a 3 year old. Generally a place to climb (safely) or get wet.

A layover day is a disaster unless there is at least 16 hours of kid friendly activity that can be done unsupervised but that you will jump into the minute asked to do so.

Jiffy Pop and Marshmallows are essential food items.

A campfire.

A book you can read to them. I started my son with Tolkien. He wanted to hike often to continue the story. We started the Hobbit and then read the Trinity over a 4 year period of 1-2 overnight hikes per month. The Narnia books would probably have had a similar attraction.

Something comfortable for you to sit in/on so you can hold them in your lap while you read.

Your ability to be a sherpa.

Your kid(s) carrying a pack with a stuffed animal, and a snack or two.

Only one adult per two kids. When you lay down at night each kid will need exactly one arm to cuddle and hold. And to hug back.

A camera for each.

A collection bag for each.

A favorite lunch stop restaurant for the drive home. For my kids it was Pizza Hut. Amazing what they would tolerate knowing they got Pizza Hut on the way home.
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Re: Backpacking trips for a 3 year old

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Jun 15, 2012 8:02 am

I did major backpacking with my kids when they were babies. The toddler years were "awkward" in that the kids became too heavy to carry and too little to walk long distances. This is the age when you have to readjust your goals. A few times I used horsepackers and we were dropped off at a backcountry site and spent all the time there. Other times we did very short trips. The kids really could care less of the location as long as it had water to play in safely, no mosquitoes, and not too much elevation gain. You need to provide lots of patience and attention. My kids could walk 3 miles as toddlers but it would take all day since they stopped and looked at every rock along the way!

I personally would not do a trip unitl late August or Sept when water is warm enough to play in without getting cold and mosquitoes are gone.

How about going in from Rock Lake. The trail is nearly flat and you immediately get into a lot of little lakes.

Desolation-Echo Lake area- kids love the boat taxi and there are close lakes and good trail, but it does involve some uphill walking.

Saddlebag Lake - take boat taxi and then it is flat and short to Cascade Lake with lots of day-hike options. Note that this area has horrible mosquitoes early season - definitly is a late season trip.
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