Help a rookie plan a backpacking trip

Backpacking and camping basics and other general trip planning discussion for the uninitiated. Use this forum to learn where to look for the information you need, and to ask questions, related to the beginner basics of backpacking and camping, including technique and best practices.
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Post by hikerblogger » Thu Dec 08, 2005 9:02 am

Wow, it's like being at a smorgasboard where everything seems good. Guess I'll have to avoid the eyes-bigger-than-appetite syndrome.

Long as we're on the topic, any suggestions for an overnighter where I can drive out from the Bay area early Saturday and leave Sunday and still avoid bears/crowds? I realize this may be nigh onto impossible and that if you knew of such a trail you'd keep it a secret. It'd be like a favorite fishing hole.

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Post by sierranomad » Thu Dec 08, 2005 9:55 am


An excellent overnighter is to start at the Happy Isles Trailhead in Yosemite Valley and to spend the night at Little Yosemite Valley. Take the Mist Trail up and you will get "up close and personal" with some of the most spectacular falls in the world. If you start early enough on Saturday, you could make camp then hike to Half Dome. During peak season this trail can be a nightmare (think Disneyland). But in April and May it is really not bad - in fact I've done the hike early in the morning and been the only one on the trail. And this is when the falls are at their best!

Little Yosemite Valley is the least secluded spot you will find to camp (backpack) in all the park - but it is (in my opinion) not that bad in spring. As an alternative, you could hike a couple miles further up LYV to Quarter Dome and would likely be by yourself in April or May. A benefit to LYV though, is that they have bear-proof storage boxes, so if you're just going for an overnighter, you don't have to worry about lugging up a bear box.

For your hike back to the Valley, skip the Mist Trail and return via the John Muir Trail (still exit via the Happy Isles Trailhead), or if you have a little more energy, take the Panorama Trail at Nevada Falls to Glacier Point, then the 4 mile trail down the the Valley. At this point you will be 2 - 3 miles from your car. If you don't have the time/energy to walk to your car, you can take a free shuttle at Swinging Bridge (@ 1/2 mile) to Curry Village, at which point you will be about 1/2 mile from the backpacker parking area.

The crowds/bears problem with Yosemite is overstated. I have some friends that refuse to go to Yosemite because they were there once and it was very crowded. I went with them on a bp trip to one of their favorite spots and actually found less solitude than I am accustomed to having in Yosemite. It's all in timing. And while bears are an issue to be dealt with, I have never had one get my food.

Just be sure to get your permit. If you can't reserve one in advance, pick one up at the Wilderness Center. Arrive about 30 minutes before it opens. If you have a small group and go off-season you are very likely to be able to get one.

.....and regarding the 5 day backpack. I know that you specified the Sierra, but the Lost Coast Trail in Northern CA is spectacular

"When one tugs on a single thing in nature, he finds it's attached to the rest of the world". - John Muir

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Post by Snow Nymph » Fri Dec 09, 2005 8:23 pm

I've done a few shuttle trips that were pretty cool. These were all done in 5 days. The first two are part of the Sierra High Route.

- Mosquito Flat - Mono Pass - 2nd Recess - Gabbot Pass, Lake Italy, Italy Pass - Pine Creek Roadend
- North Lake - Puppet Pass – French Canyon – Royce Lakes or French Lake (which ever side you want to go) - Pine Creek Roadend
- Twin Lakes - Barney Lake - Mule Pass - Burro Pass - McCabe Lakes - unnamed pass to 20 Lakes Basin - Saddlebag Lake

We only saw people on the first and last day. For photos go to my website and look under "Index"

Off to Mammoth! :D
Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free . . . . Jim Morrison" onclick=";return false;

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Post by quentinc » Fri Dec 09, 2005 10:44 pm

Those first two trips Snow Nymph describes are very cool (haven't done the 3rd one).

And someone before mentioned the North Lake to South Lake loop, which is sublime. You can cut down on the mileage (and improve the scenery) by heading over LeConte Col, out of North Lake, rather than going down the rocky rocky creek below Humphries Basin).

But if you're looking for a relaxed pace, all of these trips would be too much for 5 days.

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Post by JM21760 » Sat Dec 10, 2005 3:44 pm

I found when I was much younger, that Desolation Wilderness a good starting point for new backpackers. Every thing is a little smaller and closer together than the southern Sierra. There are lots of loop trips you can do, just check out the topo. There are plenty of lakes, some with good fishing. Also, lots of people. A late season trip is nice, say October.

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Post by SSSdave » Sat Dec 10, 2005 4:19 pm

I would not recommend some of the trips mentioned because they are a bit too much to bite off on a very first backpack. They are fine destinations but for someone that has no backpacking experience I would instead start with a simple 2 or 3 day trip just to flesh out your gear. You are bound to have problems unless you are going with and mentored by an experienced person. There are a number of backpacking guides for the Sierra that usually provide excellent choices for novice backpackers as well as good inforamtion. There are a lot of places outside Yosemite that you will not see bears and I would highly recommend you start in that way because having such potentially dangerous wild creatures about at night can be quite frightening. I would also recommend choosing a hike of just a few miles and not long hikes as some of the routes mentioned. That way if say one's boots or stove etc has problems, one can easily hike out without much concern. And you probably ought to be flexible enough about your plans so as not to go out if thunderstorms are forecast. Even with such limitations there are some wonderful destinations anyone would enjoy. For example Winnemucca and Round Top Lakes south of the trailhead at Carson Pass has wonderful widlflowers in July, has trout, is an easy hike, and a permit is easily obtained along highway 88 on the way.


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