Backpacking in California
I come from a beach family but growing up in California it seems inevitable that I would become attached to the mountains. In 2001 I took my first backpacking trip - 7 days in Glacier National Park....yes maybe crazy but I loved it and that was it. I never took a class or a workshop I just got out there and did it and over time and of course some mishaps learned more.
I primarily backpack in California and specifically in the Sierra Nevada which takes about 4 hours to reach from the Bay Area. It's hard to pick a favorite place because it's all beautiful but I've included a summary of the areas I frequent the most, some tips and trip descriptions for many of my hikes.
I of course have a bucket list and thought I would share some of those trips:
SEKI - Upper Kern (Return To), 9 Lakes Basin, Mineral King, Tablelands
Hoover Wilderness - Matterhorn Canyon
Yosemite - Clark Range
Yosemite National Park
Probably the most famous of all California backpacking spots, Yosemite is spectacular. When I first starting out I did the majority of my trips in Yosemite. However, over the years I've hiked outside of Yosemite primarily because of the crowds and the difficulty getting permits. There are still many great options to get off the beaten path and enjoy a slide of Yosemite for yourself.
Permits - Get them early - You can apply for a permit 6 months in advance just visit the NPS site. If you are small group try to get a walk up permit the day before your trip.
Where to Hike - Anywhere out of Tuolumne Meadows - Try not to camp in very popular areas e.g. Glen Aulin
PCT Section I - Sonora Pass to Tuolumne Meadows - September 3 - 9, 2018
Matthes Lake - September 30/October 1, 2017
Southern Yosemite- Buena Vista/Ottoway Lakes - July 9 - 16, 2017
Virginia Lake to Glen Aulin - June 25 - 28, 2015
John Muir Trail - SOBO - August 20 - Sept 11, 2011
Tuolumne to Reds Meadow - Sept. 3 -6, 2010
Ten Lakes - September 12 & 13, 2009
Bernice Lake - July 18 & 19, 2009
Young and Roosevelt Lakes - August 8 - 10, 2008
Upper Young Lake - July 6 & 7, 2007
Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne - July 4th Weekend 2005
Evelyn Lake - Vogelsang Loop - Yosemite - July 2004
May Lake - August 2003
Matthes Lake - July 2003
Kibbie Lake - Memorial Day Weekend 2003
Ten Lakes - August 2002
Agnew Meadows to Yosemite Valley - July 2001
Vogelsang Lake - June 2001
May Lake - August 2000
Desolation Wilderness is located on the west side of Lake Tahoe. It's easy to get to and you can quickly get into some drop dead gorgeous scenery. There are lots of wonderful lakes to go swimming in but prepared for lots of people unless you put the effort in to go further out and/or off trail.
Permits - Get your permit online at Recreation.gov. You can reserve permits and I'd recommend doing so in advance given how popular this area is.
When - Fall is very nice and the crowds are less
Where - It's all nice and I'd recommend the Crystal Range area.
Waca Lake - July 16 & 17, 2016
Top Lake - June 13 & 14, 2015
Meeks Bay to Gillmore Lake - Sept. 9 & 10, 2014
Echo Lake to Ropi Lake - July 13 & 14, 2013
Meeks Bay to Dicks Lake - Sept. 22 & 23 ,2013
Crystal Range - Lake Schmidell - July 14 & 15, 2012
Echo Lake to Lake Aloha - June 23 & 24, 2012
Meeks Bay to Rubicon Lake - Sept. 18 & 19, 2010
Fallen Leaf Lake to Lake Aloha - July 23 & 24, 2005
Fontanillas Lake - June 2002
Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP
Hands down some of the best terrain on earth to hike in. There is a bit of everything here from high desert, huge rivers, alpine lakes, isolated basins and of course some really big mountains. It's hard to go wrong with any hike you pick here.
Permits - Reserve them early especially if you are heading out on the weekend
Route finding - This is big vast terrain if you are going off-trail know how to read a map and use a compass
Sixty Lakes/Upper Gardiner Basin - August 27 - September 3, 2017
Alta Meadow - June 23 - 26, 2017
Miter Basin - July 2 - 6, 2015
High Sierra Trail - July, 2014
South Lake to Onion Valley - Sept. 2-7, 2012
Circle of Solitude - August 7 - 14, 2010
Pear and Moose Lake - September 5 - 7, 2009
South Lake to North Lake - August 1 - 7, 2009
Kearsarge Pass to Whitney Portal - August 25 - 30, 2007
Monarch Divide - August 7 - 15, 2006
Mt.Whitney - August 13 & 14, 2004
Crescent Meadow to Hamilton Lake - August 2002
I absolutely love this place. I use to think this was my secret but not anymore. Emigrant is located just North of Yosemite has fabulous scenery - lots of granite and many great swimming holes.
Permits - No Quota! Just get a permit at the Ranger Station. If you arrive late at night call the day before and they will leave one out for you
Trailheads - Some of the trailheads are on forest roads so get ready for some bumps. A high clearance vehicle is great but just go slow if you don't have one.
Where to go - Off-trail! Route finding is relatively easy and the crowds disappear quickly once you leave the trail.
Beginners - Give Chewing Gum Lake a try
Bell Meadow - Pingree/Hyatt/Rosasco Lakes - July 4-8, 2018
Gianelli - Powell/Granite Lakes - June 8 - 10, 2018
Gianelli - Rosasco/Pingree Lakes - August 12 & 13, 2017
Crabtree - Powell/Long Lakes - Sept. 10 & 11, 2016
Emigrant/Hoover Wilderness - Horse Meadow to Sonora Pass - Sept. 1 - 7, 2015
Kennedy Meadows to Nora Lake - July 3 - 5, 2014
Bell Meadow to Gianelli - July 4-8, 2012
Gianelli to Y-Meadow Lake - August 18 & 19, 2012
West Fork Cherry Creek - July, 2011
West Fork Cherry Creek - July 1 - 3, 2010
Gianelli to Toejam Lake - July 11 & 12, 2009
Crabtree to Leopold Lake/Leopold to Y Meadow and Bear Lake - June 27 & 28, 2009
Crabtree to Granite Lake - July 26 & 27, 2008
Kennedy Meadows to Relief Valley - July 3 & 4, 2008
Spring Meadow - June 28 & 29, 2008
Chewing Gum Lake (Girl's Weekend) - July 28 & 29, 2007
Deer Lake - August 26 & 27, 2006
Upper Chain Lake - June 2004
Chewing Gum Lake - July 2002
Other CA Trips
Piute to Pine Creek
Silver Divide from Lake Edison
McGee to Duck Pass - August 14-16, 2015
Hoover Wilderness - Rock Island - July 4 - 7, 2013
Ohlone Wilderness - Sunol to Del Valle - May 2013
Carson Iceberg - Paradise Valley Loop - July 21 & 22, 2012
Hoover Wilderness - West Walker River/Chain of Lakes - August 6 & 7, 2011
Carson Iceberg - Paradise Valley Loop - July 24 & 25, 2010
Carson Iceberg - Paradise Valley Loop - July 18 & 19, 2010
John Muir Wilderness - Pioneer Basin August 29 - Sept 1, 2008
Mokelumne Wilderness - Grouse Lake August 16 - 17, 2008
Ansel Adams Wilderness - Fernandez Lake - Sept. 15 & 16, 2007
Hoover Wilderness - Crown Lake - August 10 - 12, 2007
Carson Iceberg - October 18 & 19, 2003
Trinity Alps July 04 & 05, 2003
My Key Backpacking Resources
Tarptent - I've used Tarptents for several years now. I have the Rainbow and the Scarp 2.
Hyperlite - Great gear - I love my stuff sack pillow
Feathered Friends - Wonderful down gear - my summer sleeping back is from FF and I love my down hooded jacket from them.
Western Mountaineering - Based in Redwood City, CA - High quality - My winter bag is a WM.
ZPack - These seem to be all the rage these days. I own the Arc Blast.
Bearikade - I love my Weekender. They also rent and will apply the rental to purchase.
Ursak - I always use this when a canister is not required.
Minimus.biz - Great place to buy small items e.g. mustard, tea, salt - in custom quantities
Good To-Go - Fabulous dehydrated meals - they are all good
Rainbow Co-op - SF - Great bulk section
Mary Bell's Complete Dehydrator - Essential book on dehydration.
A Fork in the Trail - Good backcountry recipes
Hot T&T - Tang and Tequila - trust me this is the best
Backpacker Magazine - Not for the more advanced but fun to read about new gear and locations.
High Sierra Topix - Really outstanding community site. If you want to know something about the Sierra esp. Eastern/South Sierra this is the place to go.
Tom Harrison Maps - I think I have 2 of each map in the Sierra.
Wilderness First Aid - Always good to have some training
Backpacking Light - Good site for lightweight backpacking
NorCal Backpacking Meetup Groups