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
- Evelyn Lake - Aug. 14 -15, 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
- 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