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Another beginner post - backpacking 1 or 2 nights

Posted: Wed Jan 03, 2018 10:26 am
by spacelord
Hello all! I found this forum while researching short backpacking trips in the Sierra Nevada. You guys seem to have a lot of good information and knowledge here so I figured I would post with my specific circumstances. There are a LOT of places in California to hike and we just moved here in January 2017, so most of it is unknown.

Background: 31/30 year old husband/wife. I mountain bike a lot and have pretty good cardio but don't hike a ton. I did a 4-night backpacking trip on the PCT from Chinook to Snoqualmie pass in Washington a couple years ago, but that is the extent of my backpacking experience. Wife exercises too, running/hiking/biking but has never been overnight backpacking.

We have slowly collected gear through day hiking and car camping, so we have just about everything. I'm good on that front.

Main interest is 1 or 2 night backpacking trips to get started this spring and summer. Ideally want to find alpine lake/mountain views. Loops preferred. We could handle 10 miles/3000' per day, maybe more. We live in the Bay Area so Tahoe is pretty close, but I'd be open to looking anywhere. Since I'm planning a few months in advance, driving out farther shouldn't be a problem either.

What's the deal with backpacking in the National Parks? I need to research more but it looks like you need a permit to camp overnight, at least in Yosemite. How about Sequioa or Lassen? Any good backpacking loops in there? And same deal with the permits?

Thanks everyone.

Re: Another beginner post - backpacking 1 or 2 nights

Posted: Wed Jan 03, 2018 12:01 pm
by Cross Country
Rock Creek out of Bishop would be a good first trip for your wife. It's gorgeous and easy. I think it's the perfect trip to turn someone on to backpacking.

Re: Another beginner post - backpacking 1 or 2 nights

Posted: Wed Jan 03, 2018 12:19 pm
by zacjust32
You need a wilderness permit in National Parks, most National Forests, and some Wildernesses, depending. The permit is given at the trailhead you start from and is specific to that trailhead; i.e. if you get a permit for Bubbs Creek you have to start on the Bubbs Creek trail. Some trailheads have quotas that limit the amount of backpackers (no quota on dayhikers) they let in per day. Availability depends on where you go, when you go, and how flexible you are with getting your permit. Some places have quotas that fill up months in advance, some (most) you can get a walk-up permit the day of or next day. There are 2 types of wilderness permits: reserved and walk-up.

Reserved Permits: Like it sounds, you reserve them in advance. SEKI has to be at least 2 weeks in advance, Yosemite 2 days, so that number is different for each place. They also open applications at different times, so check where you want to go. I think all the applications are online now. but you can call or fax them in. Just search "NP/NF I want to hike Wilderness permits" and you should find the information for that particular area's permit system. Each place is a little different. I've never used this so other's may correct me as they chime in.

Walk-ups: Here's how walk-ups usually work. Permit offices hold back a certain number of permits each day for walk-up hikers. They become available usually the afternoon of yesterday. So if you want to get a walk-up on Friday they become available Thursday afternoon. You have to be in person to get it. I've only ever used this system and have yet to not get a permit, YMMV.

There's a ton of resources here on the permit process, you just have to dig around. The answers aren't always where you think they would be. ... ts#p116815 ... ess+permit ... t+#p114919

Re: Another beginner post - backpacking 1 or 2 nights

Posted: Wed Jan 03, 2018 1:06 pm
by oldranger
My suggestion is that your first trip be about 60% of the milage and elevation gain you think you can do in a weekend. That way you have plenty of time to set up camp and enjoy your destination. Add milage and elevation gain based on your experience.

Re: Another beginner post - backpacking 1 or 2 nights

Posted: Wed Jan 03, 2018 1:46 pm
by balzaccom
Good suggestions here. If you are in the Bay Area, then the best places to start might be Desolation Wilderness, where you can get to the trailhead in something like three hours. But because of that, Desolation has a complicated permit reservation system to manage all the traffic it gets.

If you want something simple and nice, head for Emigrant Wilderness of Highway 108. It's still a relatively short drive (less than three hours from 680) but permits have no quotas, and there are a ton of lakes to explore. Check out our website for more specifics on destinations, but there are nice loops out of Crabtree and Gianelli trailheads that take in 5-15 lakes in 30 miles or so.

Re: Another beginner post - backpacking 1 or 2 nights

Posted: Wed Jan 03, 2018 3:38 pm
by Dave_Ayers
There are also a lot of good intro hikes in Yosemite such as Ten Lakes; Cloud's Rest from Sunrise; Ottoway Lakes; etc., that can be done in 2-3 days, though it is not so easy to find loops for the shorter duration trips.

There are various backpacking lectures at REI for beginners and beyond that may be of interest to you. Most are on Tuesday evenings at the various stores. Here's a link to the Fremont listings: , click near the bottom to change it to your local store. Backpacking basics class: ... ont/191156

Re: Another beginner post - backpacking 1 or 2 nights

Posted: Wed Jan 03, 2018 6:32 pm
by Wandering Daisy
For very early spring (before the Sierra is open) there are two good overnight backpacking areas in the Bay Area, suitable for year round are Point Reyes National Seashore and Henry Coe State Park. You most likely need to reserve a weekend permit at Point Reyes (weekdays you can go without). Henry Coe is not heavily used, so you need not get a permit. There is also backpacking at Marin Headlands and Mt Tamapias.

The coast range is more like the Cascades. Trinity Alps has some really nice 1-2 day trips.

Desolation is great. If you do more than two trips in Desolation, it is cheaper to get an annual permit. You have to pick it up at the Ranger Station in person. Desolation has a permit system AND a per-night fee. The annual permit has been about $20 per person.

South of Desolation: Carson Pass to 4th of July Lake is a good overnight.

Great 1-2 night trips in Hoover Wilderness out of Bridgeport.

Get a good planning scale map of the Sierra that shows trails and a few good guidebooks. REI has all this stuff.

When you say 1-2 night trips, do you have any restrictions time-wise on travel to get there? Are you talking about a 3-day weekend or a 3-day trip? Personally, I do not like to drive more than 2-3 hours for an overnight trip.

Re: Another beginner post - backpacking 1 or 2 nights

Posted: Wed Jan 03, 2018 9:59 pm
by Tom_H
Point Reyes and Henry Coe are not only close to you, they would give you an opportunity to do some short warm up and practice trips before the snow is gone in the Sierra. One of the first places you could reach in the Sierra is the confluence of Pilot Creek with the Rubicon River. Once the snow starts melting, the west side of Desolation will open up and then the east side. I'd recommend looking up some trip reports from Tahoe Jeff and Vacca Russ for some good route suggestions.

Re: Another beginner post - backpacking 1 or 2 nights

Posted: Thu Jan 11, 2018 12:23 am
by Lumbergh21
I went for an easy 3 day 2 night trip in the Desolation Wilderness at the end of May 2016. A low snow year, but still enough snow on the ground that there was just one other group camped at Lake Aloha that first night and they were about a mile away from where I was camped. While the snow slowed me down and changed my plans, the snow covered mountains and iced over lakes were gorgeous. As Wandering Daisy noted, there are several nice long weekend hikes in the Trinity Alps (my backyard, so to speak), but that is quite a long drive from the Bay Area. Canyon Creek Trail to the Boulder Creek Lakes is like the Sierra in miniature and by going to the Boulder Creek Lakes, you avoid 90% of the people hiking up the trail to the Canyon Creek Lakes, plus it is a safer creek crossing early in the season than the ones you have to deal with headed to Canyon Creek Lakes. While at the Boulder Creek Lakes or on the way to them, there is an easy off-trail route to the Forbidden Lakes. Pretty but lots of talus at Forbidden Lakes and no place to camp when I was there last June. There may be spots to camp once the snow melts though (lots of snow during June 2017 probably isn't indicative of most years). Some other highlights have been hiking over Stonewall Pass to the Four Lakes Loop and up Siligo Peak for breath-taking views of the Trinities, and the solitude of Sunrise Creek near Red Rock Mountain, just don't expect a well marked trail as it seems few people head that way, the trail disappears at every meadow.

Re: Another beginner post - backpacking 1 or 2 nights

Posted: Thu Jan 11, 2018 5:07 pm
by bobby49
Before you try to pick a good trip to go on, give this some thought. Are you there to cover some trail miles every day, or are you there more to camp out in a wilderness without moving that many miles. If you are there more for the trail miles, then you really want to think about minimizing your carried load weight. That will allow you to cover those miles without too much discomfort. Also think about why you want to be out there. If you are into wildlife, then there are certain places to go. If you hate wildlife, then there are other places. Similarly with wildflowers.