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Beginner Backpacking Trip from Central California

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.

Re: Beginner Backpacking Trip from Central California

Postby lambertiana » Tue Nov 29, 2016 8:21 pm

For a spring trip that is not a long drive from Fresno, you can go to South Fork at the southern end of Sequoia NP and go up the Ladybug/Whiskey Log trail. Whiskey Log camp is nice and you will probably have it to yourself. I prefer to go up that trail during fall/winter/spring because it is not as high and it would be too hot in the summer. Trail starts at about 3600' and whiskey log camp is four miles in, at 5100'. It's right on the south fork Kaweah river, so you have water.

Later in the year (June in a low snow year, July in a normal snow year) I would recommend Pear or Emerald lake on the lakes trail in Sequoia. Franklin Lake out of Mineral King (six miles one way, 2600' gain to 10,300') is one of my favorite locations, or you could try an easier Mineral King hike to White Chief.

Out of Roads End in Kings Canyon you could go to Paradise Valley. It's popular, but it's a nice area. Your biggest difficulty will be getting a permit because it is so popular. You would have to wait until the road opens and the snow clears, but Paradise Valley is not that high and should be snow free relatively early in the season.



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Re: Beginner Backpacking Trip from Central California

Postby franklin411 » Fri Dec 02, 2016 2:45 pm

If I wanted to do a major backpacking trip in March or April, I'd do the Grand Canyon. Perfect time to go--it's still around freezing at the top, and in the low 80s at the river. If you have a fabulous time, you'll still have the whole summer for the Sierra.

Fly to Vegas, and then drive 3.5 hours to the GC. Bingo...you're still pretty close to your 4 hr travel radius! :)
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Re: Beginner Backpacking Trip from Central California

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Dec 02, 2016 8:42 pm

You are SUCH an optomist! Have you flown lately? Not that fast anymore. Nothing but standing in lines. Nevertheless, Grand Canyon is a good spring backpack. But I would hesitate to call it a beginner trip.
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Re: Beginner Backpacking Trip from Central California

Postby ericZ » Sun Dec 04, 2016 3:29 am

You're in Fresno? I'm in Fresno. Go to Herb Bauers and rent an Osprey Volt 60 liter-ish in size. it's the only internal frame model pack they rent for men (they also have external Keltys too), but it'll give you an idea how a pack fits before you purchase one. they used to allow the rental fee applied to a purchase of one of their packs, not sure if that's still the case. Plus they carry a bunch of different brands at the store. Join REI too. When you're ready to purchase, have an REI staffer fit you properly in several different packs.

You can do this short backpacking hike right now. Drive around Pine Flat Lake to Garnet Dike. Hike the fisherman's trail up the Kings River as a nice intro to backpacking. 2 days, one night. "First Pines" is about 1.7 miles in and right along the river. You can go further too of course, make it a 3-4 mile hike in, all relatively flat, but rarely used this time of year. All low elevation, around 1,500 feet, but it'll be a nice trial before heading into high sierra stuff later next year. And will help you figure out what to carry in weight. It's about a 2 hour drive around the lake and up the river to the trailhead.

-Eric
Fresno, CA
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Re: Beginner Backpacking Trip from Central California

Postby Dave_Ayers » Mon Dec 05, 2016 12:39 pm

Two areas come to mind, though its been decades since I was at either. One is heading up 198 from Visalia to the Buckeye Trailhead which is only ~2,900 feet. You can hike east up the river ~10 mi and still be under 6,000 feet. That might work for a 2 day in and out and you can simply turn around when you run into snow.

The other is the Hetch Hetchy area. Cherry, Eleanor, Hetch Hetchy, Smith, Poopenaut, and Cottonwood TH's are all under 5,000 feet and you might be able to string together a 3-day trip early season with not much snow if the weather has been good.
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Re: Beginner Backpacking Trip from Central California

Postby sekihiker » Tue Dec 06, 2016 9:20 pm

I live in Fresno, too. Visit my website www.sierrahiker.com for more than 50 trip reports, almost all of them from west side trailheads. Once you are in good enough shape to complete 5 to 10 mile day hikes, take a few overnight hikes. You don't need to cook food on these hikes so you don't need to take a stove. Just work your way up to longer and longer trips, then, the sky is the limit. If you have questions or need advice, you can send me an email from my website. I started hiking in the Sierra in the 1950's and have hiked hundreds of miles of trails in Sequoia-Kings Canyon and Sierra and Sequoia National Forests. I still find time to spend two or three weeks hiking in the mountains every summer.
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Re: Beginner Backpacking Trip from Central California

Postby mbehlen » Tue Dec 20, 2016 8:42 pm

Hello! I am planning a trip in late March to Point Reyes and want to hit all four campsites in 4 nights! (And thank you for your suggestions) Based on the NPS maps I think I should do this clockwise with the following route from the Bear Valley Victor Center (parking):

Day One: Hike to Glen Camp (Is Bear Valley trail or the Rift Zone trail better?) Is there anything to check out here that you suggest?

Day Two: Hike to Wildcat Camp and head to Alamere Falls and possible check out Bass Lake (is it worth it?). Take Glen and Stewart trails to get there.

Day Three: Take the Coast Trail to Coast Camp

Day Four: Hike to Sky Camp via Woodward Valley to Sky Trail. Possibly hike to Mt. Wittenberg.

Day Five: Pack up and head back to the vehicle.

Any Tips or suggestions for this? Also I read there are no fires allowed, is this true for the whole park and all campsites?

Thank you for your input!!!



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Re: Beginner Backpacking Trip from Central California

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Dec 21, 2016 8:56 am

No fires at all in campsites or anywhere else in the park. You can get a permit to have a fire on the beach but generally the driftwood is picked clean by other people who've already done that. It's a very busy park. In winter when it's very cold, I bring a small bag of charcoal, as there are grills -- also the Banks Fry Bake, and bake bread or make pizza.

You are going to make reservations, one camp at a time, on their website in advance. The choke point is always Wildcat -- the campsites are very popular and there aren't many. In planning it as a loop with multiple nights I get that campsite first, they go fast. In fact, unless you go midweek, I think you're too late to get a site at Wildcat in March, already. At Coast the best campsites are the ones on the spur road up the hill -- the sites down in the bottom nearest the pit toilet will get heavy frost where the others won't, if it's going to be very cold, and aren't as protected as the ones up the hill. And the raccoons are everywhere at night fishing small things out of the camp, and the birds attack your food if you leave it untended, so make sure you use the food boxes. The sites at the end of the line at Sky have the best views (10, 11, 13) and the sites at the outer edge nearest the beach at Wildcat are the best protected, most are out in the flat and exposed.

I'm doing two camps next weekend. I've done all the camps at different points through the years and generally skip Glen, as it's not much to write home about -- a bunch of campsites in the woods without views. Generally I go to Sky first, on the Horse Trail as it's more gradual if I have newbie hikers, then Coast via the hostel (all downhill), then Wildcat (the longest day at 8 miles and with a large hill in the middle, but easy to take slowly as there are great views over the ocean).

The lakes are all ponds, more or less, sometimes scenic with the mist rising from them or maybe there are water birds. I've done a shuttle car at Palomarin a few times, and hiked out from Wildcat that way -- the lake shores are very overgrown and we get pictures on the way by, but I wouldn't compare it to the scenery one finds in the mountains by a long shot.

Side trips to Secret Beach or Sculptured Beach are worth it, and easily fit into the hike. All the hiking is fairly easy on good trails.
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Re: Beginner Backpacking Trip from Central California

Postby LMBSGV » Wed Dec 21, 2016 10:23 am

Since I live in West Marin, I’‘ve been camping and hiking at Point Reyes for 40 years. For my wife and I, it’s our overnight escape so I’ve camped at all the campgrounds and, at Sky and Coast, nearly all the campsites. I second everything in Almost There’s post. Here are a couple of more observations.

The weather can be extremely unpredictable. It can be sunny a few miles inland and socked in with fog at Point Reyes. In March, most likely, you will get fog every night so have a tent that is good for condensation. You will probably have a wet tent fly every morning.

At Sky, the two sites with the view of Drakes Bay are 10 and 11. Avoid #5, which is near the bathrooms and private and thus popular, but since it is in the trees can be like a rainforest when the fog comes in.

Since the Park Service planted trees on Mt. Witternberg, the climb to the top is probably not worth it anymore. The expansive views with a place to sit and take it all in are no longer there. For the best view, take the unsigned spur trail that goes up to the long ridge below the summit. This trail is just past the junction with the Sky Trail, Meadow Trail, and Z Ranch Trail. Go up the Z Ranch Trail and look for the spur trail to the right a little ways past the junction. Follow the trail along the ridge for a great view and, possibly in March, some of the most gorgeous wildflowers anywhere until you reach the junction with the Wittenberg and Z Ranch Trail. Follow the Z Ranch trail down to the Sky junction and take Sky to Sky Camp. Or you can take a wonderful walk from your Sky campsite and watch the sunset from the ridge.

Have a great trip!
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Re: Beginner Backpacking Trip from Central California

Postby mbehlen » Sun Jun 04, 2017 1:58 pm

Hello Everyone!

I just wanted to drop in and thank you all for your amazing help and support. My first backpacking trip at Point Reyes in March was a success! I had wonderful weather and some clouds for some moody photographs! I was able to camp at Wildcat Camp Day 1 and Coast Camp Day 2 with Day 3 consisting of headed back to the car. I am officially hooked and am planning my next adventure soon!

I have attached some images below shot with my trusty Polaroid 660 AF Camera!

WildCatBeach2 Low Res 1500 040517.jpg

Point Reyes South Beach 1 1500 Low Res 040817.jpg

Point Reyes South Beach 1 1500 Low Res 040817.jpg
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