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ideas for backpacking/hiking in Northern California?

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  • ideas for backpacking/hiking in Northern California?

    I will spend a couple of weeks vacationing in California this summer with my wife and daughter. We are flying into SF, and visiting friends there for several days, but we would also like to get out for some hiking and/or backpacking. We do quite a bit of hiking in the Canadian Rockies and I was thinking of trying something that would be quite different from the stuff we do close to home. A friend recommended the Lost Coast - rough dramatic coastline, redwoods. We are pretty fit, looking for something not too long, maybe just 2-3 days.

  • #2
    Snow Mountain Wilderness is gorgeous in the summer. Huge old growth trees and alpine meadows blooming with Yarrow.
    Lots of trails for hiking.
    Coastal Crest Snow Patrol
    https://brentheffner.smugmug.com/
    http://www.youtube.com/user/MrJibmstr
    https://www.strava.com/athletes/1816044

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    • #3
      The High Sierra with its polished granite domes is quite a bit different than the Canadian Rockies (as are the distinct volcanic cones of the Cascades). If you haven't been to the Sierra Eastside, not just the Sierra but Mono Lake and the deep desert basins (e.g. Death Valley), do so.

      On the coast, you'll find a bigger difference from that which you would find in B.C. by staying south of the Lost Coast. The land is drier and less forested, making for spectacular scenery and views. Although many people do backpacks along the coast north and south of S.F. (e.g Big Sur) I think it is more suited to day hiking/car camping recreation.

      There is a lot to see in CA.
      Last edited by Baaahb; 11 April 2014, 01:01 PM.

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      • #4
        I'm not from the area, but we've done a fair amount or riding and hiking in N. California. I do find the Redwood area more "similar" to the BC Coast if you've already explored the west coast. No doubt it's spectacular. But I agree with Baaahb if you are wanting a different experience, head east of SF. I grew up in the Rockies (Canmore) and am still continuously stunned by the Sierra and other ranges (not sure if they are all part of the Sierra) east of SF. I particularly found the area between Downieville and Graeagle stunning and there is lots of hiking and backpacking between the two off the Gold Lake Highway.

        A little further (?) is the whole Tahoe area, with amazing wilderness and hiking. It feels more gong show than Banff in the summer and the road around the Lake is insane... but just like Banff, as soon as you are more than 5 or 6 miles off the main tourist loops, you can find lots of stunning wilderness.

        I'd go east for sure. Well worth the few hours of driving to get there for a truly different and stunning experience.

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        • #5
          Thanks for that input. The other thing I think about is crowds and heat. I would probably prefer tooling around more out of the way places. Also, we will be in CA end of July/early Aug so would heat be an issue? We are used to hiking in the Rockies where a hot day is mid-high 20's C.

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          • #6
            If crowds bother you, give serious consideration to the Trinity Alps. Sierra=crowds.
            backcountry in northern New Mexico

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            • #7
              Originally posted by mark g View Post
              Also, we will be in CA end of July/early Aug so would heat be an issue?
              In the Sierra it depends on where you go. Lower elevations along the river canyons can be brutally hot and dry but you can also opt to stay above 8,000 feet, where it may get brutally sunny but you best have something warm for when the sun goes down. You will have crowds but it is relatively easy to travel and camp off trail and find solitude. Eastside will be very dry and, yes, in the desert basins you will fry like bacon.

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              • #8
                Too many choices. If you want overnight backpacking and want to do it along the ocean, the Lost Coast is the best of the places I've been. There is good backpacking in the mountains just inland of Big Sur with spectacular scenery, but it's not right along the coast. California has lots of publicly accessible beach, but very little beach that retains its wilderness character for a long enough stretch for a multiday backpack trip--as Baaahb says, day hiking will get you most places with less trouble. Staying in San Francisco, you can (and should) spend a day hiking at Point Reyes in any case.

                We had some Canmore friends who came down two springs to ski the east side of the Sierra. One big difference they noted from the Canadian Rockies is the sustained high elevations of the Sierra. The Sierra don't match the spectacular steep peaks separated by deep valleys of the Selkirks or Canadian Rockies, but you can hike for days (or weeks for that matter) without going below 9000 feet--there are even a handful of roads leading to trailheads over 9000 feet. Also, the Sierra, oversimplifying, are essentially a tilted fault block--west is the low end of the tilt, east the high end--and the transition from 14,000 ft peaks on the crest to the high desert immediately east of them is spectacular. If you start high enough on the east side heat is not a big issue--but the drive from San Francisco is 5-6 hours or more, depending on where you go. If you have time to get off trail, or at least stay away from the John Muir Trail, you can avoid crowds most places in the Sierra. Though (and because) Tahoe is the closest part of the Sierra to San Francisco measured by driving time, it is also probably the most used backcountry in the range.

                It's hard to give specific Sierra suggestions without knowing what you want: high peaks? solitude? minimum driving time? beautiful lakes? A couple of books you might look at: Paul Richins, Trekking California (covers the Lost Coast as well as many mountain areas); Steve Roper, Sierra High Route--Traversing Timberline Country.

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                • #9
                  Mineral King. The Mono Recesses (take the boat taxi on Lake Edison, and the entertaining Kaiser Pass Road to get there). Or head out south of there from Florence Lake. Less known, but badass and beautiful places in the High Sierra.

                  Mine the forums on highsierratopix.com for ideas. A handful of people here (me included) post there from time to time. Or, at least, I recall seeing old TTips names over there.

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                  • #10
                    If you are flying into SF and visiting friends there I think I would save money on gas and spend time hiking around Mt Tam, Point Reyes and the Marin Headlands. Also I would head south and hike in the Mid Peninsula area, Big Basin and visit the beaches between Santa Cruz and SF. There is plenty of beautiful hiking directly North and South of SF. You could do these as day trips from SF. This would maximize your time on the ground instead of in the car and you would see some spectacularly beautiful country vastly different from what you see in the Canadian Rockies. It would also most likely be perfect weather for hiking cool mornings and warm, breezy afternoons.

                    The trails between Point Reyes and Santa Cruz could keep you occupied for a long time. The other suggestions are worthy options but are a haul from SF. Big Sur being the closest option mentioned, and that would be nearly 3 hours in the car to decent trailheads.
                    Last edited by airinwrite; 12 April 2014, 10:44 AM.

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                    • #11
                      I second Trinity Alps if you seek solitude. And while it share similarities to other Coast Ranges I found it uniquely different in many, many ways. Manzanita bushes populate the forest and the forest more resembles the Sierra than the Redwoods or Coast. It is remote and there are some amazing vistas. Do a google image search and decide for yourself. All I can say is that between the Wind River Range and the Trinity Alps I could explore the rest of my life happily and never cross my own path.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by climbhoser View Post
                        All I can say is that between the Wind River Range and the Trinity Alps I could explore the rest of my life happily and never cross my own path.
                        You mean in Twin Falls, Idaho?

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by airinwrite View Post
                          If you are flying into SF and visiting friends there I think I would save money on gas and spend time hiking around Mt Tam, Point Reyes and the Marin Headlands. Also I would head south and hike in the Mid Peninsula area, Big Basin and visit the beaches between Santa Cruz and SF. There is plenty of beautiful hiking directly North and South of SF. You could do these as day trips from SF. This would maximize your time on the ground instead of in the car and you would see some spectacularly beautiful country vastly different from what you see in the Canadian Rockies. It would also most likely be perfect weather for hiking cool mornings and warm, breezy afternoons.

                          The trails between Point Reyes and Santa Cruz could keep you occupied for a long time. The other suggestions are worthy options but are a haul from SF. Big Sur being the closest option mentioned, and that would be nearly 3 hours in the car to decent trailheads.
                          There is some substantial wisdom here. Along those lines, I will add Mt. Diablo (hiking from the Regency trailhead), San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Henry Coe State Park, Mt. St. Helena, Sonoma Coast State Park, Salt Point State Park and numerous beaches as you head north on Hwy 1. There is even backpacking in some of those......
                          It's turns! Of course it's worth the hike!

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                          • #14
                            Mt. Diablo and Henry Coe would have been mentioned but I would steer clear in late July and August. I love both places but early spring and winter are the best times unless unusually cool at that time. I've spent almost a whole week in Henry Coe on a bike packing trip in March and it is truly a wonderful and unique area. I think it is CA's second largest state park.

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