2 night easy S Cal back pack suggestion April 2014

12:43 p.m. on March 24, 2014 (EDT)
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Your trip suggestion leaving 4.4.2014; short out-and-back, OR short loop? Willing to drive up to 5 hrs one-way from LA to trailhead. Day 1: Looking for 5 to at most 8 mile trip to 1st back country camp that is snow free and not enormous elevation change. Prefer mountains/streams/lake rather than desert, and of course relatively uncrowded a +.

Day 2: day hike from camp and return, OR continue to 2nd night camp.

Arriving from out of state so unfamiliar with local conditions. Thanks, Ted

2:28 p.m. on March 27, 2014 (EDT)
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Even though this is a relatively little snow year, most trails on the eastern Sierra (US-395) will have plenty of snow soon after leaving the trail head.  Most of those trails start at around 9,000' to 10,000'.  The trail heads probably should be plowed by then but Tioga Pass (to/from Yosemite) traditionally is not opened until May.  By mid June there is usually (maybe not this year) snow (read consolidated 'concrete') covering trails above 11,000'.

My favorite early spring day hike (not easy) from US-395 west of Independence is Symmes Creek trailhead (around 6000') up toward Shepherd Pass. The first mile you have to cross the creek several times.  It will be running high because of snow melt. Expect wet feet. Once over the ridge there are spectacular waterfalls from the very high cliffs to your left, awesome views of Mt Williamson and Tyndall (14ers) doing a strip tease as you climb higher.  Maybe (MAYBE) Mahogany Flats will be snow free and you could explore up on the snow the next day.  This needs a wilderness permit for over night.


Dinky Lakes on the other side of the Sierra is low, but gathers more snow than does the Eastern Sierra.  Some of the lower parts will be snow free.


Also on the western side in Sequioa is Wolverton and Marble trailheads.  You can expect snow to 4' but you will be on top of it without a lot of postholing (leg disappearing into a hole).  I've been up there in late March for a very satisfying weekend.


There is the entire length of the west coast that will be snow free.  You might consider Catalina Islands and an overnight there.  Ferry ride to/from Long Beach (not far from LAX).  As an example:


The Sespe Mountains are spectacular in April.  Not hot as yet.



5 hours will get you to Big Sur.  Certainly a nice area, but others will have to pipe in about that area for backpacking/hiking.

10:58 a.m. on March 29, 2014 (EDT)
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@speacock thx so much for detailed suggestions and overview. Area around Lone Pine (your suggested Symmes Creek Trail) is of great interest. Anything else in near Lone Pine, perhaps in South Sierra Wildernss (about 25 mile South of LP) as elevations there seem modest. I expect that you are aware of mud slides and significant July 2013 damage to Symmes Creek trail (see  highsierra topix community report and Sequoia NPS trail cond report).

Any other suggestions in Sespe Mountains for April? Probably will be weekend and to get some (possible) solitude would expect avoiding the hot springs is advisable.

10:39 a.m. on March 30, 2014 (EDT)
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If you stay strictly in So Cal, there are very few lakeside venues.  The water is mostly freshets and small creeks.  Nevertheless this is the perfect season to camp the local mountains, no need to drive hours to the Sierra.  All of the below suggestions are within a two hour drive from LA; some are only mere minutes from civilization, but you do get away from it all.  In fact these are real mountains, some of the most rugged in the nation.  When visiting, respect them for the truly wild terrain they are; many people underestimate what awaits them if they run afoul. 

San Jacinto is a mountain above Palm Springs.  Provided it doesn't snow in the next few days you should be able to hike to Round Valley with only a minor elevation gain (the tram does the heavy lifting for you!).  If the peak is snow free Little Round Valley is worth the 1500 climb over the summit, and should have very few campers.  Permits available at the ranger station near the tram's mountain top base station.  On the other side of the mountain you can hike up the Devil's Slide Trail to camp sites along the crest line, but that is a 1500' elevation gain.  Permits are available at the ranger station in the town of Idlewild.  Both hikes put you in conifer forests.

Somewhat closer is Big Bear and its neighbor, San Gorgonio.  Both these mountains have multiple hiking options, but most have some elevation gain to content with, and are more popular than some of the other venues I mention.  

You can try any number of venues in the Angeles Forest, San Bernardino Forest, Los Padres Forest, and other named tracts, all of which border each other in the mountains ringing Los Angeles.  Bridge to Nowhere, up the North fork of Glendora Canyon is almost level, as it follows a stream bed and has few hikers.  Alas there are a slew of un-bridged small stream crossings with water higher than your boot tops.  This trip is not a option, however, if rain is forecast or shortly after rain, since the stream the trail follows can quickly swell into a raging cataract and trap you, due to the large area of watershed it drains.  There are many hiking options in the Crystal Lake area, a few miles further up Rte 39 from the BTNW hike, some with nominal elevation gains.  The trail leading to Angel's Falls on Mt Wilson offers a lovely hike (take the upper fork just before reaching the falls) that leads off into the countryside to stream side camping and almost no visitors.  Your destinies in all of these hikes will put you in flora ranging from scrub and oak to conifer.  All of these venues have permits available from ranger stations in the general vicinity along the roads you use to access these hikes.




10:19 a.m. on March 31, 2014 (EDT)
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Thank you so much for sharing your helpful knowledge of local areas. Hope you are enjoying early spring season.

April 20, 2018
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