Choices, choices... Which park?

11:27 a.m. on June 10, 2010 (EDT)
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My husband and I are semi-experienced backpackers and want to plan our first week-long trip. We live in the NC mountains and want to do something one of a kind and different from our usual hikes. In your opinion, what NP is best for a unique experience? We want to lose the crowds but we are not experienced enough to do anything hardcore. We want to stay in the U.S as well. Any suggestions?

11:56 a.m. on June 10, 2010 (EDT)
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The Tetons in Wyoming are a good choice as well as Yellowstone just up the road from there. The Grand Canyon is nice, but I don't recommend it for summer hiking it is better in the Spring before April or the Fall around October/November. Glacier park in Montana is nice, as is Yosemite. And I would have to say each park no matter where you go is "One of a Kind" as each is quite different. Bryce and Zion, Canyonlands and Arches are very scenic places too in Utah. The Olyimpic Park in Washington state has one of the best North American Rain Forests and Point Reyes and the Redwoods offer huge trees. Sequoia/Kings Canyon is a lot like Yosemite without the smooth granite walls of Yosemite Valley.

Just about all will be crowded as summer is here. Just dont go around the Fourth of July.

Yosemite Valley in the Sierra Nevada Mtns of California

Grand Tetons of Wyoming

Zion Park Narrows from Scouts Lookout in western Utah

Artist Viewpoint of Lower Yellowstone Falls in NW Wyoming

Bryce Canyon in west central Utah

Delicate Arch in Arches Nat'l Park Utah

Glacier Nat'l Park MT

Islands in the Sky Canyonlands Utah

2:03 p.m. on June 10, 2010 (EDT)
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If I had no obligations of any kind I'd be in Teton or Glacier -- haven't been to either, all I know is the best pictures always seem to come from there.

2:52 p.m. on June 10, 2010 (EDT)
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Gary left out Sequoia-Kings Canyon in California and Rocky Mountain National Park among the major parks for backpacking trips.

Actually, you can't really go wrong if you go backpacking in any of the western National Parks. But for many of them, you better get your reservation request in NOW!!! For a lot of them, you may not be able to find an opening before late August, although all (or most) do have a certain percentage of walkins that you can pick up in person the morning of (get in line before dawn!) or up to 24 hours in advance. You need to be flexible, though.

You might also consider some of the Wilderness Areas in National Forests. These are often easier for walk-ins.

4:20 p.m. on June 10, 2010 (EDT)
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I’ve been to several on Gary’s list, and think Olympic National Park is pretty awesome, but think the one venue that will seem most unique to you would be Zion National Park. While most of the venues there are day hikes, and place you around varying degrees of fellow walkers, the less traveled trails are truly empty of people. I once hiked a series of side trails off the West Rim trail for three days without seeing another soul. A great multi day venue is a trail that starts at the Park’s West Entrance Station, eventually ending at the Cable Mountain (West Rim) trailhead. While the core hike is only 17 miles total, this trip has several daytrip side hikes to some pretty remarkable vistas, including Great White Throne, Deer Trap Mountain, and Cable Mountain. You will see few if any hikers on this trip, once under way. There are also some good lonely hikes originating from trailheads accessed via the much less used North Entrance Station of the park.
Ed

8:53 p.m. on June 10, 2010 (EDT)
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Bill is right - don't forget Sequoia/Kings Canyon. I may be biased (I live just below the park, and spend a lot of time there) but it offers such a wide variety of terrain, from deep canyons to high alpine country.

Getting a permit at this time of year could be a problem, depending where you want to go. But anything after Labor Day should be easy to get.

I have room on a permit for a really nice 8-day trip in August for anyone who has some experience, but it will involve a fair amount of off trail hiking to some spectacular areas with few (if any) people. Nothing worse than Class 2 and some brush.

11:29 p.m. on June 10, 2010 (EDT)
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If you cannot get a permit for the park of your choice, there are some nice trails in nearby national forests. I spend alot of time in the Never Summer Wilderness and Rawah Wilderness. Both are near RMNP and there are not many people. I prefer a national forest to a park. Just a thought.

7:10 a.m. on June 11, 2010 (EDT)
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..don't forget Sequoia/Kings Canyon...

Yep it's all good too. Hey Lambert, can you provide the location of your pictures. I've been all over that park, but can't recall the specific locales of your images. I prefer the east side of the park because it has fewer mosquitoes:)
Ed

10:01 a.m. on June 11, 2010 (EDT)
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The Tetons are easy to get permits for as is the huge baccounrty of the Yellowstone. Also there is the Teton Wilderness southeast of Yellowstone. The entrance is at a place called Turpine Meadows near Moran Jct and being a wilderness you don't have to get permits. The entrance trail goes along Pacific Creek and over Two Ocean Pass where a stream divides to become Pacific Creek and Atlantic Creek (each going to other river, before eventually emptying into the ocean they are called by) Then you come to near the Headwaters of the Yellowstone River and Younts Peak. It is a very bautiful area filled with Grizzly Bears, Elk,Black Bears, Big Horn Sheep, Mtn Goats, Mtn Lions, and Wolves, not to mention all other carnivores and lil creatures.

11:41 p.m. on June 11, 2010 (EDT)
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Ed - In a normal snow year, by August the mosquitos are pretty much gone on the west side, but they will be there longer this year.

The location of the pictures, in order:

Big Wet Meadow, Cloud Canyon

Tehipite Valley

Bullfrog Lake

Kearsarge Lakes

Rae Lakes

Evolution Valley

The Citadel, LeConte Canyon

Sapphire Lake, Evolution Basin

Hamilton Lake

Mosquito Lake #2

Franklin Lake

Timberline Lake (with Whitney in background)

The Kaweahs from the High Sierra Trail below Wallace Creek

If you want to be by yourself, go to Tehipite Valley or Mosquito Lakes. Tehipite is hard to get to, but has big payoff - same scale as Yosemite Valley, with zero people. The trail to Mosquito Lakes is heavily traveled, but it ends at the first lake, and very few people go any further. Go cross country up the basin to the other lakes (like #2 pictured above). Here is more from that basin:

3:27 p.m. on June 12, 2010 (EDT)
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I'll second Sierra (SEquoia, KIngs Canyon NP --SEKI). Mineral King to the south of SEKI should not be overlooked as well - it is a relative newcomer to Sierra's Three Graces (Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings).

SEKI has fewer hiking visitors (but still quite a few) than Yosemite and darn few roads.

On the WEST side, Sequoia has a road skirting along the western border. There are only a few trail heads leading deeper into the park. One, Crescent Meadows leading up to Hamilton Lakes are (spectacular!)

http://www.topo.com/explore?lat=36.56397269253418&lng=-118.583984375&level=6&type=topo

is the start of the High Sierra Trail (5-9 days one way) crosses the sierra and ends at Mt Whitney. Kings Canyon has a single road leading in dead ending at Cedar Grove. From here there are beautiful hikes east through Rae Lakes and back (VERY POPULAR unfortunately), North that goes up a tortuous first day to the Ropers Route north mostly cross country to Yosemite; or south over Avalanche Pass and into more of the park and the first picture of Iambertiana's.

Out of Mineral King you can go over Black Rock Pass, after visiting Five Lakes area:
http://sierrahiker.home.comcast.net/~sierrahiker/FiveLakes/5L13.html

The map of the area is:

http://www.topo.com/explore?lat=36.472785266221244&lng=-118.5489501953125&level=6&type=topo

On the EAST side there are no road accesses to the parks, but almost every wide spot on US 395 has a trail head access to a pass that gets you directly into SEKI on the 'back bone' of the high Sierra.

There are many long trip options to choose from on the east side. Most connect up with either John Muir or Pacific Crest Trails. All trail heads have quotas to regulate how many visitors you will encounter on the trails. The entry paths are all well worn by day hikers, but once over the pass you can plan on routes that will have very few other hikers on it. The JMT will always have traffic. Mainly because it goes through some of the very nicest places on earth.

One east side project (5-6 days) puts you in at Cottonwood Lakes (trail head starts at 10,400 from the parking lot) up to the lakes,

http://www.topo.com/explore?lat=36.4907958148913&lng=-118.220947265625&level=6&type=topo

then over Army Pass down Rock Creek and up to behind Mt. Whitney on the 3rd night

http://www.topo.com/explore?lat=36.556864035917606&lng=-118.3497314453125&level=6&type=topo

at Crab Tree Meadows which could be a jumping off spot for a day hike of Mt Whitney from the 'back side'. (Timberline Lake - one shown in Iambertiana's pictures above - is just east off the map)

Continuing north you cross Wallace Creek and look west at the Kaweah (op cit. Iambertiana) and once across Big Horn Flats (awesome spots for Kodak moments) you get into the upper Kern River drainage area. One of the best all around views in the Sierra from near Tyndall Creek your next stop.

http://www.topo.com/explore?lat=36.64609147173674&lng=-118.38629150390625&level=6&type=topo

From here you can day hike around the area up to some of the passes on the west or east up Tyndall Creek to Shepherds Pass (and even Mt Tyndall) for a grand view of the entire area. Either of these hikes are a nice day hike.

The next day its a spectacular day you pay for by going over Forester Pass,

http://www.topo.com/explore?lat=36.70277877705462&lng=-118.36749267578125&level=6&type=topo

but uncompromising scenery going down the north side to Vidette Meadows your last camp.

You exit east out and over Kearsarge Pass to Onion Valley (the pictures of Kearsarge Lakes are in Iambertiana's pictures as well.

http://www.topo.com/explore?lat=36.772528021353864&lng=-118.37841796875&level=6&type=topo

From here you have to figure a way back to Lone Pine and up to Horseshoe to retrieve you car.

BUT, if you go counter clockwise from Onion Valley over Kearsarge and Forester Passes to Tyndall Creek (and sight seeing), then up over Shepherds Pass down to the trail head at Symmes Creek it is a dusty three mile hike to the road that leads up to Onion Valley and a simple hitch to your car for a loop. This would be considered a fairly strenuous hike because of the altitude you will be at and the long trip down from Shepherds Pass to Symmes Creek.

Other trips on the east side can be just overnights or two to some extremely nice Sierra high lakes. Such as Big Pine Lakes west of Big Pine

http://www.topo.com/explore?lat=37.12548094234295&lng=-118.49078369140625&level=6&type=topo

then out and up to Bishop for an few days from South Lake Trail head south over Bishop to Dusy Basin and maybe a day trip over Knapsack Pass.

http://www.topo.com/explore?lat=37.104357697668036&lng=-118.5494384765625&level=6&type=topo

to just west of the BIG mountains you were looking at from the east at Big Pine Lakes

or, or, or.......

or, or.....

3:42 p.m. on June 12, 2010 (EDT)
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Another 'Crown Jewel' hike is the Wonderland Trail around Rainier. Plan first week in September (or last in August) if you can. We went counter clockwise from Longmire and would have cut most of the walk along the road from there to Nickle Creek. But the remainder truly lives up to its name. It could be 5-6 days if you left from Nickle Creek and ended at Longmire. Bring LOTs of memory, battery and a tri pod. It gets really dark under a mass of 200-300 year old Douglas Firs on the north side. Plan to take pictures of all the foot bridges and publish in a book. Bring a book on fungi...there are many, many specimens. GREAT! wild flowers as well especially on east side along with more huckleberries than you will ever be able to eat.

July 29, 2014
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