Backpacking in Arizona in Dec.

8:50 p.m. on December 4, 2010 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
9 forum posts

I have a conundrum, and my hope is that someone or somepeople can help me figure it out. Here it goes: after a downturn in affairs of the heart, I have been left with a ticket to and fro Phoenix, AZ in December. Since changing my flight time or destination will cost some money, I'm seriously considering flying there, renting a car and taking a 5-day (max.) backpacking trip. I'm currently trying to convince a friend to come out with me, but I'm not really counting on success, so this would have to be a manageable solo adventure. The only thing stopping me is a lack of a specific destination, and this is where I was hoping to enlist the help of this lovely community.

I know of the Superstitions, and I'm enchanted by the name, at the very least. I'm not opposed to driving a bit to reach another potentially cooler (in fact, warmer) location, such as Joshua Tree or to Santa Catalina in the Tucson area. I guess one of my overall issues is, would it be possible to backpack in Tonto National Forest (Superstitions or elsewhere) in December or would that be less optimal? If nothing's doing, would a place like J-Tree or Tucson be better?

I've got all the necessary basic gear, I think (Tent and/or bivy, sleeping bag, pad, liquid stove, pack, clothes), so I'm not too worried about that. However, if there's some sort of specialized gear I should look for or need, then that information would be lovely. Like I said, I'd be going it alone unless my friend decides she wants to have fun. I'm confident in my backcountry/hiking skills, but I wouldn't say I'm an expert veteran by any means. So, if I'm getting myself in over my head, I would love to know that too.

Essentially here are my queries:

1) Can I go it alone, or is that a BAD idea in this area/this time of year?

2) Where can I go to not have a miserable time being outside (Tonto NF, Tucson, Joshua Tree, or other)?

3) What specialized gear do I need?

4) Where should I look for more information?

Thanks, in advance.

9:15 p.m. on December 4, 2010 (EST)
225 reviewer rep
4,371 forum posts

The Catalina area near Tucson is very nice. I just did an old favorite hike up a place called Sabino Canyon to an area called Hutches Pool. Daytime temps in Tucson are in the 70-80 area. Nights at higher elevation like Hutches Pool which is 4500' is about 35 degrres.

1) Solo is fine as long as someone knows where you are going, how long you are staying and you are capable of liking solitude?

2)  Any where between Sedona, the area's around Pheonix, and in the lower Sonoran Deserts are very nice in December. Winter in this part of the country seems like summer to most from the northeast, northwest and the northmidwest. I have been coming to southern Arizona from Wyoming for the winters since 1983.

3) All you need for south ofthe Mogollon Rim,edge of the Colorado Plateau is a tent/bivy,sleeping bag rated to 20 and something warm to wear at night out in the wilderness. On my trip a couple weeks ago I took a bivybag, a sleeping bag 20+, a ground sheet, my stove,cookpot and my pullover sweatshirt for the cooler night at 4500'. I wore shorts ,a tshirt and hiking boots during the day in Sabino Canyon.

4) Go to Sabino Canyon in an online search, if thats where you want to go. For a pleasant place to stay before and/or after your hike if you go to Tucson go to www.theroadrunnerhostelinn.com its $20 a night and is a good place to perhaps find others who would be interested in hiking too.

See my trip reports for Romero Canyon and Sabino/Hutches Pool/Bear Canyon in Trip Reports. Romero Canyon is another nice area to hike and theres a campground at the trailhead at Catalina State Park  on the northwest side of the Catalina Mountains. I also did that hike to Romero Pools with some friends when I first went down.

Any other questions feel free to ask. Click on my member name next to this reply (upperleft) and send me an email if you want to discuss it separately.

Happy Trails,

Gary

9:16 p.m. on December 4, 2010 (EST)
225 reviewer rep
4,371 forum posts

The Catalina area near Tucson is very nice. I just did an old favorite hike up a place called Sabino Canyon to an area called Hutches Pool. Daytime temps in Tucson are in the 70-80 area. Nights at higher elevation like Hutches Pool which is 4500' is about 35 degrres.

1) Solo is fine as long as someone knows where you are going, how long you are staying and you are capable of liking solitude?

2)  Any where between Sedona, the area's around Pheonix, and in the lower Sonoran Deserts are very nice in December. Winter in this part of the country seems like summer to most from the northeast, northwest and the northmidwest. I have been coming to southern Arizona from Wyoming for the winters since 1983.

3) All you need for south ofthe Mogollon Rim,edge of the Colorado Plateau is a tent/bivy,sleeping bag rated to 20 and something warm to wear at night out in the wilderness. On my trip a couple weeks ago I took a bivybag, a sleeping bag 20+, a ground sheet, my stove,cookpot and my pullover sweatshirt for the cooler night at 4500'. I wore shorts ,a tshirt and hiking boots during the day in Sabino Canyon.

4) Go to Sabino Canyon in an online search, if thats where you want to go. For a pleasant place to stay before and/or after your hike if you go to Tucson go to www.theroadrunnerhostelinn.com its $20 a night and is a good place to perhaps find others who would be interested in hiking too.

See my trip reports for Romero Canyon and Sabino/Hutches Pool/Bear Canyon in Trip Reports. Romero Canyon is another nice area to hike and theres a campground at the trailhead at Catalina State Park  on the northwest side of the Catalina Mountains. I also did that hike to Romero Pools with some friends when I first went down.

Any other questions feel free to ask. Click on my member name next to this reply (upperleft) and send me an email if you want to discuss it separately.

Happy Trails,

Gary

10:20 p.m. on December 5, 2010 (EST)
7 reviewer rep
134 forum posts

The Superstitions, in fact anywhere in the desert southwest has beautiful backpacking in December. (possible exception being Organ Pipe due to drug running, etc.)  Very mild temps.

No specialized gear is necessary.  Bear in mind however that December is at the end of the fall dry season and most areas will not have reliable water.  You will want to factor this in to your plans. 

A great guidebook is Arizona Trails by David Mazel.  It may be out of print, but perhaps your local library can get a copy or you can get one from Amazon.  This book covers several areas around Arizona including the Superstitions and the Santa Catalina's mentioned by Gary.

If interested specifically in Superstion Wilderness Trails look for "Hikers Guide to the Superstition Wilderness" by Jack Carlson.

There are sufficiently well maintained trails in the Superstitions and Santa Catalinas to make a solo trek worry free (if you are and experienced hiker).

And there is a 3rd possibility, if you are want something slightly more civilized, is the east unit of Saguaro National Park.  There you must camp in specific backcountry campsites, but in December once beyond the dayhike zone you'll pretty much have the park all to yourself.

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