Good hiking/camping near major US airports?

8:31 p.m. on May 28, 2015 (EDT)
202 reviewer rep
96 forum posts

Hi guys. I want to plan a couple of long weekend trips this summer/fall out west.  I live in Atlanta only 30 minutes from the largest/busiest airport on earth, so I am lucky to have so many options when it comes to flying. 

What I want to do is fly out of ATL on a Thursday or Friday and fly back on a Mon. or Tuesday. I want to be able to rent a car at the destination airport and drive no more than 2 to 3 hours to where I can hike and camp.

I am interested only in western states.  I want a change of scenery (literally) from the east coast, with all of our rain and humidity. I love the arid climates and the landscapes of the southwest in particular. I'm up for moderate hikes of 20 miles or less RT from the car, but the main purpose is to recharge my batteries and chill.

One trip I have already thought of is to fly to Vegas, and then drive to Zion, NP and camp there. I think Zion is approx 2.5 hour drive from the LAS airport.

The reason I am specific to a major airport, is I want a non-stop from ATL. I'm open to any ideas especially lesser known, less crowded places. Does not need to be a SP or NP, just good scenery.

9:33 p.m. on May 28, 2015 (EDT)
38 reviewer rep
1,902 forum posts

You could fly to either LAX or SAN and head towards the desert. From LAX, Joshua Tree is about 3 hours out and there are other places out that way like Mt. San Jacinto up above Palm Springs (take the tram). Part of the PCT passes through there. Mojave and Death Valley are further out.

Anza Borrego is east of SD, but I've never been there.

There are lots of places along the coast if you want to try something different. Monterey and Big Sur are not that far from San Fran, Tahoe is not too far either. You may be able to fly into SMF (Sacramento) for Tahoe.

10:17 p.m. on May 28, 2015 (EDT)
2 reviewer rep
88 forum posts

The possibilities are endless in OR or WA and the scenery is stunning.  Flying cross country can really cramp your style though as you basically have to commit at least a full day to travel.  Just google "hiking in Oregon" or "hiking in Washington", and you'll find numerous helpful sites.  Utah could be a great option as well.  5 NPs within a half days drive and tons of other cool places to explore.  Seems as if there's a ton of west coasters on this site, so I'm sure you'll receive some helpful feedback from others here. Whatever you decide, have a great trip!

11:21 p.m. on May 28, 2015 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
583 forum posts

Fly into Reno, and you have the whole Sierra to choose from

4:14 a.m. on May 29, 2015 (EDT)
244 reviewer rep
5,336 forum posts

Jackson yoming has an international airport here in Jackson Hole WY and it is within a 1/5 minute drive of the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone is about a 30 minute drive away.

http://www.nps.gov/grte/index.htm 

http://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm 

And there are also the Wind River Mountains, the Gros Ventre Wilderness and the Wyoming Range with Gannet Peak (highest mountain in Wyoming, all within a 30 minute to 1 hours drive away.

Jackson Hole Airport is in the center of this map view at this link: http://www.mappingsupport.com/p/gmap4.php?ll=43.640410,-110.701530&z=10&t=t1 

You can zoom in/out with the map view to the upper left. As you can see there is plenty of hiking/travel area's around the airport.  The town of Jackson (where I live summers now) is just 6 miles south of the airport with hotels,motels,places to eat and outdoor shops as well as other tourist places. We are a small town but with plenty of services for all needs. Yellowstone's south entrance is 55 miles north and Grand Teton is just 20 miles away.

9:24 a.m. on May 29, 2015 (EDT)
73 reviewer rep
3,637 forum posts

Just about any western town will do. Near major airports, Denver, Seattle, San Franscisco, Albuqueque, Portland, or Salt Lake City would be hard to beat. I would not head to the low deserts in the summer, ie Zion.  For the best guaranteed weather stay inland away from the Coast.

4:08 p.m. on May 29, 2015 (EDT)
1,967 reviewer rep
351 forum posts

To add: Phoenix.

7:06 p.m. on May 29, 2015 (EDT)
73 reviewer rep
3,637 forum posts

Phoenix is way to hot in the summer.

Reno is a good choice.

To get away from the rain avoid San Francisco, Portland and Seattle.

7:08 p.m. on May 29, 2015 (EDT)
40 reviewer rep
560 forum posts

The deserts (anything east of Los Angeles) are hot and the Sierra are spectacular.

Getting to the Sierra from San Fran or LAX is a long drive. Neither the National Parks (from the west) nor the trailheads to the high Sierra from the east are short trips. 

Fly in the evening before, get the car and be ready for an early start. If the plan is to be at camp by mid - late afternoon, you can drive 4-5 hours - it helps if you are on east coast time.  Four hours to Lone Pine an hour more to Bishop.  From LAX you can be a lot of places along US 395 on a trailhead on the eastern side of the Sierra by 9am (breakfast in Mohave)and be 6 miles into lakes, a place to make a base camp well before dinner. You can explore from there including a 14,000' peak (that is a long slog) for the fit

Most lakes have fishing - some better than others. Bring a book if they aren't biting.

The eastern Sierra have some of the most beautiful scenery in the lower US.  The altitude can be a bit of a problem, but the scenery makes up for the effort.  Almost every wide spot on US 395 has access to lakes and an exploration over a high pass (about 12,000') the next day.  Most of the trails start at 9,800'+ so it is a trade off on acclimatization (which you don't have enough time for) an how relatively little more you need to go up for the first night.  95% or more of the bazillion backpackers come from near sea level and survive.  Most don't take the time to move up gradually.  Everybody is lightly affected. An unfortunate few more than others.

Lone Pine, Independence, Big Pine, Bishop have trails to scenic places all with lakes in 6-7 miles and extensions for goof off time the next day or a move of the camp.

Lone Pine:

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=36.49549,-118.19808&z=14&t=T

Independence:

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=36.76106,-118.36739&z=14&t=T

Big Pine:

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=37.12378,-118.49622&z=14&t=T

Bishop:

   South Lake and Bishop Pass

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=37.13719,-118.54832&z=14&t=T

   Sabrina Lake

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=37.18008,-118.61063&z=14&t=T

   North Lake and Piute Pass

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=37.21796,-118.66865&z=14&t=T

These can each be a day trip to the same place you would get to for the night backpacking.  Back before night to a motel (or car camp) for a nice meal, bath and bed.  Then do another the next day.  In most cases you could be to the lakes by noon and still have time to practice being away from things.

20F sleeping bag, light weight hooded rain jacket (e.g., Precip), 200 or better long sleeve fleece top.  Lots of UV protection for eyes, skin, lips and a brim hat.  DEET for the mosquitoes.  Lunch bag if day tripping it.

Who knows what the weather will be but plan for 20F's at night. It happens above 10,000'.  Day times could be in  90's too.  There are a lot of people doing rain dances here.  If it works you will get wet - otherwise maybe not.

Trails are mellow compared to east coast mountains - we use switch backs a lot.  Figure on 1+ mile per hour to keep from throwing a rod.  You more than likely will not be alone on the trail.  Once off of it, just you and the marmots.

You need to soon decide on wilderness area you will be in to apply for a permit to be there over night.  You will have to rent a personal food container.  Where you pick up your permit, rent a Garcia canister. Bears are too friendly and are thieves.

7:10 p.m. on May 29, 2015 (EDT)
73 reviewer rep
3,637 forum posts

There are lots of wilderness areas in the Sierra that do not require permits, or where one can be filled out at the trailhead. Reno is much closer than SF and LA to most of the range.

8:45 a.m. on May 30, 2015 (EDT)
1,967 reviewer rep
351 forum posts

ppine said:

Phoenix is way to hot in the summer.

 Yeah, didn't see that the OP had specified summer.

9:55 a.m. on May 30, 2015 (EDT)
73 reviewer rep
3,637 forum posts

Forget Anza Borrego, Joshua Tree and Death Valley in the warm part of the year.

Lake Tahoe is a half hour from Reno. There are plenty of places to hike and backpack within an hour of the airport.

The east side of the Cascades is much drier and less crowded than the west side in OR and WA.

Albuquerque has some great mountains nearby.

Denver is a shorter flight than the Coast, and has plenty of great places to hike close by. I would go there first. It is also a transportation hub like Atlanta.

Salt Lake City would be next choice. They just have some unusual laws in LDS land.

12:08 p.m. on June 2, 2015 (EDT)
733 reviewer rep
1,398 forum posts

Portland and Seattle. From Sea-Tac(with direct flights from Atlanta) Mt. Rainier is an hour away.

4:17 p.m. on June 2, 2015 (EDT)
202 reviewer rep
96 forum posts

Wow guys!!!!!  This is GREAT information!!!!!  Thanks a million!!

Yes, I agree with Ppine. The low deserts would be too hot in summer, so my idea to camp in Zion might be better suited for the fall season.

Ppine said

"Just about any western town will do. Near major airports, Denver, Seattle, San Franscisco, Albuqueque, Portland, or Salt Lake City would be hard to beat. I would not head to the low deserts in the summer, ie Zion.  For the best guaranteed weather stay inland away from the Coast."

8:10 p.m. on June 2, 2015 (EDT)
40 reviewer rep
560 forum posts

August is the perfect time to be in Seattle. Good weather up until first half of September. A long haul flight for you.  But the Cascades are just ... right... there.^.  

You can do a section of the Wonderland Trail (a new view of Rainier every hour) that takes off from any of the three or four access roads. It would be an in and out, but some WOW scenery.   There are complex restrictions on spending a night on the trail there - check it out first.  I'd suggest going counter clockwise up Summerland as far as you can get then come back down.  You won't be alone on any of that trail.

The Olympics are just under 3 hours.  Ferries (loaded with cars) run up to 11PM with good views in daylight.   Some magnificent trails to get away from it all from a rainforest on up to and including glacier travel.

The PCT runs along the ridge of the Cascade. 

Mt Hood's trail system, or just sitting in the lodge looking up at the mountain with a good book and comforting drink.

Mt Baker and Adams have some great hiking trails.  Most of them, however are access to glacier travel.

The NW is due more than just a quick weekend tho...

2:26 a.m. on June 3, 2015 (EDT)
733 reviewer rep
1,398 forum posts

Just to add to above post. August is when the "foreigners" come. The best weather in the PNW is in September. That is when we locals get out and love the best. In the North Cascades, the larches will have changed. You don't need to worry about ferries for the Olympics if you fly into Sea Tac. You can access the east side of the Olympic Peninsula from Tacoma and the narrows bridge. 

9:02 a.m. on June 3, 2015 (EDT)
73 reviewer rep
3,637 forum posts

I love the PNW. My family has been there since 1889. It is the antidote for Nevada.

But I would not suggest that someone fly more than 3,000 miles across the country if they are trying to get out of the rain. Seattle can be wet even in late July, August and September. The Cascades Mountains even wetter. The Olympics are wetter still unless you are in Sequim. No offense to any of your PNWers.

Lee is looking to "get out of the rain and humidity." There are infinitely many closer and drier places to camp and hike.

11:52 a.m. on June 3, 2015 (EDT)
733 reviewer rep
1,398 forum posts

ppine, you have been too long away with talk like that. Seattle has less rain in the summer than New York City. Last year, we had no measurable precipitation for more than 60 days, starting in late July. But then, perhaps you're trying to scare the OP away.

12:26 p.m. on June 3, 2015 (EDT)
73 reviewer rep
3,637 forum posts

When people I don't know ask me how I like this valley, I tell them I am trying to leave.

On the other hand I can remember backpacking with my brother in August, up by Three Fingered Jack, around Darrington or thereabouts. We camped next to a lake for three days but never saw it in the fog and clouds. Building a fire is difficult. About one summer in three in Seattle is spectacular like last year. One is average, and one is swampy and people complain about the lack of sun.

"Good weather" is a relative term. Compared to the West Side, Colorado and Utah have better weather. I like the East Side. Give me the Methow, Slate Peak, the Okanagan, Republic, Curlew, Stevens, Ferry and Pend Oreille Cos. Anyone want to paddle the length of Roosevelt Lake?

9:05 p.m. on June 3, 2015 (EDT)
202 reviewer rep
96 forum posts

ppine said:

I love the PNW. My family has been there since 1889. It is the antidote for Nevada.

But I would not suggest that someone fly more than 3,000 miles across the country if they are trying to get out of the rain. Seattle can be wet even in late July, August and September. The Cascades Mountains even wetter. The Olympics are wetter still unless you are in Sequim. No offense to any of your PNWers.

Lee is looking to "get out of the rain and humidity." There are infinitely many closer and drier places to camp and hike.

 Yeah I agree here again with Ppine about the rain in the PNW. No offense to you guys who live there..... I think it would be a super cool place to explore by car and the ferry sounds really nice.  Since Atlanta is land-locked, we don't have any cool transport like ferries that I can drive my rental onto and then sit back and enjoy the ride in the ocean.  I think I would enjoy a trip to the PNW the most by hiking during the day (whatever the weather may bring) but then coming back to a nice hotel room at night. 

Back in 2010 I went to LA for the first time and took a ferry to Catalina Island and really enjoyed riding out on the open ocean for a few hours, soaking up the sun and drinking a beer on the way :)

9:07 p.m. on June 3, 2015 (EDT)
202 reviewer rep
96 forum posts

Erich said:

ppine, you have been too long away with talk like that. Seattle has less rain in the summer than New York City. Last year, we had no measurable precipitation for more than 60 days, starting in late July. But then, perhaps you're trying to scare the OP away.

 So, is this typical summer weather for you guys Erich? Do you get most of the rain in the winter and spring?

9:11 p.m. on June 3, 2015 (EDT)
202 reviewer rep
96 forum posts

speacock said:

August is the perfect time to be in Seattle. Good weather up until first half of September. A long haul flight for you.  But the Cascades are just ... right... there.^.  

You can do a section of the Wonderland Trail (a new view of Rainier every hour) that takes off from any of the three or four access roads. It would be an in and out, but some WOW scenery.   There are complex restrictions on spending a night on the trail there - check it out first.  I'd suggest going counter clockwise up Summerland as far as you can get then come back down.  You won't be alone on any of that trail.

The Olympics are just under 3 hours.  Ferries (loaded with cars) run up to 11PM with good views in daylight.   Some magnificent trails to get away from it all from a rainforest on up to and including glacier travel.

The PCT runs along the ridge of the Cascade. 

Mt Hood's trail system, or just sitting in the lodge looking up at the mountain with a good book and comforting drink.

Mt Baker and Adams have some great hiking trails.  Most of them, however are access to glacier travel.

The NW is due more than just a quick weekend tho...

 I agree with you Speacock, these are great ideas, but it might need to be a bit more than a long weekend.  The flight out to the west coast is great regarding the time change from the east coast.  If I leave ATL at 10am I can be just about anywhere on the west coast by 11am or 11:30am which is great.  It's the return trip back to ATL that's the killer tho...

12:09 a.m. on June 4, 2015 (EDT)
733 reviewer rep
1,398 forum posts

Yes, Lee, the weather in the PNW is typified by mild wet winters and warm dry summers. What some meteorologists call a rainforest monsoon winter with a drought summer. 60 days without rain is not uncommon. Speacock is incorrect that August is the best month. I grew up here and have spent most of my 60 years living here. September is often a spectacular month. ppine is trying to scare you. That said, we can have a cold May(Maycember) followed by a wet June(Junuary). By mid July, things start to get really great and often the rain doesn't return until the first week of October. As I recall, we have gone over 90 days without rain in the summer to fall. This coming summer will be quite dry, as was last summer.

1:01 a.m. on June 4, 2015 (EDT)
202 reviewer rep
96 forum posts

Erich said:

Yes, Lee, the weather in the PNW is typified by mild wet winters and warm dry summers. What some meteorologists call a rainforest monsoon winter with a drought summer. 60 days without rain is not uncommon. Speacock is incorrect that August is the best month. I grew up here and have spent most of my 60 years living here. September is often a spectacular month. ppine is trying to scare you. That said, we can have a cold May(Maycember) followed by a wet June(Junuary). By mid July, things start to get really great and often the rain doesn't return until the first week of October. As I recall, we have gone over 90 days without rain in the summer to fall. This coming summer will be quite dry, as was last summer.

 Thanks Erich.  Being from the east coast, I just thought it was rainy up there in the PNW pretty much all year round. So, what are typical high and low temps in Seattle during September when the weather is great there?  Is it humid during that time, or is that just a hit or miss thing?

1:41 a.m. on June 4, 2015 (EDT)
733 reviewer rep
1,398 forum posts

By Seattle, I think you probably mean the Cascades, rather than downtown Seattle. We don't have humidity like the East Coast, though it is more humid than ppine's eastern slope of the Cascades. And I should mention that pine lives in Nevada and his favorite haunts in Washington are the high desert. Sage and ponderosa pine. On the west side, you'll find Douglas fir, hemlock, vine maple, silver fir, grand fir, red alder. Of course this changes as you gain elevation. On the east side, you'll find pines, ponderosa, more sparse. I'm just guessing, but without actually looking at trends, the days will be in the mid sixties by mid September, and you might get frost at night at elevations around 3000-4000 feet. The first frost will have killed most of the mosquitos and the mountain huckleberries ripen in late August. Since ppine mentioned Darrington, which is a logging town on the Mountain Loop Highway, the average daytime temperature in September is 75 and the low 45. I should add that the only Three Fingered Jack I know of, is in Oregon. ppine, you were no doubt referring to Three Fingers, which is considerably west of Darrington. It and Pilchuick and Whitehorse are known for wet weather because they are so far west they get. the full brunt of anything from the coast through the Straits. There are, of course many drier areas. The thing to remember is that Washington is quite diverse. Goat Rocks, just east of Rainier is much drier than Rainier because the mountain blocks most rain. I have often been hiking in beautiful weather just east of Snoqualmie Pass, near Salmon la Sac, and found clouds driving home just west of the Pass. As an example of precipitation, Darrington(a generally wet place) might get slightly more than an inch of rain in July, the same in August, over two inches in September, almost eight in October and fifteen in November. Cle Elum, just east of Snoqualmie Pass, gets about half that. I would add that the Olympics are quite similar. The west side is quite wet and a temperate rain forest. The east and south sides are much drier. Nice hikes up the Dosewallops, into Royal Basin at the Brothers.

9:30 a.m. on June 4, 2015 (EDT)
73 reviewer rep
3,637 forum posts

Three Fingered Jack was the old bar in Winthtrop. Three Fingers is the peaknear  Mt. Pilchuck.

The good places don't need any salesmanship.

1:10 p.m. on June 4, 2015 (EDT)
733 reviewer rep
1,398 forum posts

Haha, Ppine. Three Fingered Jack is a mountain near Mt Jefferson in Oregon. Three Fingered Jack's is in Winthrop...had dinner there over Christmas. Perhaps it was there you had fog for three days :-).

9:04 p.m. on June 4, 2015 (EDT)
40 reviewer rep
560 forum posts

"Speacock is incorrect that August is the best month."

Yeah, but SeaFair is in August!! 

We have family scattered from Portland to Seattle and the surrounds and now islands.  We normally start a long back country trip in August with the younger crowd so that we will have mostly good weather as it drags into September and it gets cooler in the upper Cascades.  I will agree that the higher up huckleberries are better in September.  We don't normally see a lot of people tho, anyway.

We've always tried to schedule May/June for glaciers.  With a eye to the weather, can get views on/of Rainier that just don't happen in other months.

3:02 a.m. on June 5, 2015 (EDT)
733 reviewer rep
1,398 forum posts

SeaFair has sometimes had rain, and cool weather. It occurs the first week of August. It ends with the hydro races. As a child, my hero was Bill Muncey, and I built a model of the Miss Bardahl. The SeaFair Pirates scare children but entertain adults. Yes, August, the weather can be nice, but by mid August through September is the best.

12:48 p.m. on June 5, 2015 (EDT)
73 reviewer rep
3,637 forum posts

At the old Three Fingered Jacks we used to shoot craps on the pool table during hunting season.

Bill Muncey was one of my childhood heroes. My Dad used to tell the story of a friend that was at a cocktail party on the L Washington watching the Miss Bardahl, Miss Budweiser and Miss USA with four Rolls Royce engines apiece. One of the hydro planes, hit some chop, missed a corner and went airborn all the way to shore, landing just short of the people drinking cocktails.

The PNW is a great place and full of lore. It is still not the best answer to the OPs request. I am headed to NE OR on Monday.

11:14 p.m. on June 6, 2015 (EDT)
733 reviewer rep
1,398 forum posts

Only one engine in a boat, ppine, but three others as spares. I can remember being in the pits and watching them change an engine out. Rolls Royce and Allisons, all big v 12s from Spitfires and P-51s. Miss US, Thriftway, Bardahl, and later the Bud.

10:02 a.m. on June 7, 2015 (EDT)
73 reviewer rep
3,637 forum posts

The eastern Cascades are hardly a desert. From the top of range heading east are some magnificent mixed conifer forests with Douglas fir, grand fir, Pacific silver fir, red alder, lodgepole pine, and western red cedar. Declining in elevation the forests become more mesic with ponderosa pine and Doug fir, black cottonwood in the drainages. The lower slopes are dominated by ppines with various dominant shrubs like bitterbrush, big sage, ninebark, and snowberry. The Okanagan Plateau and the northern tier of counties are similar. The only desert in the state of Washington is in the Columbia Basin, far removed from the eastern Cascades.

12:26 p.m. on June 7, 2015 (EDT)
733 reviewer rep
1,398 forum posts

I wasn't referring to the eastern Cascades as a desert, only that the climate changes and becomes significantly drier as you move eastward, with areas such  as the east slope of Umtanum and Manashtash Ridges being high desert environments. Yakima Canyon has some very nice hikes, in areas I would characterize as high desert. Sage with willow in the riparian zone. I often see big horn sheep in those areas. My point was to clarify to the OP, the diversity of the environments in the PNW. Often, people hear about the weather in Washington as constantly rainy. Twenty miles east of the Cascade crest, puts you in the Yakima Canyon. Another 20 miles and you can see the sand dunes south of Vantage. On a good day, from some of the higher elevations, you can see Puget Sound and the Olympics, and  the mountains falling away to the high desert of central Washington. Certainly, there are places closer to Atlanta, with good access to hiking. But there are few which in a couple of hours from a major airport, you could chose to hike in one of the few remaining temperate rain forests, an area that resembles the Alps(the North Cascades), and the Dry Falls of the Columbia. The only problem, is what environment to choose.

February 21, 2019
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply

 
More Topics
This forum: Older: Dispersed car camping in Utah Newer: Camping Matterhorn
All forums: Older: Preferred food when space and weight are at a premium Newer: Knife selection suggestions