Hiking for the month of June - where to go?
February 15, 2011 8:07 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for some assistance in planning a month-long hike in June of this year.

I've decided against heading to Cuba (I asked about it in a previous question) because of my status as a US resident, but I still want to get away. I've arranged with work to take the month of June off, and I'm starting to plan a 3+week wilderness hike. What I'd like is some help deciding where to go.

Parameters :

- Assume that I can go anywhere in the lower 48, or in Canada.

- I would like the trip to take somewhere in the neighbourhood of 20-30 days, averaging 10mi/day.

- Natural beauty is important, but so is a degree of solitude. I would love to be able to spend a couple of days at a time without seeing others, though I don't want to be alone for the whole 20-30 days.

- I would like to avoid Black Flies as much as possible. Mosquitos are tolerable, though I'd prefer not to be moving in a swarm of them all day every day.

- I'd like to be able to resupply at least every 4-6 days, ideally with the option of staying in a hotel/motel every week or so.

- I am a competent hiker, but I'm not 'extreme'. The Big Bend South Rim, with a climb of 2000' in a day, was fairly strenuous for me, and I'd prefer to do something like that not much more than once a week. I'm amenable to harder days than this, but it's nearing on my limit.

Background information :

- I'm comfortable spending time in the wilderness, and have done both 14- and 10-day canoe/portage trips in the Northern Ontario backcountry, as well as assorted shorter trips.

- I've been spending time hiking lately, having done the Big Bend South Rim over the Christmas holidays, and I'm comfortable doing 7-10mi hikes in a day in and around Austin, where I currently live.

- I plan to have a wilderness first aid course under my belt by the time of the trip.
posted by jpziller to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If you want to get away from people, the picket range in washington's the most remote area in the continental US. Also, the wind river range in wyoming is a great area as well for ruggedness, beauty, and lack of people.
posted by TheBones at 8:14 AM on February 15, 2011

Look into the Pacific Crest Trail. And, if you don't have one already, a food dehydrator is great for making lightweight meals.
posted by DizzyLeaf at 8:39 AM on February 15, 2011

The western mountains (including the previously mentioned Winds) will most likely still have a lot of snow, making longer linkups across passes more problematic. And where there is not snow, it will be wet.

The first half or so of the Colorado trail (denver -> princeton hot springs or so) is mostly low and would fit your bill in terms of people, logistics, miles / day etc.
posted by H. Roark at 8:40 AM on February 15, 2011

The Cradle of the Sierra is what Tom Stienstra calls it. His series is about "an expedition into the heart of this landscape: a 70-mile crossing of the Sierra Nevada from east to west, as the first pioneers and trailblazers would have seen it. We would start at the flank of Mount Whitney in the eastern Sierra, hike up the Sierra Crest and down canyons to the Kern River, and then trek up and over the Great Western Divide and down to Mineral King at the foot of the western Sierra."

It sounds tough, about as backcountry-wilderness as you can get, and utterly beautiful. And very very few people do it.
posted by rtha at 9:22 AM on February 15, 2011

I don't want squash your dreams for this vacation, but the list of criteria seem quite contradictory. You want to go in the ideal hiking and backpacking season on less strenuous terrain, yet stay away from people for days on end, and still have the chance to re-stock and stay at a hotel. And you want natural beauty.

Beauty is subjective, and if you find beauty in some less popular forms (like more stark beauty, versus lush forests), you might have a better chance at getting away from people, yet being generally close to them.

The only way I could think of making this work would be to find somewhere that has a central location with food and lodging, yet has a number of loop trails (or trails you wouldn't mind hiking back), so you always come back to one location.

Otherwise, look for something like the High Sierra Camps, which are a well-traveled (though not "busy") series of camps, but you can take side trails that probably go for some distance. I took the "comfort" option, packing in only my clothes, and staying at a tent cabin each night. There were some tough days because of the terrain to cover by a certain time (dinner), but you can also camp with your own tent and only get meals (that looks to be $46 for this option, though I'm not sure how many meals you get for $46 - they aren't lavish, but they're delicious and great after a day of hiking). I imagine you could take side trails and wander off on your own, returning to one of the main camps to get a meal cooked for you, but I don't think they offer re-stocking for personal trips (though you could always call and ask). If you want to stay in the tent cabins, those are offered through online lotteries. It's competitive, but if you're flexible and persistent, you can get a series of dates and have a nice time.

The High Sierras area also has alternative routes. And Tuolumne Meadows is the central location, with some convenience-type stores, more tent cabins than the other locations, and you can drive elsewhere if you so wish (I think the trip to Mono Lake isn't bad, and I remember they had proper grocery stores there). I think there are a few trails that lead away, so you have at least a day or two away from the main loop. It is still in Yosemite, a really popular park, but you can get away from most people if you keep on going.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:32 PM on February 15, 2011

filthy light thief : yeah, I realize that I might be asking for the world. What if I dropped the solitude requirement, would that make a big difference?
posted by jpziller at 1:55 PM on February 15, 2011

while we're at it, what happens if I loosen the resupply/hotel requirement to say 10 days?
posted by jpziller at 2:16 PM on February 15, 2011

First, have you ever done extended hiking on your own? Solitude is lovely, but if you twist your ankle or get a nasty cut, can you handle it on your own? And you'll be limited to loop trails, or hiking back the way you came. Or you can walk back to your car or some transit, if you're in an area with public buses or trolleys.

With that, there are varying levels of solitude. Some of the High Sierras loop seemed downright busy, which was kind of a downer at times. But sometimes it felt like our little group were the only people for miles around. Sometimes the only change is the terrain - climb up a hill, head around a corner, and people disappear.

I really liked the long hike to Mount Whitney, which I think is listed as the "western" trail here. I hiked it years ago, and didn't actually make it to Mt. Whitney, instead back-tracking 14 miles to the parking lot, so I didn't see a lot of people beyond our little group. The problem with the western trail is that you'll need a way to get back to the beginning, as it's not a complete loop trail. But after getting back to our car, we went to a hotel in Lone Pine, and it was wonderful. I completely understand your want for relaxation along the way.

I've done a fair bit of backpacking over the years, but I've been lucky enough to have other people do the planning our group, so I'm not a great source of trips. Many of my internet searches come back to Trails.com, which is a pay site ($50/year), but you can use the site for free to find trails by looking around on the US map, checking out the trip length, and then searching for those trails on other sites.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:30 AM on February 16, 2011

How about the Superior Hiking Trail? It's about the right length and doesn't have any extreme elevation changes.

I've read there is a transportation company in the area that will do re-supply drops at various parking lots along the trail. Unfortunately, I can't find the link where I read that.

You could also look at the Trail Association page for more info.
posted by MagicEightBall at 10:36 AM on February 16, 2011

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