Where to do a 2-4 night solo backpacking trip the first week of March?
January 21, 2015 8:16 AM   Subscribe

Requirements: 3-4 hours drive from a major airport (I have Southwest frequent flier miles) Not very cold (sleeping bag is rated 30 deg F)

I'm looking for suggestions on where to take a 2-4 night backpacking trip by myself during the first week of March. I have some Southwest frequent filer miles, so I would like to use them to get there.

So far the only route on my list is Big Bend's Outer Mountain Loop. I realize I'll have to cache water, which I've never had to do before (but I will have a rental car). I would prefer a loop, but it's not necessary. I know Southwest flies to places outside the US like Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Mexico etc.

I've got a 30 degree sleeping bag, and I didn't really want to have to deal with the possibility of snowfall changing/cancelling my plans.

Any suggestions or tips? (I've backpacked several times but never on my own)
posted by czytm to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You need to be thinking about locations in the far south. I attend an annual motorcycle rally in Tellico Plains, TN that is held the last weekend of March and the weather has been pretty uniformly terrible, with lows well below freezing and highs in the low 40s. Given that you're planning for three weekends earlier in the year, you should rule out anything in the Smokies or Southern Appalachians, as they will meet your criteria that early in the year.
posted by workerant at 8:39 AM on January 21, 2015

Best answer: I actually came in to suggest Big Bend, but you might also enjoy the Davis Mountains, which has the benefit of being smaller, so there's a better chance you'll be closer to a campsite with water at any given time. There's the state park portion and also the preserve (I think they overlap - I haven't been out since I was a kid). It's gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous and you've got some of the best stars in Texas - that's why they put the McDonald Observatory up there.

Remember though, the desert gets colder at night than you'd think and it DOES snow occasionally in the mountains.
posted by theweasel at 8:42 AM on January 21, 2015

Also, about solo backpacking? You should consider picking up a SPOT tracker. I do a lot of solo hiking and backpacking as well as off-road motorcycling. A SPOT allows your loved ones to keep an eye on you without intruding on your trip, and gives you the ability to call from help from anywhere on the planet. It sounds like you're not super-duper experienced in the outdoors, and you'll be exploring unfamiliar territory which will come with unfamiliar risks. A SPOT is cheap insurance.
posted by workerant at 8:42 AM on January 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

Southwest flies in to LA and San Diego, so maybe Joshua Tree National Park.
posted by rtha at 9:31 AM on January 21, 2015

How about somewhere along the Florida Trail, like Lake Okeechobee?
posted by pi at 9:42 AM on January 21, 2015

You might consider doing the Grand Canyon! Its incredibly beautiful (hiking to the bottom is almost indescribably better than just viewing from the rim), and there are a ton of great and challenging hikes. I'll be backpacking it for my 2nd time at the end of February, feel free to memail with any questions!
posted by stinkfoot at 10:24 AM on January 21, 2015

Also in the LA area, there are many trails of varying difficulty in the Angeles National Forest along the Angeles Crest Highway. The San Gabriel Mountains can be colder at night than your target range as elevation increases, though, so heads up there. Here's a pretty extensive descriptive list of some of those trails. Maybe consider a series of these trails over a couple days? This was the first trail I went on when I moved to LA and it was a wonderful introduction.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:29 AM on January 21, 2015

Joshua tree is up at a few thousand feet, and I know in March there I wanted my 0-degree bag with a hot water bottle in it.

I got snowed out of the Smoky Mtns in March once, too.

I would be looking in Florida, if a 30-degree bag is the limiting factor.

And if it's your first solo trip, I'd intentionally step it down a notch in terms of distance or difficulty or logistics. Leave an itinerary and set up a phone call with someone who will expect you when you get out. The basic stuff, but be sure to do it.
posted by Dashy at 10:48 AM on January 21, 2015

It might end up on the cold end of acceptable, but you might consider the Linville Gorge Wilderness area in North Carolina. I've done quite a few solo trips there and it's about 2 hours from Charlotte.
posted by achrise at 1:28 PM on January 21, 2015

March is a prime month for backpacking Grand Canyon, but checkout the permit situation. The rim will be cool, but inside the canyon should be fine. I'll be there in the last week in March with a 35 degree bag.

I'd also suggest Henry Coe state park in the Bay Area. You'd fly into San Jose. It's huge, wild and beautiful, easy to plan a 4 day loop - likely without seeing very many people for the duration. The trails are often pretty steep, so you need to be in good physical shape. Again March is an excellent month because it won't be too hot, but there's always a chance of rain. It might be a little cool in the evenings if the weather is poor - say temps in the low 40's. If we get some more rain the park will be green and filled with wild flowers. If you're interested mail me and I can suggest some routes/campsites.
posted by Long Way To Go at 9:50 PM on January 21, 2015

Best answer: Coyote Gulch, Escalante, Utah. You could do it in 2 days, but, if you've got 4, take your time and enjoy it. Truly, an amazing place.
posted by trbrts at 9:07 AM on January 22, 2015

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