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Nearby Destinations

We are lucky to be situated in Claremont - withing a days' driving of many world renowned outdoor areas. While the following trips often involve longer drives than those in the other sections, these excursions offer either unusual activities or a wide array of options. They are well worth the drive. Some of the drives are long enough that only fall and spring breaks will allow time for a visit, while others are close enough for a quick two day run. As many of the following trips are very popular, reservations may be required to stay in the parks or to get permits for trails. Check the individual descriptions.

Many of the drives involve mountain passes - so keep abreast of the weather and carry chains. For the latest road conditions in California you can call 1-800-427-7623 on any touchtone phone. When reading the following section keep in mind that only a small bit of info has been giving for these trips because many of the parks are huge and entire guidebooks are available on them individually. Have fun, explore, and let us know about any cool trips you descover!

 

Anza Borrego Desert

Highlights:

A good place for weekend backpacking or exploring the desert.

Relevant Guidebooks/Maps:

The Anza-Borrego Desert Region (a must), Borrego Palm Canyon, Collins Valley, Bucksnort Mtn., and Hot Spring Mtn. topo maps.

Directions:

Take I-10 East past Palm Springs to Indio. Get on 86 South towards Salton City then follow 22 to Borrego Springs. A 3 hour drive. The pizza place just up from Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs is funky and good.

Description:

The Anza-Borrego desert offers a variety of desert habitats and is a great place for weekend backpacks and exploring if you're in the mood for the desert. Coyote Canyon is beautiful - a wide open canyon with lots of ocotillos, cholla, and palos verdes. It can be packed with 4WD vehicles on the weekend so make sure you get out of the vehicle areas. A recommended places is Sheep Canyon. There are several good traverses from here over to Salvador Canyon that would make good 2-day trips. Cougar Canyon is also fun to explore, but passage becomes very difficult and requires ropes after a mile or so. These canyons have beautiful swimming holes and waterfalls but can involve serious bush-whacking. Borrego Palm Canyon offers another good option, although it is popular and a permit is needed. Many other areas exist in the Anza-Borrego, so don't hesitate to explore. Generally, the terrain is strenuous, rocky, slow going, and the plants bite. Don't be deterred, however, because it is amazing country - especially in February to April when the desert is blooming.

Safety Notes:

This is full-on desert, so make sure water sources aren't dry and the weather won't be too hot. The terrain is steep and rocky - beware of loose rock. If serious ground is to be covered make sure people are experienced and fit and be warned that travel is often slower than 1 mph in the canyons. State Park Headquarters - (619) 767-4205, 767-5311.

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Chocolate Mountains, Colorado River

Highlights:

A 3 day, 32 mile canoe trip to the Colorado River with convenient drop-off and pick-up. No canoeing experience is necessary.

Relevant Guidebooks/Maps:

Call Martinez Lake Resort (602-783-0253) and they'll send information. See pages 5-10 of Martinez information.

Directions:

There - Take I-10 East towards Blythe - fill up on gas before leaving I-10. Just before Blythe take 78 South towards Palo Verde. Pass through "town" and look for the sign for Mitchell's Camp. Take the next dirt road to the left. At the dead end, turn left. This leads to Walter's Camp. About 6 hours. Home - Leave Martinez Lake Resort and make three lefts to get to 95 North towards Quartzsite. When you reach I-10 head West and home. About 6 hours.

Description:

"Relaxed canoeing on the Colorado River." The river brings you through the beautiful mountains on a river of green, brown, and blue. The water is swift, especially in the late spring when you can almost drift down the river and make camp in time. It is not uncommon to tie the canoes together and drift. Patti and Mary recommend the following procedure: leave Friday around 5pm, eat dinner on the road, and arrive at Walter's Campgrounds around 11pm. Wake around 7am, eat, and have a pre-canoe talk until the canoes arrive. Paddle for about 3 quarters of the day and then camp along the river. Camp fires are allowed at sites along the river. The next morning wake up early and paddle for half the day. The drive home will get you back that night.

Canoe Rental Info:

Martinez Lake Resort brings the canoes to the put-in and shuttles your cars to their resort where you get out. Weekend trip (2-day): <9 canoes costs $32/canoe + $90 delivery fee; >9 canoes costs $42/canoe but has no delivery fee. $15/canoe each additional day. Weekly rates are $75/canoe. They provide cushions and/or life vests and paddles. Vehicle shuttling costs $40/vehicle + gas. Try not to let them need gas. Advance reservations recommended. 1/3 of total cost required as deposit. Total cost for 9 people with meal cards was $450. Martinez Lake Resort (602) 783-0253; Lucille (shuttle drivers) (602) 329-1190; Walter's Camp (619) 854-3322

Safety Notes:

Imperial County Sheriff (619) 572-0229; Yuma County Sheriff (602) 783-4427; Volunteer Rescue, Palo Verde, CA (619) 922-2220; Life Flight, Blythe, CA 1-800-247-8326; Palo Verde/Blythe Hospital (714) 922-4115; Yuma Hospital (602) 344-2000

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Death Valley National Park

Highlights:

A place like no other. Sunsets and sunrises can be unbeatable. Furnace Creek Visitor Center provides a good overview and orientation spot.

Relevant Guidebooks/Maps:

Death Valley Topo Map, California Road Map

Directions:

Take I-15 North to 127 North (exit in Baker) to 190 West (main entrance) or take I-15 North to 395 North. Turn off in Red Mountain towards Trona. Follow this to 190 North/East into the monument. Stop for amazing pizza in Adelanto (turn right on the main street and go one block) if you take 395. Its about 20 miles North of I-15.

Description:

Death Valley is a spectacular place that defies description. There are many things to see and places to explore. The lowest spot in the US is near Badwater, but is kind of touristy. The sand dunes are a must (near Stovepipe Wells). Many canyons are incredible as well. There are many RV's and tourists so avoid smallHeaded, easy-access spots. The best time of the year is late Fall, Winter, and early Spring. Camping exists in many spots - the walk-in sites at Furnace Creek Campground are nice. Don't camp out of designated areas. Backcountry camping is allowed - see regulations.

Safety Notes:

This is very often the hottest spot in North America. Water is a major issue here - it is available at Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells. It can also be very cold at night in the winter. Avoid hiking during the peak temperature times and watch for dehydration. When driving watch your temperature guage and avoid using A/C during the day. The 395 route to the monument involves some serious hill climbing and decending. See map for ranger stations and telephones.

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East Side of the Sierra

Highlights:

395 follows the Sierra Crest, allowing quick access the High Sierra and a myriad of possible trips.

Relevant Guidebooks/Maps:

Owens River Gorge Climbing, Sierra South, The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes and Trails, topo maps of John Muir Wilderness (3 part Sierra map set)

Directions:

Take I-15 North to 395 North to the East side of the Sierras (Bishop/Lone Pine area). Stop for amazing pizza in Adelanto (turn right on the main street and go one block). It's about 20 miles North of I-15 - an hour from Claremont. Follow 395 to whatever destination you seek. Driving times vary - its about 5.5 hours to Mammoth and 4.75 to Bishop. Lone Pine is a little less than 4 hours.

Description:

Many great spots are available on the East side for exploring, hiking, climbing, camping, and so on. 395 travels up the Owens valley in the shadows of the towering Sierra Nevada and White Mountains. From the valley floor elevation (which varies from 4 to 5 thousand feet), mighty Mt. Whitney and other peaks can be seen at 14,000 feet. This unbelievable elevation difference means quick but strenuous access to the High Sierras and some of the most outstanding views found anywhere. OTL-graduate Derek Churchill, always enthusiastic about the East-Side, notes that "this is fine OTL adventuring country!"

Trailheads: Many trailheads enter the Sierra from the Owens Valley. Whitney Portal and Horseshoe Meadows above Lone Pine, Onion Valley above Independence, and Rock Creek above Tom's Place all offer amazing hiking and quick trails over the crest to the Pacific Crest and John Muir trails. See the hiking guide Sierra South for details on trips from these and other trailheads.

Lone Pine - Whitney Portal: From Lone Pine the road to Whitney Portal rises up to the trailhead for Mt. Whitney. Whitney Portal provides amazing hiking, backpacking, and the start to the trek up Mt. Whitney. For more info on attempting Whitney see the section on Mt. Whitney.

Big Pine - Ancient Bristlecone Forest: Big Pine is a small town with a general store and gas station. A turn east on 168 brings you up to the pass over the White Mountains where a road will take you to the Ancient Bristlecone Forest, the oldest trees alive.

Keough Hot Springs: Keough Hot Springs is a primitave hot creek right off 395 between Big Pine and Bishop. Look for the west turnoff to Keough Hot Springs. Take this road to the dirt roads on the right in about a half mile. Soak in any of the pools in the creek. Clothing optional.

Bishop: Bishop is the largest town on the East Side. Besides the expected grocery stores and fast food restaurants, Bishop has a respected climbing/outdoor store on main street (395) called Wilson's Eastside Sports.

Buttermilks: An incredible area similar to Joshua Tree except with the Sierras in the background. Exceptional bouldering possibilities and great explorative hiking. Camping is free, but no water is available. To get to the Buttermilks take 168 from Bishop to Buttermilk Road. Turn right.

Owens River Gorge: A huge gorge full of bolted climbs halfway between Bishop and Mammoth. The access is quick (although the central path is very steep) and the climbs are plentiful. The lower elevation provides warm enough temperatures to allow climbing even when the higher Sierra climbs are snowed in. The climbing is very sporty and the routes tend to be crowded. Rockfall is common despite the sporty nature of the area. See Owens River Gorge Climbs for specifics on the area.

Mammoth: Mammoth offers the best downhill skiing within driving distance of Claremont. A resort destination, Mammoth is packed with condos, stores, and restaurants. Devil's Postpile National Monument is within minutes drive when the road is open.. Mammoth also has a great ranger station/visitor center worth visiting (you can also get permits here).

Mammoth Hot Springs: A collection of primitive, undeveloped hot springs scattered through the basin. Incredible soaking and mind-blowing views of the Sierras and White Mountains. Camping is free - don't camp next to the hot springs though. Pulky's Pool and Crowley Hot Springs are best for large groups. Hot Creek is worth a visit, but crowded and developed (and swimsuits are required). Hot Tub is excellent for groups seven or less. See the map to some selected tubs.

Mono Lake: An interesting drying lake near Lee Vining. The visitors center is worth a visit to find out cool places to go.

Safety Notes:

There are ranger stations in Bishop, Lone Pine, and Mammoth. Temperatures can be extreme (hot or cold) with snow in the winter. Check the weather carefully before departing. Storms can hit the Sierra out of nowhere and drop tremendous amounts of snow. Permits are required for any over night trips into the Sierra wilderness areas.

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Joshua Tree

Highlights:

Joshua Tree is home to some of the best climbing in the United States with thousands of routes. Camping, hiking, backpacking, and cycling are all also superb among the incredible rock formations and rich desert ecosystems of Joshua Tree.

Relevant Guidebooks:

Joshua Tree Rock Climbing Guide

Directions:

From Claremont take I-10 east past Banning. Turn north on 62 to Yucca Valley. Follow 62 through Yucca Valley. In the small town of Joshua Tree turn right at the light on Park Boulevard. Follow this road to the right and into the park and to your destination. Just before the 62/Park Boulevard intersection is Arturo's - a classic OTL dining spot with great Mexican food. Yucca valley has grocery stores and fast food as well. The drive is about 1.75 hours without too much traffic. For Indian Cove keep driving past the town of Joshua Tree to the Indian Cove entrance. This does not connect with the rest of the park except by a long hike.

Description:

Just turned from a National Monument to National Park, Joshua Tree is one of the hidden gems of the Southern California desert. Its incredible rock formations and subtle desert ecosystems are a perfect place for a number of activities. Coyotes, rabbits, snakes, and other wildlife are common. The weather is perfect in the spring and fall and the sky is amazingly clear - especially after coming from Claremont. With the new National Park title, Joshua Tree is destined to change. "Improvements" are scheduled that will pave many dirt roads and change camping to a reservation system. For those interested in visiting Josh while its still relatively rustic and unknown, enjoy it while you can. As of January 1995, however, no changes were scheduled until after five years. While Joshua Tree has been visited by OTL primarily for climbing, there is lots more to be explored.

Camping: Camping exists throughout the park and is all free (after the $5 entrance fee). The most popular spot is Hidden Valley, especially for climbers. If Hidden Valley is full try Ryan, Jumbo Rocks, and Belle. An alternate location is in Indian Cove, which has a separate entrance. If all the campsites are full you can also backcountry camp. To backcountry camp you MUST park at the designated parking areas. From there you hike at least a mile and camp wherever. With large groups minimize impact by spreading out. The newspaper available at the entrance station has a list of all the parking areas and backcountry regulations. If you arrive after dinner Friday expect to backcountry camp, especially in fall and spring. Reservations are not allowed except for the group sites at Sheep's Pass, Indian Cove, and some other areas distant from the center of the park. For reservations call Mystics at 1-800-365-2267 (Josh code is 5674) well in advance.

Hiking: Great hiking exists throughout the monument. The Wonderland of Rocks presents a unique location for exploring endless "roadrunner" rocks. Marked trails can be followed from almost any of the parking lots in the monument, or scramble anywhere you heart desires. Longer hikes are possible - one goes from the north Wonderland of Rocks parking area (near Key's Corner) to Indian Cove. Another popular hike is to Ryan Mountain. Park at the designated area between Ryan campground and Sheep's Pass.

Biking: Bikes are allowed in the park, but only on the paved and dirt roads. Many road bikers use the relatively uncrowded park roads to cruise the vast park. Mountain bikers can utilize the miles of dirt roads that cross the park. The Geology Tour road offers a good ride as does the Barker Dam road. Do not ride off the roads.

Climbing: Check out our separate JTree Climbing Guide.

Safety Notes:

Weather in the desert is always a concern. Joshua Tree can be over 100 for much of the late spring, summer, and early fall. In the winter snow is common on the desert floor. Check the weather and plan accordingly. Stick to sunny routes in winter and shady routes other times. Water is especially important. None is found in the park so bring plenty. When camping in the backcountry don't sleep in the washes, especially when rain is forecast. Rattlesnakes and scorpions are common. If people want to explore make sure they go in groups and warm them about the increased difficulty of downclimbing. Monument headquarters - (619) 367-6376.

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Grand Canyon National Park

Highlights:

The Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Its extraordinary views and unbelievable size attract travelers from the all over the world. Although pictures of the Grand Canyon are abundant, none can show the true magnificence of the canyon.

Relevant Maps/Guidebooks:

The park service has the best seasonal information.

Directions:

From campus take I-10 east to I-15 north. Follow I-15 to the I-40 split. For the North Rim continue on I-15 through Vegas into Utah. Take 59 southeast to 67 south to the rim - about 10 hours. For the North Rim take I-40 east to 64 north in Williams, AZ. 64 brings you to the rim - about 8 hours.

Description:

The Grand Canyon has something for just about any level hiker / backpacker. The canyon has two access points. Separated by the enormous canyon itself, the North Rim and South Rim are completely isolated from each other beside by backpacking.

South Rim: The South Rim gets the majority of the tourists and warmer weather. Because of the canyon's popularity it is not recommended to camp at the rim. Either camp down by Williams (or in Sedona's Oak Creek Canyon 2 hours away - a cool spot on its own) or backpack in the canyon. To pack you need reservations far in advance. Several popular trails drop from the rim for day hikes or week treks. The Bright Angel Trail is probably the most famous and used trail. Some trails don't allow donkeys - if you want poop-free dirt stick to these. To get stellar views with a few less tourists, follow the rim road west to the more secluded turnouts.

North Rim: The North Rim is considerably less populated and just as grand. Its drawback is a longer drive and colder weather (more snow). If you want to travel through the Canyon make reservations a long time before (1-2 months). If you have amore than a few people with you, you need to make reservations 2-4 weeks ahead for a group camping spot. Even if you are unable to get a permit for backpacking in the canyon the day hikes are well worth it. Keep in mind that the park service isn't kidding when they say there's snow on the North Rim in October. On route to the North Rim you pass close to Zion - combining the two trips is a good idea for Spring Break trips.

Safety Notes:

When hiking into the canyon remember that its much harder getting back up. The extremely hot temperatures in the summer can make the hike dangerous if you don't carry enough water. In colder months crampons may be needed for ice near the rims. The temperatures change dramatically as you descend into the canyon.

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Mountain Home State Park

Highlights:

Snowshoeing in the beautiful Southern Sierras.

Relevant Guidebooks/Maps:

Self-Propelled in the Southern Sierra (trip 60), Camp Wishon USGS Provisional Map (7.5')

Directions:

Take 210 West to 5 North. After you go over the Grape Vine take 99 North. When you get to 190 take it East towards Springville. Turn North on Balch Park road at the left just past Springville, then head East again into the mountains on Mtn Road 296. This takes you to 5400' near the upper part of the loop. The road is plowed in winter.

Description:

Two options are available from the parking lot. When warm, take the higher road that comes in from the Northeast. When snow is in the forecast you might want to think about Mtn Road 220 (4000'). JC Jenkins' Self-Propelled in the Southern Sierra provides an excellent description of history, trees, and the trail. Camping must be done in the campgrounds: Frasier Mill, Shake Camp, Balch Park, Hedrick Pond, and Sumset Point are all spacious and deserted in winter. All have water except Shake Camp. It can be slightly difficult to get water from streams if there is a lot of snow. Although 4 full days can easily be spent, the trip could also be done in 3 or even 2 with skis.

Safety Notes:

Leaders should have skill in winter camping and the weather should be carefully monitored. Bears are about so string up food. Balch Park Campground has a working phone. Mountain Home State Forest Ranger Station - winter number - (209) 539-2855.

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Mt. Whitney

Highlights:

Mt. Whitney is the highest peak in the continental US and quite an amazing trek.

Relevant Maps:

Mt. Whitney topo map.

Directions:

See "East Side Sierras - Whitney Portal"

Description:

The resident expert on climbing Whitney is Dr. Rick Hazlett, geology professor. The following is almost entirely a direct quote of Rick:

The Whitney ascent is usually only possible, due to storms, snow and ice much of the year, between late June and late November. Wilderness permits are required if you plan to camp within the John Muir Wilderness Area at any point during your climb. They may be obtained in Lone Pine, at the National Forest Ranger Station. If you plan to hike to the top of Whitney and back all in one day, no permit is needed. Nor are permits needed after mid-October. (Inquire with the Forest Service before departure just to make sure; this policy is subject to change).

The hike begins at El Portal, at around the 8,000 foot elevation. It is approximately 11 miles one way to Whitney summit from here, following the John Muir Trail most of the way. If you intend to do this in one day, you'd be nuts not to camp at El Portal the night before in order to adjust to the altitude. Also, expect to be hiking back in the dark (i.e.--bring a flashlight with extra batteries, or plan your trip to coincide with good weather and a full moon).

The preferred way of climbing Whitney is to reach Whitney Portal around noon the first day and hike in several miles to one of several campgrounds in the wilderness area. The highest campground, at around 12,500 feet, lies above treeline at the base of the steep face up which the trail switchbacks into Sequoia National Park.

This is one hell of a great hike. The view from the Sierra Divide and Whitney crest will be unforgettable--and the satisfaction of "conquering" the highest peak in the 48 contiguous states (at 14,500 feet) will be warmly remembered for the rest of your days. Professor Hazlett plans to make Whitney an annual event (most likely in mid-October). Call Professor Hazlett at x8676 if you are interested in climbing Whitney with him.

How best to prepare? For hiking, be sure you carry a lightweight jacket and maybe rainpants to stay warm. Shorts and shortsleeves are OK, if it's warm enough, but beware that the UV at this altitude is hyperintense. You're walking in a natural microwave, so cover yourself with plenty of sun-screen (at least spf 15 is recommended, especially on nose, ears, and back of neck), or "Mr. C" may come back to haunt you in your middle age. You need hiking boots, or hiking shoes with excellent traction. (Occasionally, even into the fall, there's a bit of snow and ice to deal with on the switchback slope mentioned above). The trail to the summit is excellent, well-graded, and mostly well marked, so you should have no trouble finding your way. Bring a map nonetheless. (One without topographic contours is pretty much a waste of time). At least two quarts of water are a must. A camera, too, will be missed when you and your buds make the summit and feel like celebrating, but have no way to document the occasion. It's a fantastic trip--but cannot be undertaken casually.

For camping, prepare for nighttime temperatures into the 40's or 30's in the summer, and as low as the teens in the autumn. It is usually not windy, but wind may be a problem above timberline, requiring you find a rocky shelter. The lower campgrounds are warmer, easier on the heart (if you're unaccustomed to sleeping at altitude), and seem more sanitary. The upper-most campground (above tree line) smells of untreated latrine in many places, but gives you the best headstart on tackling the summit.

Daytime summer temperatures are in the 60's and 70's in the summer months, unless it is storming, when hail and snow may fall even from modest sized clouds. Fall weather is milder. There are very few storms after mid-September (until the first winter fronts, that is), and you can count on clear weather for days. Daytime temperatures range in the 50's and 60's. It is very dry, so bring chapstick and hand lotion, if such conditions bother you.

Safety Notes:

"You may think you're invincible, a 'God's Gift' to cardiopulmonary conditioning, but I've been with some persons in terrific shape climbing this thing that have been utterly miserable because of altitude sickness, and unaccustomed (though track runners at low elevation) to breathing rarefied air. (Beware that about half of Earth's atmosphere lies BELOW you as you stand atop Whitney). BE PREPARED FOR ALTITUDE SICKNESS! Inquire with your family physician or friends who might know how to prepare for this ailment. My information is probably not complete; I find I fare best though if I keep plenty of fluid in my body and eat as little as I need. (You don't feel much like eating anyway most of the time on this trip). Other potential hazards of the trail include lightning strike and pulmonary edema. In the summer months, especially, thunderheads can build up fast in the western Sierra, then drift east to lodge at the crest of the range - including the Whitney summit. If you see a thunderhead approaching, beware that it will travel much faster than you might think. Warning signs of lightning risk include nearby lightning flashes, thunder, or a tingling sensation in the skin - including raised hair on the arms. Your best bet is to find a low spot and take shelter beneath a rock. DO NOT TAKE SHELTER IN THE SUMMIT CABIN! In 1993 several hikers were electrocuted to death having done so during a sudden storm. As for pulmonary edema (which has also taken lives in recent times), just don't push it. You're a fool if you race to the top. Find a pace that is comfortable and satisfying for YOU."

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Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park

Highlights:

Sequoia and Kings Canyon are the parks of the "Range of Light" - the Sierra's magnificent southern crest. Some of the best hiking and backpacking in the lower 48 is found here.

Relevant Guidebooks/ Maps:

Sierra South, John Muir Wilderness topo maps (3 part set), 7.5 minute topos of destination, The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes and Trails, Climber's Guide to Sequoia/Kings Canyon

Directions:

From campus follow I-210 west to I-5 north over the grapevine. Once in the Central Valley follow 99 north at the split. After about 100 miles turn off on 198 east. For Sequoia and Mineral King follow 198 to your destination. For Kings Canyon take 63 north from Visalia or 245 north once up in the foothills for a more scenic drive. Both bring you to 180 which you follow east to Kings Canyon. Both parks can also be reached by hiking in from 395. See "East Side Sierra" for details.

Description:

The backpacking found in these adjacent national parks is simple incredible. The trails take you up among thirteen and fourteen thousand foot peaks, quiet mountain lakes, and in areas the largest trees on our planet. Thanks to the water protection interests of valley farmers years ago, this grand wilderness has been forever protected. Infinite hikes exist, but there are several popular trailheads. Mineral King is a starting point far off by itself. The road that cuts of 198 is long, small, and curvy, but brings you to a 9,000 foot trailhead with incredible hikes. Because of the altitude of Mineral King and the subsequent hikes that all rise from the trailhead, Mineral King is best in summer. To the north of Mineral King is Sequoia proper. The center of the park is the Giant Sequoia grove at Giant Forest. The largest living organism, the General Sherman Tree, towers above the scores of tourist who thrive at its trunk. Despite the crowds, it only takes ten minutes to park and view and is well worth it. From the Giant Forest area several trailheads escape the tourists. Not far down 198 is Lodgepole. From the Lodgepole area several excellent trails depart. Lodgepole itself offers a good base camp at 7,000 feet, but make reservations in advance for peak times. The trail to Pear Lake over The Watchtower is particularly awesome. Kings Canyon is a huge canyon cutting deep into the spine of the Sierra. Due to its lower elevation Kings Canyon is more suitable in Spring and Fall. Hikes leave Kings Canyon every which way to the high country, most rising sharply. Permits are required for all trails in Sequoia and Kings Canyon if you plan to spend the night out. They can be obtained in the morning before hiking, but its best to call far in advance because often they are all gone. Plan your trip using topos and Sierra South to find a hike that's right for you. For the climber, the Sierra peaks and granite domes await. OTL graduate R.J. Secour has written the definitive text for the Sierra peaks, The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes, and Trails. Check it out.

Safety Notes:

The weather in the High Sierra is very exciting. Snow can strike any time of year, but especially watch out from September to May. Hypothermia causes deaths frequently when storms catch the unprepared hiker. Many trails in the parks are above 10,000 feet, intensifying any storm. After storms crampons are needed on many trails and snow will cover the trails for most of the year. Water is usually available in lakes and streams, but must be purified, even in the most secluded spots. If you plan on cross country traveling carry a map and compass and know how to use them effectively.

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Sespe Wilderness and Hot Springs

Highlights:

Some of the best and most remote hot springs next to the incredible Sespe River.

Relevant Guidebooks/Maps:

Los Padres National Forest, Devil's Heart, and Topatopa USGS topo maps. Trails of the Ojai Ranger District.

Directions:

Take the 210 West to the 134 West. Follow 134 West as it turns into 101 West. Take 33 to Ojai. 2.5 hours drive. "La Hacienda" next to the ranger station in Ojai has great Mexican food.

Description:

The Los Padres National forest is chaparral covered mountains similar to the San Gabriels. They are lower, but more extensive and remote, than our local mountains, . The Sespe River is a good sized stream (300-500 CFS). It has water all year and travels through an amazing canyon of sandstone cliffs, vast expanses of mountains, and beautiful scenery. The hot springs are completely natural and have such high flow they make the whole adjacent creek hot. They are 12 miles in by any route, so they are best suited to a fall or spring break trip. The springs can be reached via Dough Flat on the Alder Creek Trail, from Lion Campground along the Sespe River (18 miles), or via Ladybug Campground through Reed Reef Canyon. Spend some time on the river as it is so wonderful. The hot springs are 2 miles from the river on Hot Springs Creek (Northwest corner of the Devil's Heart topo map). A great 5-6 day hike would be to start on the Ladybug Trail and hike down into the river basin. Wilbur Hot Springs are worth a visit, but they're not as nice and harder to find (middle of Topatopa topo map). From Wilbur Hot Springs hike to Sespe Hot Springs. Next continue on the Alder Creek Trail and out to Dough Flat. A nice cross-country variation is to hike down the river to where Alder Creek joins and then up Alder Creek to the trail. An adventure for the wild spirit would be to hike all the way from the river to Fillmore. This area is amazing and has plenty more possibilities to explore!

Safety Notes:

It is punishingly hot much of the year. and water sources can dry up. Ticks are rampant in spring. Ojai Ranger Station - (805) 646-4348

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Yosemite National Park

Highlights:

Yosemite offers breathtaking views, long backcountry trips, and world famous climbing.

Relevant Guidebooks/Maps:

Yosemite Climbs: Free Climbs, Climber's Guide to Toulumne Meadows, Yosemite and surrounding topo maps

Directions:

In summer (from Memorial Day until first snow) take 395 north past Mammoth to 120 West. 120 takes you into the park via Tioga Pass into Toulumne Meadows and the High Country. To reach the valley continue on 120 until it gets to Crane Flat where you can turn left and head into the valley. It takes about 7 hours to reach Toulumne and 8 hours to the valley via 395. When 120 is closed, head up 5 north over the Grapevine. Take 99 when it branches off to Fresno. From Fresno take 41 to Yosemite Valley. It takes about 9 hours to reach The Valley and 10 hours to Toulumne via 99.

Description:

Yosemite has enough to offer a lifetime of exploring. Yosemite Valley is the center of all activity. It has the breathtaking views seen in so many posters, but it also has 95% of the tourists. The Valley is best viewed by a day trip from a high country base-camp or by trails to the rim. The High Country (Hwy. 120 between Crane Flat and Tioga Pass) offers less crowds and stunning views. Activities in Yosemite are very dependent on the time of year and weather. The following only some possibilities:

Camping: Reservations for Yosemite must be reserved the instant you know your camping dates, especially if you plan on going during the summer months. Call Mystics at 1-800-365-CAMP to find out when you can first make reservations. Reservations for Yosemite Valley can require several people calling on different phones and a little luck during the peak months. Toulumne Meadows is a little easier. If you can't get reservations don't fear because the park has campgrounds that are first-come, first-serve. Yosemite Valley has several, including Sunnyside (called "Camp 4" by climbers). The high country has even more. The best bet is to hit them midweek or early in the morning. In The Valley people start lining up at the ranger both at sunrise. In the High Country, where payment is not done through a ranger station, the sites are claimed by you. Don't be afraid to ask people when they are leaving so you can grab their site.

Hiking/Backpacking: Yosemite National Park is huge - and the tourists are only in a small part. To best enjoy the park take some long day hikes or go out for an epic Yosemite backpack. Trails fan the high country and are well marked and maintained. If you are good with a map and compass, try hiking across the granite fields and open forests without following a trail. Backpacking requires a wilderness permit and you must know how to safely keep your food away from bears. Cars must be parked at the proper sites. For great views of The Valley without the crowds hike to Clouds Rest or North Dome. Toulumne Meadows is a great starting location for short strolls or epic backpacks. From The Valley many great hikes climb the shear granite walls. Half dome is the most classic hike in Yosemite. Plan to leave early and get back late if you attempt the sixteen mile hike to Half Dome.

Climbing: Yosemite is famous throughout the world as one of the premier big wall locations. El Capitan and Half-Dome are unrivaled. Shorter multipitch routes cover the valley as well. Toulumne has its own guidebook because so many more routes exists in the High Country. Not all of Yosemite's routes are long. One can climb first pitches or shorter one-pitch routes. If attempting your first multi-pitch climbs in Yosemite keep in mind that the ratings are stiff and the climbs are often run-out. Keep an eye on the weather. Pacific storms cause rescues every year.

Biking: Biking is very common in the valley. In fact, it is a quicker way to get around than car often times. Bikes are available for rent in the valley. They provide an enjoyable way to sightsee, but it is not a hard-core riding location. 120 offers a long road through amazing country, but the road is very narrow and RV's often take up the whole pavement, so bikes are not common on 120.

Safety Notes:

Backcountry travel in Yosemite leaves the hiker in isolated situations. Make sure you have plenty of water and a method of purification. Know how to properly secure food from bears. Always hike with a topo map. Never throw or roll rocks in Yosemite (or anywhere else for that matter) because climbers are likely to be on most cliffs. When climbing watch for rockfall and changing weather. Heat exhaustion and hypothermia can happen at anytime in Yosemite. Powerful pacific storms are common during the fall, winter, and spring, and thunderstorms strike often in the summer.

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Zion National Park

Highlights:

Incredible desert canyons offer miles of hiking and intense climbing.

Relevant Guidebooks/Maps:

Local topo maps (there is no climbing guidebook currently)

Directions:

Take I-10 east to I-15 north. From Vegas take I-9 east to the park road. The drive is about 7.5 hours.

Description:

Zion is famous for its amazing sandstone walls towering above narrow canyons. The Narrows brings the canyon walls within feet of each other. Hiking in Zion is very weather dependent. The Narrows is closed whenever rain threatens because the whole section becomes white water. Campgrounds in the canyon provide drinking water and restrooms for $7 a night, but can be full much of the time. The visitor center issues wilderness permits which are required. The rangers are extremely helpful and can give advice on which trails are best in the current weather. Topo maps are also available at the visitor center. Last minute supplies can be purchased at the town just outside of Zion.

Backpacking: OTL members Meg Moser and Tasha Macilveen recommend the East Rim Trail for a scenic, moderate 1-2 day pack. The trail is low-use and is a great place for quiet and solitude. After an 800 ft elevation gain and 5.6 miles Staves Springs is reached - a good place to camp and to filter water. From Staves numerous day hikes are available to Deertrap Mtn., Cable Mountain, or Weeping Rock (an alternate starting location). The hike provides close-up views of Zion's amazing geology and overlooks into Zion Canyon.

Climbing: Zion is famous for cracks that continue for thousands of feet. The climbing is serious and involves aiding on most routes. There is currently no guidebook, although topos for climbs can be scrounged up.

Safety Notes:

The closures of The Narrows and other areas are not just "precautionary measures". Do not hike these areas when closed. The weather can change quickly, especially on hikes that change altitude. Bring a method of water purification. The park does not offer rescue service.

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Guide Home
Introduction
Notes About the Guide
Credits

Destinations
Introduction
Anza Borrego Desert
Chocolate Mountains/Colorado River
Death Valley
East Side Sierras
Joshua Tree National Park
Mountain Home State Park
Mt. Whitney
Sequoia & Kings Canyon
Sespe Wilderness/Hot Springs
Yosemite National Park
Zion National Park

Hiking
Introduction
Bear Creek
Cajon Pass
Cucamonga Canyon
Deep Creek Hot Springs
Grass Mountain
Ice House Canyon
Iron Mountain via Hwy. 39
Iron Mountain via Mt. Baldy
Mt. Baldy via Bear Flats
Mt. Baldy via Devil's Backbone
Mt. Baldy via Sierra Club Cabin
Ontario & Bighorn Peaks
San Gorgonio
Sunset Peak
Tahquitz Peak

Backpacking
Introduction
Bridge to Nowhere
Devil's Punchbowl Loop
Icehouse Canyon
Fishbowls Swimming Holes
Mt. Lowe Front Country Loop
Mt.San Gorgonio Dry Lake and Dollar Lake Loop
Bridge to Nowhere

Climbing
Introduction
Apple Valley
Big Rock
Corona Del Mar
Devil's Punchbowl
Joshua Tree
Point Dume
Red Rocks
Stoney Point
Suicide Rock
Tahquitz Climbing
The Falls
Williamson

Skiing
Introduction
Mount Baldy
Mountain High
Big Bear / Snow Summit
Snow Valley
Mammoth
June Mountain
Tahoe

Biking
Introduction
Cleveland National Forest
Sunset Peak
San Gabriel Foothills

Maps

Equipment