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Backpacker Magazine – January 2012

Readers' Choice 2012: Your Neck of the Woods - West Hikes

Climb an 11,000-foot peak, hike to a secret summit, see the glacier-capped Cascades, soak in hot pools, and explore the ruins of a 100-year-old resort.

by: Kim Phillips

Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, OR (Claudio Berstein)
Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, OR (Claudio Berstein)

Chelise Simmons
Las Vegas, NV

“Water is scarce, so I always hike with a reservoir, and I wear gaiters to protect my shins from prickly desert scrub.”

Griffith Peak, Humboldt-Toiyabe NF, NV
“I like trading the glitz of the Vegas Strip for these dazzling views from 11,000 feet,” says Simmons. The strenuous nine-miler starts just south of Mt. Charleston on rocky trail that crosses an aspen-filled avalanche chute, then switchbacks up 450 feet in half a mile. After a brief respite at mile two, the trail ramps up for the next two miles to the summit ridge and the half-mile homestretch. “You’ll score vistas of often-snowy Telescope Peak in Death Valley and the tops of the sandstone bluffs in Red Rock Canyon.” Trip ID 1339668

Tip: Hit Vegas-area trails February to May and October to November, when temps range in the 60s to 80s.

Claudio Berstein
Beaverton, OR

“Blue-sky days in early fall are amazing. Every color looks better that time of year.”

Huckleberry Mountain, Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, OR
Although this 4,378-foot peak is within an hour’s drive of Portland, it sees little foot traffic, says Berstein, which means you’ll get five-star views of Mt. Hood all to yourself. Starting just south of Mt. Hood Village, the 11.4-mile out-and-back follows the fern-lined (and faint) Bonanza Trail along Cheeney Creek’s riffling cascades, then climbs 2,800 feet in 3.5 miles to the ridgetop. Push past the wooded summit at mile 5.3 to reach a broad saddle less than half a mile later overlooking Mt. Hood. Trip ID 1338195

Trung Q. Le
Portland, OR

“There are two seasons here: rainy and about to rain. June through August has more of the latter."

Saddle Mountain, Saddle Mountain SP, OR
Perched between the Cascade Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, the diverse views from this under- the-radar Coast Range peak are a rare find, says Le. “You’ll see the deep blues of the ocean to the west—and Mts. Rainier, St. Helens, Hood, and Jefferson to the east.” The steep, 2.5-mile (one-way) trail snakes up grassy slopes to a saddle on the mountain’s two-mile-long ridgeline. Veer left and drop to a lower saddle before tackling the final quarter-mile climb to the 3,283-foot summit. Trip ID 1338363

Andrea Young
Berkeley, CA

“Summer can be crowded at Sykes, but from September to April, you stand a nice shot of being alone.”

Sykes Hot Springs, Pfeiffer Big Sur SP, CA
Soak in three steaming, aqua- colored pools flanking the Big Sur River on a 19.2-miler south of Monterey. Pick up the Pine Ridge Trail at the Big Sur Ranger Station for a roller-coaster climb high above the river, linking redwood groves and chaparral hillsides. Nine miles in, descend switchbacks to the banks of the Big Sur (and Sykes Campsite), then follow the smell of sulfur to the hot springs. “Look for the pool that sits higher from the river—it’s hotter and shaded by a canopy of trees,” says Young. Trip ID 1331424

Andrew Bray
Encinitas, CA

“From December to March, rainstorms scrub the skies clean and turn the parched hillsides green.”

Echo Mountain, Angeles NF, CA
There’s no need to leave the city for mountaintop views: This 5.3-miler starts in a leafy neighborhood of Altadena and vaults up the side of the chaparral-covered San Gabriels. “The sprawling San Gabriel Valley is visible on nearly every step of the hike, and the spring displays of larkspur, penstemon, and monkeyflower are fantastic,” says Bray. On the 3,207-foot summit, wander around the crumbling foundations and rusted-out cog wheels of the White City, a ritzy resort built at the start of the 20th century. Trip ID 1372028

Tip: Wildflower blooms are best from mid-April to mid-June.

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Jul 14, 2012

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AZ Hiker
Feb 09, 2012

Here in the Valley of the Sun (aka Phoenix, AZ) an incredible fall, winter, and early spring (late spring is too hot!) hike is anywhere in the Superstition Mountain range east of the valley. Most trails are suited for a whole family adventure including 3-4 yrs old and grandma. Fremont Saddle is one not to miss! But before you venture out be sure to refresh your safe hiking skills by reading Felix! the Sugar Glider be Safe Hike Smart avail at Amazon. The whole family will enjoy the photos and the story while learning how to pay attention to the surroundings and not get lost, navigate unknown territory, trail etiquette and more. Our kids have used the skills they learn in this book during activities other than hiking. Kids should always be able to find their way home or out of a situation and I think our kids might actually be able to after what they have learned from Felix! the Sugar Glider;-)

Hal White
Feb 09, 2012

Salmon Huckl;eberry is one of my favorite. Start your climb from the wildwood recreational site :Boulder Ridge trail .One of the best Rhododendron display in the MT Hood national forest. Spectacular view of Mt Hood at the 2.4 mile mark wild flowers abound .The trail continues through deep forest . and ends climbing a ridge with open view of Mt Hood, the Salmon hucklebeery wilderness(no clear cuts in view) and more prolific wildflower displays. .The Plaza trail continue down and connects with the Boulder Ridge Trail..The RT is 11.5 miles/gains total 3100' .Starting at the Wildwood Recreational sitewill save a lot of parking hassle ,and, is only $3-5 fee (seniors w/golden age passports are free) The is much more scenic than the Bonzana option.


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