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Backpacker Magazine – August 2013

Trail Mix: West

Your region's go now guide: Explore the Pacific coastline in California, hike in isolation near Lake Tahoe, and more.

by: Sarah L. Stewart, Mackenzie Murphy, Bill Velasques, and Ryan Horjus

Insta Winner Dirk Badenhorst
Insta Winner Dirk Badenhorst

Perfect Days

San Francisco, CA
Rodeo Beach
Reach a craggy, windswept section of Pacific coastline 3 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge on this 9.6-mile lollipop through the Marin Headlands. Let the massive sandstone formations whet your appetite: Boulder, top-rope, or lead on Planet Granite’s 25,000-square-foot vertical playground—open-air views across the Bay included—right off the bridge on your way back to the city (day pass $19; Trip ID 8198
Spokane, WA
Kamiak Butte
Climb through lush evergreen forest to check out expansive, rolling farmland from a 3,641-foot butte on this 3.5-mile lollipop. The overlook supports 170 plant species in just 298 acres. Stop in nearby Pullman to sample some Sangiovese and Sauvignon Blanc at Merry Cellars (free tastings; on your return to Spokane. Trip ID 26001
Phoenix, AZ
Blodgett Basin Trail
Drop 1,700 feet amid red hoodoos and wildflowers to West Clear Creek (through a desert riparian zone that supports 80 percent of Arizona’s wildlife species) on a 6.8-mile out-and-back. Then visit Montezuma Castle National Monument—erected around 700 AD—to see one of the best-preserved and most intricately detailed cliff dwellings in North America ($5; Trip ID 5715

Solitude Finder
Capitol Trail, Humboldt-Toiyabe NF, NV

This summer, avoid the Lake Tahoe masses on a 4.8-mile (round-trip) overnighter in idyllic, high-country isolation. The trick? Hike in Nevada, where not only will you hit some of the most rugged terrain the Lake Tahoe basin has to offer, but you’ll also skirt the crowds who flock to Tahoe NF and South Lake Tahoe (all in California). To find pristine alpine lakes and untouched meadows, venture into Nevada’s Mt. Rose Wilderness. Set out on the Capitol Trail—which connected Sacramento and Carson City in the 1800s—from the Incline Lake trailhead (no permits required). Peel off to the right at .4 mile (halfway up a switchback) to stay on the trail, and follow the path west under pines, climbing 900 feet over 1.6 miles to a shoulder featuring a 180-degree view of azure Lake Tahoe. In .4 mile, bypass the Tahoe Rim Trail—a long-distance path that will siphon away the lion’s share of visitors. Instead, turn left to stay on the Capitol Trail (the fork is disguised in bramble bushes). From here, pass emerald Mud Lake at 2.1 miles. Camp on a shelf overlooking Lake Tahoe, or continue .3 mile west along trickling Grey Creek and camp beside Grey Lake, under 9,710-foot Rose Knob. Return the way you came. Contact (530) 543-2600;

See This Now
Perseids Meteor Shower
Vascas Trail, San Pedro Parks Wilderness, NM

The Perseids—an annual show that occurs when the Earth passes through comet debris—will spew 50 shooting stars per hour between August 10 and 12. Your goal: a wide-open space with clear air and no light pollution. Your trail: This 7.6-mile hike to a remote meadow campsite at 10,000 feet. From the Vacas trailhead, hike north through purple monkshood, red spotted coralroot, yellow coneflower, and red columbine (all blooming July to August), and set up in the San Pedro Park meadow (fires prohibited). After possible rain peters out in the afternoon, see the star show at its peak between midnight and predawn (to the west). Retrace your steps to the trailhead. Contact (575) 289-3264; Trip ID 30964

Insta Winner
Snap and tag your top trips #BPmag

Dirk Badenhorst, 24, a “homeless traveling college grad” out of Los Angeles, nabbed this photo on a non-technical scramble near Indian Cove. “I love climbing one of J. Tree’s thousands of boulder fields for epic, desert sunset views,” he says.

New geotour Geocache on Helena-area trails (

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