Trail Mix: Great November Hikes in the West

Your region's go-now guide: See newts on the move in California and bears heading for lower elevation in Beartooths, MT
Your region's go-now guide: See newts on the move in California and bears heading for lower elevation in Beartooths, MT

Perfect Days

Eugene, OR

Cape Perpetua Scenic Area

This 8.5-mile loop hugs the coast before heading inland to lush old-growth forest and views of the Coast Range and Pacific Ocean. On your drive home, stop north of Florence on US 101 to see sea lions wintering in the world’s largest sea cave ($12; sealioncaves.com). Trip ID368682

Great Falls, MT

Windy Mountain Loop

On this 7.1-mile loop (max elevation: 5,700 feet), enjoy the open scenery of the Highwood Mountains while avoiding the snowpack that coats Montana’s higher ranges in November. Stop in the tiny town of Belt on the ride home to take a tour of the Harvest Moon Brewing Company (406-277-3188; harvestmoonbrew.com; call ahead to schedule a tour). Trip ID56416

Phoenix, AZ

Picketpost Mountain

Make the short (2.2 miles), steep (nearly 2,000-foot gain) scramble to this 4,375-foot summit with 360-degree views of the Superstitions while the weather is cool. Then visit the Boyce Thompson Arboretum three miles away, a local favorite for its dazzling collection of 3,200 desert plants ($9; 520-689-2723; arboretum.ag.arizona.edu). Trip ID8817

See This Now

Newt migration, Tilden Regional Park, CA

Salmon aren’t the only animals that make an epic journey home to breed: When fall rains finally arrive in the Bay Area, the region’s orange-bellied newts begin trekking up to two miles from their dry summer habitat to the creeks and ponds where they were born. Tilden Regional Park, in the Berkeley Hills, is one of the best places to catch them on the move. The amphibian travelers are so plentiful, the park closes a major thoroughfare (South Park Road) to cars from November 1 to April 1 to protect the animals. You’re likely to spot some just ambling down the car-free road, but for a backcountry sighting, hike this 6.6-mile loop: Start from the visitor center and conquer 1,211-foot Wildcat Peak (with views across the Bay on clear days), then follow the Conlon Trail to Wildcat Creek, where the newts congregate. Not that you’d want to, but don’t even think about eating one of these creatures: Their skin holds the same deadly poison found in pufferfish. Trip ID1863834

Explore: Las Vegas Trails

Oak Creek Loop, Red Rock Canyon NCA



With average high temperatures in the mid-60s, November is the perfect time to wander this Joshua tree- and buckhorn cholla-studded desert. Follow this 4.2-mile loop into a creek-laced canyon offering views of Rainbow Mountain (pictured) and the Calico Hills (Trip ID350303). Then download our free smartphone app, GPS Trails, to check out more Sin City-area dayhikes: backpacker.com/gpstrails.

Secrets of the Rangers

See bears in the Beartooths, MT



Although November wouldn’t seem to be the most attractive time for hitting the Montana backcountry, it’s the month for outstanding wildlife watching if you know where to go. According to Jeff Gildehaus, a 20-year veteran of the 587,000-acre Beartooth Ranger District, the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness and adjacent Custer National Forest provide prime opportunities to see mountain goats, bighorn sheep, black bears, and even grizzlies as they move to lower elevations in the late fall. 

“Because the wolf population doesn’t hibernate, they’re killing elk year-round, and the bears steal their food,” he explains. “So the bears are going into hibernation later, or not at all, because they have a food source.” The region sees significantly less traffic than neighboring Yellowstone National Park, which means welcome solitude for warmly dressed, camera-toting hikers seeking that perfect wildlife shot. The early morning and evening hours are best to see most animals, although bears can be active throughout the day. 

If it’s bears you seek, keep an eye out for tracks, scat, signs of digging, and scratch marks on trees; read BACKPACKER’s Bear Country Behavior ($13, falcon.com) and see the tips on page 38 to help avoid surprising a griz. Because most trailheads are at higher elevations and thus snow-closed in November, your best bets will be the Basin Creek Lakes Trail and the Timberline Lake Trail (Trip ID1863693) in the West Fork of Rock Creek. After the winter gate on West Fork Road closes on December 1, set your sights on the open-year-round Silver Run National Recreational Trail.