California Backpacking


California • $1,900:   March 31-April 6 2013

Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the lower 48 states! This is two separate treks into two distinct mountain areas of the park. On each trip segment, we’ll backpack two or three miles from a remote dirt road and set up a base camp. From camp, we’ll day-hike and explore the high desert mountains and colorful canyons. We’ll car-camp the night before our second segment begins. This trip is high above the scorched valley floor, with unique Mojave Desert vegetation including scattered Joshua trees. There are desert bighorn sheep plus many other native birds and mammals, and spring wildflowers in moist years. Enjoy spectacular views of this little-known wild landscape! Despite the parks’ namesake valley, this trek is colorful and rugged mountain wilderness! Warm, dry days with cool to cold nights are the rule on this moderately easy trip, based out of Las Vegas. This trip is offered only in odd numbered years.

The Cottonwood, Funeral, Saline, Last Chance, Grapevine and Owlshead Mountains are some of the high rugged desert ranges that we visit in this huge park. If you envision Death Valley mainly as a sun-scorched desert flat with very little life, think again. The colorful topography and diversity on this trip will amaze you!

TREK BASE: Las Vegas, Nevada. Super 8 Motel, 4250 Koval Lane, (702) 794-0888. Call motel for airport shuttle (it is near the airport). Contact sales office for Big Wild discount.

PRE-TREK MEETING TIME: Pre-trek orientation including food and gear handout plus safety talk at 6 pm the evening prior to the first day of the trip; meet in Super 8 lobby.

THE TREK: This is two distinct adventures into two different areas of the park’s mountains. On each trip segment, we’ll backpack in 2 or 3 miles from a remote desert dirt road and set up a base camp, from which we’ll day-hike and explore the desert mountains and canyons. At the end of day 3 we’ll re-supply and enjoy a restaurant meal, and then we’ll car-camp that night at the location where we’ll begin the 2nd trip segment the next morning. The first trip segment is 3 days/2 nights, and the second one includes a car-camp plus 4 days/3 nights in the wilderness.

TREK RATING: We rate this trip moderately easy, since the actual backpacking is limited to hiking to and from each base-camp. However, we will be hauling water into these camps, and the day-hiking terrain is fairly rugged, so don’t underestimate the Death Valley mountains!

ELEVATIONS: Mostly in the 4,000-6,000 foot range, though this will vary from trip to trip and day-hikes might take us a good bit higher.

WEATHER: April is usually stable, with warm to hot days and nights that can be quite chilly, even below freezing. When it does rain, though rare in the spring, there’s not much shelter so good rain gear is still required. Because we’ll be up in the mountains, the brutally hot weather on the Death Valley floor will not affect us. Click here for the National Weather Service forecast.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Gigantic vertical elevation gradients from valley to mountaintops, spectacular rugged canyons, very colorful rock formations, big wide open vistas galore, unique Mohave Desert vegetation from salt scrub up to Joshua trees and even Junipers at the higher elevations. “Badwater” is the lowest land in the western Hemisphere at 282 feet below sea level, while Telescope Peak rises to 11,049 feet. There are colorful wildflowers in wet years, and though wildlife is sparse, there’s a surprising diversity of reptiles, birds and mammals including scattered bands of desert bighorn sheep.

SPECIAL TIPS: Bring a good sun hat and lightweight long-sleeved cotton sun shirt plus plenty of sunscreen. Be prepared to experience a truly wild desert landscape that will surprise most folks with its awesome topography. Make sure that you can carry 2 liters of water. We will supply potable water for the entire trip (but fill your personal bottles at the motel).

STATUS: Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the lower 48 states, and though it has a number of mostly dirt roads within it, the vast majority of this landscape is truly wild and has been designated Wilderness under the Wilderness Act of 1964.

TRAVEL/ITINERARY: The drive from the motel in Las Vegas to the areas we will be hiking is roughly 3 hours, and we’ll have you back in the strange glitzy city by late afternoon of the last day.

*Trip price includes equipment (backpack, day-pack, tent, sleeping bag and pad, eating utensils), food and cooking (3 meals/day plus snacks), cooking gear, trip planning, comprehensive safety instruction, all user/permit fees, transportation from town to and from trail-heads, and our professional guide/naturalist staff. There is a $200 discount if you bring your own equipment.

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Capitan Lake - photo from one of our backpacking treks

List prices include our complete gear package and there is a $300 discount if you bring your own (see our Canoeing List, Backpacking List, and/or Questionnaire for details – found here). Also, we offer a $300 discount for the second trip in a calendar year. Scheduled trips are for persons ages 14 and over. Exceptions to the age requirement will be made by us on a case-by-case basis.

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