Explore summer backpacking - view hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

summer backpacking Map
4 days ago

This trail can be done in two days if you take the early ferry into Avalon and the mid day or late ferry out of Two Harbors. I did it January 11-12. Despite the mild temps, it seems to be in the off peak season. Lots of great scenery, elevation changes, and harbor views. However there are more power lines, fairly significant erosion, and other man-made changes that would otherwise result in a 5 star rating.

Check out the Wrigley Botanical Garden before starting from Avalon. it will help you identify some of the plants you see along the way.

11 days ago

Only went 3 miles in to the saddle at Smith Mtn. 1st mile is a bit steep & hovers over the road. Keep going. It's worth it. Lots of birds, a skunk, and few people. Have gone the other direction from West Fork as well. Love it!

Did this hike over two days, the descent down to the river can be tricky, especially with a big pack, as much of the trail is washed out. Didn’t see anyone else for the duration. Saw some bear tracks. Over all good hike.

Gorgeous views, moderate hike

Was an amazing hike. Me and my 2 daughters (age 14 and 12) hiked the entire loop in middle July 2018. Was a challenge with the thin air but worth every loss of breath. Will hike this loop again in the future but not anytime soon as we live in Iowa. A MUST HIKE for anyone wanting breathtaking views the entire time. We did it in 4 days and 3 nights.

It was pretty hard.

1 month ago

Amazing view with incredible views.
Steep climbs, steep decents. Hard on the knees. Majority of the trail was a dirt road(accessable by 4x4 vehicle) Good for safety, but annoying to hike on a dry dusty dirt road.

Day one was Avalon to Black Jack(LONG DAY)
Avalon to the trailhead adds an extra mile or more

Day two was Black Jack to Two Harbor(another LONG DAY)
Stopped for food at the airport. Little Harbor Camp water spigot was dry which made for a rough waterless couple miles. The views on this day were beautiful.

Day three, we did the Silver Peak Trail to Starlight Beach, then back to Parsons Landing (a third LONG DAY)

It was nice having firewood and water at each campsite, however we spent so much of the day hiking that we didn't get to enjoy the relaxation as we should have. Probably would've been best to add an extra day, although with the way the camps were spread it prob wouldn't have helped.

1 month ago

Great views, but there is no shade for the most part of trail. Expensive camp sites.

Amazing trip! The scenery was off the charts! Please note that there is no fishing along the route.

Well maintained trail ,be ready to hike 4 miles to see few but awesome Joshua trees

1 month ago

Hiked to Canyon Creek Lakes and back, camping just before junction to Boulder Creek Lakes for two nights. Beautiful area with cool views and many different water falls. Went in colder temps just before Thanksgiving and only saw one other person. There are options to go to Boulder Creek Lakes and L lake. This trailhead also goes over to the adjacent Stuart Fork watershed.

Moderate plus elevation gain all the way up to lakes. Very good, established trail. Lots of water access. There are fairly well marked scrambles right before and in between the lakes. I believe the trails to L Lake and Boulder Lakes are also scrambles.

Camp spots:
Lots of spots along most of trail as this is usually a busy, popular area. Some along last half of trail with views and many close to and around lakes.

Loved backpacking this trail. I did this over three days and two nights. Beautiful views and very peaceful. I loved hearing the waves crash all day (and night). Do your planning and research about trip logistics and high/low tide times. Backpacking in the sand was challenging at first, but I got used to it after a few hours. July 2018.

2 months ago

Packed in to camp between the Lower and Upper Canyon Creek Lakes. There are a number of camping spots near both lakes, ample water throughout the hike. Camped mid-October, perhaps 10-12 other people spread between both lakes. Will definitely be back next year! Beautiful views.

2 months ago

Giving five stars because trail was well marked, and easy to find. I had downloaded the All Trails map but it wouldn’t load for some reason. I too, am a pro member. Completely relied on the Catalina map that you can buy at the visitor center instead. Decent cell reception on most of the area and plenty of places to stop for food if you plan right (you could easily carry just two days worth of food on a four day trip). We did Avalon to blackjack on day 1 then blackjack to two harbors day two, and finally two harbors to starlight beach (camp at parson landing) day three, and parsons landing to two harbors day four. In retrospect, We wish we had arrived in time to camp at hermit gulch, get an early start, and hike all the way to little harbor on day one (prettiest campsite). Then day two we would suggest little harbor to parsons landing, then back on day three. Don’t skip the hill to parsons landing. It has beautiful views and a lot more fun than the flat way. It is really steep going down. Wouldn’t suggest going up it from PL bc of the grade. The Catalina trail map altitude gain image is more of a pretty looking estimation. Just follow the contours. Overall the hardest part for us wasn’t the hills, but rather the heat and sun exposure on the way to blackjack. Pack as light as possible. But definitely pack a rain fly for camping anywhere on the beach. Ours got soaked and we were very happy to have it. Oh yeah, and for starlight beach take the old west end road trail instead of the road. It’s easy to miss, on the right hand side. Otherwise the road drops steep to the coast, then back up to meet old west end road. Totally unnecessary. Ask for a second bundle of firewood at two harbors... I think it’s included in the cost. Don’t forget to call ahead and order water and wood for PL.

One of my favorite hikes, did it roundtrip from the first West Fork parking, went up Bear Creek, past the turnoff aways, then back down to continue the trail up to the saddle, climbed Smith Mt., then on to Hwy. 39 and ran that back to my vehicle. Almost 20 miles total.

the multiple water falls make this hike fun. otherwise it's boring trees until the last portion where the valley opens up near the lakes. not a hard hike at all, this rating is crazy. very steady with small elevation bumps along the way. felt like a nice walk most of the way

generally: amazing backpack in trinity alps with variety of scenery (river, meadow, valley, mountain ridges, alpine lakes) with many options of camping locations at various distances, uncrowded, gorgeous fall colors
Road conditions: paved until last mile, dirt road with some potholes but passable in low clearance vehicle
Permit: free and unlimited at weaverville ranger station
Trail; well maintained until Morris meadows then slightly overgrown to the lakes
Scenery: first 9 mile along the river with vibrant fall colors; numerous campsites along the river; meadow w sweeping views of the valley, hike to the lakes w continued fall colors, stunning views of sawtooth ridge, gorgeous alpine lakes at the end
Weather: hiked in October and warm (60-70s) during the day and chilly (20-30s at night) but manageable w a fire (allowed at the meadow not the lakes)
Wildlife: birds, deer, close encounter w a mountain lion at our campsite(!); no bears or rattlesnakes
People: saw a handful on our way in and two on our way out; no one camping at the meadow with us or up at the lakes

My group and i camped around 9,600 ft. There’s a wonderful area that blocks the wind which made for fairly comfortable sleeping conditions. That being said, from a few hundred feet before that and on, it becomes 2 steps forward and 1 step back. The closer you get to the summit flat, it’s much more of a climb/scramble than a hike. This was the first mountain i climbed but was so incredible. No greater feeling than getting to the summit!!

3 months ago

I took a prolonged 5 day trip out on Stuart Fork Trail and I was not disappointed. The views up to Emerald and Sapphire Creek are amazing and the trek is well worth it. The north route to Sapphire Lake was a bit of a climb but from my understanding easier than the southern route.

The BEST hike, I did it in July in 3 days and it was the hardest but most fulfilling thing I have ever done in my life.

Get a good water filter, tent, rain gear (a must), the usual. We had to have a beat canister when we went and it was SO heavy, and doesnt get much lighter throughout the trip due to "bring it in bring it out." Next time we will use those bear bag type deals, much lighter and you're still able to rent those.

Its amazing, I am not in the best shape but not in bad shape and it was hard but not discouraging by any means! Have fun!!!

Fun overnighter camping out with the Cougars..

Beautiful views wherever you go! Challenging backpacking!

This trail is amazing the sand will definitely take its toll on the legs. I recommend checking the tides before even getting your permit. The second impassable is slippery even at .2 to 1 foot there are parts will you will be walking on like tide pools.

There are plenty of places for water
Cooskie Creek is definitely campable and had amazing views

Truly incredible backpacking trip made more exciting by the challenge of managing schedules around the tides which make the trail impassable for stretches at a time. All different kinds of undeveloped coast for your enjoyment and it really did feel “lost”. Most days we saw only 4-6 people and no one else slept at the same campsites as us. It is busier in summer, we went at end of September when they limit permits per day to 30 instead of 60 and which is close to the rainy season so we got sprinkled on a bit the last day. I would do it again in a heart beat!

I strongly disagree with people who say the hike is the hardest hike they’ve ever been on - I would argue they likely have little to no experience backpacking in The West. I wasn’t even sore when we finished the trail. As someone who has summitted many 14ers including Whitney and also backpacked most of Yosemite, this was more mental challenge and less physical than the others I mentioned. Only about 5 miles of this trail is a typical trail. The rest is packed sand, fluffy sand, pebbles, boulders, or some kind of lava rock. Trekking poles are a must if you are prone to rolling your ankle (or just want to move quickly without fear of losing balance on boulder fields). You will need to think about where you are going before you take each step most of the way.

I think anyone in moderate or better shape can handle this trip but give yourself an extra day or two so you aren’t in a time crunch and tempted to take risks with the tide. The trail is truly impassable in 2 stretches and there is no where to wait it out if you are between campsites - you will be swept out to sea and die. So... be smart and err on the safe side. Rule of thumb is be out of impassable zones 2 hrs before high tide and wait until 2 hours after as there are sneaker tides that shoot up occasionally as the tide goes out. We would get up at 6am, hike until 2 hours before high tide and set up our tent at a campsite for a nap, cook a hot meal and pump water for that four hour window and then hike until dark once it was safe to continue.

The first 4 miles and last 4 miles are the toughest because it is soft sand that your feet sinks into so it takes a lot of effort, esp with an extra 35 lbs of backpack. I had no sleep the night before as I drove up from SF after midnight and was ready to turn around a mile or so into Mattole Beach but I am glad I did not. The worst of it’s the very beginning or the very end.

If you’re thinking about doing it, you should. Note permits can be a challenge so apply sooner than later!

I’m new to backpacking with this being my second trip ever. My son is an experienced hiker and he is the reason I got into doing these types of trips. We like the ease of hiking loops from a logistical standpoint so when we found this one, it was a no brained that we had to give it a go.

This trail was very difficult for me. I am not in the best physical shape but I am mentally strong which I believe is a good part of being able to successfully complete a hike like this one. There is thin air, cold, rain, hail and tough elevation changes. This can all beat you down if you can’t handle the mental aspect.

We completed the hike in 4 days in early August. Other than the rain on a couple days and the hail coming up over the passes, the weather was ok. I’m not sure there would have been a better time to hike this.

Would I do it again? Not sure. It took my knees a couple of weeks to recover from the beating they took going down the passes. The views were breathtaking and as is usually the case, pictures just don’t do it justice.

I can second others that the sandbars are too much for a 2 wheel drive vehicle or one with low clearance. As an alternative for those who have sedans, you can park 1.5 miles from the trailhead (where Google maps terminate the road) where the first arrow sign says "Clear Creek Trailhead." I camped there as well.

As for the trail, it gets very difficult past the campsite, requiring a lot of perseverance to summit the mountain. Be prepared to have your feet slide back down half way for every step up. I did it in a day setting out at 6 am. If you are dayhiking it, make sure to pack a good windbreaker, warm synthetic layers, 2+L water, a water purifier, and food.

3 months ago

I LOVE THIS TRAIL! I have done it five times, it takes me two days. For the most part the hike starts at sea level, but there are a few spots that have a pretty nice climb. I wear trail runners and stop by and get a burger at Airport in the Sky. My mom who is 70 has done it with me twice and my son completed it at 12 and 14. Each time I have hiked this trail it has been at different times of the year: February, March, April, June, and July. In July, it can be over 100 degrees on the ridge. Even in April, you can get burned pretty bad. The best time was in February. The days were comfortable, the nights were still warm, if it rained it wasn't a down pour. I have gone from Avalon to Two Harbor and Two Harbor to Avalon.

Regardless - I love this hike. I love the beauty of the island, the Buffalos, the foxes, you name it. I have only seen one snake which was laying in the sun. I have never been bothered by any animals or people. The only recommendation I would say, is to watch your water. Sometimes water can be limited on the island. Also, keep your gear and food in the tent but away from the sides of the tent. I generally use a bug tent. At night the foxes will come around and if you leave snacks by the edge, they could chew through the mesh. The back side of the island makes you feel like you are in Jurassic Park. In Two Harbor make sure you stop my and get some seared Ahi - it is the BEST! Enjoy every minute of it, it is well worth it!

3 months ago

I did this last week. It is the hardest hike I have ever been on.

Challenging trail over the passes, but the amazing scenery makes it well worth the effort!

Completed the loop in 3 days/2 nights Sep 4-6, hiking counter-clockwise. Camped at Snowmass Lake the 1st night (~9 miles) and just above the large waterfall in Fravert Basin the 2nd night (~7.5 miles). Total distance logged on my gps watch was 29.4 miles, so that left about 13 miles on the last day over Frigid Air & West Maroon Passes. A storm on day 2 forced us to hike over Trail Rider Pass in snow/sleet, which made the trail muddy and extremely slippery. A good set of hiking/trekking poles is highly recommended!

Absolutely amazing! My 1st solo hike - 26 pound pack to start. Went counter clockwise August 24-26 to make option to hike out 3rd day easier. Reflection of Snowmass lake in morning sun is breathtaking, do not miss! Found refreshing swimming hole and small falls about mile above big waterfall on 2nd day. Ended up hiking 14 miles 3rd day and exiting...love my new altra trail runners, no blisters and with lighter pack, was very doable and enjoyable. View after view will keep ya going. Would love to hike this again!!! Trail is well marked, met friendly trail runners and many helpful hikers and a resourceful ranger each day. Combine these with Alltrails app for navigation and a Spot devise for emergency rescue and you are good to go, safer than being in a city!

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