About Our Backpacking Trips

Updated - 11/28/16

In today's world of technology, it's healthy to get away from civilization, cell phones, facebook and everything else we're typically plugged into. It is also a very rewarding experience to see the beauty this world has to offer, and nothing makes you appreciate it more than having to work a little for it. As a great man once said, "Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountain is going home; that wildness is necessity; that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life." -John Muir

All of the trips listed below fall into the category of backpacking (sometimes referred to as primitive or backcountry camping). For each of these trips, I've rated each one using the following criteria:

  • Solitude - The fewer people the better.
  • Trails - Challenging trails that don't look like roads, as well as decent signage so we don't get lost.
  • Campsites - Good amenities including close proximity to water, isolated from other campsites, and fire rings.
  • Scenery - The more awe inspiring, the better.
  • Wildlife - Birds and deer are great, but dangerous animals like bears and mountain lions are the best!
  • Adventure - We like to have some adrenaline flowing to make us forget about all the aches and pains.

I hope you enjoy the pictures and stories and get a chance to visit these wonderful parks. And if you feel so inclined, I 'd love to hear form you.

-Mark B

Trips

Camping Trips 2016

Nov 4

Maggie Lakes, Golden Trout Wilderness - Sequoia National Forest
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Late in the season but no snow yet, we sneak in one last trip for the year. Starting at Summit Trailhead off a Forest Route 20S71, we make the 9 mile journey to Maggie Lakes. We spent two nights there and took the opportunity to explore the surrounding lakes.


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Aug 20

Pioneer Basin, John Muir Wilderness - Inyo National Forest
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With only enough time to do an overnighter, we pick the challenging route to Pioneer Basin. The Mosquito Flat trailhead is at 10,000 and you have to go over Mono Pass at 12,000. The views are worth the price of admission.


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May 19

Pat Springs, Ventana Wilderness - Los Padres National Forest
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Still too cold to head to the Sierra, we once again use the fallback option of Ventana Wilderness in Big Sur. This two night, 30 mile trip started at the Botcher's Gap Trailhead where we spent two nights at the picturesque Pat Springs. The second day we day hiked to Ventana Double Cone, which was tough due to overgrowth but had beautiful views (even if they clouds made seeing the view challenging).


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May 6

California Riding and Hiking Trail - Joshua Tree National Park
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Since it was too early to venture into the mountains, we instead head to the desert. Starting at Ryan Trailhead and hiking the California Riding and Hiking trail to the base of Quail Mountain, we intended to spend two nights but after not being that impressed, we drove down to the Salton Sea for some Mad Max style adventure.


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Camping Trips 2015

Sep 10

Buck Lake, Emigrant Wilderness - Stanislaus National Forest
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We venture out into the wilderness for a four day trip through Emigrant Wilderness covering 37 miles. Starting from Kennedy Meadows, we head towards Buck Lake with a one night stop there and back.


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Jun 19

Robinson Lakes, Hoover Wilderness - Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
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Starting from Twin Lakes, we head to Robinson Lakes for two nights, and complete a loop around Crown point (23 miles total). It was a weekend filled with scenic lakes and vicious mosquitoes.


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Mar 29

San Rafael Wilderness - Los Padres National Forest
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Looking for an early season trip to a new location, we find ourselves heading to Santa Barbara and the San Rafael wilderness. We spent the weekend chasing an elusive waterfall and putting a first timer through his paces on the Hurricane deck trail.


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Camping Trips 2014

Aug 8

Glacier Point to Half Dome, Yosemite National Park
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Looking to take a group to Half Dome for their first time, lack of permits resulted in taking a longer route to get there. And a machete resulted in one less person making it to the summit.


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Jun 13

Long Lake and Stella Lake, Hoover Wilderness - Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
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A perfect time to head into the Sierra, we look for a new area to explore. Just north of Yosemite is the pristine Hoover Wilderness where we spend two nights. Starting from Leavitt Meadows, we head to Upper Long Lake for the first night and then hike to Stella Lake for the second night. Total distance is around 30 miles.


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Apr 14

Sespe Hot Springs, Sespe Wilderness - Los Padres National Forest
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With the Sierra under snow and not wanting to strap on snow shoes, Big Sur and the Ventana Wildernss sounds like a great option. My buddies and I picked the most popular hike in the wilderness, sespe-hot-springs Hot Springs.


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Mar 14

Sykes Hot Springs, Ventana Wilderness - Los Padres National Forest
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With the Sierra under snow and not wanting to strap on snow shoes, Big Sur and the Ventana Wildernss sounds like a great option. My buddies and I picked the most popular hike in the wilderness, Sykes Hot Springs.


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Camping Trips 2013

Nov 9

Santa Rosa Island - Channel Islands National Park
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With winter fast approaching and not prepared to deal with snow, we take a trip to the Channel Islands National Park for a couple of nights. We discovered the best places to camp, but only after the fact.


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Aug 9

Disappointment Lake, John Muir Wilderness - Sierra National Forest
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Wanting to see big scenery in an unfamilar area, we decided to check out the Red Mountain Basin. Two nights wasn't enough to see everything we wanted but it was a good first taste. A little better planning would have gone a long ways.


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May 10

Lake Vernon Loop - Yosemite National Park
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With it still early in the season, we found a three day loop in Yosemite to get things going. We found waterfalls, bears, and some solitude.


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Camping Trips 2012

Aug 3

Moose Lake, Sequoia National Park
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Three day loops are hard to come by in the Sierra so when we found one that required a little cross country route, we figured "no problem". A couple of costly mistakes proved otherwise.


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June 8

Gem Lake and Waugh Lake, Ansel Adams Wilderness - Inyo National Forest
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Wanting to take some first timers on an easy but scenic trip, we head to the Ansel Adams Wilderness for two nights. We push the newcomers to their limits but this trip is capped with a trip to Thousand Islands Lake.


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Camping Trips 2011

Sept 19

Tuolumne Meadows - Yosemite National Park
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After several trips to Yosemite, I finally decided it was time to see Tuolumne Meadows. This loop starts in Tuolumne and heads through Vogelsang, Merced and Sunrise camps.


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Sep 15

Kearsarge Lakes, John Muir Wilderness - Inyo National Forest / Kings Canyon National Park
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Starting in Onion Valley, a few friends and I head over Kearsarge Pass (11,823ft) and spend a couple of days at the scenic Kearsarge Lakes.


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Aug 15

Glacier National Park
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This adventure begins with a few buddies and an overnight train ride from Seattle to Montana. After being unable to land our first choice for campsites, we cobbled together an amazing trip. Read more here.


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Jul 27

Cotton Wood Lakes, John Muir Wilderness - Inyo National Forest
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Alternate Gallery

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Taking Beau on an overnighter for his first official backpacking trip, we weren't going to let some damp weather get us down. We learned a few lessons along the way, like it's a bad idea to wear tennis shoes with no socks. Read about it here.


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May 19

Escalante Route, Grand Canyon National Park
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Another bucket list trip, we head to Arizona to tackle the Big Ditch. This was a challenging route from Lipan Point to Grandview Point with a couple of nights along the Colorado before a stop at an old mining camp. Read the trip report here.


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Feb 11

Reyes Creek to Pine Mountain Lodge, Sespe Wilderness - Los Padres National Forest
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Another trip to Sespe Wilderness, only this time with a lot less snow. Mike and I do an overnighter, check out some ladybugs and try not to fall in the water. Read all about it here.


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Camping Trips 2010

Sept 23

Garnet Lake and Minaret Lake, Ansel Adams Wilderness - Inyo National Forest
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Route in Google Earth | Vertical Profile

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Last (big) trip of the season and we found ourselves heading into the Ansel Adams Wilderness. My buddy Dale and I saw very little wildlife but we did find lots of adventure. We navigated steep talus fields, bolder hopped around a lake and then did a couple hundred feet of rock climbing. Read all about it here.


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Aug 25

Cotton Wood Lakes, John Muir Wilderness - Inyo National Forest
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Route in Google Earth | Vertical Profile

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Another solo trip, this time in the Sierra Nevada. A three-and-half-hour drive from LA landed me in the southern Sierra Nevada where I had the opportunity to spend time with the marmots. This 15 mile overnighter had me camping at 11,000 feet and hiking at 12,000. Read the full details here.


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Jul 10

Gallatin Skyline Trail, Yellowstone National Park
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Route in Google Earth | Vertical Profile

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Crossing off another item from the life list, we head to Yellowstone to experience the Gallatin Skyline Trail. We hoped to see lots of wildlife in the backcountry but instead we found alpine meadows, lakes and lots of wildflowers. About the only wildlife we came across was a wolf and a herd of bighorn sheep. Read about the adventure here.


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May 28

Rae Lakes Loop, King's Canyon National Park
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Route in Google Earth | Vertical Profile

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We head back to the mountains to experience one of the most popular trips in the Sierra Nevada, the 42 mile Rae Lakes Loop. In order to avoid some of the crowds, we chose to go early in the year when the snow was just starting to melt. The result was a lot of fresh prints in the snow and a lot of trail finding. Get the full story here.


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April 30

Lost Horse Mine, Joshua Tree National Park
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Route in Google Earth | Vertical Profile

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Back to the desert, this time to enjoy the spring bloom. My buddy Henry and I spent two days exploring the two desert environments that make up Joshua Tree. And it doesn't take long before you understand why they named the park after this quirky half tree half cactus. The sheer number of the trees located in the park is truly a site to behold. Read the trip report here.


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Feb 20

Bear Trap, Sespe Wilderness - Los Padres National Forest
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Route in Google Earth | Vertical Profile

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For my first solo trip, I decided to head into the Sespe Wilderness where the forecast called for rain and snow. On my trip, I would encounter large colonies of lady bugs, mountain lion tracks and more snow than I was prepared to handle. See all the details here.


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Feb 06

Palm Canyon, Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Route in Google Earth | Vertical Profile

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With the forecast calling for rain, we headed to the desert to stay dry. And what place is better than Anza Borrego, the largest state park in the lower 48. It's a large and varied park which includes slot canyons, vehicle recreational areas and lots of hiking trails. We didn't stay dry but still had a great time. I'll defitiely be back, but the for the meantime, you can read our full adventure here.


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Camping Trips 2009

Oct 01

Zion National Park
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Route in Google Earth | Vertical Profile

trip gallery main imageAttempting to mix it up a bit, we head off into the desert for four days to experience Zion National Park. The trip caught our attention when we read about the Subway and canyoneering. That represented something new that we just couldn't resist. Check out the complete story here.


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Jul 09

Yosemite Falls, Tenya Lake, Half Dome Loop, Yosemite National Park
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Route in Google Earth | Vertical Profile

trip gallery main imageThe trip we've been looking forward to for nearly a year, Dale, Thomas and I set off to see as much of Yosemite as we could. We ended up doing 50+ miles and 11,000 vertical feet over 5 days (basically everything you see in the picture above. We encountered bears, rattlesnakes, deer, conquered Half Dome and Cloud's Rest, and battled mosquitoes. Truly an epic adventure to remember. A (very) detailed account can be found here.


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Jul 03

Switzer Falls - Angeles National Forest
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Trying to get a jump on the Fourth of July crowds, Casey and I left LA Friday morning and headed to Switzer Falls. A short hike gets you to the falls where you can jump into a small, cool pool. This is a popular attraction that can draw a crowd. Check out the entire story here.


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Jun 13

Shield Peak, San Gorgonio Wilderness - San Bernardino National Forest
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Route in Google Earth | Vertical Profile

trip gallery main imageAfter considering a trip to Joshua Tree (and carrying in our water), we instead decided to head for the mountains. I've been eyeing San Gorgonio for quite a while, so I decided it was a good time to check it out. We managed to cover 15 miles and 4000 vertical feet in less than a day, and we were rewarded with breathtaking views from one of the many peaks in the San Gorgonio wilderness. Check out the gory details here.


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May 08

Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Route in Google Earth | Vertical Profile

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A spur of the moment trip allowed me to see one of the greatest parks at an optimal time. Mike and I set off for an easy camping trip, but we ended up at the top of Yosemite Falls (2500 vertical feet later). The waterfalls were in full effect and I did my best to take as many pictures as possible. Read about our adventures here.


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Apr 17

Bridge to Nowhere - Angeles National Forest
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Route in Google Earth | Vertical Profile

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The original spot we wanted to camp was covered with snow, so we scrambled to find a new spot. Unfortunately, we realized this was a popular location once we saw the hundreds of cars parked by the trailhead. It took getting off the main trail and braving the river to finally get away from the people, trash, and graffiti. Check out the full story here.


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Mar 28

Mount San Jacinto State Park
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Trail Map | Route in Google Earth | Vertical Profile

image gallery main imageStaying close to LA, this trip included first timers Stephen and Casey.  The trip started slow with unremarkable trails and tons of people, but quickly evolved into a scenic trip that included a large monolith called Suicide Rock, more snow than we were prepared to deal with, and several opportunities to get lost.  View the full trip details here.


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Mar 13

Piedra Blancas to Pine Mountain Lodge, Sespe Wilderness - Los Padres National Forest
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Trail Map | Route in Google Earth | Vertical Profile

image gallery main imageNeeding to get away from it all, I identified a couple of potential camping spots near LA.  I finally settled on Sespe since it had less vertical change and warmer temperatures than some of the other local wilderness areas.  My buddy Mike and I set out for a two night trip that involved seeing non-existent mountain lions, getting lost in the Piedra Blancas, hiking through desert and snow, and battling boy scouts for campground space.  For the full trip details, click here.


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Mar 05

Lost Maples State Natural Area
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Trail Map | Route in Google Earth | Vertical Profile

image gallery main imageAnother trip to Texas, we were torn on where to go.  Enchanted rock is too small, Inks Lake is too small, Sam Houston is too flat.  Oh the dilemmas.  We decided that we would instead revisit one of our favorite parks, Lost Maples.  For this trip, we had a newcomer with us, Thomas Loupe, but he showed he wasn't wet behind the ears.  The full trip details are available here.


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Camping Trips 2008

Oct 17

Lake Georgetown
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Trail Map

image gallery main imageWe planned a two night trip to Lake Georgetown, which is a park maintained by the US Army Corps of Engineers and located about 20 miles north of Austin.  It consists of the 26 mile Goodwater Trail that surrounds the lake and has primitive campsites scattered throughout. Based on other people's reviews, we decided to camp at the Sawyer campsite, 6.5 miles from the Cedar Breaks Trailhead.  For the full trip details, click here.


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Jul 12

Big Five Lakes Loop, Sequoia National Park
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Trail Map

image gallery main imageSequoia was our first trip outside of Texas.  This four day, 25 mile and 10,000 vertical foot hike proved to be more challenging than expected. As a summary of the trip, most of our trails seemed to be up hill, Dale fell in a creek, threw up and then decided to walk through another creek to make himself more sick.  We encountered more deer than people and the deer were less scared.  I've posted the full trip details here.


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May 10

Big Bend National Park
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Trail Map

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Big Bend is one of the least visited national parks in the US yet it's surprisingly diverse in terms of plants, animals and geology.  The elevation ranges from 1800 feet down by the Rio Grande all the way up to 7825 feet atop Emory Peak.  Dale and I planned a four night trip to the park just when temperatures were starting to rise and the rain had long since fallen.  For the complete trip report, check it out here.


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Mar 23

Bastrop State Park
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Trail Map

image gallery main imageBastrop State Park is a fairly decent sized park that is located a short drive from Austin.  One of the draws of the park is the 7 mile Lost Pines Trail that runs through the primitive area where you can camp anywhere you desire.  While the elevation change is minimal (165 feet), the tall pine trees and the needle covered forest floor were supposed to make this one night trip interesting.  But it took some equipment failures to provide any sort of excitement.  Click here for the full trip report.


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Jan 18

Lake Somerville State Park
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Trail Map

image gallery main imageLake Somerville is a lesser known Texas park that offers ample amounts of water (with both a lake and large pond) and over 20 miles of trails. It also has the benefit of being close to Austin. Since there was little that we could find out about the park, Dale, Ted and myself decided to give it a try.  Unfortunately, the winter conditions not only made freezing temperatures but also everything in the park was very brown.  The bright spot for the trip was the abundance of wildlife.  For the complete trip details, click here.


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Camping Trips 2007

Nov 30

Hill Country State Natural Area
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Trail Map

image gallery main imageHill Country SNA, is a big enough park where it takes a couple of weekends to see the entire thing.  Seeing as we had a great time on the first visit, Dale and I returned to the park with Ted in tow.   We once again had rain and fell prey to the poorly marked trails.  Read the full trip details here.


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Sept 07

Lost Maples State Natural Area
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Trail Map

image gallery main imageLost Maples is one of the most popular parks in central Texas (and for good reason).  While it is best known for the changing leaves in the fall, it proved to be a beautiful park even when the leaves weren't turning colors.  Not only does it offer beautiful scenery and an abundance of water, it also has a variety of challenging trails.  Click here to see the full trip report.


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May 25

Pedernales Falls State Park
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Trail Map

image gallery main imagePedernales Falls State Park is best known for the falls it is named after.  It's really more like a 3000 foot marble slide than is it a falls.  However, it can go from fairly dry to raging river in a matter of minutes due to flash floods.  Aside from the falls, they have a nice primitive camping area along with an interesting trail system.  Ted, Dale and I made a two night trip to the park.  Read the full story here


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Apr 20

Colorado Bend State Park
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Trail Map

image gallery main imageNestled away in the hills northwest of Austin, Colorado Bend is one of the most underrated parks in Texas.  Not only does it have one of the best stretches of trails in Texas, it also has a 60 foot falls and a cave to top it off.  While the park may not offer a prime primitive camping area, it more than makes up for it with spring fed waterfalls. Read about our quick one night trip here.


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Mar 30

Hill Country State Natural Area
Trip Report | Photo Gallery | Trail Map

image gallery main imageHill Country SNA is a fairly large park but due to it being primitive only, it doesn't get as much traffic as other near-by parks.  As a result, you have a vast amount of wilderness to explore... seemingly alone.  There are several moderate hills that give you a bit of elevation change and some great campsites.  Dale and I made this one night trip in the middle of a thunderstorm.  Read all about it here.


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Future Camping Trips

Some of the trips we plan on making in the next few years:

Yellowstone NP
Glacier NP (Great Northern Traverse)
Rocky Mountain NP (Long's Peak)
Grand Teton NP (Teton Crest Trail)
Denali NP
Grand Canyon NP (Rim to Rim)
Acadia NP
Ranier NP
Sequoia NP (Mt Whitney via JMT)
Olympic NP
North Cascades NP
Everglades NP
Canyonlands NP
Great Smoky Mountains NP (AT)
Wind River Range