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backpack for first timer around Flagstaff area?

Posted: Jul 02 2010 4:47 pm
by desertdryad
Hi folks -

I'm recently married, and want to take my husband backpacking - his first time. I've been at this a while, but I'm kind of rusty; and I know California better, from a backpacking perspective. The two of us need to be in Flagstaff in mid July, and I thought that might be a good opportunity to go off somewhere in the wilderness -that is, until I learned about the ginormous Schultz fire! Anyway. I'm looking for suggestions for an easy to moderate, 2-3 day backpack, within say, ~ a 3 hrs drive of Flagstaff. I'm good with the heat, but he is less so - shade and elevation would be really good to have. Also, water would be exceptionally good to have, as in, not needing to carry all of it that we'd need. We'd probably only hike 6 -8 miles a day.. a hike with good 'basecamp' possibilities would be really nice, something with options. I think WATER is quite possibly the strongest criteria. Oh, and I did I mention solitude is a big plus, too? (I'd go to the White Mountains or the Blue Range if they were not so far for this trip... that'll just have to wait for the second backpack!)

OK, now that I've asked for the impossible, please advise ;) Thanks!

Re: backpack for first timer around Flagstaff area?

Posted: Jul 02 2010 5:01 pm
by paulhubbard
desertdryad wrote:We'd probably only hike 6 -8 miles a day..
Hope he's in good shape. That could kill a "newbie"... 3 hrs from Flag opens a world of opportunities. The rim country is nice, as is West Clear Creek.

You may want to think about going back into the West Fork of Oak Creek. you can go back far enough to camp and be pretty much by yourselves. But boil the water if you're going to drink it!

Re: backpack for first timer around Flagstaff area?

Posted: Jul 02 2010 5:03 pm
by hikeaz
Cabin Loop (all or part) - Highline Trail - Sections of the Arizona Trail north of Pine - Pine Mountain - West Clear Creek - (Maxwell or Tramway trails - stay away from the Bullpen Ranch end)

Re: backpack for first timer around Flagstaff area?

Posted: Jul 02 2010 5:19 pm
by desertdryad
Wow, you guys are quick!

He's in good shape; we train in the gym together, so I know :)

I was eying the cabin loop trail, but it seemed water supplies were dicey, at best? Is there reliable water on that loop?

Pine Mtn and WF Oak Creek sound like good possibilities, but they don't have much by way of elevation (and thus, cooler temps). We'd be talking less than 20 degrees cooler than Phoenix.. right? But if there isn't much elevation gain (as in a canyon creep) that might be doable.

Re: backpack for first timer around Flagstaff area?

Posted: Jul 02 2010 5:24 pm
by hikeaz
desertdryad wrote: I was eying the cabin loop trail, but it seemed water supplies were dicey, at best? Is there reliable water on that loop?
Water-water-everywhere on the Cabin Loop - you are rarely more than a mile from water (as the crow flies).

Re: backpack for first timer around Flagstaff area?

Posted: Jul 02 2010 5:37 pm
by te_wa
the only way to train for backpacking is to go backpacking. unless, your gym has a backpacking simulator. lol!

id suggest one i havent seen listed yet, kelsey/dorsey loop in upper Sycamore canyon.

Re: backpack for first timer around Flagstaff area?

Posted: Jul 02 2010 6:17 pm
by hikeaz
te-wa wrote:the only way to train for backpacking is to go backpacking.
Yeah Te-Wa - can you even COUNT how many "I've been working out on the treadmill/stairmaster" guys we've passed while they are
Image alongside the trail?

Re: backpack for first timer around Flagstaff area?

Posted: Jul 02 2010 6:29 pm
by fricknaley
@hikeaz

ha ha ha..where did you get the awesome barf icon? :sl:

Re: backpack for first timer around Flagstaff area?

Posted: Jul 02 2010 7:04 pm
by Jim_H
This isn't a good area to backpack in. Oak Creek and Sedona aren't really conducive to backpacking. Sedona = heat and little shade. Flagstaff is nice, but expect to carry all of your water. Try eastern AZ or other places with reliable water.

Re: backpack for first timer around Flagstaff area?

Posted: Jul 02 2010 9:37 pm
by chumley
I would also throw out some of the options in the White Mtns. A little further from Flagstaff, but generally within your 3 hr range. There's plenty of water, it'll be relatively cool due to elevation, and most likely cloudy with daily showers that clear up by nightfall.

A nice combination of Indian Spring, West Fork of Black River, and Thompson Trail (I believe 627, 628, and 629) offers a pretty nice stretch.

Re: backpack for first timer around Flagstaff area?

Posted: Jul 05 2010 9:41 am
by JoelHazelton
Hi Desertdryad, welcome to HAZ. I think your best backpacking opportunities closest to Flag will be West Clear Creek. Check out the Tramway/Maxwell Loop: http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=683

It's a moderate trip with extended dayhiking options full of breathtaking scenery. You'll also be camping next to a large perennial creek, so water will never be an issue, as long as you filter at least a few liters for the hike out.

The turnoff to the trailhead is less than an hour outside of Flag, although the dirt road that takes you to the trailhead will take a bit of time, especially depending on your vehicle. A few years ago I took my 2wd, medium clearance Tacoma there, and although it made it, there were some very sketchy parts. If your vehicle can't make it, just tack a couple miles onto the hike for walking the roads (which are also very scenic). This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though, since the loop itself isn't very long.

Re: backpack for first timer around Flagstaff area?

Posted: Jul 11 2010 1:01 pm
by desertdryad
Hi folks - thanks for the feedback. I've narrowed it down to either the Cabin Loop or some combo of Indian Springs/Thompson/W Fork Black river trails. Which of these would be less busy with other travelers, do you think,in a week or so midweek? I'm inclined to drive out to the Whites, but I don't really know the area. It looks like none of the trails are long, and there's lots of dirt roads and mountain bike access, etc. I've nothing against mtn bikers, but I'm not 'specially keen on sharing the trail with them while backpacking. I guess it doesn't 'read' like wilderness on the map to me so much?

I guess I am trying to find the best balance of water availability/relative solitude/elevation(cooling factor)/beauty (this can be views or being streamside)/hopefully no forest fires the day before I leave ... easy, right? :)

Your further feedback is appreciated!

Re: backpack for first timer around Flagstaff area?

Posted: Jul 11 2010 1:18 pm
by joebartels
midweek is the key to solitude anywhere in the state

Generally in addition to the fewer people you'd pass they'd be more pleasant encounters too

Re: backpack for first timer around Flagstaff area?

Posted: Jul 11 2010 3:51 pm
by azbackpackr
I am a mtn biker and hiker and I live in the White Mountains. I hike and ride all the time and almost never see any other hikers or other riders. I can't even find very many people around here to hike or ride with, which is why I am on this forum.

If you hike Indian Springs West Fork, that would be a nice easy beginner backpack. Thompson trail would also be nice. You might see one or two other hikers, near the trailheads. Thompson trail will usually have two or three fishermen for the first mile or so. You might see a mtn. biker on Indian Springs. But it is unlikely. Weekdays, your chance of seeing anyone is very slight, as Joe pointed out.

Don't forget the mosquito repellent! :D

If you see any ATVers on the Indian Springs trail, please call the forest service. Get the licence plate numbers if you can.