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The best places to backpack on Memorial Day Weekend

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Re: The best places to backpack on Memorial Day Weekend

Postby mikesplain on Wed May 24, 2017 3:28 pm

We've been getting a lot of calls & emails here at the VWA office with some variation on this question & it's not easily answered for a few reasons:

1) Most of the Ventana Wilderness is closed due to hazardous conditions following the Soberanes Wildland Fire. Here's a map of the closure area- https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DO ... 527101.pdf
2) The Silver Peak Wilderness is open but very difficult to access due to road closures.
3) The few easily accessible locations will be extremely crowded.
4) Even in a normal year, Memorial Day Weekend is generally not a good time for a pleasant experience in the northern Santa Lucia Range. Heat, "face flies", biting flies, rattlesnakes, prickly vegetation that imbue socks & clothing with "hitchhikers", the list of little miseries goes on...

If these factors don't deter you, the options are as follows:
1) Kirk Creek / Cone Peak area- This will be (by far) the most crowded backcountry option, certainly to be avoided if you value solitude. Most camps along this trail network are little more than flat spots suitable for a tent or two. Vicente Flat Camp will likely be the most crowded location in the backcountry. If you go, please LEAVE NO TRACE, pack out all trash (including toilet paper), do not make new fire rings & consider packing out refuse left by less conscious visitors.
2) Arroyo Seco Gorge area- Just about every official campsite in this region is closed (within the Soberanes Fire closure, that is- hikers generally must stay west of Arroyo Seco-Indians Road), so one would have to be especially creative to stitch together a backpacking trip here. However, it's certainly possible. Expect a packed campground and at-capacity parking area by Friday night; Saturday morning is almost certainly too late to arrive here. Also expect heat and bugs.
3) Santa Lucia Memorial Park area- There are several backcountry campsites to be had in this vicinity, but expect the campground to be full by Friday night. As with Arroyo Seco, expect heat and bugs.

VWA's maps & books pages are a valuable resource- http://www.ventanawild.org/plan-a-trip/maps-books
Jack Glendening's excellent Big Sur Trail Map is also worth a visit- http://bigsurtrailmap.net/
Jack has also made user-friendly maps of the closure area in popular electronic formats-
http://bigsurtrailmap.net/MAPS/FIRE/SOB ... index.html

In summary, the best place to backpack for Memorial Day Weekend is somewhere other than the Ventana or Silver Peak Wilderness. Heavy snow means that most of the Sierra Nevada is inaccessible, so your best options are low-elevation USFS and BLM wilderness areas north of the Bay Area, or south of San Luis Obispo County.

Hint: try this interactive map at Wilderness.net- http://www.wilderness.net/map
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The best places to backpack on Memorial Day Weekend

Postby mikesplain on Wed May 17, 2017 1:07 pm

Reposted above.
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