Use the chart below to help plan and schedule your travel. Below the chart, I’ve added more location-specific information.
For easier viewing, open this chart in a new window.
Meet-up points and important landmarks
Consult this map:
Note: This map will need some updating before the 2021 season kicks off. As shown, it’s mostly correct.
If you are driving to the meet-up location on the first day, please be within at least three hours so that you’re not already tired when you get there.
At the “Briefing,” we will:
- Make introductions;
- Update you on conditions;
- Distribute breakfast & dinner rations, demo gear, and paper maps;
- Check over your gear, and weigh your full pack.
The guides normally arrive at the briefing location an hour early to set up. If you have been instructed otherwise or if feel that you need a lot of help in checking your gear, you can arrive early as well, but please by no more than 30 minutes.
Take care of yourself before and during the briefing:
- Have breakfast
- Get hydrated
- Protect yourself from the elements, like by applying sunscreen if it’s sunny or by by wearing warm clothing if it’s cold.
Food and water is not provided at the trailhead — please pack in what you will need. Not all trailheads have potable water available.
Air travel and public transit
If you are flying in, you will need to arrive the day before. For high-elevation locations, it’s best to arrive two days beforehand if you live at sea level.
You can fly out at the end of the last day, so long as you can make the timing work. Please don’t schedule a flight that is so early that your group is forced to exit unnaturally early on the final day. If you’re unsure if your departure time is late enough, contact Andrew.
The California and Colorado trips are at high altitudes, and non-acclimatized clients may experience acute mountain sickness (e.g. headache, nausea, loss of appetite).
To reduce the risk of having these symptoms during your trip, when your body will be additionally taxed by the physical exertion, you are strongly encouraged to spend at least the night before the trip at altitude. If you have the time and/or if you have a history with altitude issues, make it two nights. During this acclimatization period, take it easy — if you stress your body with a monster day-hike or run, you could set yourself back.
If you live at altitude, you are exempt from this recommendation. However, you should still try to occasionally get into the high country before your trip — the air is a lot thinner at 12k than 5k.
Travel guide: Southern Utah
The closest major airports are:
- Cedar City: 2 hours 20 min (regional airport)
- Las Vegas: 4 hrs 45 min
- Salt Lake City: 4 hrs 45 min
Thankfully, it’s a very scenic drive from these hubs.
Denver is another option, but it’s a much longer drive, at over 8 hours.
Escalante Outfitters has clean inexpensive cabins with community bathrooms. On-site is a good cafe/restaurant and covered picnic pavilion. The guides normally stay here.
For overflow we stay next door at the Prospector Inn, or further up the road at the Escalante Cabins & RV Park.
Free public lands camping is available about 400 yards south of the Highway 12 on Hole-in-the-Rock Road. The area has no trash, bathrooms, or water.
The small town of Boulder, Utah, is located 40 minutes northeast of Escalante. It has a few services, including lodging and restaurants. This may be a viable option to stay overnight before the trip if you are driving in from the north.
In downtown there is a small locally owned grocery market. Selection is poor, produce may not be fresh, and prices reflect the significant transportation costs and low volume.
For a more Whole Foods-like experience, go to the Escalante Mercantile. Selection is high quality but limited.
Travel guide: West Virginia
The closest airports serve Washington DC, and are about three hours east. Use Baltimore-Washington (BWI), Dulles (IAD), or Reagan (DCA).
The town of Seneca Rocks is equidistant to Spruce Knob and Dolly Sods. It has basic services, including lodging, restaurants, and a small grocery store.
Start with Yokum’s Vacationland, which has rooms on their second floor and cabins down the road. Most of the clients stay in the rooms; the guides rent a cabin.
Appalachian Cabins Motel had mixed reviews in 2019. One couple found a dirty room and had poor customer service; another had a better experience.
Yokum’s has a small grocery store and a deli. Cleanliness does not seem like a priority here.
The Front Porch has good pizza, though was closed during the 2020/Covid season.
The Gateway Inn, at the base of the mountain road leading to Spruce Knob just south of the hamlet of Riverton, is a nice small-town diner with outrageously low prices.
Cheeta B’s in Petersberg gets good reviews, but we’ve not yet been there.
Other travel tips
Seneca Rocks does not have cell service, and the Yokum’s Wifi is quickly overwhelmed by visitors. Drive south for 3.5 miles to the North Fork Baptist Church.
Cell service is generally spotty in this part of the state. Download maps for offline use (for driving and backpacking) before you get here.
Please plan to carpool to the trailhead, which will have limited parking. We can leave cars at a park-n-ride about a quarter-mile away from Yokums and the Front Porch.
Travel guide: Alaska
In general, your schedule and travel is more involved than other groups. We will share a document with you with lots of details.
Fly into Fairbanks (FAI). From airports in the Pacific Northwest (SEA, PDX), you’ll enjoy one of the most scenic flights in the world along the coastline. Pick a seat on the east/right side of the plane.
The groups will meet in Fairbanks. We’ll have a pre-trip briefing the evening before Day 1 at 4 pm (so “Day 0”) and then we’ll meet again about 7:20 AM on Day 1. We’ll shuttle to Wright Air, fly to Coldfoot on a 9-passenger Cessna, and then fly into the bush on 4-passenger Beavers that are equipped with special tundra tires.
On Day 7, we finish our trip by walking in Anaktuvuk Pass, a native village atop the Continental Divide in the Brooks Range. We’ll return to Fairbanks on another Wright Air flight, touching down in Fairbanks at around 1 PM.
The groups stay at La Quinta Inn — Fairbanks Airport. It’s nice and clean; they hold our stuff while we’re out; and it offers an airport shuttle.
You will be responsible for paying for your room. I will reserve a block of rooms at a discounted rate ($160 including taxes in 2020).
Two miles down the road is a huge Fred Meyer, where you can find almost anything you need, from fuel canisters to underwear to deli sandwiches.
For a good pre-trip dinner, try Chena Pumphouse. For pizza, go to House of Fire.
Travel guide: California
Mammoth Yosemite (MMH) is the closest airport to our starting points in Yosemite National Park and Inyo National Forest. But it’s a niche airport (serviced by few airlines, and expensive) and vulnerable to re-routes to LAX because of high winds. More practical airports (with drive times to Tuolumne Meadows, our Yosemite meet-up location) include:
- Reno-Tahoe (RNO): 2 hr 55 min
- Fresno-Yosemite (FAT): 3 hr 30 min
- Sacramento (SMF): 4 hr 0 min
- Oakland (OAK): 4 hr 5 min
- San Jose (SJC): 4 hr 20 min
- Los Angeles (LAX): 5 hr 35 min
- Las Vegas (LAS): 5 hr 50 min
If your trip is in Stanislaus National Forest (Emigrant Wilderness), drive times will be less by flying into the Central Valley or Bay Area, like FAT, SMF, or OAK.
Tuolumne Meadows can be reached via public transit. Use Greyhound, Amtrak, or Eastern Sierra Transit to reach one of the gateway towns such as Merced or Lee Vining. Then take a YARTS bus to Tuolumne.
The night before your trip, you can stay at the Backpackers Campground in the Tuolumne Meadows Campground ($6 per person). I will email a copy of our wilderness permit reservation so that you’re authorized. A campground reservation is not necessary — so long as you have a wilderness permit reservation, you can stay at any of the Backpacker Campgrounds.
To car-camp, try the Tuolumne Meadows Campground or the USFS campgrounds on Tioga Road between Lee Vining and Tioga Pass ($20-ish per night). Some of these sites are first-come-first-served, and others can be reserved in advance through Reservation.gov.
In Lee Vining, El Mono Hotel is simple and affordable. Tenaya Lodge is inside the park on the west side; it’s good but expensive.
In Mammoth Lakes, the guides usually stay at the Motel 6 between trips. It’s basic, but clean and reasonably priced, and the showers have hot water.
The opening date for Tioga Road — which cuts through Tuolumne Meadows — varies with the wintertime snowpack. After dry winters (like 2012-15), it will open in May; after wet winters (like 2017 and 2019), it gets pushed back into late-June or even early-July. Facilities at Tuolumne like the store, grill, and campground do not open for at least several weeks after the road opens. NPS will announce opening dates in the spring, once the bulk of the snow has fallen and after plowing operations have begun.
Services in Tuolumne begin to close after Labor Day. Check the NPS website for expected closure dates.
Lee Vining has a laundromat and a few small grocery stores, notably the Mono Market.
Whoa Nelly Deli is located at the corner of Tioga Road and I-395, at the Mobile station. It’s excellent, and is the closest source of “good food” if you’re in Tuolumne.
In Mammoth Lakes between trips, the guides almost always eat at the Mammoth Brewery.
Pinecrest is new to us for 2021, but I’ve included ranger-recommended restaurants below. Tuolumne County is rural and very tourist-based, and many services are closed mid-week.
- Steam Donkey in Pincrest,
- Kennedy Meadows Resort near Sonora Pass,
- Mia’s in Cold Springs,
- Strawberry Inn in Strawberry,
- Mike’s Pizza in Sonora,
- Reich’s Outpost in Sonora, and
- Diamondback Grill in Sonora.
Tuolumne Meadows does not have cell service or wifi. Yosemite Valley does, so perhaps one day TM will, too.
To the east of TM, you’ll have service in Lee Vining and along most of I-395.
Travel guide: Colorado
Southwest Colorado is “old Colorado,” and feels several decades removed from the bustling and modern Front Range.
Services (and hours of operation) are generally limited, so plan accordingly. Finding beer on a Sunday night will be a challenge, for example.
Also, don’t expect air conditioning anywhere. Even on the warmest summer days, temperatures drop low enough to cool down any room.
Denver (DEN) is the largest airport in the region, but still a 5-hour drive to Creede, Colo. Closer would be Durango (DRO), a regional airport about 2.5 hours away. Albuquerque (ABQ) is marginally closer than Denver, and may give you additional flight options.
If you wish to camp, stay at the Thirty Mile Campground, which conveniently is our enter/exit point, too. A few hundred yards east of the entrance is a free camping area/pullout, in the even that Thirtymile is full. Or, keep driving west, past the Rio Grande Reservoir, to the free Lost Trail Campground.
The closest services (and cell/wifi service) is in Creede.
The old mining town of Creede is the gateway town to our location. It’s small with limited services.
Try the Snowshoe Lodge, which is reported as being cheap, clean, friendly.
- Kip’s Grill does good burgers and tacos, and all the groups had their post-trip meal here
- For breakfast and lunch only, try the food truck bakery at the Willow Creek bridge on the south side of town (7th and Main)
- MJ’s Cafe is a basic breakfast place, and one client reported that he’d go back there
- Arp’s in teh Creede Hotel has a nice outdoor patio and is a bit more expensive and eclectic than other options, with French and Cajun dishes
- Blue Moose Cafe is a standard American restaurant, with burgers, salads, pasta, steak, etc.
South Fork, Del Norte, and the San Luis Valley
Find a few more amenities to the east, starting in South Fork.
Last year the guides stayed at the Four Seasons Lodge between trips. The rooms were clean, the rates were reasonable, and the ownership was friendly.
Rainbow Grocery is across from Four Seasons. It has the basics. For a larger grocery store, you’d have to drive further east.
We ate at Ramon’s Mexican Restaurant twice. It was short-staffed, perhaps related to Covid, but the food was worth the wait.
In Del Norte, consider the historic Windsor Hotel, which is family-owned, well maintained, and inexpensive. Nearby is Three Barrel Brewing, which has good food, good craft beer and good service.
North of Creede is Lake City, separated by the Continental Divide and a long scenic drive. From some directions, it may be on your way.
The Lake City Lodge is clean, inexpensive, and a short walk to the small downtown area. The owner is friendly, and the units have kitchenettes.
Lake City Brewing has good beer.