Beginner Backpacking

Getting Started - Shorter Treks for Newer Scouts

Stonehouse

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Difficulty Level:

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Trek Description

Cucamonga Wilderness, San Bernardino National Forest

 

Map(s): Mt. Baldy & Cucamonga Wilderness (Tom Harrison maps)

 

Great, easy hike for brand new and young backpackers.  Trek is approximately 1 mile from trailhead to campground.  Once there you'll rock hop across Lytle Creek and make camp on the southern side of the bank.  Plenty of trees for shade.  Water is usually flowing through the creek "near" year round, but best to always check first at the Lytle Creek ranger station for current condtions.  Young scouts typically love playing in the creek for the afternoon, exploring up the creek to find where it originates as a natural spring, and generally goofing off in camp.  More adventurous scouts can continue on up the trail as a day hike (without packs) and return to Stonehouse ... or instead camp at Third Stream Crossing campground some 2-3 miles further west.  

Since the distance from trailhead to the camp location is so short, this is a great hike to truly be "boy lead".  

Related HAT Awards

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San Bernardino Trails Award - Cucamonga Segment

Permit Requirements

Day use and overnight permits are required for the Cucamonga Wilderness.  Search the web for the San Bernardino National Forest website.  We would have included the link here, but it seems to be moving around their site right now.

Useful Links

Johns Meadow

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Difficulty Level:

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1 Green Diamond.png

Trek Description

San Gorgonio Wilderness, San Bernardino National Forest

Map(s): San Gorgonio Wilderness (Tom Harrison maps)

This trek takes you into the San Bernardino mountains, so is a good one for the warmer months in late spring, summer, and early fall.  The trailhead is at Forsee Creek, near Barton Flats off the 38 on the way to Big Bear.

 

Overall elevation is light, only about 500 ft gain to the campsite.  You'll find yourself hiking through the pines with open views down to the valley below.  Foresee Creek typically has water ... though make sure to check at the Mill Creek ranger station on current conditions.  

 

After crossing Forsee Creek via a light log hop you'll come to Johns Meadow.  The campground has ample room for a lot of backpacking tents, and is a great location for scouts to goof off, explore, wave sticks, and do what scouts do.

Related HAT Awards

San Bernardino Trails Award & Segments.j

San Bernardino Trails Award - Greyback Segment

Permit Requirements

Wilderness permit required the the San Gorgonio Wilderness Association.  Group size limited to to 12 people.

Hiking Distrance & Conditions

Approximately 4 miles from trailhead to Johns Meadow campsites, with about 500' of elevation gain.

Useful Links

Kelso Dunes

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Difficulty Level:

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Trek Description

Location: Mojave National Preserve

Map(s): Mojave National Preserve (Tom Harrison map)

The Mojave National Preserve is absolutely gorgeous, and much less trafficked than it's Joshua Tree NP cousin to the south.  Plus, inside the park is Kelso Dunes, a massive sand dune range completely closed to offroad vehicles ... and perfect for scouts (and adults) to bring their snow sleds and have fun!

 

The access road is dirt, but is well graded and easy to navigate.  Park near the dunes trailhead, or a little further down the road at any of several access points.  Then put on your packs, bring your water, and hike into the desert.  There are no trails, so just keep the dunes on your left or right ... whichever you prefer ... and trek a simple mile till you get to a good location for your group.  Make camp, and then let the scouts go crazy on the dunes the rest of the afternoon.

 

As with all backpacking, make sure to be low impact.  Also, you are camping in the desert so read up on how to stay safe in that region.

While in the Mojave National Preserve, make sure to check out the famous cinder cones and lava tube.  The lava tube is located about 5 miles east of Kelbaker Road on the unpaved and unsigned Aiken Mine Road.  High clearance vehicles are recommended.  Here's a link to the Preserve's write-up on it.  Great side trip to add on to the dunes adventure!

 

This location is highly recommended in the cooler months of late fall, winter, and early spring.  NOT RECOMMENDED for any of the summer months as it will be far too hot.

 

Check out the Mojave National Preserve website for current permit requirements.

Related HAT Awards

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Red Rock Canyon - Mojave Backpacking Award

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Desert Backpacking Award

Permit Requirements

As of this writing there are no permit or registration system requirements for backcountry camping at Mojave National Preserve.  Be sure to check the park's website for current rules and regulations.

Hiking Distrance & Conditions

Up to you!  Generally about 1 mile from the road to a good spot away from the main trailhead area.  Terrain is flat ... unless you want to hike up to the top of the tallest 700 ft dune!  Bring a sled.

Useful Links

Kelso Dunes:  Alltrails.com Write-up

Lava Tube: Alltrails.com Write-up

Little Jimmy

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Difficulty Level:

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Trek Description

Angeles National Forest​

Map(s): Angeles High Country (Tom Harrison maps)

Classic 2 mile beginner backpacking trek for Los Angeles based scouts in the San Gabriel mountains. It's practically considered a right of passage for most Southern California scouts.

 

Initial hike out of the trailhead is steep, and often makes a brand new scout (and some brand new backpacking parents) huff quite a bit, but once up the ridge the trek is generally flat to the campground.  As with all things in the San Gabriels, it's first come first serve, so it's recommended to get to the campground early.  Little Jimmy is a pretty big location, so can accommodate a lot of scouts.  Vault toilets (i.e.: pit toilets) included.  Water can be filtered from the Little Jimmy spring (generally year round) about a quarter mile down the trail from camp.  Elevation gain from the trailhead to camp is about 800'.

 

From here, scouts can hang out and play around, take a short hike to Windy Gap for an awesome view of the LA range to the south, and westward to Mt. Islip to bag a peak if they like.  

Related HAT Awards

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San Bernardino Trails Award - Little Jimmy Segment

Permit Requirements

No permit required other than an Adventure pass tag for your vehicle.

Useful Links