I have been doing an annual trip with some buddies for several years now but this year something came up and our planner can't go. I need to do some quick planning. Target dates are early September. Prefer 50-70 mile route in western US. Have previously done Wind River north, High Sierra Trail, Sawtooth Loop, JMT, Three Sisters Loop. I need some ideas on trips with minimual permit issues since I am starting my planning late in the game. Larry
Are you driving or flying? Makes a difference. If flying seems like the North Cascades are a good choice since the extra time to get to Seattle, vs SLC is not that much more. If driving, there is another very long day or two days each way. Others will have to chime in on actual hikes in the Cascades since I have not hiked there in over 40 years. Sept. is after school starts so I doubt you would have much trouble with permits, except for the really heavily used areas.
Also, are you willing and able to do off-trail travel? I am not talking major bushwhacking - but fairly easy but off trail (need to be really good at navigation). If so, many options open up. From the no permit standpoint, cannot beat the Wind Rivers. There are lots of areas there different from your previous trip. And there are a lot of non-JMT loop trips in the Sierra, particularly if you are willing to do some off-trail sections. Again, in the Sierra, permits are easier to get in September (as long as you are talking post-Labor Day).
Also, how many do you mean by "some buddies"? Four, two, ten?
Flying in, 3 of us. I am a strong navigator so I am open to off-trail adventures. Targeting just post Labor Day for the trip. Any recommendations in the Sierra? We did Mammoth to Yos Valley three years ago and had a great time. Thanks for your help.
The Sierra is one place that you can actually do a trip by flying and then using public transportation. Reno to the Sierra and back is pretty easy. But if you rent a car lots more trailheads open up for possibilities. If you do the Wind Rivers or Sawtooths I would think you have to rent a car. May not be an issue if you all share costs.
Post Labor Day in the Wind Rivers is going to be more uncertain with weather and nights definitely colder (freezing most nights). September is a great time to do the Sierra. Only problem this year is that we have 20% normal snowpack, so it will look quite dry and there is a high potential of forest fires. Many small streams will be dry.
This is just one suggested loop. North Lake - Humphreys Basin - easy off trail side trips all over the basin, French Canyon - Merriam Lake, x-country to Bear Basin (Feather Pass, class 2, moderately difficult pass- have to deal with talus)lots of great off-trail but easy travel within Bear Basin, faint trail back to PCT, up to Marie Lakes with nice side trips to Melody Lakes, up Piute Canyon back to North Lake. This loop can also be done from the west side taking the Ferry across Florence Lake. Could also go from Humphreys Basin to Granite Basin (trail route via Pine Creek Pass or off trail via Royce Lakes),and then take Dancing Bear Pass (more talus)into Bear Basin. Not a good route if uncomfortable with class 2 passes.
Good guidebooks are "Sierra South" and "Sierra North", if you want to see more all-trail routes.
Check out our trip report on Leavitt Meadows To Hetch-hetchy. No permit issues at LEavite Meadows, and you could easily do this as something other than a through hike...because the trailhead are pretty isolated.