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Backpacker March 2019

Published nine times a year, Backpacker is a magazine of wilderness travel, offering practical, "you can do it, here's how" advice to help you enjoy every trip. Filled with the best places, gear, and information for all kinds of hiking and camping trips, each issue delivers foldout maps and stunning color photography.

United States
Pocket Outdoor Media, LLC

in this issue

1 min
dirt cheap

Our Fall Gear Guide (November 2018) featured everything from boots to winter camping gear, totaling more than 100 product reviews. But it left Keith Hepworth feeling cold. “Based on your reviews, one could be led to think backpacking is only for the wealthy,” he wrote. “The $101 average price for the gloves you review is out of reach for the vast majority [of people].” Most of our coverage focuses on new gear, and the latest and greatest isn’t always cheap. But that doesn’t mean our testers don’t find bargains. Start with the Smartwool Smartloft glove ($45), then try these affordable options. Find these and more bargains at backpacker.com/geardeals WORK IT OUT A little gym time goes a long way in the backcountry, where fitness can mean the difference between a successful hike…

1 min
open sesame.

SAMUEL H. BOARDMAN STATE SCENIC CORRIDOR, OREGON You’d be forgiven for thinking this coastline was the product of some artist’s fantasy. Here, near the California state line, erosion and uplift have joined forces to sculpt the seabed into seven arches and dozens of sea stacks. Visit in March when temps in the 50s and rain keep casual hikers in hibernation. First, tick off the Natural Bridges Trail, a.5-mile out-and-back to an overlook of Secret Beach, where you can spot two arches, including the narrow slot pictured here. After, tackle the 7-mile out-and-back to China Beach: From Indian Sands, take the Oregon Coast Trail north past dunes to Thomas Creek Canyon, a 350-foot-deep defile. Cross the ravine on a bridge, then reconnect with the Oregon Coast Trail as it wends through Sitka…

4 min
miracle in the desert

RED ROCK CANYON NATIONAL CONSERVATION AREA, NEVADA Forget dancing waters on the Vegas Strip. Want to see a real show? Head 17 miles west of Sin City to Red Rock Canyon, where a geologic rumble 65 million years ago turned everything upside-down. The result is a topsy-turvy wonderland that juts 3,000 feet out of the Mojave Desert. Stage a visit in early spring, when 60°F days are the norm and occasional precip keeps the tinajas full. It’s sure to outshine the neon mirage next door. THE INSIDER When Joel Brewster moved to Nevada 20 years ago, he joined the Las Vegas Mountaineers Club and started ticking off the group’s Classic Peaks, a selection of the region’s best summits, including four in Red Rock Canyon. The 47-year-old professional gambler has since completed all 50…

1 min
…in which we honor the best hiking clubs in the country.

A legendary trail deserves a legendary club, and with 13,000 members—representing all 50 states—the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is the gold standard. Officially recognized in 1977, the PCTA does a lot more than trail work for the 2,650-mile path from Mexico to Canada. Their advocacy efforts, like attending the annual “Hike the Hill” meeting in D.C., help secure permanent protection for sections of the trail that remain under private jurisdiction, and they’re preparing the next generation of conservationists through youth programming. Precursor members were even responsible for elevating the Pacific Crest Trail to National Scenic Trail status 50 years ago. Right about now, members, partners, and volunteers are clearing overgrown vegetation, improving tread, and checking various structures along 1,780 miles of trail (and counting) to ensure the safety of…

4 min
winter wonderland

THE TRAIL IS STRAIGHTFORWARD, sure, but it seems harder than advertised. It’s supposed to be a 4-mile cruiser along a snow-covered dirt road, which actually boasts a net elevation loss, but I’m here to tell you that’s a sham. At least, it feels like a sham when you’re pulling a sled overloaded with “necessities.” It’s funny how hut trips offer the promise of lighter loads, but rarely the reality. It’s mid-morning on a February day, and my wife and I trudge along with our 5-month-old daughter at what has to be the slowest pace ever recorded, with the goal of eventually landing in the ghost town of Gothic, outside Crested Butte. Gothic isn’t necessarily unique; Colorado’s long mining history makes it rife with such abandoned outposts. But unlike the others, research…

1 min
woo your valentine.

Bald eagle When it comes to finding a mate, Mr. Bald Eagle is nothing short of dramatic. In winter, he takes to the sky to dive and cartwheel, hoping his moves lead to a wife for life. See it 3.2-mile Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenways Trail, Susquehanna State Park, MD River otter This single mom has one thing on her mind: making babies. She delivers a litter in March or April, then immediately sets to the water to find the next lucky bachelor. The more (babies) the merrier. See it 7-mile Outlet Trail, Keuka Lake, NY Humpback whale After migrating south in winter, male humpbacks serenade females with whale songs, which can be heard more than 20 miles away. The more impressive the tune, the more likely Miss Whale is to oblige. See it 2-mile Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail,…