Middle Sister, South Sister, Mt. Washington, Mt Jefferson, and Mt. Hood from the South Sister

October 18, 2021

Wow, the days are sure getting shorter fast!  I just got back from what may be my last backpacking trip of the year, at least in the mountains.  For those of you who have followed my blog for several years, you'll know that I always try to hang on to backpacking season for as long as I can.  This year is no different. Unfortunately, the fires in August and September took a considerable chunk of time out of my summer backpacking season.  So as always, I'm trying to milk as much out of the season as I can.  

This year since most of the El Dorado National Forest is closed due to the Caldor Fire, I decided to go to a backpacking location that I usually go to in the spring, The Five Lakes Basin.  For more information on that hike, check out my Hiking Destination article about it here.

Keep reading on for my top 3 tips for late-season backpacking.

Three Tips for late-season backpacking


First, you have a lot fewer hours of daylight to hike.  So I recommend getting as early a start as possible, usually right around sunrise.   This way, you have enough time at camp to enjoy the little bit of daylight you'll have left.


The second is the weather.  The weather in the fall can be a lot less predictable than in the summer.  Make sure to check your weather forecasts up until the minute you leave.  The weather looked great for this most recent trip almost all week until about one day before I left.  Then it showed snow coming in on the 2nd night of my trip.  This last-minute update helped me make sure I was as prepared as possible for what to expect, what layers to bring, etc.  Even without the last-minute update showing snow in the forecast, be prepared for cold weather.  I once encountered a cold front moving through in early October that dropped temps to around 15 degrees Fahrenheit.  Being prepared for these conditions can be the difference between enjoying your trip or having a miserable time.


Last and one of the most important, water.   This is especially important given all the drought conditions out west.  Luckily my trip involved lots and lots of lakes, but all the streams that generally would run between the lakes were completely dried up.  So make sure to check the local conditions and ensure you aren't dependant on streams that could be dried up by the end of the year.