I have traveled to many remote and rugged wilderness areas in North America. In this article I will give you my top 3 backpacking adventures to date. I still have many more backpacking adventures so this list may be subject to changes in the future. North America offers some unbelievable wilderness areas for you to plan a backpacking adventure. I hope you have the opportunity to plan one of your adventures to my below top three wilderness destinations.
#3: Superstition Mountain Wilderness (Arizona)
The Superstition Mountains are located in the Tonto National Forest (Sonoran Desert) in Arizona. The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is what comes to mind when you hear about the Superstition Mountains. This legend dates back to the late 1800’s when a German immigrant by the name of Jacob Waltz found a gold mine in the heart of the Superstition Mountains. After his death in 1891, many treasure Hunters have sought that gold mine. Many individuals have also died in this quest. This mine, (Fact or Fictitious) is still sought today and it brings many treasure hunters into this wilderness area.
I started my (4) day (3) night adventure from the Peralta Trailhead. My adventure brought me past some open scenic views like Weavers Needle. This wilderness area truly depicts the Southwest desert. The backdrop of this area allows you to see for miles, which provided me with many great scenic shots. Many old western movies were shot in this wilderness area.
I took the below picture on this adventure, which became my trademark photo for the American Backpacker.
The best time to travel to this wilderness area is during the winter months (November thru March) In the Summer months the temps will get into the 100’s. The evening’s cools down considerably even in the summer. The summer nighttime temps can get very cold (low 50’s) and the winter months will bring freezing temps at night. The trails can be difficult to navigate so make sure that you preplan your route and have a good topo map. I found that using large landmarks like Weaver’s Needle kept me on point.
Water can be found in the low lying areas during the winter months but the heat of the summer months make some of these areas dry up due to a lack of rain. The rainy season occurs during the winter. If you decide to head to this wilderness area be prepared to see what the Southwest desert offers and that is some very scenic landscapes that you will remember long after you leave so take allot of pictures and videos. Call the local Ranger Station before you get there to find out about water sources during your stay.
#2: Hells Canyon Wilderness (Idaho)
The Hells Canyon wilderness encompasses approximately 217,615 acres and it covers two states, (Idaho and Oregon). This wilderness is located in the Nez Perce National Forest. The Hells Canyon Wilderness has the deepest River Gorge in North America with the Snake River running through it. The well-known Snake River is the 9thlargest river in the United States, extending 1,040 miles. The Snake River is also where Evil Knievel attempted to jump this canyon over the Snake River using his Skycycle. This area also has the 7 notable mountain peaks called the Seven Devils Mountains Range.
My adventure began at the Windy Saddle trailhead in July, (Idaho side), and it lasted for 4 nights and 5 days. I traveled through some very rugged and remote areas with dramatic changes in elevation making this a very strenuous adventure. The wild landscape offers some of the best scenic views in North America. On my trip I saw a various ecosystem made up of sub-alpine fir, Douglas fir, and ponderosa pine. Prickly pear cactus and poison ivy are fairly common in this wilderness area.
During my stay I took a day trip to the historic Dry Diggins Lookout point. Once on top I saw a fire watchtower that was built in 1968. This tower now is used for emergencies. The views from Dry Diggins are well worth the strenuous effort to get there. From here you can get a 360-degree view of the Hells Canyon Wilderness to include the Snake River. I spent a lot of time on this peak and took many pictures and videos. The views from this point were some of the best I have ever seen in North America. (See Short Video Below)
If you decide to plan your trip to this Wilderness area be aware that the summer months can get very hot, (100 degrees plus). The snow may still be present up to several feet in the Seven Devils Mountain ranges in June.
#1: Kalmiopsis Wilderness (Oregon)
My number #1 backpacking adventure to date has been my trip into the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. The Kalmiopsis Wilderness is located in the Siskiyou National Forest in Oregon. This wilderness area is one of the most remote and rugged areas I have backpacked. The rugged adventure began before got to the trailhead, (Briggs Creek Trailhead). The road to this trail has various transition periods. I started driving on hard pavement, then it transitioned to a gravel road, and then about 2 miles out I was maneuvering over ditches and rocks. Make sure you have a 4 wheel or all wheel drive vehicle because you will need it to get to the trailhead.
I started from Briggs Creek Trailhead in July on my 5-night 6-day adventure. I crossed a bridge from the trailhead and I began one of my best backpacking adventures to date. I traversed the mountains keeping the Illinois River next to me. The Kalmiopsis has a rich history of settlers and those who mined the area for valuable ores and minerals. In July of 2002, The Kalmiopsis Wilderness had a devastating fire. The fire was known as the Biscuit Fire because it started by the Biscuit creek when lightning struck the area. The fire destroyed almost a half million acres. During my trek, I could still see the signs of the fires devastation.
I found remnants of an old homestead with artifacts from miners and settlers from the past. I found old medicine bottles, tools, and other man-made objects during my adventure. I had (2) basecamps with my second basecamp in an elevated position by the Illinois River. The terrain was rugged and parts of the trail were difficult to follow due to the fire. Many organizations to include the Siskiyou Mountain Club have worked hard over the years to clear the trails for backpackers to enjoy.
Found Artifacts on My Adventure
I was immersed into the silence and solitude of this wilderness area. The evenings were mystic and quiet and the moon shined brightly off the Illinois River where I had my basecamp. I came across large redwood trees hundreds of years old and the Kalmiopsis Flower for which the wilderness is named after.
The Kalmiopsis is not a wilderness area to take lightly. The terrain and elevations are strenuous but well worth the adventure for those willing to take on the challenge. The landscape views are unbelievable and they take you back in time. You will see much of the wildernesses history as you travel through the scenic landscape.
This wilderness area will challenge your skills in many ways especially when it comes to land navigation. Those challenges will also reward you both in your accomplishments on backpacking this wilderness area and the history you will see and live.
These are my current top three destinations for your next backpacking adventure. There are many more great places that I have yet to explore. Plan your next adventure soon and experience the wonders and history of a wilderness area.