Ruth Mountain and Hannegan Peak Wildflowers North Cascades Washington #54332

Hannegan Peak Ruth Mountain Mount Baker Wilderness

Hannegan Peak Ruth Mountain Mt Baker Wilderness

Ruth Mountain seen from Hannegan Peak, Mount Baker Wilderness North Cascades #54364Ruth Mountain seen from Hannegan Peak #54364  Purchase

The North Cascades is a mountain range with some of the most rugged and dramatic scenery in the lower 48 states. In its northwest corner is the Mount Baker Wilderness. And within this wilderness are two destinations that represent the best of the North Cascades, Hannegan Peak, and Ruth Mountain. Both routes pass among old-growth forests, wildflower meadows, and rushing streams and waterfalls. Both peaks have tremendous open views of rugged mountains and glaciers. And while Hannegan Peak is a moderate hike, Ruth Mountain is more difficult, adding some mountaineering adventure to the mix.

Both destinations utilize the scenic Hannegan Pass trail for access, the starting point for many wilderness adventures. Among them include ascending Hannegan Peak, Ruth Mountain, or continuing on into North Cascades National Park. The latter option leads into some of the wildest parts in the North Cascades. In this post we’ll explore the first two options.

Essential Tip: In summer the Hannegan Pass Trail can be one of the buggiest in all of the North Cascades. I’ve been on this trail several times when the black flies are so thick it’s like something out of an Arctic horror story. While other times there were very few flies. It’s usually best to start out very early in the morning to beat the heat and flies.

Essential Tip: The area around Hannegan Pass has a long history of encounters with black bears. Hang your food or better yet use bear-proof canisters.

Ruth Creek Valley from Hannegan Pass Trail, North Cascades Washington #58067Ruth Creek Valley from Hannegan Pass Trail #58067  Purchase

Hiking the Hannegan Pass Trail

Access to the trailhead is via Hannegan Pass Road, Forest Service Road 32. Towards the end of the road you get a real sense that the Ruth Creek Valley is something special. In the last mile the road passes avalanche gullies with glimpses up to rugged Nooksack Ridge. Early in the season the road here is often blocked with piles of snow and huge trees brought down avalanches. Check with the Forest Service in advance for road conditions.

The large trailhead parking area is usually filled with cars and is often a bustle of activity. Even before daybreak there are often parties sorting through gear for the long climb up to Ruth Mountain and other destinations. You’ll also see groups with large packs giddy with excitement ready to start long trips into the National Park.

Hannegan Pass Trail, Mount Baker Wilderness, North Cascades Washington #61790Backpackers on Hannegan Pass Trail #61790  Purchase

It’s a little less than a five-mile hike to Hannegan Pass on a well-maintained trail. Along the way, there are plenty of opportunities to pause and take in the scenery. Most notably is a spot about two miles in which traverses through an open rocky area with cascading streams. This is where the snowy bulk of Ruth Mountain first comes into view. Somehow the view up and down the wild valley has a primordial feel to it. Unless you are in a hurry, and you definitely shouldn’t be, this is a prime spot to take a short rest.

The last mile or so the trail re-enters the forest and begins climbing to the Hannegan Pass. About a half-mile below the pass is a small camp area among streams and small meadows. The trail then switchbacks up through a few open meadows thick with wildflowers. The pass itself can be a bit of a let down though since it has a limited view. However, this is where the real adventure begins!

Ruth Mountain and wildflower meadows on Hannegan Peak, North Cascades Washington #54332Wildflowers on summit of Hannegan Peak #54332  Purchase

Hannegan Peak

Continuing on the trail beyond the pass will take you to the Copper Ridge trail, or down the Chilliwack River trail, and on to Whatcom Pass. Both of these destinations are in the North Cascades National Park and will require permits for overnight trips.

For Hannegan Peak take the path which branches off to the left at Hannegan Pass. This steep but easy trail climbs 1000′ in a little over a mile to the summit of Hannegan Peak.  Soon after leaving the pass the trail opens up into beautiful meadows thick with wildflowers. Also along the way are those stupendous views you were expecting below at the pass.

Mount Shuksan and pink heather on Hannegan Peak, North Cascades Washington #54307Pink Heather on Hannegan Peak #54307  Purchase

Upon arriving at the summit of Hannegan Peak you are greeted by amazing views in every direction. Looking south is the snowy pyramid of Ruth Mountain. To the right of Ruth is Mountain Shuksan and sprawling Jagged Ridge above Nooksack Cirque. Following the crest of Nooksack Ridge to the southwest is Mount Baker and its cloak of glaciers.

Copper Ridge and Copper Mountain are north of the summit in the National Park. Beyond them, across the border in British Columbia is the fantastic fang-like Slesse Mountain, Mount Rexford, and the Illusion Peaks. They are part of the northern limit to the North Cascades. Finally to the east is Mount Redoubt, then Mount Challenger, and the northern part of the Picket Range.

One can sit here all day with a map attempting to identify all the mountains in these views. Another fun pastime is to watch climbers slowly ascend the snowy slopes of Ruth Mountain. It’s also common to watch some of them ski back down in summer.

Backcountry camp on Hannegan Peak overlooking Mount Shuksan, North Cascades Washington #54316Camping on Hannegan Peak #54316  Purchase

Camping on Hannegan Peak

While most people day-hike to the summit of Hannegan Peak, overnight trips are extremely rewarding. Although the summit and adjacent ridge are fairly broad, established campsites are sparse. The best site is within a circle of stunted trees on the summit. However, this site is almost always taken. It can also be busy since this is where most day-hikers stop to have lunch.

Follow the ridge west below the summit for several more established sites. If you can’t find any open sites then your best option is to set up camp on snow or scree. There are also one or two spots halfway down the trail to Hannegan Pass. Snowfields are the only source of water anywhere above Hannegan Pass.

Ruth Mountain Mount Baker Wilderness North Cascades Washington #54325Ruth Mountain, Point 5930′ bottom left  #54325 Purchase

Ruth Mountain

Looking out to Ruth Mountain from Hannegan Peak, it is easy to dream of a visit to its summit. And standing on top of Ruth Mountain is an experience you’ll remember your entire lifetime. Ruth is also one of the few peaks in the area that is within the reach of the average hiker with the proper gear.

Essential Tip:  Hiking to the summit of Ruth, or even only to the ridge below the glacier, traverses some difficult sections. Turn around when the terrain goes beyond your comfort level.

If you have time and energy after Hannegan Peak you can also include a climb up Ruth Mountain as part of your trip. Some people summit both Hannegan and Ruth as part of a day trip but that’s a lot to take in for one day. I would recommend an overnight camp on one and do the other the next day. Or you can always come back on a separate trip.

This trip starts at Hannegan Pass. But some parties opt to begin from the small camp area just before reaching Hannegan Pass. Route-finding and complex terrain make this approach more difficult.

From Hannegan Pass travel south about a 1/4 mile on a path to the first obstacle, a wickedly steep climb below Point 5930′. This short section will test your mettle as it ascends straight up a muddy rocky slope. Branches and roots are often needed to pull yourself up. At the top you’ll traverse east across and over the north side of Point 5930′. There is some mild exposure on this stretch and is usually covered in snow late into the season. This is a good place to use your crampons and ice axe. As you cross over to the south side of Point 5930′ a good trail appears which you can follow all the way to the base of Ruth’s snowfields.

Ruth Mountain and Mount Shuksan from Point 5930 North Cascades Washington #17110Ruth Mountain and Mount Shuksan from Point 5930′   #17110  Purchase

Camping and Climbing Ruth Mountain

There are good campsites along the open ridge extending between Ruth and Point 5930′. But perhaps the best site is at the summit of the Point itself. From there you’re close to Ruth and can also take in a better view of Mount Shuksan than from Hannegan Peak.

The climb/hike up Ruth is fairly straightforward. There is about 1400′ of ascent from the base ridge to the summit. Basically, you follow the pick the easiest way straight up to the summit pyramid, on a sort of spine on the snow. Traveling too far to the right or left crosses more dangerous areas on the glacier. Stay clear of a large wedge-like rock which usually has some hidden crevasses and bergschrunds nearby.

Most descriptions of climbing Ruth advise crampons, ice axe, and ropes due to hidden crevasses. On my solo trip, I wore crampons and carried an ice axe. However, I saw people ascending without either, and none were roped together. And at least one person was wearing just running shoes.

Mount Shuksan with view of the Nooksack Cirque seen from summit of Ruth Mountain, North Cascades #17151Mount Shuksan and Nooksack Cirque #17151  Purchase

The summit offers some of the most eye-popping jaw-dropping views in the North Cascades. Dominating the view is the incredible Nooksack Glacier below Jagged Ridge, tumbling into the wilds of Nooksack Cirque. From here Mount Shuksan with its hanging glaciers and Nooksack Tower is even more awe-inspiring than the classic view from Heather Meadows. Closer up is Icy Peak, a kind of compact version of the bigger peaks of the range. West is the fantastic Picket Range and Mount Challenger. Looking north is Hannegan Peak and Slesse Mountain in the distance.

Slesse Mountain and Hannegan Peak, North Cascades Washington #17196Slesse Mountain (L) and Hannegan Peak (R, foreground) #17196  Purchase

If you enjoy a threadbare bivouac there is just enough room on the summit to spend the night. But make sure the weather is in your favor. On your way down make sure to follow the same route and don’t stray left onto the broad glacier face.

Icy Peak and Mount Blum from Ruth Mountain, North Cascades Washington #17168Icy Peak, Mount Blum (L), and Glacier Peak (L, in distance) #17168

If You Go

Hannegan Peak
Length:  From trailhead parking,  10.5 miles roundtrip to summit
Elevation Gain:  3100′ to summit

Ruth Mountain
Length:  From trailhead parking,  12 miles roundtrip to summit
Elevation Gain: 4000′ to summit
Essential Tip:  This trip is best made in late spring or summer. After the winter snowpack has melted the bare ice of the glacier makes travel more dangerous. Also, on cold nights the snow can harden up and become very icy.

Getting there:  From Bellingham drive Mount Baker Highway (SR 542) 46 miles to Hannegan Pass Road (FR 32),  just before the Nooksack River bridge.  At 1.3 miles take a left and follow the road 5.4 miles to the Hannegan Pass trailhead parking lot. There are some primitive campsites and a shelter at the trailhead.

Full moon rising over Mount Challenger, North Cascades National Park Washington #54366Full moon over Mount Challenger #54366  Purchase

Hiking and Photography Info for Hannegan Peak and Ruth Mountain

When to go:  Both of these hikes and the North Cascades generally receive more snow than just about anywhere else in the lower 48 states. Most higher elevation trails are under the snowpack until early to mid-July. Of course, you can go sooner but be prepared for some route-finding. Some steeper slopes higher on the ridge may need crampons and an ice axe to negotiate safely.

Most wildflowers don’t appear until late July or early August. The exception would be avalanche lilies that begin to shoot up while still under snow.  By mid-August, most of the snow will be gone and water sources may be an issue for overnight trips. Late July through August is also the buggiest time of the year.

The Hannegan Pass Trail is very popular and receives heavy use due to the multiple destinations it accesses. It’s always a good idea to get an early sunrise start if possible. That way, you’ll have the trail to yourself and avoid the day’s heat and bugs.

Permits:  A Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Pass is required for parking at the trailhead. However, Washington State Discover Passes are not valid. There are currently no additional permits needed for day-hiking or overnight trips.

Gear:  Check my post Backpacking Photography Gear Tips for suggestions and tips on hiking, backpacking, and photography gear.

Photography tips:  Check my post Backpacking Photography Tips for suggestions and tips on what camera gear to bring and for tips on making better photos during your trip.

More information about these hikes can be found on the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest website.

Information on climbing Ruth Mountain can be found at Summitpost.org

For more hikes in the Mount Baker Wilderness and North Cascades National Park check out my posts:
Mount Baker Wilderness Destinations
Lake Ann Ptarmigan Ridge Mount Baker Wilderness
Whatcom Pass Tapto Lakes North Cascades National Park

Ruth Mountain and Mount Shuksan Hannegan Peak, North Cascades Washington #54339Pink Heather on Hannegan Peak #54339 Purchase

Leave No Trace in the Mount Baker Wilderness

Please Please Please!  Don’t plan a trip to this or any other wilderness area unless you are willing to follow the guidelines of Leave No Trace (LNT). Mount Baker Wilderness and all other wilderness areas throughout the world are under incredible pressure from growing amounts of visitors. Please do your part to help preserve these precious areas for future generations!

To learn more about the principles and practicing LNT please take a few minutes to visit the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. Your children, grandchildren, and the Earth will thank you!

Seven Leave No Trace Principles

  • Plan ahead and prepare.                                       
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.                 
  • Dispose of waste properly.                                                                         
  • Leave what you find.                                            
  • Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire).
  • Respect wildlife.  
  • Be considerate of other visitors

Thanks for reading, feel free to share this post with your friends and colleagues!

Want to learn more, or have a professional photographer guide you in the field? Then take your Creative Photography to the next level with  Private Instruction and Guided Photo Tours.

Photos appearing in Hannegan Peak Ruth Mountain are available for Commercial Licensing and Fine Art Prints. Click on any image to purchase, or contact me for more info!

Hannegan Peak Ruth Mountain Mt Baker Wilderness

Coyote Gulch, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Utah #76072or

Coyote Gulch Backpacking Photography

Coyote Gulch Backpacking Photography

Coyote Gulch, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Utah #76072orCoyote Gulch  #76072or  Purchase

Southwest Utah has some of the finest desert backpacking opportunities in North America. The area boasts 5 national parks, 8 national monuments, and 7 state parks. In addition, it has the largest concentration of natural arches, bridges, and slot canyons in the world. If that’s not enough for you many of these features also spill over into Northern Arizona.

So, where to start? Well, that depends of course not only on your interests, but also on your fitness, experience level, and time available. Some of the best trips are into the mazes of canyons. These trips usually offer more shade and dependable sources of water, two very important considerations in the desert. At the top of the list for many is a trip into Coyote Gulch in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

Waterfall in Coyote Gulch Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Utah #76147aCoyote Gulch Waterfall  #76147a  Purchase

A Coyote Gulch backpacking trip has all of the best features of the Southwest packed into one trip. High canyon walls, arches, natural bridges, lush riparian areas, and waterfalls, are a desert rarity. In addition, a trip into Coyote Gulch is doable by most backpackers and requires no canyoneering experience.

In addition to Coyote Gulch being an outstanding backpacking trip, it can be a trip of a lifetime for photographers. All of the features mentioned above are also prime subject matter for landscape and nature photographers. And as I mentioned in my previous post, Southern Utah Photography Tips, the quality of reflected light in Coyote Gulch is outstanding.

For this post I’ll be giving tips for the average backpacker and photographer. Depending on the source, entry point, and length of trip, a multi-day Coyote Gulch Backpacking trip is rated moderate to difficult.

Jacob Hamblin Arch in Coyote Gulch, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Utah #7599Jacob Hamblin Arch #75998  Purchase

Highlights of Coyote Gulch

One of the best, if not the best, attractions of a Coyote Gulch visit is Jacob Hamblin Arch.  This large arch is located in a horseshoe bend amidst high sandstone walls. While not the largest arch in the Southwest its setting makes it one of the most impressive, and a must-see for any visitor. Adjacent to the arch is an enormous alcove with some pretty impressive acoustics.

Further downstream Coyote Natural Bridge is another interesting attraction. And a mile or two further is Cliff Arch,  a spectacular area which includes some beautiful waterfalls. If you venture to the end of Coyote Gulch the final coup de grâce is the confluence with the Escalante River and a view of Stevens Arch, high above the canyon floor. Aside from these attractions are the wonderfully sculpted sandstone canyon walls painted with streaks of desert varnish.

With these features alone Coyote Gulch would be worth a visit. But it’s the lush vegetation that adds a finishing touch to the masterpiece. In fall the cottonwood trees blaze yellow, making a trip into Coyote Gulch a near-mystical experience.

Steam flowing through giant alcove adjacent to Jacob Hamblin Arch in Coyote Gulch, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Utah #76338Coyote Gulch #76338  Purchase

Photographing during a Coyote Gulch Backpacking Trip

All of the highlights in the above section are great subject matter for photographers. For a photographically successful trip, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind.

First, reflected, or bounced light, is one of the hallmarks of canyon country photography. This is when the sun hits one side of the canyon then reflects on the opposite side, giving a beautiful warm natural glow to sandstone rock. Without it the walls of slot canyons and many other formations would appear dull and lifeless.

In most instances, a sunny cloudless sky is usually not favorable for landscape photography. But when you’re working in a canyon with high walls it’s just the thing you need.

Sand and mud patterns resembling a horshoe crab in Coyote Gulch, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Utah #76326Mud patterns in Coyote Gulch  #76326  Purchase

Another element to be aware of when photographing in Coyote Gulch are its wonderful shapes and patterns. The curving walls and ceilings of alcoves, streaks of desert varnish on sandstone walls, and ripple marks in mud and sand all make for unique and interesting compositions. Add to this trees blazing in fall color and you have all the elements of great landscape and nature photography.

Essential Tip:

Always be observant and look around for interesting photo opportunities. Slow down, give yourself plenty of time, and be willing to stop to take photos.

Essential Gear Tips:

Towards the end of this post, I’ll suggest some camera gear to bring along. But one of the most important items you’ll need is a good wide or ultra-wide angle lens. If you want to make some great photos of Jacob Hamblin Arch and the nearby alcove you’ll need an ultra-wide lens to fit it all in.

Secondly, you’ll need to bring along a good tripod. Alcoves and other areas in deep shade will require long exposures which are difficult to achieve handheld. Similarly, achieving the silky texture of waterfalls will require a tripod for long exposures.

Cottonwood tree in Coyote Gulch, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Utah #76078Cottonwood tree in fall color Coyote Gulch #76078  Purchase

Best Seasons for Coyote Gulch Backpacking Trips

Spring and Fall are the two best seasons for a Coyote Gulch backpacking trip. The temperatures are mild and the dangers of flash flooding are minimal. Mosquitoes and flies can be irksome in summer but are at their minimum during spring and fall. In spring the vibrant greens of trees and bushes are an outstanding contrast to the warm hues of the sandstone canyon walls. Of course, the reason is similar in fall, when the yellow leaves of cottonwood trees are providing the drama.

Summer isn’t the best season for a Coyote Gulch Backpacking trip. The two biggest reasons are heat and flash floods. With temperatures regularly in the triple digits, even shade in the canyons can provide little relief from the heat. Late June to early September is also the monsoon season in the Southwest. During monsoon season flash floods can be frequent, and deadly when traveling in canyons. Sunny days are no guarantee of safety. Storms and heavy rain can occur many miles from a canyon. But eventually all that water will come rushing down into the canyons. Never forget that canyons, especially slots, were formed by these floods.

Cliff Arch in Coyote Gulch, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Utah #76201Cliff Arch Coyote Gulch  #76201  Purchase

Winter is also not the best season to visit Coyote Gulch. Temperatures can be cold to freezing, although doable. However, access roads can present a major problem. Nearly all unpaved roads in Southern Utah are impassable when wet. Even 4×4 vehicles can easily get stuck. The main access road to Coyote Gulch is Hole in the Rock Road. This gravel road is well maintained, although often covered with miles of bone-jarring washboards. However, side roads branching from it generally are not. If you do go in winter it is necessary to check with the local visitor center for road condition updates.

Routes into Coyote Gulch

There are four different entry and exit routes in Coyote Gulch. All four have their advantages and disadvantages. I’ll briefly describe them from north to south.

Dry Wash in Upper Coyote Gulch Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument UtahUpper Coyote Gulch #75937

Red Well:

This entry will take you down the entire length of Coyote Gulch. To date, this is the route I took on my only Coyote Gulch backpacking trip. A round trip would be about 28 miles. I think this entry is interesting in that the gulch starts in a wide shallow dry wash with low walls and little vegetation. Over the miles it gradually transforms into a deep canyon with high walls, a running creek, and lush vegetation. The upper reaches are less traveled and the vegetation can easily turn into a fatiguing bushwhacking trek.

The trailhead is 30 miles south on Hole in the Rock Road, then 1.5 miles down BLM 254. Parking is at the end of the road.

Hurricane Wash:

The entry point will bring you into the scenic heart of Coyote Gulch.  At around 27 miles roundtrip it is only slightly shorter than Red Wells. The advantage is that the less scenic upper parts are bypassed. The big disadvantage is that for the first several miles the route crosses over uninteresting open terrain with deep sand. On a hot sunny day this section can be difficult.

The trailhead is 33 miles south on Hole in the Rock Road.

Red Well Trailhead into Coyote Gulch, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area UtahRed Well Trailhead Sign  #76354

The Sneak Route, or Jacob Hamblin Arch Water Tank Route:

This route provides the shortest access directly into and out of the most scenic area of the gulch. It has gained much popularity over the years, and some will say it is the best route. However, it is definitely not the easiest route for the inexperienced! The last short section is over a 200′ descent on a 45º Slickrock slope with significant exposure. And for all but the most experienced, or foolhardy, a climbing rope is necessary for a safe ascent or descent, especially with a heavy pack. Do your research and know your limitations before choosing this potentially dangerous route.

Go 36.25 miles south on Hole in the Rock Road. Turn left on Fortymile Ridge Road BLM 270, follow 4.5 miles and park at the corral and water tanks.

Crack in the Wall:

This may be the most popular route into Coyote Gulch, and probably will be the entry point for my next visit. It enters the gulch at its lower reaches, not far from the confluence with the Escalante River.  From here you can hike the entire length of the gulch and exit at Red Well. This entry also involves the longest drive to the trailhead, with the last four or five miles on rough Fortymile Ridge Road. After hiking about two miles the route descends into the gulch via a tight crack in a cliff. You’ll most likely need a rope to lower your pack separately down this section. There is a larger sand dune below the crack which may be strenuous to climb on the way out.

Go 36.25 miles south on Hole in the Rock Road. Turn left on Fortymile Ridge Road BLM 270, follow 6.8 miles. The last two miles can be sandy.

Navigating in Coyote Gulch

While at its most basic navigating through the gulch is simply following the stream up or down through the canyon. However, in some sections like in the mid to upper reaches navigation can be more difficult. Less traveled parts have few obvious trails and can be a tangle of brush. And sometimes there are too many trails that try to follow the path of least resistance. While other areas can be confusing with side canyons that can lead to dead ends. A GPS may or may not be helpful if the signal is lost among the tall canyon walls. Topographic maps are helpful but some do not have enough detail to pick out the correct route. Coyote Gulch is one of the few areas where I was mostly relying on my route-finding instinct.

Giant sandstone alcove adjacent to Jacob Hamblin Arch, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area UtahGroup Camp in Coyote Gulch  #75969

Camping and Regulations in Coyote Gulch

The best places for camping in Coyote Gulch area in the vicinity of Jacob Hamblin Arch, Coyote Natural Bridge, and near the Crack in the Wall. All of them are at or near the most scenic spots and have access to water in the creek or seeps from walls.

The most important thing to keep in mind when selecting a campsite is the potential for flooding. Look for established sites that are at least fifteen feet above the canyon floor. In addition, search the site for obvious signs of previous floodings, like debris wrapped around the base of trees.

    • Fires are not permitted anywhere in Coyote Gulch.
    • All human waste must be bagged and carried out. Restop2 bags are recommended
    • Food Storage. Small rodents are the problem here, they can peck through bags, packs, and tents. Hang food or better year use a bear canister.
    • Water is available from the stream but can be very silty. There are two natural springs, one near Jacob Hamblin Arch. Regardless if you use the spring or stream, treat or boil all water.
    • Permits are required for all overnight visits. They can be obtained at the trailhead or in the visitor center in the town of Escalante.
    • Pets are not permitted in Coyote Gulch, nor are any form of a pack animal.
    • Rangers regularly patrol the gulch so make sure you have your permit ready and are following all the rules.
    • Stop by the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center for current conditions, permits, maps, and waste disposal bags

Essential Tip:  Every year visitation is increasing dramatically, rules and regulations can change every year or even season. Always check in advance for changes in regulations, permits, and road and trail conditions.

Backcountry camp with red tent in Coyote Gulch, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area UtahCoyote Gulch campsite  #76082

Safety during a Coyote Gulch Backpacking Trip

As mentioned earlier, flash flooding and heat are the main, but not the only, safety concerns while in Coyote Gulch. If you go in spring or fall these concerns will be at a minimum.

    • Flash Floods and rain. If you do get caught in heavy rain or flash flood situations, immediately move to higher ground. Be prepared to wait it out until water levels have dropped to a safe level.
    • Always check multiple weather forecasts before heading out to the trailhead. If conditions aren’t optimal choose another destination.
    • Quicksand. Yes, it does exist, but in my experience, it’s not like what you see in old western tv shows and movies. You will encounter it mainly along streams in canyons, especially after a heavy rain, or flood. If you’re walking on a bank along a creek that suddenly quivers like jello and liquifies under your foot that’s quicksand. It’s easy enough to extract your foot if you’re alert and don’t proceed any further. If you get both feet in it you’ll have more trouble extracting yourself and you may lose a shoe. But you won’t slowly sink to your death like in the movies.
    • Make sure you have a full tank of gas and plenty of extra water before heading out to the trailhead.

Coyote Natural Bridge Coyote Gulch Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Utah #76235Coyote Natural Bridge  #76235  Purchase

Backpacking Gear Suggestions

Backpacking gear for Coyote Gulch is pretty similar to that for most other backpacking locations. The main difference would be footwear.

    • Footwear: You most definitely be walking in and out of the water all day long in Coyote Gulch. Trail runners, hiking shoes, neoprene river shoes, or cheap sneakers work best. Between the constant wetting and abrasive sand and mud, whatever you wear will take a serious beating. Leather hiking boots are not a good choice.
    • Tent: Lightweight three-season tent or bivy. I use a Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
    • Tent Liner: This will protect the bottom of your tent from abrasive sand. Don’t buy an expensive liner to match your tent. A thick plastic sheet costs pennies and will do the trick. I bought a large sheet from a hardware store, and cut it to size. I’ve been using it for nearly 20 years!
    • Backpack: Well-fitting and large enough for all your gear. My preference is Osprey packs, they’re well designed and well made.
    • Sleeping bag: Unless it’s a mid-winter trip a bag rated to 30º or 40º is sufficient. My preference is Western Mountaineering down bags.
    • Sleeping Pad: I prefer a Therma-Rest inflatable pad. They are more comfortable, offer better insulation, and pack small than currently closed-cell foam pads.
    • Stove:  Fires are not permitted in Coyote Gulch, so a camp stove is essential. Bring whatever you have as long as it’s reliable. I recently switched over to an MSR Reactor Stove System and am extremely happy with its performance.
    • Water Purification: I boil all my water, the weight of extra fuel required to boil water with my Reactor stove is incredibly negligible. I’ve estimated the weight is less than that of a filtration pump. Online reviews report that UV Pens can be unreliable. I’ve also used filtration pumps and found them a pain to use and maintain, especially with very silty canyon water.
    • Headlamp: and batteries
    • Food: Whatever floats your boat. But make sure to bring some trail snacks or energy bars, also pack a drink mix to replenish electrolytes. I think most powders sold in outdoor stores are way overpriced and taste horrible, so I stick with good old Gatorade.
    • Clothes: Lightweight quick-drying pants and t-shirts are best. Avoid cotton, it has little insulation when wet and dries slowly. My preference for baselayers and a pullover sweater is Merino wool. It’s very warm, lightweight, quick-drying, and also doesn’t smell as bad as synthetics after a few days. I also bring a light down jacket, and a rain shell if the weather is uncertain.
    • First aid kit
    • Maps and compass
    • Parachute cord 50′ length, for hanging food or lowering packs
    • Hat
    • Bandana
    • Multi-tool

Essential Tip:  Whenever possible please support local outdoor recreation stores over big online retailers. For Coyote Gulch Escalante Outfitters is a good source for gear, current conditions, and dining.

Giant sandstone alcove adjacent to Jacob Hamblin Arch, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Utah #76264Coyote Gulch Alcove #76264  Purchase

Photography Gear for a Coyote Gulch Backpacking Trip

What type of camera gear you bring depends of course on your goals. For small prints, blogs, and social media posts a smartphone or pocket camera may be sufficient.

Listed below is my standard kit while on a multi-day backpacking trip. It has been sufficient for all my needs in nearly every situation. The camera body and lenses in my kit are a little heavy, but the resulting image quality is what I require.

    • Nikon D850 with 3 extra fully charged batteries
    • Nikkor Lens:
      14-24mm 2.8G ED
      24-70mm 2.8E ED
      70-200mm 2.8E FL ED
    • Gitzo 1532 Tripod
    • Really Right Stuff B-55 Ball Head
    • B+H Polarizing Filter
    • Vello FWM-N2 Remote Shutter Release
    • Microfiber cleaning cloth
    • Lowe Pro 75 Toploader  camera case*

*I always carry my camera in a top-loading case with a chest harness. That way I don’t have to remove my backpack for a quick photo. In addition, this case has extra compartments and room for things like a map, snack, sunglasses, etc.

Steam flowing through canyon walls of Coyote Gulch, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Utah #76250Coyote Gulch  #76250  Purchase

Leave No Trace

Please Please Please!  Don’t plan a trip to this or any other wilderness area unless you are prepared to strictly follow the guidelines of Leave No Trace (LNT). Coyote Gulch and all other wilderness areas throughout the world are under incredible pressure from growing amounts of visitors. Please do your part to help preserve these precious areas for future generations!

To learn more about the principles and practicing LNT please take a few minutes to visit the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. Your children and grandchildren will thank you!

Seven Leave No Trace Principles

    • Plan ahead and prepare.                                       
    • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.                 
    • Dispose of waste properly.                                                                         
    • Leave what you find.                                            
    • Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire).
    • Respect wildlife.  
    • Be considerate of other visitors.

Giant sandstone alcove adjacent to Jacob Hamblin Arch, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Utah #75967Coyote Gulch Alcove #75967  Purchase

For more tips on Backpacking Photography check out these posts:
Backpacking Photography Tips
Backpacking Photography Gear Tips

Thanks for reading, and feel free to share this post with your friends and colleagues!

Want to learn more, or have a professional photographer guide you in the field? Then take your Creative Photography to the next level with  Private Instruction and Guided Photo Tours.

All photos appearing in Coyote Gulch Backpacking and Photography are available for Commercial Licensing and Fine Art Prints. Click on any image to purchase, or contact me for more info!

Meadows of Broadleaf Arnica (Arnica latifolia) at Boulder Pass, Glacier National Park Montana

Boulder Pass Glacier National Park Part 2

Boulder Pass Glacier National Park Part 2

Meadows of Broadleaf Arnica (Arnica latifolia) at Boulder PassBoulder Pass Glacier National Park #69880  Purchase

Read: Boulder Pass Glacier National Park Part 1 here

Glacier National Park is truly one of the great gems in the national park system. It has many attributes which set it apart from other parks. In addition to being a national park, it is also a biosphere reserve, world heritage site, and international peace park.  It is the home of one of the last strongholds of grizzly bears in the lower 48. And although it contains two dozen named glaciers, the park’s name reflects the sculpting of its terrain by ice age glaciation.

All of this and more attracts visitors from around the world, to the tune of 3,000,000 visitors a year, on average. The reasons visitors flock to the park are as diverse as the park’s features. Some come to marvel at the beauty of the mountains. Some hope to see wildlife close up. Others come solely to escape the crushing pressures of modern-day society. Unfortunately, the latter have little chance of doing so when touring the park by car.

Others like me come to the park to photograph the dramatic landscape of the northern Rocky Mountains. As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been to Glacier many times over the years and photographed it in all seasons. Nearly all of those trips were to iconic front-country locations. But last summer I took the opportunity to visit a remote and special corner of Glacier National Park, Kintla Lake, and Boulder Pass.

First Day Along Kintla Lake

The remoteness of Kintla Lake and Boulder Pass in the northeast corner of the park looked appealing to me. It was a long hike and passed through areas with lots of photographic potential. But first I needed a wilderness permit, and it took me a couple of tries to obtain one. Even though it was August the park service just opened campsites at the pass the day before. So I was one of the first to stay there that season.

Kinnerly Peak Kintla Lake. Glacier National Park MontanaKinnerly Peak Kintla Lake  #69835  Purchase

The hike begins at Kintla Lake and reaches Boulder Pass 17.5 miles later, with about 3200′ of elevation gain along the way. Some hardcore long-distance hikers can make the trip in one day, but nearly everyone splits it in two. It’s also possible to continue down Boulder Pas, down to Waterton Lake, and exit the eastern side of the park. A popular loop trip would begin at Kintla Lake and exit at Bowman Lake, or vice versa. My plan was to simply do an out and back on the same route.

The first day was a pretty easy hike along Kintla Lake to Kintla Head camp. It’s a pleasant hike mostly through the forest with a few views of the lake along the way. The first day or two on a long hike is sometimes the hardest since your pack is full of food and fuel. At camp, it was a pleasure to sit around the food prep area with other hikers and swap stories and backgrounds. I usually travel solo so chatting it up with others is a welcome treat.

Kintla and Kinnerly Peaks Glacier National Park MontanaKintla Peak Glacier National Park #70050  Purchase

Kintla Lake to Boulder Pass Glacier National Park

The hard work would come the next day. It was another 11 miles to Boulder Pass camp, with nearly all of the 3200′ of elevation coming in the last miles. I got an early start to beat the heat and travel at a leisurely pace. Just past the head of Upper Kintla Lake, the work began. The trail wasn’t too steep or difficult, just a long constant uphill slog. At one point the trail passes through about a mile of thick shoulder-high brush. Often it was so thick it was hard to see the trail or rocks and roots.

It seems to take forever to reach the point where signs of the subalpine begin. And although the view across the valley to Kintla Glacier is rewarding it’s difficult to tell where the trail tops out at the pass. It was when I was just below the pass that I saw my first grizzly in the backcountry.

I’ve been backpacking for 40 years and this is my first bear encounter, go figure. The bear was a sow with two cubs about 25 yards uphill of the trail. Since I was following the book and making plenty of noise she saw me and slowly moved away. But proceeding further would have brought me closer to the next switchback. So I waited and continued to talk loudly. The bear eventually moved on and I continued up to the pass. A couple of passing hikers, who apparently felt close bear encounters weren’t anything to worry about, lightheartedly kidded me for talking so loudly to ward off the bear.

Wildflower meadows at sunset. Boulder Pass, Glacier National Park MontanaBoulder Pass Wildflowers  #69886  Purchase

At Boulder Pass Glacier National Park

Finally, the trail reached the pass with all its glorious views. At this point, an oddity struck me. Everywhere you go in Glacier Park you’re passing by or walking over colorful layers of sedimentary rock. However, at Boulder Pass, I was walking over a vast expanse of ancient lava.

Afterward, I did some geology research and found out that it was Purcell Lava.  Long ago when the area was still beneath an ancient sea molten rock squeezed up from below and flowed onto the sediment forming rocks. It was also interesting to see that this lava exposed at the pass was smooth and bore striations from past glacial activity.

Meadows of Broadleaf Arnica (Arnica latifolia) at Boulder PassThunderbird Mountain from Boulder Pass   #69907  Purchase

The Boulder Pass camp has three tent sites, a food prep area with hanging poles, an outhouse, and one very aggressive marmot. I’ve never come across a marmot that was so intent on obtaining food or salt from sweaty backpack straps. You have to be on guard since marmots can easily chew through straps, shoelaces, and other important items in search of nutrients and food. This guy had the appearance of having seen quite a few winters and fortunately eventually gave up on his pursuits.

I had three days to explore and photograph the area, and after a bite to eat I was eager to get to work. It turns out that Boulder Pass is a pretty big area with a few adjacent benches and basins below Boulder Peak. There was everything from lush meadows, streams, and tarns, to glacial moraines and debris. Plenty of subject matter to keep me busy.

Meadows of red paintbrush wildflowers at Boulder Pass. Glacier National ParkWildflowers at Boulder Pass  #69947  Purchase

Hello Bear

After some exploring, it was getting towards golden hour in the evening. The best option was to go back to the meadows teeming with wildflowers. The compositions I wanted meant shooting very low to the ground with an ultra-wide-angle lens.  With the setting sun shining through the trees and colors glowing all the elements were coming together. I was absorbed in photographing the moment.

It was then I heard a noise and looked up from the camera to see a large grizzly bear. It was just rounding a corner and coming up the trail about 50′ away. We both saw each other at the same time and the bear jumped back a bit in surprise. Very slowly I stood up while at the same time reaching for my bear spray. At this point, I remembered the sow and cubs from earlier in the day. I carefully looked behind me to see if I was in the unfortunate position of being between a mother and her cubs. There was no sign of them so perhaps this was a different bear.

Meadows of purple aster wildflowers at Boulder Pass. Glacier National ParkWildflowers at Boulder Pass  #69970  Purchase

After a few seconds, which seemed much longer, the bear slowly moved away downslope while watching me. Then it turned its head and bolted away. This was about as close as I ever would want to get to a grizzly. I can’t say I was terrified, but I was nervous and very conscious about keeping my wits and not making a wrong move. After a while, I went back to photographing my composition.

I’ve since told this story many times and have always gotten the same question. Did you get a picture of the bear? No, I didn’t, at the time photographing the bear was the last thing on my mind.

Exposed section of trail between Brown Pass and Hole in the Wall. Glacier National Park MontanaHole In The Wall Trail  #69893  Purchase

Hole In The Wall Boulder Peak

At the east end of Boulder Pass, the trail descends into the large horseshoe basin of Hole In The Wall. From there it continues to Browns Pass and Waterton Lake, or Bowman Lake. Day hiking on Hole In The Wall looked inviting but there was still a lot to investigate at Boulder Pass.

One area, in particular, was a series of benches on the west side of Boulder Peak. The views from there looking down to Pocket Lake and out to Kintla and Kinnerly Peaks were fabulous. In addition, some wispy clouds were moving in which could make for a great sunset. Since this was my last day at the pass, and it was mostly blue sky days while there, this seemed like the best chance to get some good photos.

Rainbow Peak Glacier National ParkRainbow Mountain from Boulder Pass  #69907  Purchase

Another thing that I noticed just below the west side of Boulder Pass was the presence of Subalpine Larches. These are a special type of conifer which in the fall their needles turn brilliant gold and fall off. In all my years of looking at photos of Glacier Park, I never saw any pictures of these trees in fall. So it was surprising to see them. Of course, this means that a trip to Boulder Pass in late September would be well worth it.

The next day I hiked back down to the Camp at Upper Kintla Lake. The lake was pleasant and scenic but nothing like the dramatic scenery up at the pass. The following day was the long hike out to complete the trip. It was a sweet feeling to have finally made such a wonderful trip to a new section of the park. It was also a bit sad when reflecting on when or if I’ll ever return.

Upper Kintla Lake Glacier National Park MontanaUpper Kintla Lake  #70062  Purchase

 

If You Go to Boulder Pass Glacier National Park

Distance from Kintla Lake Trailhead to Boulder Pass:  17.5 miles
Elevation Gain:  ~3200
Difficulty:  Moderate
Red Tape:  National Park Entrance Fee, Backcountry Wilderness Permits

The Kintla Lake Trailhead is located about 40 miles north of the West Entrance on the North Fork Road. The last 10 or so miles are on a gravel road which can be very dusty and bumpy. There is a hiker’s parking area 1/4 from the lake. There is also a small campground at the lake.

The  West Entrance and Apgar area has many services including gas, groceries, dining, and a very large campground. If you have the time it’s a great place to stay for a day or two before or after your hike.

Food bags hanging for bear safety at food prep area of Kintla Lake Campsite Glacier National Park MontanaKintla Head camp food prep area #69827

Bear Safety in Glacier National Park

All backpackers are required to carry bear spray. Bear canisters are not required as of this writing, as all backcountry camp areas have food prep areas with poles for hanging food. Make sure to bring about 50′ of parachute cord or similar to hang your food. When getting your permit you’ll also need to watch a short video on bear safety. Don’t take this lightly, as you’ve seen in this post there is a good chance of seeing bears on the trail or near campsites.

Sunset over Kinnerly and Long Knife Peaks seen from Boulder Peak. Glacier National Park MontanaSunset Boulder Pass Glacier National Park  #70041  Purchase

Leave No Trace

Please Please Please!  Don’t plan a trip to this or any other wilderness area unless you are prepared to strictly follow the guidelines of Leave No Trace (LNT). The Wind River Range and all other wilderness areas throughout the world are under incredible pressure from growing amounts of visitors. Please do your part to help preserve these precious areas for future generations!

To learn more about the principles and practicing LNT please take a few minutes to visit the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. Your children and grandchildren will thank you!

Seven Leave No Trace Principles

  • Plan ahead and prepare.                                       
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.                 
  • Dispose of waste properly.                                                                         
  • Leave what you find.                                            
  • Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire).
  • Respect wildlife.  
  • Be considerate of other visitors.

Hoary Marmot (Marmota caligata) Glacier National ParkMarmot at Boulder Pass Glacier National Park  #69980  Purchase

Photo Gear Used On This Trip

Nikon D850
Nikkor Lens:
14-24mm 2.8G ED
24-70mm 2.8E ED
70-200mm 2.8E FL ED
Gitzo 1532 Tripod
Really Right Stuff B-55 Ball Head
Assorted Lee Graduated Neutral Density Filters
B+H Polarizing Filter
Vello FWM-N2 Remote Shutter Release

If you enjoyed reading Boulder pass Glacier National Park please share it with your friends and family. And make sure you check out Boulder Pass Glacier National Park Part 1

Photos appearing in Boulder Pass Glacier National Park  are available for Commercial Licensing and Fine Art Prints. Click on any image to purchase, or contact me for more info!

Boulder Pass Glacier National Park

Eagle Cap and Mirror Lake Eagle Cap Wilderness Orergon

Eagle Cap Wilderness Wallowa Mountains

Eagle Cap Wilderness Wallowa Mountains

Eagle Cap and Mirror Lake Eagle Cap Wilderness OregonEagle Cap reflected in Mirror Lake  #68776  Purchase

As part of the Summer 2020 Photography Tour, my first destination was the Eagle Cap Wilderness in northeast Oregon. Over the years I’ve repeatedly passed over this rugged wilderness while on my way to other destinations further east. Every time I would drive by on Interstate 80 I’d glance at them and promise to visit them next time. This went on for over twenty years! However, on this trip the stars aligned and I finally worked it into the schedule.

The Eagle Cap Wilderness sprawls out over most of the Wallowa Mountains. At over 360,000 acres it is the largest wilderness area in Oregon. That’s quite a lot of territory for such a small mountain range. A couple of other things also sets the Eagle Cap apart from other Oregon wilderness areas. First is its geology. Nearly every other mountain wilderness in Oregon is made up of various forms of volcanic rock. In contrast, the Wallowas contain mostly granitic rock. Secondly, the Wallowas are in a higher range. Many of the peaks are  1000′ – 2000′ higher than those in the Cascade Range to the west. And of course, due to its eastern location, the climate is drier, although the peaks still receive copious amounts of winter snow.

Eagle Cap, Eagle Cap Wilderness OregonEagle Cap #68862  Purchase

Backpacking In The Eagle Cap Wilderness

Since this was my first trip, and I wasn’t sure how long it would be before a return visit, I wanted to photograph in the most scenic locations. After poring over maps, online trip reports, and searching for photos of specific areas I settled on two destinations.

For nearly everyone, the central Lakes Basin is the prime spot for day hikes and overnight trips. This area is where the highest peaks and most of the alpine lakes are situated. Consequently, it is also the area that receives the most visitors. I chose two areas for this trip, and due to practicalities divided them into separate trips. The first would be an extended stay at Mirror Lake and several adjacent lakes, by way of taking the East Lostine River Trail. The second trip was to be a shorter one to Ice Lake via the West Fork Wallowa River Trail. Both trips would ensure excellent photo opportunities. The one uncertainty was the fact that despite it being nearly mid-July there still appeared to be a good deal of snowpack left in the alpine.

Since this was my first trip, and I wasn’t sure how long it would be before a return visit, I wanted to photograph in the most scenic locations. After poring over maps, online trip reports, and searching for photos of specific areas I settled on two destinations.

For nearly everyone, the central Lakes Basin is the prime spot for day hikes and overnight trips. This area is where the highest peaks and most of the alpine lakes are situated. Consequently, it is also the area that receives the most visitors. I chose two areas for this trip, and due to practicalities divided them into separate trips. The first would be an extended stay at Mirror Lake and several adjacent lakes, by way of taking the East Lostine River Trail. The second trip was to be a shorter one to Ice Lake via the West Fork Wallowa River Trail. Both trips would ensure excellent photo opportunities. The one uncertainty was the fact that despite it being nearly mid-July there still appeared to be a good deal of snowpack left in the alpine.

Lostine River Trail, Eagle Cap Wilderness, Wallowa Mountains OregonEast Lostine River Trail  #68765  Purchase

Hiking Into Mirror Lake

This trip was also to be my introduction to the realities of traveling during the COVID 10 Pandemic. Driving up the long, bumpy, and dusty Lostine River Road, where I was to spend the first-night car camping,  I found nearly every campsite was occupied. At the time I thought it was due to being the weekend. Later on, I would find out that where or when didn’t matter, crowds were everywhere. After finding a decent spot I sorted through and prepared all my gear for an early start in the morning.

The next day I hit the trail bright and early and brimming with excitement about the views and pictures awaiting me. The first half of the East Lostine River Trail is fairly uneventful and typical of a forest approach hike. The second half, however, is very pleasant and scenic. This is due to the fact it enters a very long nearly flat sub-alpine valley with wide-open views for over a mile. During this section the trail skirts along open meadows, ponds, and the lazily flowing Lostine River. At the head of the valley looms 9572′ Eagle Cap Peak. This is where I first worried about the timing and feasibility of my two trips.

Eagle Cap Wilderness OregonEagle Cap Wilderness Cairn  #68822  Purchase

There were still numerous spots of avalanche snow left melting on the trail, and Eagle Cap, and the pass to Mirror Lake was nearly covered in snow. This left me thinking about the chances of successful photography, and of being able to visit all the lakes on my itinerary. The last mile or so to the pass was mostly over deep snow, although it was firm and post-holing was at a minimum. It was a pleasant surprise to find more open ground at the pass. Conditions at Mirror Lake were my main concern though.

Backcountry camp Eagle Cap Wilderness OregonMirror Lake Camp Eagle Cap Wilderness  #68804  Purchase

Mirror Lake Camping And Photography

On approaching Mirror Lake at 7595′ I saw that its surfaces had about 75% ice on. Most of the open water was along the shoreline, which was good news for me. Also, the majority of designated campsites were still under snow. However, one especially attractive site near the lake was completely snow-free.

There probably wasn’t a better spot in miles. The view across the lake to Eagle Cap was outstanding, and if the light cooperated I was sure to come away with some great photos. As usual, I spent the rest of the afternoon scouting the area in advance for photo compositions. And while I found a few good ones the one near my camp was clearly the best, at least until all the snow melted.

Eagle Cap and Mirror Lake Eagle Cap Wilderness OregonAlpenglow over Eagle Cap  #68793  Purchase

Up until that time I planned to move on the next day over another pass to Glacier Lake. But it was obvious the way would be entirely over snow, and since Glacier Lake was even higher up it was certain to be nearly frozen over. Because of this I reluctantly made the decision not to go, and spend more time in the immediate area instead.

During the afternoon the sky had clouded over,  and I thought I would be out of luck for a photo session with good evening light. But towards sunset, it became apparent that the clouds were starting to clear in the west. Soon sun rays began to stream through and illuminate the lake area and Eagle Cap.

Backcountry camp Eagle Cap Wilderness OregonMoccasin Lake Camp  #68814  Purchase

Moccasin Lake And Out

Since Glacier Lake was now out of the picture I went scouting higher up on the open slopes behind the camp and on the way to the other lakes in the basin. There was still too much snow to make the other lakes worthwhile so I went down to nearby Moccasin Lake. Even though it was only a few hundred feet lower there was considerably less snow. But unfortunately, I found only one established campsite. It was on a rock shelf above the lake with a great view, but it was also sorely overused. This must be the only site in the area since there was enough bare dusty ground for several parties.

I wasn’t as fortunate here with the light and compositions so I took advantage of clear skies to do some night sky Milky Way photography. The next day I decided to move back down the trail to the open meadows along the Lostine River. On my way in I saw some great photo opportunities in this area so I made this my final destination on this hike. After finding a hidden out-of-the-way campsite I was able to make several more evening photos.

Milky Way over Eagle Cap Wilderness OregonMilky Way Over Eagle Cap  #68819   Purchase

The next day I headed out with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was able to spend some time in one of the best locations in the Wallowas and make some wonderful images to boot. On the other hand, the lingering snowpack prevented me from photographing some other great areas.

Afterward, I drove to Joseph Oregon to have a good meal. I also had to decide if it would be worth doing the second trip to Ice Lake. After agonizing over the decision it was apparent that it was still too early in the season to make it worthwhile for the photographs I had in mind.

So the next morning I began the drive to the second major destination of the summer photo tour, the Cecil D. Andus-White Clouds Wilderness of Idaho. Check back to read a post on that incredible area!

Eagle Cap, Eagle Cap Wilderness OregonEagle Cap Reflection  #68866 Purchase

If You Go:

Round trip to Mirror Lake from Lostine River Two Pan Trailhead:  14 miles
Elevation Gain:  about 2200′
Difficulty:  Moderate
Red Tape:  Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Pass required
Map: Green Trails Wallowa Mountains Eagle Cap Wilderness Map

The Two Pan Lostine River Trailhead is located about 18 miles south of Lostine Oregon, on Forest Road #8210. The last 10 miles are unpaved and can be rough in several places. Along Forest Road #8210 there are numerous small campgrounds and a few opportunities for primitive dispersed camping.

Note that Mirror Lake is only one of many backcountry destinations from this trailhead. Mirror Lake can be the only destination or be part of extended backpacking trips into the Wallowas. Check out the map in the link above for all the exciting possibilities.

The town of Joseph Oregon at the head of the very scenic Wallowa Valley makes a great base for trips into the Wallowas. It’s also a great jumping-off town for adventures in the Hells Canyon Recreation Area. It has everything you’ll need, from good food and lodging to brewpubs, a distillery, and outdoor recreation stores. There are also numerous local artists displaying their work in Joseph’s galleries. Make sure to check out the Josephy Center For Arts & Culture while you’re there.

Eagle Cap reflected in Mirror LakeEagle Cap Mirror Lake  #68801  Purchase

Leave No Trace

And now for a short lecture. As I’ve been saying in previous posts, don’t even think about visiting this or any other wilderness area unless you are prepared to follow the guidelines of Leave No Trace (LNT). The Eagle Cap and all other wilderness areas throughout the world are under incredible pressure from growing amounts of visitors. Please do your part to tread lightly and help preserve these precious areas for future generations!

To learn more about the principles and practicing LNT please take a few minutes to visit the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. Your children and grandchildren will thank you!

Seven Leave No Trace Principles

  • Plan ahead and prepare.                                       
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.                 
  • Dispose of waste properly.                                                                         
  • Leave what you find.                                            
  • Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire).
  • Respect wildlife.  
  • Be considerate of other visitors.

Photo Gear Used On This Trip

Nikon D850
Nikkor Lens:
14-24mm 2.8G ED
24-70mm 2.8E ED
70-200mm 2.8E FL ED
Gitzo 1532 Tripod
Really Right Stuff B-55 Ball Head
Assorted Lee Graduated Neutral Density Filters
B+H Polarizing Filter
Vello FWM-N2 Remote Shutter Release

If you enjoyed reading Eagle Cap Wilderness Wallowa Mountains please share it with your friends and family.

All photos appearing in Eagle Cap Wilderness Wallowa Mountains are available for Commercial Licensing and Fine Art Prints. Click on any image to purchase, or contact me for more info!

Hannegan Peak backcountry camp North Cascades

Backpacking Photography Tips

Backpacking Photography Tips

Hannegan Peak backcountry camp North Cascades Backpacking Photography TipsMount Baker Wilderness North Cascades #54316r  Purchase

Photography has always been an essential element of vacations. Since the first portable roll film camera was introduced people have been taking pictures of their travels. And backpacking trips into wilderness areas are certainly no exception. In this post, I’ll be offering some backpacking photography tips to help make your trip a success.

My previous post, Backpacking Photography Gear Tips, went into some of the details of choosing the proper photography and backpacking equipment. This time I’ll give tips on photography while backpacking on the trail.

For the purpose of this post, I’ll focus on some basic tips for working in the field which can help to free your creativity.

Mount Robson Canadian Rockies Backpacking Photography TipsMount Robson British Columbia  #54646  Purchase

Set a Goal

Setting a goal for yourself can vastly help in making better photographs. These goals can vary depending on a number of factors, such as:

  • Location
  • Season
  • Weather
  • Subject matter
  • Time available
  • Physical condition

On a backpacking trip you may need to place a limit on and be flexible with your goals. For example, if your goal is action/adventure photography your opportunities for landscape or nature photography will be limited. Or if your goal is to photograph dramatic landscapes but the weather is consistently gray,  consider changing your goal to nature details and or abstracts.

Backpacker Wind River Range, Wyoming Backpacking Photography TipsBackpacking in the Wind River Range #66330  Purchase

Know Your Limits

Remember that your pack will most likely be fairly heavy, and will determine how far and fast you can travel. Don’t push yourself beyond your limit. Take it easy and break your hiking distances into manageable lengths. If you arrive at camp physically exhausted you won’t have much energy left to making good photographs. Unless the perfect image is right in front of your tent you’ll need to be on the move until after sunset.

Carefully research your trip in advance. Check out trip reports and maps, and pay particular attention to elevation differences from point to point. You may think that you can easily hike 15 miles in a day. However, that distance will be considerably less when you throw in 3000′-4000′ elevation gain while carrying a full pack.

Also, know your location. Backpacking in Wyoming’s Wind River Range is vastly different from backpacking in the North Cascades. In the Winds, you gain elevation gradually with many ups and downs. In the North Cascades, large amounts of elevation are gained either by endless switchbacks or straight-up endurance tests.

Glacier Peak Image Lake North CascadesGlacier Peak and Image Lake North Cascades #58239  Purchase

Know Your Subject Matter

This may be the most important tip I have to offer.

The best portrait photographers will always tell you this. Being keenly aware of, and bringing out the nuances in someone’s personality is the key to great portrait photography. This is also true for other subject matter, including landscape and nature.

One of the best ways of accomplishing this is to just sit and observe, be meditative. Consider the current catchphrase Light And Fast. Going light is good, but why fast, what’s the rush? Isn’t wilderness something to be savored? Aside from photography aren’t you also here to get away from the rush and complexities of daily living?

Slow down and think creatively, you’ll enjoy your trip more and make better images.

It’s easy to backpack into a beautiful area, set up camp, grab your camera and snap your brains out. However, when you get back home you most likely will have only snapshot quality photos.

While on the trail be observant of your surroundings. Take frequent breaks and enjoy the scent of the forest and the sounds of the birds and streams. After setting up camp use this time to relax and restore your physical and mental energy.

Be particularly aware of how the light changes. The position of the sun and the type of light can make the difference between a good and great photo.

See and photograph with your own eyes. Don’t set out armed with GPS coordinates just so you can replicate the other guy’s photo.

Know your subject and photograph deliberately.

Mount Baker Wilderness campsite Backpacking Photography TipsBackcountry Camp Mount Baker Wilderness #53372  Purchase

Selecting A Campsite

Ideally, you’ll need to select a campsite or base camp on longer trips, that is in close proximity* to your subject matter. If your campsite is a mile or more from that perfect mountain view or field of wildflowers you’ll need to rush to get there in time to set up.

This is especially important at sunrise. It’s incredibly easy to just sleep in if you need to make a long pre-dawn trek to that great composition. Especially if it’s several hundred feet higher up. In a perfect situation, you should have a variety of compositions to photograph within a quarter-mile of camp.

If you’re backpacking in a National Park or Wilderness Area with camping restrictions your options may be limited. National Parks deliberately, and for good reasons, limit camping proximity to pristine locations. Always do your research and check in advance. In these situations, you may have to plan on some extra legwork.

*Whenever possible camp only on hardened established sites, bare ground, rock, or snow. This may not be an option in very remote or rarely visited areas. Scroll down to read about minimal impact and Leave No Trace Principles.

Backpacker Baker Lake Trail North CascadesBackpacker North Cascades #65027 Purchase

Location Scouting

Good location scouting begins at home while researching your trip. Trip reports and guidebooks usually include photos of the area. Poring over topographic maps can give clues to directions of light, and hidden features. Goggle searches of your trip area using different keywords can also reveal little-known spots.

1.    If you planned carefully you should arrive at and set up camp early enough to have time to relax and do some scouting. Aside from obviously finding the best spots for compositions, scouting also gives you an opportunity to get to know your subject better.

2.   Walk through the entire area, and look beyond the obvious. While the big snowcapped mountain may be the obvious dominant element, there may be other compositions more subtle yet just as inspiring. It’s easy to focus your attention on the main scene during golden hour and completely miss something even better in the opposite direction.

3.   Be aware of where the sun will rise and set in relation to the landscape. That perfect composition may be in shadow during morning and evening golden hours. This is particularly true in deep narrow valleys.

4.   Be observant of cloud and weather patterns. Some mountain ranges are prone to dramatic midday storms. However, at sunset and sunrise, the sky may be devoid of any clouds. Of course, in some areas, the opposite may be true. That gorgeous summit may be consistently shrouded in clouds at sunset.

5.   Look for key elements which can you can use in compositions. For a mountain scene, a foreground with a winding stream or a grouping of wildflowers can add movement and depth to the image. Objects such as boulders, a distant tent, or a person can also add scale to the scene.

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Commit to Photographing

Face it, backpacking and the related chores of camping are a lot of work. But it’s only one-half of the work you’ll face when you’re there to make excellent images. While other parties are sitting around camp enjoying the sunset, or sleeping late the next morning, you need to be on the move.

1.    Don’t be in a rush, plan in extra days. Good light and photography rarely happen on your schedule. An extra day or two in an area increases your chance of getting the light you want.

2.   Get accustomed to rising before dawn in the morning. How early you need to get up depends on how far you are from where you need to photograph. You can always get more sleep when you return to camp.

3.   Stick it out until it’s really over. Some photographers pack it up right after the sun sets or rises. Big mistake. I can’t tell you how many times it appeared like all the best light was gone, only for the sun to find a gap in the clouds and come back in full force. Sometimes you’ll be faced with a boring cloudless sunrise when a few minutes later glowing wisps or puffy clouds develop literally out of nowhere.

4.   Wait for the afterglow. Often, hidden beyond your view, there may be some atmospheric elements that create a beautiful long-lasting afterglow.

5.   If the sky is clear of clouds and there is no afterglow it’s always worth waiting to photograph the Belt of Venus and during the blue hour.

6.   Stay up late or wake up earlier for photographing the Milky Way.

7.   With the right conditions excellent images can be made throughout the day, not just during golden hours. Always keep your mind and eyes open to new creative opportunities.

8.   Wait out the weather. You’ve put a lot of time and energy into getting here. Stick it out if you can.

Glacier Peak backcountry camp North CascadesGlacier Peak Wilderness #58315  Purchase

Eat Well and Smart

Good nutrition is important to maintain the energy you need to sustain a high level of activity. There are endless books, articles, and opinions available to help guide you and confuse you on this topic. Everybody is an expert and will be happy to point out why their research is right and yours is wrong.

I’m not a nutrition expert but I have found out through experience what works for me and what doesn’t. Everybody is different. You’ll need to find a balance of taste, convenience, and nutrition that works for you, preferably in advance of a long trip.

1.    Whatever choice of food make sure you bring enough. You’ll be burning a lot more calories per day than you normally would.

2.   Keep your menu as simple as possible, and look for dehydrated or freeze-dried items to keep the weight down.

3.   For safety in bear country avoid foods with strong odors. Only prepare as much as you can eat, leftovers attract not only bears but also rodents.

4.   Try to bring items that can be prepared by just adding boiling water. The time you save can be spent photographing. You’ll also save weight on fuel.

5.   When on the trail stay well hydrated, and drink an electrolyte replacement instead of plain water. Over the years I’ve tried many, most taste horrible and are ridiculously expensive. I’ve gone back to Gatorade, it tastes better, is cheap, and works for me.

6.   Bring enough energy bars (again, most taste horrible) or trail mix to last the duration of your trip. It’s also a good idea to pack a few special treats to break up the monotony.

7.   Supplements are optional and subjective. I always take a B Complex supplement daily. I find it helps in converting nutrients into energy, but that’s just my opinion.

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Leave No Trace

I’ve recently started to add this extremely important topic to all of my hiking posts. Don’t even think about visiting backcountry areas unless you are prepared to strictly follow the guidelines of Leave No Trace (LNT).

All national parks and wilderness areas throughout the world are under incredible pressure from growing amounts of visitors. Please do your part to help preserve these precious areas for future generations!

To learn more about the principles and practicing LNT please take a few minutes to visit the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. Your children and grandchildren will thank you!

Seven Leave No Trace Principles

  • Plan ahead and prepare.                                       
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  • Dispose of waste properly.                                                                         
  • Leave what you find.                                            
  • Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire), better yet don’t build one in the first place, they are completely unnecessary
  • Respect wildlife.  
  • Be considerate of other visitors.

Now that you have some basic understanding of working in the field, get out there and have some fun!

Also, check out these blog posts for hiking and backpacking and photography destinations:
Mount Baker Wilderness Destinations
Hannegan Peak Ruth Mountain Mount Baker Wilderness
Lake Ann Ptarmigan Ridge Mount Baker Wilderness
Coyote Gulch Backpacking Photography

If you found reading Backpacking Photography Tips to be  enjoyable and informative please feel free to share it with friends and family

All photos appearing in Backpacking Photography Tips are available for Commercial Licensing and Fine Art Prints

Want to learn more? Take your Creative Photography to the next level with  Private Instruction and Guided Photo Tours.

Mount Robson British ColumbiaMount Robson British Columbia #54618  Purchase

Backpacking Photography Tips

Backpacker Bugaboo Provincial Park

Backpacking Photography Gear Tips

Backpacking Photography Gear Tips

Backpacker Bugaboo Provincial Park Backpacking Photography Gear TipsBugaboo Provincial Park British Columbia 

For most people bringing back photos from a backpacking trip is essential. Who doesn’t want to share their adventure with friends and family on the social media beast?

The big question is what is the end use for those photos, and what photo gear should you take to meet that end? Ask 100 photographers that question and you’ll get 100 different answers. And there really are no wrong answers here.

For the purpose of this post, I’ll focus on backpacking photography gear tips for photographers that may be in the advanced amateur to aspiring pro levels.

Mount Baker Wilderness campsite North Cascades Washington Backpacking Photography Gear TipsMount Baker Wilderness North Cascades

It’s All About Weight

Get used to it, if you’re into serious photography while backpacking your pack will be heavy, period.

Only you can determine how much weight you can comfortably carry and for how far. There are endless variables that determine what you should or shouldn’t bring, such as photography goals, trip length, elevation gain, trail or off-trail routes, and seasons, to name a few.

Basically though, carrying too much weight can turn your trip into a grueling muscle cramping ordeal. And at the end of the day, you won’t have any energy left for photography. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about here. For 20 years I lugged around a 4×5 film camera with four lenses, 18 film holders, a film changing tent, extra film, light meter, tripod, filters, etc. All this photo gear alone was well over 35 pounds.

So here are my gear tips for helping to make your backpacking photography trip more successful and enjoyable.

Disclaimer: The following tips are offered from my personal experience and preferences after many years of backpacking photography. What works for me may not work for you.

Backcountry camp North Cascades National ParkBackcountry camp North Cascades National Park

Photo Gear

There isn’t much you can do here for weight savings. You can’t shave off pieces of your camera or lens to cut down on weight. And this isn’t the category for scrimping on quality to save weight. My choice of photo gear may be on the heavy side, but it ensures high-quality results.

  • Camera:

    One camera body. The best you can afford. It doesn’t matter if it’s digital or film or, which brand, as long you can change lenses. Make sure it has a high-quality sensor with enough megapixels sufficient for your end-use. A 20-megapixel body may be good enough for social media sharing, but not probably for making large-format fine art prints.

    Pro Tip:   Pro or Prosumer level cameras are much more rugged, and have better weather seals than consumer-level cameras. Something to consider if you regularly visit dusty, and or rainy environments, or are hard on your gear.

My Gear:
Nikon D850 Yes, it’s heavy, but it’s well built with all the features I need and more. Its 45.7-megapixel sensor is outstanding for night sky photography and mural-size prints.
Really Right Stuff L Plate Used for quick release in conjunction with Really Right Stuff Tripod Ballhead.

Alice Lake camp Sawtooth MountainsIlluminated tent, Sawtooth Mountains Idaho

  • Lenses:

    Wide or ultra-wide to short telephoto lenses will cover most situations. Again, go with the highest quality you can afford. It would be ideal to bring just one zoom lens with a focal length from 20-200mm. However, the quality of such a lens may not be optimum.

    Many photographers will swear by the quality of prime lenses, but for our purpose bringing an armload of them isn’t practical. One wide-angle zoom lens, plus a normal to short telephoto zoom lens would be a good option.

    Pro Tip:  High-quality lenses are always more important than the camera body. The most expensive camera or post-processing editing app can’t make up for an inferior quality lens.

My Gear: 
Nikon 14-24mm 2.8 This lens is considered by many landscape photographers to be the gold standard of wide-angle zooms. I can attest that it is extremely sharp, and has minimal distortion and chromatic aberration.
Nikon 24-70mm 2.8E ED VR  There are arguably smaller, lighter weight, and cheaper lenses in this focal length. But for me, this lens has proven it’s worth many times over. It’s tack sharp, and the VR feature is outstanding for handheld work.
Nikon 70-200mm 2.8E FL ED VR  Again, it’s a heavy and expensive lens, but for me, it’s high-quality glass and features are worth every ounce.

  • Tripod:

    A tripod is an essential piece of photo gear. Night photography would be absolutely impossible without it. So would close-ups of flowers, long exposures of flowing water, and techniques such as focus stacking.

A tripod is also one item where you may be able to get away with choosing a lighter-weight model. This is especially true if your camera body and lens combination is on the lighter side.

Many manufacturers offer tripods with three or four-section legs. I prefer three, simpler, fewer parts that can fail. Also, make sure your tripod is tall enough for your needs. Carbon fiber tripods are your best option, they’re slightly lighter than metal and very durable. They also won’t freeze your hands in cold weather light metal does.

In recent years ball heads have become the standard, and I find them to be a vast improvement over older-style handles and knobs.

Pro Tip:   Do not opt for an inexpensive poorly made tripod with plastic components! They are not stable and break very easily. I was once in desperate need of a replacement tripod while on location. All I could purchase was a cheap lightweight model. Even with everything locked down as much as possible, it was like using a wet noodle to support my camera!

My Gear:
Gitzo GT 1532 Mountaineer Series 1
Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ballhead with quick release plate.

Backcountry camp North CascadesMount Baker Wilderness North Cascades

  • Filters:

Polarizing Filter. Probably one of the most indispensable filters to bring along. Just be careful not to overdo the effect of darkening a sky. Also, keep in mind their limited effect when using wide-angle lenses.
Graduated Neutral Density Filters. I still find them extremely useful. But If you’re looking to save weight you could leave these at home, and produce their effect in post-processing. They are not always the best option in certain circumstances. However, when possible I will always prefer to use them to make the best exposure in the field, and not rely on post-processing techniques.

My Gear:
B+H Polarizing Filter
Lee Graduated Neutral Density Filters: Four filters; 1 & 2 Stop soft and hard edge.
Lee SW150 Mark II Filter System, necessary to accommodate Nikon 14-24mm lens

  • Miscellaneous Gear

    Extra Batteries. I always take three fully charged batteries, one in the camera and two extras. On a recent 10 day backpack, I still had about half power left on my last spare. Be aware that mirrorless cameras may consume more battery power.
    Extra Memory Cards. 
    Remote Shutter Release. Weighs next to nothing and helps in reducing camera shake.
    Micro Fiber Cleaning Cloth. Essential for cleaning lenses and filters
    Camera Chest Pack. I find this optional item to be extremely useful. Not only does it give me quick access to my camera while on the trail, it also has room for small items such as trail snacks and maps.
    My Gear:
    Lowepro Toploader Pro 75 AWII

Backpacker Glacier Peak Wilderness Backpacking Photography Gear TipsBackpacker Glacier Peak Widerness

Backpacking Gear

Here is where you’ll have the most opportunities for saving weight while on the trail. It’s also where you can spend or save lots of money. Once again how light you go depends on your destination, how long you will be out, and what season you’ll be backpacking in.

Going Ultralight is the catchword of the day, and gear manufacturers are cashing in on it big time. Just be aware that that ultra-expensive ultralight gear may not be ultra-durable, especially when the weather turns nasty, and after a few seasons of use.

Absolutely nothing is worse than sitting out wind, rain, and or snow for days at a time in a flimsy leaking tent.

Nearly every tent, backpack, or rain jacket on the market today will perform well in adverse conditions, at least for their first season. What gear reviewers won’t tell you is how well they hold up after a few seasons of use!

  • Backpack

    A high-quality good fitting backpack is one of the most essential pieces of gear you’ll need for a successful and enjoyable backpacking trip.

    Pro Tip:   Forget that fancy expensive photo gear backpack. They are designed foremost to protect your camera and lenses while on the trial, everything else is secondary. You’ll quickly find that out when you’re several miles into a steep climb when that backpack has suddenly turned itself into a medieval torture device.

    Go with a pack specifically designed for backpacking. Use soft items in your pack, like clothes to protect your gear. Visit a reputable outdoor gear store and try on different packs. Speak with a knowledgeable salesperson about what you need, a good one will help choose and fit the ideal pack. Keep in mind that to accommodate all your photo gear you may need a larger pack than you initially think.

    Pro Tip:   Do not buy a backpack from an online retailer until you have already physically checked it out and tried it on! Ideally, borrow a friend’s for a short trip first to see if it works for you.

    My Gear: 
    Osprey Zenith 88 Osprey makes high-quality packs for every type of adventurer. This is the most comfortable pack I’ve ever used.  Its suspension system is much more comfortable for carrying heavier loads than its popular Aether 85. Perfect size for trips over three or four days in length. Although it is a bit on the large size for a weekend trip.

North Cascades backcountry campBackcountry camp North Cascades

  • Shelter

    A good shelter is the next most important piece of backpacking gear.

    If you’re traveling light and fast, and are only concerned about making miles in gorgeous summer weather without any flying insects to bother you, then even a thin nylon tarp will do.

    But it’s a different story when you’re out for a week and the weather turns sour, with mosquitoes, flies, and gnats out in biblical proportions. Then you’ll wish for something a bit more substantial to protect you and your camera gear.

Look for a lightweight tent with a silicone-treated rain fly. I also like a tent with a vestibule large enough to protect items you don’t want inside the tent. Like boots and a dirty backpack.

My Gear:
Big Agnes Copper Spur 2. Super lightweight, easy to pitch, with two doors and large vestibules. This tent also comes in a one-person size, but I like a little more elbow room.

  • Sleeping Bag and Pad

    For years I steered clear of down bags, mainly because  I felt they were a poor option in the rainy Pacific Northwest. However, now I’m an enthusiastic supporter of down. They’re like sleeping enveloped in a warm cloud. And they’re generally much lighter and more compressible than synthetic bags. A high-quality down sleeping bag is not cheap so look at it as an investment. However, with proper care, a well-made bag will last for many years. Feathered Friends and Western Mountaineering make some of the finest bags around.

    Sleeping pads are essential for keeping those roots from poking into your back while sleeping, or for insulation when camped on snow. Options here are either a foam pad or an inflatable. I’ve used Therm-a-Rest pads exclusively for many years. They are incredibly comfortable with adjustable firmness, are lightweight, and compress down very well.

    My Gear:
    Western Mountaineering Badger 
    Therm-a-rest Classic

Backcountry Camp North Cascades National Park Backpacking Photography Gear TipsNorth Cascades National Park

  • Stove

    Another essential item for any overnight trip. The days of preparing your meals over an open campfire are long gone. Campfires above timberline are banned just about everywhere, and for many good reasons. Besides, cooking over an open fire takes an awfully long time and is messy and dangerous.

    The two options are liquid white gas (Coleman Fuel) and butane mix canisters. Canister stoves are all the rage right now and some are much better than others.  The biggest drawback with canister stoves is that they lose their power output in colder weather. You’ll need to keep the canisters warm for maximum performance.

    Liquid fuel stoves perform well at any temperature and do so to the last drop of fuel. For this reason  they are the better option for winter trips. They weigh only slightly more than canister stoves, and there are no empty canisters to dispose of. However, canisters can be recycled in some areas if prepared properly. Check with your local recycling facility for regulations.

    My Gear:
    MSR Reactor I recently switched from my trusty MSR XGK stove to the reactor, and so far I have been very pleased. This stove system with fuel canisters is lighter weight, and it boils water very quickly. However, one drawback is that in cold weather it is necessary to keep fuel canisters warm. Ideally, you can accomplish this by keeping them in your sleeping bag at night.

Titcomb Basin backcountry campWind River Range

  • Footwear

    Proper footwear is only second to a good backpack for comfort on the trail. There is a strong debate on leather boots vs lightweight trail runners. For years I’ve sworn by stiff leather boots with lugged soles. But on recent trips, I’ve gone with lighter-weight boots, and will probably move more towards trail runners in the near future.

    Pro Tip:  Be aware that if you’re backpacking in the mountains early in the season lightweight shoes may not be the best option. Hiking in snow for only a few minutes will result in very wet cold feet. On steep snow slopes, you also won’t get much traction, and step kicking will be very difficult.

  • Other Gear

    Here is a list of other necessary items. They’re all important, but I won’t go into detail about them since it would require a separate article.

    Weather appropriate clothing
    Cookware
    Water bottle or hydration bag
    Water filters or other purification methods
    Food, including trail snacks
    Map
    Headlamp
    Ten Essentials

Limestone Lakes Basin Height of the Rockies Provincial Park British ColumbiaHeight of the Rockies Provincial Park

In Conclusion

This should provide you with enough gear tips to begin planning for your next backpacking photography trip. As I mentioned many times in this article, cutting down on weight is important. But so is your personal comfort level. This isn’t a contest to see who can have the lightest pack and hike the farthest. So what if you choose a slightly beefier tent, or need to bring another lens? It’s your trip and you can always make adjustments to your preferences in the future.

Now get out there and have fun!

Also, check out these blog posts for hiking and backpacking and photography destinations:
Mount Baker Wilderness Destinations
Hannegan Peak Ruth Mountain Mount Baker Wilderness
Lake Ann Ptarmigan Ridge Mount Baker Wilderness

Thanks for reading, feel free to share this post with your friends and colleagues! And make sure to check out my next post in this series: Backpacking Photography Tips

Backpacker on Titcomb Basin Trail Wind River Range Wyoming Backpacking Photography Gear TipsTitcomb Basin Wind River Range

If you found reading Backpacking Photography Gear Tips to be  enjoyable and informative please feel free to share it with friends and family

All photos appearing in Backpacking Photography Gear Tips are available for Commercial Licensing and Fine Art Prints

Want to learn more? Take your Creative Photography to the next level with  Private Instruction and Guided Photo Tours.

Backpacking Photography Gear Tips