Overlanding California Early March

SirWilliamGoes

Adventurer
I will be arriving in California March 2nd and leaving March 11 to pick up a 4wd AEV style Ram 2500 for loaner .the plan was to take a trip through Death Valley, Sequoia, Yosemite, and Eldorado National Forest. I have since learned that the snow and seasonal closures will make this nearly impossible. I can't change dates and want to be primarily offroad for the majority of the time. I'm thinking now that I may stick to death valley and mojave. Any advice on areas to go and trails to hit is VERY appreciated!! Thanks in advance for your help!!
 

pluton

Adventurer
You could easily kill all your time in Death Valley and the Mojave Preserve, but with that amount of time, you could easily fit in a short trip to southern Utah or northern Arizona. From southern Death Valley/Mojave Preserve area, look at the possibilities of the 5-ish hour drive up I-15 to St. George, UT, and then east to the areas accessible between St. George, UT, to Kanab, UT and Page, AZ. You can't see everything along that route, but you could pick one adventure. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to the north, and the Paria Plateau to the south of highway US 89 are possibilities. Watch altitude (possibility of snow) and weather and make alternate choices in case of early spring rain or snow.
 

Ace Brown

Adventurer, Overland Certified OC0019
I’d opt to stay in the warmth and do the Mojave Road and points further south. Even Death Valley can be very cold in early March. Southern Arizona has lots of options. The Devils Highway is a great three day run but permits are required. Kofa National Wildlife Area has some interesting dirt roads, old mines and more to explore. Here’s a few photos taken there recently.



Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Ace Brown

Adventurer, Overland Certified OC0019
I would stay in the warmer areas,I stumbled on the YT video,it looks like a good time to walk through the desert.
https://www.desertusa.com/wildflo/wildupdates.html
Great video. I had seen Slim’s videos before because I also own an A-frame style trailer. I’ll bet he was in Kofa but it could have been anywhere in Southern Arizona. I was there Feb 6-7 and wish I was back instead of the snow and 20* weather here in Colorado.
 

Lost Roadie

Active member
Here's some great resources and inspiration to explore Death Valley.

https://www.backcountryexplorers.com/death-valley.html

http://www.death-valley.net/forum/index.php

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL42mpo0Q-wCBNFLMBv29Jp7ADexL_mm-f

https://www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/upload/Death-Valley-Backcountry-Roads.pdf

Here's a video I shot around DV mostly.



I've been going for many years and have spent a lot of time around DV, it's in my backyard. I still discover new trails, mines, cabins and other odd desert stuff. Days or weeks of time there just touches the surface and never gets old.
Since I very much prefer freedom and total silence, I suggest spending more time exploring the BLM and NFS land in Panamint and Saline Valley.
Hit the highlights inside the park if you haven't been for sure and then shed the rules, fees and crowds in DV and wander the valleys next to the park where there's far more freedom that's not as accessible for the masses found inside the park.
No need for an overlander to be paying $35 to camp in a dirt parking lot with the legions of tourists in mini vans and RV's inside the park when there's literally hundreds of thousands of square miles of public land all around to explore and camp on.
While it can be cold at times at higher elevations in March, saying "DV is cold in march" as posted earlier is generalized and not fully accurate. It's common to have a 30-40º difference in elevation at any given time this time of year. It's already starting to warm at low elevation with it forecasted to be in the 70-80's next week on the valley floor. ( I go often this time of year and pay attention, generally going when the weather is bad for better photo opportunities)
It's easy to explore the higher elevations by day and camp in the low elevation valleys at night if you want warmer temps. Or seek out one of the many cabins you can stay in for free and bring wood. Then again, "cold" is quite subjective, and from my experience camping, especially in a ground tent, in the desert comfort is more effected by wind speed rather than just air temps. If it's windy, you camp in protected canyons and not exposed on the valley floor.

Of course weather can change, however you can look at the weather in Furnace Creek for valley floor temps, looks at Trona, CA for 2000-3000' elevation temps and look at Lone Pine, CA for higher elevation temps. You can calculate the forecast for the area by combing info.
Another good weather resource to help with planning is here:
https://www.wrh.noaa.gov/vef/rec/index.php?loc=DV
Chances are, DV and the surrounding areas, at low elevation will be the warmest place in the southwest at any given time.

If I may, I would suggest a National Geographic topo map for DV if you don't have one, the Tom Harrison map will do too. Even better to have both.

Personally, I find the entire Mojave preserve area to be boring as hell and very highly over rated just like Joshua Tree NP, but to each their own. There's interesting geological and to a lesser extend human history in the area, but more exciting to read about than actually explore it, unless you're a rock hound.
I've waisted a fair amount of time exploring there trying to understand the draw or why it's been designated a national preserve... I feel there's much better exploring options all around, especially if time is limited. You can "do" the Mojave road, maybe even buy a sticker to proclaim you concurred the boring road - spoiler alert - it's a mostly straight boring desert track like any other scrubland dirt road in SoCal, and you even will have cell service the whole time from I-15 which is never too far.

I live in the Sequoia NF and you're at least a couple months early to get to most of the notable places in the Sierra's with a massive 160% of the normal snow pack we have this year. Right now the snow level is 3500', with a snowpack level in Mammoth @ 36'.... come back and go skiing in July!


You can download GPX tracks of mine from DV on my site in my sig.

Here's a good Panamint Valley camp spot - Lookout City ghost town, get a good map and it's easy to find. There's a good number of nice rustic cabins to stay in within 10 miles if the weather is ****, or even the Panamint Spring resort if you must.











Have fun!
 
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Joe917

Explorer
Death valley and Mojave Preserve, then head for Grand Staircase Escalante. You could stop at Kanab and enter the lottery for the Wave.
 

Lost Roadie

Active member
Death valley and Mojave Preserve, then head for Grand Staircase Escalante. You could stop at Kanab and enter the lottery for the Wave.
Care to elaborate, or are you just throwing out suggestions from a previous trip you enjoyed without any real substance?

Grand Staircase forecast for the time the OP is considering: high 45° low 27°.
https://weather.com/weather/tenday/l/Escalante+UT+84726:4:US
Hardly ideal weather, though maybe good for a Canadian, which suggests you're not very well informed of when is a good time to explore an area far from where the OP asked about.

March in Utah above 3500' is generally very cold and/or snowed in, which is within the minimum elevation of the vast majority of the places people would want to visit in Utah.
May/June to September/October, sure, a spectacular place to visit.
Nothing personal but folks that throw out vague incomplete statements that are obviously flawed is sort of bogus and not really helpful.

The OP asked for suggestions for California routes on a limited time basis, it's even in the title, not exploring the southwestern United States - in March - which is obviously the wrong time of year to be committed to any significant mountain exploring, unless deep snow and freezing temps are your thing.
 
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Joe917

Explorer
The OP considered Death Valley to Yosemite. Kanab is the same distance. We have spent time there in winter and enjoyed the area. A well built rig should be comfortable and snow closures will not be an issue like Yosemite. My 2c.
 

SirWilliamGoes

Adventurer
Here's some great resources and inspiration to explore Death Valley.

https://www.backcountryexplorers.com/death-valley.html

http://www.death-valley.net/forum/index.php

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL42mpo0Q-wCBNFLMBv29Jp7ADexL_mm-f

https://www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/upload/Death-Valley-Backcountry-Roads.pdf

Here's a video I shot around DV mostly.



I've been going for many years and have spent a lot of time around DV, it's in my backyard. I still discover new trails, mines, cabins and other odd desert stuff. Days or weeks of time there just touches the surface and never gets old.
Since I very much prefer freedom and total silence, I suggest spending more time exploring the BLM and NFS land in Panamint and Saline Valley.
Hit the highlights inside the park if you haven't been for sure and then shed the rules, fees and crowds in DV and wander the valleys next to the park where there's far more freedom that's not as accessible for the masses found inside the park.
No need for an overlander to be paying $35 to camp in a dirt parking lot with the legions of tourists in mini vans and RV's inside the park when there's literally hundreds of thousands of square miles of public land all around to explore and camp on.
While it can be cold at times at higher elevations in March, saying "DV is cold in march" as posted earlier is generalized and not fully accurate. It's common to have a 30-40º difference in elevation at any given time this time of year. It's already starting to warm at low elevation with it forecasted to be in the 70-80's next week on the valley floor. ( I go often this time of year and pay attention, generally going when the weather is bad for better photo opportunities)
It's easy to explore the higher elevations by day and camp in the low elevation valleys at night if you want warmer temps. Or seek out one of the many cabins you can stay in for free and bring wood. Then again, "cold" is quite subjective, and from my experience camping, especially in a ground tent, in the desert comfort is more effected by wind speed rather than just air temps. If it's windy, you camp in protected canyons and not exposed on the valley floor.

Of course weather can change, however you can look at the weather in Furnace Creek for valley floor temps, looks at Trona, CA for 2000-3000' elevation temps and look at Lone Pine, CA for higher elevation temps. You can calculate the forecast for the area by combing info.
Another good weather resource to help with planning is here:
https://www.wrh.noaa.gov/vef/rec/index.php?loc=DV
Chances are, DV and the surrounding areas, at low elevation will be the warmest place in the southwest at any given time.

If I may, I would suggest a National Geographic topo map for DV if you don't have one, the Tom Harrison map will do too. Even better to have both.

Personally, I find the entire Mojave preserve area to be boring as hell and very highly over rated just like Joshua Tree NP, but to each their own. There's interesting geological and to a lesser extend human history in the area, but more exciting to read about than actually explore it, unless you're a rock hound.
I've waisted a fair amount of time exploring there trying to understand the draw or why it's been designated a national preserve... I feel there's much better exploring options all around, especially if time is limited. You can "do" the Mojave road, maybe even buy a sticker to proclaim you concurred the boring road - spoiler alert - it's a mostly straight boring desert track like any other scrubland dirt road in SoCal, and you even will have cell service the whole time from I-15 which is never too far.

I live in the Sequoia NF and you're at least a couple months early to get to most of the notable places in the Sierra's with a massive 160% of the normal snow pack we have this year. Right now the snow level is 3500', with a snowpack level in Mammoth @ 36'.... come back and go skiing in July!


You can download GPX tracks of mine from DV on my site in my sig.

Here's a good Panamint Valley camp spot - Lookout City ghost town, get a good map and it's easy to find. There's a good number of nice rustic cabins to stay in within 10 miles if the weather is ****, or even the Panamint Spring resort if you must.











Have fun!
Thanks!! Ill check out the GPX. Im looking at the weather and it looks like it will be perfect. mid 70s and mid 50s at night. I will be taking fully capable expedition rig and plan on spending 0 money camping. I will have gaia for public land maps and plan on staying around dv for camping. I have run the Mojave trail twice and already made video of it I will be shooting a video of DV and any other areas traveled so would like to be in different spots. I have to travel from Sacramento and would like to take as much as dirt as possible. Any insight on how to do that?
 

Lost Roadie

Active member
You'll be hard pressed to take dirt roads over the sierras from Sac this time of year with the snow but here's another resource I use for navigation that's fairly comprehensive. Should be pretty easy to find some alternative routes as long as they're under 5000'. Since you're coming from the north then you're setup to enter the area with choices of Eureka Dunes then over Steel Pass and into Saline Valley right to the hot springs, or via North Pass and Saline Valley rd. You won't be able to get over Cerro Gordo from Lone pine due to snow and ice.

You can download the transparent map and have it run simultaneously with the standard NA NT map to get routing on a Garmin GPS.
https://www.californiatrailmap.com

I'm going to be out wandering DV area this week, planning on exploring a little bit in Panamint Valley (Jail Canyon) then to the south east DV area (Ibex wilderness) so if you see me please say hello.

Safe travels!






Here's a video I made in the area - highlights include Dumont dunes, Eureka Dunes,Trona Pinnacles, waterfall in Saline Valley, cabins in Panamint Valley and things around Coyote canyon.
With the current rains in SoCal, there's moisture in the air (most of which won't make it into DV) which should make for some good video opportunities for you.

 
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You'll burn a ton of time driving in to Yosemite and Sequioa from the western Sierras since there is 0% chance Tiago Pass will be open that early. They are amazingly beautiful but I'd suggest skipping them this trip.
 
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