HIKE TO: HENNINGER FLATS, UPPER CAMPGROUND
TRAIL: MT WILSON TOLL RD
MILES: 6 MILES OUT AND BACK
ELEVATION: 2600 FT
ELEVATION GAIN: 1300 -1500 FT ish
TIME: 1 NIGHT (2 HR TOTAL HIKE TIME)
DATE I WENT: 6/29 – 6/30, 2018
DIFFICULTY: MODERATE BACKPACKING TRIP
HIKE PERMIT: NO, BUT YOU NEED TO SIGN IN AT RANGER STATION FOR OVERNIGHT CAMPING
LOCATION: ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST
PARKING: STREET, CHECK FOR SIGNS
After almost four years of backpacking, I finally had the courage to do my first solo backpacking trip two weeks ago. I had the urge to go sleep in the mountains, no one to go with, and decided to pull the trigger and fly solo.
What held me back before:
I’m scared of the dark. That’s it. Animals too, but I’ve grown more comfortable with the idea of wildlife the more experience I got with backpacking. I don’t have a problem with hiking solo, but the idea of sleeping overnight on a mountain with no one around me, just darkness and wild animals, has always terrified me.
I picked a favorite, short, local spot which I’ve been to several times, picked up my dog so I wouldn’t be completely alone, and only went up for one evening. I took the trail from Mount Wilson Toll Road (not the actual trailhead that starts at Eaton Canyon although the paths do cross). Make sure you check for street parking signs as the one the trailhead is on is 2 hr parking only. I always park around the corner on Crescent Dr / Pinecrest Dr. I started at 6:20 pm and got up by 7:15 pm, just in time to set up camp and enjoy the sunset. The trial is very exposed and it was about 80 degrees but my little Maltipoo, Argy, did just fine for the most part! When I signed in at the ranger station, there was no one else camping out for the night which made me nervous, but I also picked this spot because my go-to campsite is on the edge of the mountain so the city lights provide a lot of light once it is dark. I also got lucky with a fairly full moon to light up the sky.
I woke up around 6 am to an amazing view I’d never seen up here before – I was above the clouds… at less than 3000 ft elevation! I left the mountain by 7:15 am and got down by 7:50 am… so I literally only went up for the night. The purpose of this trip was to test out my comfort level and see how I feel about doing more solo trips… it’s hard to say at the moment because I didn’t spend too much time by myself in a complete wilderness with nothing else around. Many people have told me I’m brave for going by myself but I’m really not. I was scared most of the night after sunset until I got in my tent and had to remind myself that I was ok and not to build things up in my head. Every little noise made me paranoid. As the old saying goes: fake it till you make it. I tried to be brave and stuck out the night and felt a major sense of accomplishment when the sunlight hit my tent but even in the morning, those noises made me nervous to even peak outside my tent. On the upside, if I wanted to do it again… I know I have it in me!
My advice for someone who wants to try solo backpacking:
Just do it. Be prepared and have all your gear, but the concept of sleeping in the mountains by yourself is not as bad as I had built it up to be in my head. It’s all mind over matter, so tell yourself – you’re going to be ok, it’s all in your head, you’re brave enough, and go! I can promise it’s an amazing experience you’ll never forget 🙂
Solo backpacking vs. going with friends:
I’m used to backpacking with just one other person usually, and it’s more often a guy than a girl which does add more peace of mind when I’m outdoors. I’ve done numerous overnight trips but being solo is quite different. Here are the major differences that stuck out for me in my comparative experiences:
- You move at your own time – my pace is my own, my breaks are my own, my wake up time is my own and that’s great
- You’re alone – don’t have to worry about a partner on the trail, no one to talk to on the trail or at camp which can be a good or bad thing
- Carry your own weight – I’m used to carrying most of my own stuff, but for multi-day treks, I may split some pack weight with my hiking partner (ex: stove, tent, water filter, food etc). I’m working on ultralight backpacking now though so carrying everything isn’t terribly heavy 🙂
- Selfie stick/tripod – I love having pictures from my trips and there’s no one around to take it for me
- If something happens to you (emergency), no one is there to help or alert others right away. There was a ranger station at this campground but there was zero other campers and only one group of hikers that stuck around in the night a little before hiking back down. I also chose this spot because there’s cell service the entire way and at camp, which gave me added peace of mind to go solo.
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please let me know any comments, questions, advice or recommendations below.
Thanks for reading <3
13 thoughts on “My First Solo Backpacking Trip – Henninger Flats”
Wow! You are inspiring & brave! I enjoyed reading your solo backpacking journey. I’m terrified of snakes & coyotes. I’m not sure if in my lifetime, I’d so something so courageous like this. But it sure gave me sense of “you can do anything you set your mind into”. Good luck with your future hiking journeys ???
Thanks so much! So much truth in that quote and I believe you can do it too! It may take your mind awhile to get there… but you’ll get there and it’ll be a rewarding experience that’s worth the wait! I know that sounds corny but it’s so true!
Thank you ?
Yay, you did it! 🙂 Mind over matter for sure!
I did, I did!! 😀 Glad I hung in there hehe. Have you been solo? Any critiques on what I should/ shouldn’t have done? O.o
Sounds like you did everything right! From choosing a familiar spot to taking your pup for company! I have solo backpacked on Catalina Island; Two Harbors to Parsons a few times! It’s been awhile but, it was one of the best trips! 🙂
Where to next?!
Wow, you go girl! I thought you did the TCT with your man?
Zion next hopefully… as long as the flash floods don’t keep me away. Otherwise, back to the Eastern Sierra 😀
I love this blog. What an inspiration you are. I am also fearful of what you mentioned and have o my been backpacking 3 times, since starting 2. 5 mos. Ago. I am going to go to this exact spit and tho k of you and your bravery on my first ever solo backpack trip. And I’m going to take my pups with me. Thank you. Great job.
Thanks so much, Brandi! Henninger Flats is a great spot for your first solo trip – I was actually inspired by another girl’s story who said she got in and out of her car three times before actually doing it (I just wish I could remember who that girl was so I can thank her for inspiring me!), but having pups along sure did put my mind at ease and I hope it does for you too! Enjoy the journey ?
I really can’t see my self hiking…I’m so scare on getting lost! But your post gives me hopes!
Hi, Tai (hey that rhymes if I’m pronouncing it accurately 😛 )! I’m glad to give you some hope, but many trails are well marked and if you do your research ahead of time and maybe bring a GPS or download a GPS app, you shouldn’t get lost! I always download the offline version of google maps before I head out – it’s actually helped me out a lot in finding the trail or the right direction, even without cell service!
This is fantastic! Congrats on your first solo hiking trip! I have never done a multi day hike solo but now it is definitely on my radar. I’m not overly familiar with the area. Are bears a problem there? Thanks for sharing your story!! Good call on staying in cell range! My piece of advice is that if you decide to go out of cell range, look into a Garmin InReach. They are a relatively inexpensive satellite texting/gps/emergency locatation device. I got one for Kilimanjaro and really enjoyed it, plus it’s fun for family and friends cause they can follow your progress online. Haha.
Thank you, Dylan! I can only imagine how amazing a multi-day solo hike would be! I believe there are some bear sightings in this area – Angeles National Forest does have a few. My first time up here back in July 2016, the ranger had mentioned a bear that came by shortly before. When I was up here last year, my roommate’s husky was barking like crazy at the darkness and one of them said he saw a pair of glowing red eyes. I saw deers up here this time, I’ve heard stories of other animals, so who knows what’s really lurking in the woods.
I’ve actually been wanting a Garmin InReach and they just came out with a mini version! I just got the Garmin Fenix 5S Plus (which I know is clearly not a satellite phone) but it’s a first step towards a GPS. & Congrats on Kilimanjaro! 😉