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Cottonwood Basin Loop (Backpacking) Professional Review and Guide
"Cottonwood Basin is a magical place deep in the White Mountains. Remarkably flat, easy walking along a good use trail, abundant flowers, and a wonderland of granite towers are among its attractions. The distance into attractive camping areas is relatively short, leaving you lots of time to explore the meadows containing Cottonwood Creek and its tributaries or to explore passageways between the granite formations."
--Author varies by trail, Backpacking California: Mountain, Foothill, Coastal, & Desert Adventures in the Golden State (Wilderness Press).
This is hike #39 in "Backpacking California" (2013), which describes a "well-traveled use trail" on this hike. We enjoyed diverse wildflowers as we hiked through mature sagebrush for several hours in search of ANY trail. We turned around when hydration became an issue.
Pros: It's isolated and beautiful!
1. Trailhead markers aren't named.
2. Starting from the trailhead behind the big wooden NFS sign, which we're *pretty* sure was the one marked on the map in the book, there's no trail after the first ~0.25 miles. (A local mountain-biking guide who was guiding a party based out of the 4WD "parking lot", told us the meadows flood every spring and wipe out any trails made the previous year.)
3. Our odometer didn't match he mileage given in the book. We drove ~0.5 miles further to reach the 4WD lot.
4. For some reason, the USGS 7.5' topo map of this area shows the road continuing far beyond where it actually terminates (maybe 0.25 miles beyond the remnants of the McCloud Camp). A single-track trail and NFS trailhead sign at the 4WD lot's far end takes over. (We were told this is the "easier" way to Granite Meadows, although again, the trails are ephemeral.)
1. If your'e using the Backpacking CA guide, going counterclockwise (not aiming for Granite Meadow, for which there seem to be many candidates) might be better.
2. The USGS 7.5' topo map for Barcroft Mountain is indispensable.
3. If you're coming from sea level, the high elevation/desert environment will make you more thirsty than usual and water is scarce to nonexistent. We didn't get far enough to confirm the presence of running water on the loop. (We found a spring-fed "creek" as described in the book--not sure if it was "the" spring-fed creek--that was 1" deep at its deepest and quickly seeped back into the dry, cracked creekbed. When we visited at the end of July, there was a reliably flowing creek at the 4WD lot, where you can start out from.)
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