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Backpacker Magazine – May 2011

The High Life: Hiking Utah's Highline Trail

Watch your step on Utah' Highline Trail. The nonstop views and rampant wildlife are distractingly spectacular. Plus: Gaze away on 9 more elevated hikes.

by: Steve Howe

Utah's Highline Trail (Steve Howe)
Utah's Highline Trail (Steve Howe)
Casting for brook trout in Dead Horse Lake (Steve Howe)
Casting for brook trout in Dead Horse Lake (Steve Howe)
Upper East Fork of Whiterocks River (Steve Howe)
Upper East Fork of Whiterocks River (Steve Howe)

UP AND AWAY
9 more get high, stay high treks


(Maine/New Hampshire)
Appalachian Trail, Mahoosuc Range

Tackle one of the East’s longest ridgelines.

Getting above treeline can be tough in the Appalachians, but not on this 31-mile traverse, which claims the AT’s most rugged and beautiful precipices. Come prepared for relentless climbs, muddy trail, slick rocks—and superb views of the Presidentials. You’ll cross a dozen summits, scramble up deep, boulder-choked passes, and stroll for miles on open slabby ridgelines of polished granite and stunted spruce. Four AT shelters and two campsites make for flexible itineraries, but most people do the route in three days, staying at Goose Eye shelter (mile 12.2) and Gentian Pond campsite/shelter (mile 19.3). Your first test piece is the 2,300-foot, two-mile climb to the shoulder of Old Speck Mountain, where a half-mile side trip nets you a bag of the Mahoosuc’s 4,180-foot highpoint. Mahoosuc Notch (mile 7.1) requires slow, careful scrambling across truck-size boulders, and is often called the hardest—that is, most fun—mile on the entire AT. Start from Grafton Notch on ME/NH 26 north of Bethel, Maine. At Mt. Hayes (mile 27) pound down the 1,700-foot descent to end at a bridge/dam across the Androscoggin River near Gorham, New Hampshire (near junction of US 2 and NH 16.

Map
AMC Mahoosuc Map ($7, outdoors.org)
Info (603) 466-2713; fs.fed.us/r9/white


(Arizona)
Superstition Ridgeline, Lost Dutchman State Park

Scramble high in the desert terrain just outside of Phoenix.

Get see-forever payoffs equal to the sweat-forever challenge on this 12-mile epic through the Superstition Mountains. You’ll clamber 2,700 feet up Carney Springs Trail, then ride a craggy Sonoran Desert ridge before scrambling 2,500 feet down the Flatiron Trail to Siphon Draw. Do it in a long day and carry at least a gallon of water per person (more for an overnight); avoid summer’s heat. Follow cairns along the spine and painted dots over boulders on the descent. You’ll get solitude, vistas across the entire wilderness, and ever-changing views of Weaver’s Needle, a sheer volcanic spire. Start at Carney Springs Campground (abandoned) and end at Lost Dutchman ($8/night for parking).

Maps USGS quads Weavers Needle and Goldfield ($8 each, store.usgs.gov)
Info (480) 982-4485; pr.state.az.us/parks/lodu


(Washington)
Pacific Crest Trail, Goat Rocks Wilderness

Hit the alpine-view jackpot.

Want to start a PCT thru-hiker fight? Ask them to name their favorite section for views. Then settle the argument with this 30-miler between Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier, on which lies the airiest segment (no debate there) of the entire trail. Take three days to journey between Walupt Lake and White Pass. The trail begins steeply, climbing past Sheep Lake at mile eight, with gunsight views of 12,281-foot Mt. Adams. Find good camping (but no water) off-trail between Sheep Lake and the open bowls leading to Cispus Pass, or at Alpine Camp (water available) west of Snowgrass Flats on the bypass trail (mile 14). Next, cross the west side of 7,295-foot Old Snowy Mountain, gaining whiplash views of Mt. Rainier. Then cross short sections of the Packwood Glacier, where you’ll want an ice axe in early season. The route winds through tundra and lava rock, with Rainier—draped in glaciers—visible just left of the crest. Descend to Tieton Pass and camp at Hidden Springs (mile 25). Exit via Shoe Lake, with a long traverse above the ski lifts of White Pass before switchbacking down to US 12, across from White Pass Campground. (Start at the Walupt Lake trailhead.)

Map Trails Illustrated Goat Rocks, Norse Peak, and William O. Douglas Wilderness Areas ($12, natgeomaps.com)
Info (360) 497-1100; fs.fed.us/r6/wenatchee





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Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Phil
Apr 04, 2013

I am thinking of doing the Highline trail in July and looking for a buddy. Goal is 20 miles per day, but willing to settle for 15. (Hope to only miss the family and work for 4 days instead of a full 7). I am not sure on the snow pack situation, but wanna miss the thunder storms as I think the risk of being struck in the Uintah's is relatively high since it seems like at least one person dies there every year...
u 0 4 9 2 6 0 0 @gmail.com (no spaces) this is my spam account, so I will take a week or two to respond, but can then give you my good email,
Phil

Brian
Jul 25, 2012

Just did the Highline Trail from Hacking Lake to the Trail head at Mirror Lake in three and a half days! needless to say my buddy and I are exhausted and our feet are torn and bruised, but it was well worth the trip, one of the best and most beautiful trips ive ever been on

Jenn Blitch
Aug 13, 2011

63 year old Eric Robinson from Australia, set off to thru hike the Highline Trail 7.28.11. He was scheduled to finish Sunday 8.7.11. Please Call Sherriff Mitchell at 435.738.2015 if you are available for the next few days to join the search or have any info.

Jenn Blitch
Aug 13, 2011

Calling Volunteers! Missing Hiker on Highline Trail, Uintas, Utah: Eric Robinson
PLEASE SEARCH BLOGS, FACEBOOK, TRAIL JOURNALS for anyone who hiked on the Highline Trail between 7.28.11-8.7.11 and get in touch with them. ANY INFO ABOUT ERIC WILL HELP.

larry hartenstein
Jun 23, 2011

i live up in jackson, wy and thte tetons will not be clear until august as well. tough year for getting high!

Will W.
Jun 23, 2011

Andy J is right! Utah's highlands are still packed full of snow right now. It may not be until August before the this trail is free of snow.

Will W.
Jun 23, 2011

Andy J is right! Utah's highlands are still packed full of snow right now. It may not be until August before the this trail is free of snow.

Will W.
Jun 23, 2011

Andy J is right! Utah's highlands are still packed full of snow right now. It may not be until August before the this trail is free of snow.

Will W.
Jun 23, 2011

Andy J is right! Utah's highlands are still packed full of snow right now. It may not be until August before the this trail is free of snow.

AVAGADRO V
Jun 23, 2011

UNNNNGH BACKWA FREEEBLE ZICK !

Jason W.
Jun 23, 2011

Oh, there it is. Nevermind, just showed up.

Jason W.
Jun 23, 2011

So...I don't get it, where's the article on the High Line? All I see are a few picts.

Jason W.
Jun 23, 2011

So...I don't get it, where's the article on the High Line? All I see are a few picts.

andy J
Jun 23, 2011

Better bring snow shoes this year! Mirror lake pass is still closed due to heavy snow. Pray that it all melts by August!

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