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
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
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